Education Dilemma: Think Outside the Box or Dismantle It? (Turning a Cliche into a Culture)

In the corporate world, I attended conferences and encountered speakers who used the term “Think Outside the Box” more times than I care to remember. I think the term has been around so long that it was formerly “Think Outside the Cave.” The problem is that those words were usually spoken by someone who had a blue pen, a red pen, and a mechanical pencil in their shirt pocket – always in that order. Managers can set the tone for innovation, but that’s a whole other discussion. See “Business Meeting Creativity Ideas” or “Fostering Creativity” for more info.

I posted an interesting article from James Carlini recently where the author advocates a movement away from the 3 R’s of education toward a F-A-C-T approach that teaches Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology. I wonder how we can apply that approach to the educational culture where those concepts and systems are so engrained in all of us.

Let’s start with the breakdown of subjects. How did we arrive that these divisions of learning (math, science, English/grammar, social studies, etc.) and are they still appropriate? Taking Carlini’s lead – why not Problem Solving, Team Projects, Creative studies, and Technology as common subjects?

Some would argue that we learn problem solving and creativity in our mathematics and science classes. I ask, “Would it be better to introduce mathematics and science as a component of a Problem Solving, Group Project, or Creativity class (that’s where the arts come in)?” After all, accessing scientific data and performing mathematical tasks are increasingly tasks that computers can accomplish. Just a thought.

Does it strike anyone as odd that in the 21st century, the most heralded academic competition (The Spelling Bee) is one that can be performed in a millisecond by pressing a function key on your computer? How about a “Common Sense Bee” or a “Problem Solving Bee” instead.

I don’t claim to have the answers, and I can only imagine the frustration of the dedicated and exhausted members of teaching profession every time someone tells them how to do their jobs better.

My point is simply that when you really want innovation, you need to discard all preconceived notions of the way things have been done in the past, at least during the brainstorming stage. In other words, don’t “Think Outside the Box.” Dismantle the box and determine what shape will best serve you moving forward.

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