Hallo Tegenlicht kijkers!
23 Mar 2009

Hallo Tegenlicht kijkers!

Click on image to start video. Education

23 Mar 2009
Click on image to start video.

Education Futures is receiving a lot of visitors from the Netherlands – supposedly viewers of tonight’s Tegenlicht episode. I enjoyed the interview, and hope that you’ll find the program engaging. I’d like to hear what you think! Also, if you’d like to learn more about the topics I discussed, here are a few resources to get you started:

And, for those of us outside of the Netherlands, here’s what the episode is about (adapted from my quick and dirty translation of Netherland 2’s description):

How can we ensure that talent is fully developed? And what is the importance of our knowledge? Rob Wijnberg converses with Frank Furedi, a British sociologist and author of, among others, the controversial book Where have all the intellectual gone?; Robbert Dijkgraaf, Professor of mathematics and physics and president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; and, John Moravec, from the University of Minnesota and author of A new paradigm of knowledge production in higher education. In this last broadcast on the topic of Excellence we meet with a number of experts looking for answers to the most pressing questions with regard to education. What is needed for better talent in the Netherlands and what is associated with more diversity? The interviews are done by Rob Wijnberg, writer, director and journalist for NRC•Next. The main question in the interviews is: What are we really educating children for? a) To perform at the maximum (economic). b) To become happy (personally). c) To maximize contributions to society (citizenship).

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  1. Donna Nadia March 23rd, 2009 3:45PM

    What a relief!! To hear John speak, after all the good-willing and dedicated teachers, who are, I’m afraid, living in the (present?) past.
    Great way to make television b.t.w. … I really started to lose faith in the world of education 🙂
    But thankfully… there came John! Your “Education 3.0” sounds like music to my ears and I can’t wait. I have plans for a school of my own… I’ll keep you posted 😉
    Donna Nadia, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

  2. Rene March 24th, 2009 7:04AM

    The norm is obedience, adoption of uncritical attitudes, taking the easy path of self-deception. I think there’s also a selective process in the academic professions and journalism. That is, people who are independent minded and cannot be trusted to be obedient don’t make it, by and large.

    There are huge efforts that do go into making people, as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be. A lot of the educational system is designed for that, if you think about it, it’s designed for obedience and passivity.
    -Noam Chomsky from Chomsky.info

  3. René, Amsterdam, Netherlands March 24th, 2009 7:15AM

    Education is Ignorance
    Noam Chomsky
    Excerpted from Class Warfare, 1995, pp. 19-23, 27-31

    ….There are huge efforts that do go into making people, to borrow Adam Smith’s phrase, “as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be.” A lot of the educational system is designed for that, if you think about it, it’s designed for obedience and passivity. From childhood, a lot of it is designed to prevent people from being independent and creative. If you’re independent-minded in school, you’re probably going to get into trouble very early on. That’s not the trait that’s being preferred or cultivated. When people live through all this stuff, plus corporate propaganda, plus television, plus the press and the whole mass, the deluge of ideological distortion that goes on, they ask questions that from another point of view are completely reasonable….

    What the World is Really Like: Who Knows It — and Why
    Noam Chomsky
    Excerpted from The Chomsky Reader, 1983

    QUESTION: You have said that most intellectuals end up obfuscating reality. Do they understand the reality they are obfuscating? Do they understand the social processes they mystify?

    CHOMSKY: Most people are not liars. They can’t tolerate too much cognitive dissidence. I don’t want to deny that there are outright liars, just brazen propagandists. You can find them in journalism and in the academic professions as well. But I don’t think that’s the norm. The norm is obedience, adoption of uncritical attitudes, taking the easy path of self-deception. I think there’s also a selective process in the academic professions and journalism. That is, people who are independent minded and cannot be trusted to be obedient don’t make it, by and large. They’re often filtered out along the way. […]


  4. rudolf van wezel March 25th, 2009 6:53AM

    John took the words right out of my mouth. I organse the Creative Company Conference on May 26th in Amsterdam with a special theme on creativity, entrepreneurship and education.
    I immediately contacted John and he is coming to speak at the conference. So if you like to meet John come to the CCC. Check out http://www.creativecompanyconference.com
    Any suggestions for Dutch speakers with a passion for this topic?

  5. John Moravec March 25th, 2009 3:30PM

    Yes, having a critical mind is important… but I really don’t think that innovating in education equates to class warfare!

  6. Sea-Bass March 25th, 2009 3:32PM

    I have to admit, I am intrigued by your education 3.0 John. I just finished watching the episode and scouring the ‘net for background information.
    Although your vision could work, I do think the best result is the combination of both perspectives that were shown in the episode. While it’s fun and all to have a gadget that helps you, the foundation has to be laid in order to actively use the knowledge or information.
    Ive got to keep it short as school work is waiting for me as I type this 😉

    Thanks for giving some delicious food for thought and pondering about.

