Sunday, May 10, 2015

The need for Palindromic Knowledge


I do some of my best thinking when I'm alone in my car driving.  Often, I have the radio on, and just as often, I'm not really listening to it.  (Sorry, Fred...)  It's really more about providing the score for my ride, with music popping to the forefront of my thoughts when I'm not too deeply entrenched in mulling, planning, or untangling something already in my head.

Early this morning, there was a post by my friend, Fred.  Understand that Fred has an alter-ego, Phredd, and that each, in his own right, has some quirky tendencies.  So it didn't surprise me to discover Fred's post:

Food for thought - Every day this week will be the same backwards:
5/10/15
5/11/15
5/12/15
5/13/15
5/14/15
5/15/15
5/16/15
5/17/15

Fascinating!  Honestly, part of me (perhaps SOOzin?) hopes that Fred discovered this on someone else's status, while Susan thinks it would be amazing to know someone who comes by this sort of palindromic fascination without the benefit of prompting by others.  

We'll have to see if Fred fesses up to how he came to discover this fact, or whether alter-ego Phredd rats him out in the comment section below.

All of this led me to spend the 2 hour ride to my mother's today pondering how we know what we know, and why what we know isn't always true.  

Experiential Inaccuracies?

Once I was no longer able to tune in WJTL on my jaunt down the turnpike, I switched stations to NPR.  I soon became fascinated by a piece on Experiential Education, that dates back to the Renaissance Period.  How could I not be fascinated by something that was billed as "The Power of Failure"?
Students at Columbia University have been working to decode and recreate artistic "recipes" from a "book of secrets" from a French manuscript that has survived more than 400 years.  170 pages of "curvy handwriting", of unknown author.  The Making and Knowing Project at Columbia has been studying and translating hundreds of how-to instructions.

I encourage you to listen to the podcast, and consider a variety of questions that came to mind as I became aware of the project.  Certainly the idea that the hands-on value of recreating something, whether it be a recipe for consumption or a shellac for an instrument, based upon notes left from generations ago, caused me to pause and reflect upon the very nature of the shorthand and communication we use today.  While we may be seemingly documenting every second of every day electronically, the world still hasn't cracked the code for the "secret recipe" that Colonel Saunders took to his grave, swearing KFC executives to confidentiality to keep the buckets of chicken sales high.

Heck, we've all tried to make that cake, or pie, or turkey gravy, coleslaw or pot roast, "just like Nana," finally settling for whatever comes as close to memories as possible.

So what similes are we using to document our lives for future generations?  What qualitative observations have we recorded to allow others to understand what we've done here on earth?  

And how powerful is the idea of failure as a means for learning?  Trial and Error, after all, is an integral part of the Scientific Process.  Do we, as teachers, allow (or even allocate) enough time for our learners to fail, so that they ultimately learn?

Fred might be onto something.  This palindromic exercise of teaching success through failure might be a good exercise to do this week, given the dates of encouragement provided by the calendar.