Maximillian Kaizen
Maximillian Kaizen

Full-contact learning

In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world which no longer exists. — Eric Hoffer

Almost all grown-ups living on the planet today were shoved, compressed and packaged through production-line education by well-meaning adults, who knew no better what to do with our bright child-minds than their parents have done since the assembly line was applied to children to produce more efficient human resources.

Every economy produces what it needs most of: in an industrial age, it only makes sense that you’d want pretty good human machines (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) to operate tidily within an efficient, process-oriented world. Sensible idea in a logical world. Tamed unquestioning humans are easier to manage and herd.

Problem is, all that squeezing and shoving starts popping the seams of society. Humans who had their confidence and creativity blunted in claustrophobic classrooms stop thinking for themselves and passively ingest untested opinions (and skew the democratic process).

Just as scary are those who did really well in the school system. Those stuffed and sewn-up in arrogance, with the paper to prove their worth. The elite who succeeded in the system have no reason to crash the system that gives them status, and continue to feed the human zombie-making machine, euphemistically referred to as our education system.

(If you haven’t seen Sir Ken Robinson’s bloody brilliant TED talk — on why most of us grown-ups emerge from school and RUN like hell from anything that looks like a class ever again — then click, watch, laugh and start devising ways to save kiddies being fed into the machine now!)

I am certainly NOT opposed to education, but brain-friendly learning that produces rich, whole-brained humans is not on the programme for humanity in a big way yet. The industrial-age hangover has worked its way out of our economic, social lives and businesses, but oddly enough, education just hasn’t caught up yet. We cannot expect enlightened leadership from those taught skills irrelevant to our current and future world. I’m impassioned with repairing the damage and reducing the terror around learning new things as grown-ups (especially around technology). For the most part, classroom learning sucks! Even faced with redundancy as the world demands that you skill up just to keep up, education still doesn’t excite.

What I’d love to do here is help you realise that there are plenty of thoroughly entertaining ways to engage your brain in “educational” environments and events, that look NOTHING like the old-school classroom version of sit down, keep quiet and open your head for facts to be poured in.

Going on a date and hitting a salsa class at a Cuban bar instead of the typical tired dinner routine (I learnt that dancing shoes instead of strappy slip-off-your-feet sandals can be a good idea, by the way) or learning Zulu in eight weeks by video, learning formidable business strategy while picking olives in Spain … there are so many ways to train your brain in ways that aren’t laborious and dry. Promise.
So keep your eye on this little column for the edventures I’ve discovered, with serious play that may well give you strategic skills for the future.

  • Vaughn

    The only way you can remember stuff is if you’re emotionally engaged with it, and dry textbooks discourage any emotion. That’s why I learn by doing and by making mistakes. I’m keen to see what “full contact learning” methods you come up with!

    Coincidentally, I wrote about this a while ago in my article School System Needs Revolution Not Evolution

    Kids need to be taught to think for themselves, to question their elders’ assumptions, and to express themselves well. They do not need to memorise dull textbooks, we have google for that.

  • Ryno

    Amazing and interesting thoughts, cant wait to hear more from this contributer

  • Max Kaizen

    .. back to the fundamental understanding that we’re in an attention economy not an information economy Vaughn. Economies are dynamically driven by what is SCARCE, not by what is abundant.

    Those that can aggregate, index & translate the progressive complexity of info flooding at us in meaningful, relevant (and even entertaining) ways will be the winners in the future of every sphere.

    That is a thinking skill, a data dexterity thing, not a function of how much info you can retain and spew out at a predetermined examination date. rant rant rant.. one day thinking skills MAY be considered worthy of getting onto the curriculum again.