  7. John Moravec March 25th, 2009 3:41PM

    @Sea-Bass The episode seems to have been edited a bit to contrast the two perspectives. I think you’re right in that a combination of the two may yield excellent results, and that they need not be exclusive of each other.

  8. Martijn van Velzen March 26th, 2009 9:32AM

    As an assistent prof at a Dutch university I’m constantly looking for ways to make my courses interesting and relevant for students and for myself. I find the Tegenlicht episode on Education 3.0 very inspiring.
    I share the idea that students need to have an inventory of knowledge from which they can explore, experiment and explain. Indeed, the ‘So What?’ question regarding knowledge acquisition is the litmus test here.

    One of my main challenges is to convince students that education is about knowledge *sharing* (teacher student; student student) not about knowledge *transfer* (teacher -> student). My freshman students expect the teacher/professor to be ‘all knowing’ and the text book to contain absolute information. Together with a reluctance of self-expression in class (due to fear to fail in front of peers), this translates in a passive audience. I’m trying to find ways to deal with this; the Tegenlicht episode definitely has given me inspiration to continue this quest.

  9. René March 27th, 2009 11:09AM

    Hi John,

    Just wanted to post some alternative views about education from an intellectual I admire. I find it important to hear different sounds. Having said that, I really like your vision on education. For sure, things will change dramatically in the near future. Especially due to the democratization of information, i.e. 100 dollar laptops and free access to libraries and books for the disadvantaged. Just imagine who many talent could be put to good use from the 5 billion inhabitants, currently without proper materials to learn from/educated themselves.

    Coming back to your comment about education vs class warfare;
    what’s your opinion on ‘The Disadvantages of an Elite Education’,


  10. Frank March 27th, 2009 12:02PM

    I’ve memorised 172 out of 190 capitals, so what?

    This information on it’s own isn’t very usefull. But as I watch news, background stories, documenteries and so on, I can place these capitals in what is happening. An extreme example: what if I thought Bagdad was in Mexico? Just this simple mistake would put alot of information that comes through the news in a wrong context and my view of the world. The effect of having the world around you in a wrong context is that you might not understand someone else’s ideas and opinions. I don’t hope I’ve to explain what history teaches us about these situations.

    Then, why memorise it all when there are computers hooked up to all of human knowladge?

    This is simply because I don’t sit with my hand held computer typing in every little basic thing I don’t know. It’s simply to slow, even if it gives information the right information in less then a second. I’ve still have to input what I want to know, read the information and process it. It’s simply impractical. The only computer that is practical and fast enough is the one everybody is born with! (you can find it right between your ears). The only time people use these computers to look something up is when they are realy intrested and are willing to spend time focussing on gathering information.

    A question: who is more effective: the one who says: three times ten is thrity (1 second) or the one who lookes for his calculator (1st second), inputs the equiation (2nd second), reads and gives the output (3rd second)? The same goes for language, in wich the speed of information needs to go much faster then that single second.

    My opinion is that there should be a balance. You need basic information in order to put the world around you in context and have essential informtion quickly accesible. On the other hand are problem solving skills and finding systematic aproaches in a chaotic world. There is no sense in having only one of the two.

    Perhaps I believe in schools being places where factory workers are being created. But then again: I am a factory worker!

  11. John Moravec March 28th, 2009 4:02PM

    @René I’ve got a few opinions and ideas about that last link… I’ll reserve them for a proper post within the next week or so. Stay tuned!!!

  12. John Moravec March 28th, 2009 4:09PM

    @Frank Of course there should be balance! However, consider these questions when striking a balance:

    We won’t stop learning facts. We’ll just start to learn different facts –and different facts for different contexts. Studies show that the amount of information available to us in the world is doubling at an ever accelerating rate. How do we sort all of that? What facts or bits of information are more important?

    Moreover, facts change depending on context. You and I might agree that 1+1 always equals 2, but an electrical engineer might disagree on the basis that the rules of complex mathematics come into play and 1+1 doesn’t always add up to two.

    Now, in a world that’s full of information and facts, I have a hunch that the most creative and innovative among us will leverage these to become successful. While it’s important to know facts, it’s more important to know how to contextually apply them in new contexts (innovation!).

    In regard to your questioning of technologies, don’t forget that the same technologies that can help us find the right answers can also teach us. This is particularly important with language technologies, which can have an instructive value.

    If we can package the “sage on the stage” in a handheld device, what new things can schools can focus on? What new knowledge can we seek and create?


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