So two things happened this week that made me think of the third thing. Bear with me.
Everette, 2, was busily washing her brother Roman’s (7) toothbrush in the bathroom when he came upon her. He ran to tattle. Within minutes, I got a snap of Everette explaining to her mom that she often washes Romie’s toothbrush – in the toilet. Daddy’s too. But no! Not her own or mom’s toothbrush.
Later that evening, my Emrie (8) found a math problem on her iPad and shared it to a family group text. “A bat and ball costs $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
Here are the responses from Emrie’s parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents:
“Sounds like a rummage sale problem.”
“Where are you shopping, Emmie Bear? At Laura Ingall’s sports shop? A bat and ball for a $1.10?”
“I must have hit my head in 2nd grade math because I am thinking ten cents”?
And finally,” five cents?”
Is it not magical to think how much a child’s brain grows from age 2 to age 8, the skillset raised from toothbrush swirling to mathematical logic? It’s all things beautiful, how the brain of a kid lights up at a new discovery to challenge old thinking. So how come our brains as adults get rigid instead of beautifully more expansive?
In Neuro-logic: How your Brain is Keeping You from Changing Your Mind, Joe Queenan explains why teaching others – and ourselves –is so hard. Queenan’s says that humans don’t remember the neurological process the brain went through prior to holding a strong belief. People just latch on to strong belief on, “…politics, religion, euthanasia….” And ain’t nothing going to change that belief, short of, “…a major intervention.”
Social media further entrenches us. Says Queenan, “…we compulsively associate with people who share our opinions and values, seeking out echo chambers like MSNBC or Fox News or Middlebury College.” And now instead of hearing news at 6 and 10, we swim in it throughout the day.
You gotta be brave to allow your mind to consider changing, because, as Queenan says, both MSNBC and Fox News followers are in separate “tribes” and, “…tribes do not welcome strangers. Moreover, to defect from a tribe is a form of treason. Even when you suspect that the tribe is wrong.” Even when you suspect tribe is wrong: seems odd for smart people, doesn’t it?
BPS and institutions everywhere are grappling with how to teach inquiry. The struggle is not because inquiry is a wrong form of teaching but because well, my mind is made up and don’t ask me to think about why my mind is made up. It is too scary and lonely. Yet we were fearless as young discoverers, our learning endless. “You wouldn’t suspect it from looking around, but every adult you know started out as a scientific genius. Children are natural-born scientists. They spend all of their time learning about the world through experiment, deriving what’s true through unrelenting trial and error.” Until we grow up and chicken out.
So I leave you with a question. Since we all want to avoid raising a generation whose belief system stops at washing toothbrushes in toilets and we want to know how much the ball costs (c’mon, you thought it through, didn’t you?), then what do you think are the best levers inside our wheelhouse for changing our adults back into natural-born scientists?
The answer to that may not only save public education but provide peace in an increasingly divided world.