Re: Tuning In to Dropping Out

Re: “Tuning In to Dropping Out” in the Chronicle of Higher Education

We could learn a lot more than we are about education through the lens of economics and economic models of thought. We’ve talked with Heckman, Hanushek, Rolnick and others about our general lack of appreciation for the ‘capital value’ of ‘healthy learning’ and the costs of ‘unhealthy learning‘.

“Tuning into Dropping Out” is also a way of describing the one of the most powerful things we can do to improve our own first-person learning. Sustaining participation and attention in learning requires ‘tuning into the drop outs’ and, rather than sleepily dropping out, asking ‘what’s missing – what’s not right – what do I need’? So, I like your title. AND, I am writing to suggest the linkage between our two meanings. I think our societal-educational-economic conversation would serve us better if it shined some light deeper into the cost-benefit spectrum of healthy and unhealthy learning.

Everything about your article is arguing for ‘learning what is needed/important’ rather than what ‘we used to think should be taught’. The dangerous issue not addressed in your piece is ‘who decides’ what is needed? At what point does a young person become able to be responsible for choosing a ‘path’ and if not the young person then who, why, and based on what?  Clearly there are things we must teach, but there is nothing in particular we must teach that is generally more important than how well they can learn. Or put another way:

“We can no longer assume that what we think they should learn
is more important than how well they can learn.”

I don’t mean a Pollyannish discarding of curriculum. Rather, that the purpose of curriculum is to use what we are learning in particular to steward how well we are learning in general (including but beyond the curriculum). The value of what we learn in school is not what we learned in the static sense, but how well what we learned enables us to learn into our lives and jobs thereafter.

What’s more valuable to our lives than how well we can learn? What’s more valuable to us as a people?

Education is 180 degrees out of phase with stewarding how well we learn in general and nothing could be more dangerously short-sided given the rate and complexity of the changes underway.

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