  • Ivo Vegter

    I entirely agree with your characterisation of schooling. Moreover, attempts to change the status quo (outcomes-based education, for example) have mostly been failures. I’m not convinced that the motive for education the way it is, is accurate, however. Even in traditional schools, kids who showed an aptitute for problem-solving and creative thinking were singled out and encouraged. Not nearly enough kids, true, and the focus for the rest was merely to get them to pass, true, but I disagree that the intent was to create the sort of assembly-line brainwashed sheep that was the effect. It’s also hard to see how individualistic learning is even possible in a systematised, centralised, state-run education system. Perhaps that is what needs re-thinking. Create a decentralised way in which individual schools can get individual teachers to focus better on the individual needs and talents of individual kids.

    But that’s a long debate, I guess. Mean time, I’m looking forward to reading some of your ideas.

  • Ernst Kuschke

    Very interesting article, Max!
    When I was at school, a few of us were picked to take extra subjects (in a way that Ivo mentions) outside of the normal curriculum. These taught us how to THINK – subjects like “Problem Solving”, “Creativity”, etc. Here we were introduced to the concept of lateral thinking and entrepreneurship, for instance. Until today I know how that has changed the way I see the world, and I always hoped and wished that EVERY kid could get that bit of education!!!

  • Ian

    Yes, yes, yes! Great piece Max. You may have inspired me to write about some of my own edventures…

  • Oupoot

    How to implement? Are there any examples in the world where this type of education / learning is practiced in a community / regional / national level? Is there anyone in SA that currently practices / pilots this? How could we upscale this. The idea is great – the challenge lie in turning theory into practice. First by piloting, and then upscaling to community, city, province, national and regional levels in such as way to ensure efficient, but minimal management.

  • Ivo Vegter

    Implementation and upscaling is indeed a major hurdle in a country where education is socialised, state-provided and tax-funded.

    In an ideal world, some private schools would come across these sort of ideas, and would develop new teaching methods and curricula. Perhaps they’d do this to differentiate themselves from their rivals, or to justify their fees, or to follow the wishes of the parents. Kids would likely feel part of such a programme, that they have a stake in their school’s “brand”, if you like, which would make them more receptive, more competitive, and more enthusiastic about their education. The bad ideas will fail, while best innovations will bubble to the surface. Schools will learn from each other’s ideas and mistakes, and a wide range of education ideas will spread naturally, without any need for centralised “upscaling” or top-down “implementation”.

    As it is, however, I fear our pedagogical ideas may be about as relevant as our ideas on how best to fly to Mars.

  • Max Kaizen

    @Ivo: decentralisation in the same pattern as we’re seeing in business, politics, economics, media will e v e n t u l l y catchup with education no doubt. If we have the patience to wait for the lumbering machine to rust.

    @Ernst: it is such a privilege to actually be taught thinking skills at school, in your case it is obvious that it paid off!

    @Ian: excellent Ian! you & I need to join forces on one or two then sir, I know we dovetail many interests.

    @Oupoot: there are some interesting outtakes on learning that I’ve been tracking, especially in the UK and oddly, Finland. But more on that to come 😉

    @Ivo again: too bloody right! we don’t need tweaks on the system, not even an overhaul as one would an old engine. The mechanised version of education just doesn’t work. It gobbles up human children & spits them out mostly mangled on the other side, lopsided to the left and unthinking for the most part. How undignified! Time that 2.0 fairy came to visit the school yard.

  • Jacques

    Deformed on a rigid school myself, this is my suggestion with regard to the educational system in this country – which indeed has become nothing more than a ‘bodycount’ – to show to the world progress is made and to reach targets and objectives, the standards are simply lowered – more kids that know less….
    Give each child that $100,00 green bunny-ear laptop – teach it to write, read and calculate; teach it to use the internet ad nauseum – Wikipedia and the likes should become a compulsory surfspot. Teach it English. Give sexual education. Have it play outside – a lot. And teach it Chinese.

  • Ramon Thomas

    You may be interested in the Genius Mind DVD by Paul Scheele. It’s a fantastic overview of whole brain learning with some real gems for expanding consciousness.