Monday, August 24, 2015

Teaching Ignorance.


Ignorance.  Sure, I ignore a lot of things.  Dust on the table, numbers on the scale, the slow countdown on my dashboard to the inevitable gas tank refilling chore.   All of those things, along with all sorts of skills that I lack, (Knitting?  not my thing.  Running?  wish I understood the fascination...), are things left undone or sporadically attended to, as I choose to do something -- or anything -- else.

If you want to motivate me, consider some sort of competition or challenge.  I thrive on that.  Not enough to want to come in first in a marathon, you understand, but creating a sense of competition defines purpose for me to accomplish the goal.  Similar encouragement can be garnered by asking a question that has no answer, or asking for data that isn't readily available.   

I am motivated by the unanswerable.

This is why I spend so much time on Facebook -- I try to scroll on, ignoring the "You won't believe what happened when..." articles, only finding myself scrolling back to see if it is as unbelievable as they say it is.  (Most of the time it isn't.)  After all, I don't want to awaken in the middle of the night wondering what I missed.  Call it latent curiosity or uncertainty.  I've seen something that I can't unsee, and at some point it will rear its ugly head demanding an answer that is reasonable enough for me to dismiss the knowledge and get on with my life.

Curiosity killed the cat?  An odd expression.  Probably also why they are "given nine lives."  And there is no creature more curious than humans -- especially humans who are given the chance to know more than their teachers.  So what about using IGNORANCE as a strategy for instruction?  After all, there is a lot of knowledge to impart - probably more than we are capable of meaningfully teaching in the 900 hours a year kids spend in the classroom. 

Think about it:

"Answers don't merely resolve questions; they provoke new ones."

In an article in the New York Times today, Jamie Holmes makes the case for Teaching Ignorance.  Read it.  And then ask yourself how much time you spend thinking about something that HAS an answer that is generally accepted by society vs. that which has a sketchy answer, or now answer at all.  Because it truly is in the unknown that we learn.  Through questioning, through manipulating, confronting, analyzing, arguing, evaluating, and making sense of what we've discovered. 

Now I am left with a challenge - to teach ignorance - and a question.  What are the THEORIES of ignorance that need to be taught?

Certainly a Higher Order Thinking Skill (HOTS) that was omitted from my training today.  Lucky for me, I don't teach cats, I teach students.  Students who will be thinking, and questioning, for many years to come.