Numbers, Stats – Are We Even Looking For The Right Stuff??

Although convergence is a buzzword, I have been using it for years as a more sophisticated alternative to quinky-dink,  essentially an explanation for when the universe opens up and reveals something important (generally speaking, the universe has sent this message a million times before to myself and others but we were hearing, not listening and so the message was lost on us).   I belong to the group of people who actually ‘believe’ if you will, in possibilities which may have been floating on the far horizon suddenly docking on the doorstep. 

Seeing incentives used to raise college graduation rates was not news to my ears, not new to me, in fact it was older than this blog and the five previous years I had been mumbling and grumbling about it.   Apparently my complaint was one and the same with others and some one important was listening, took note and decided to do something:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/education/22college.html?_r=1&hpw   How this actually plays itself out remains to be seen as there is no ‘convergence’ surrounding the issues of education reform.  Between Michelle Rhee, charter school madness (they now bicker with each other over space, at least in NYC), charter schools not actually putting more kids through college, economic melt down and real nuclear meltdown, there is not the least consensus except to say change needs to occur.  ‘This was not the message from the universe – this is what I call slight of hand.  While government is slaying dragons which it created, there was something else going on.

Which gets me back to what docked at the door step, David Brooks piece in the Jan 17, 2011 New Yorker Magazine.  The piece is from the Annals of Psychology and is titled Social Animal (which most of us humans tend to be).   Mr. Brooks addresses the idea (quite nicely I would add) that education and the various manifestations there of are quite small in comparison to what we really know.

We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness.  Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and others have made great strides in understanding the inner working of the human mind.  Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows.  They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has the least to say.  Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.

A core finding of this work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking.  The conscious mind gives us one way of making sense of our environment.  But the unconscious mind gives us other, more supple ways.  The cognitive revoltion of the past thirty years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract logic, perceptiveness over IQ.   It allows us to tell a different sort of success story, an inner story to go along with the conventional surface one.

Mr. Brooks then creates a written diorama journey of  Harold, and later Erica, etc.  as they go through life.  The journey has spatterings of  insights given to us by science and throughtful studies.   For almost all of us, we can either identify with the dioramic of  life or at least have been exposed to what is portrayed here through reading novels and watching TV.  It is a dioramic representation of a life as some know it, generally those who think they know what education is and what education should be.

As the article ends, the character Harold attends a conference where he becomes enlightened, rather he becomes aware of the differences between an education in the abstract and education as a lifelong process, education as adding meaning to life, education which leads to self efficacy which leads to happiness and fulfillment.

Kind of like what I hear on NPR when they reference The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation –dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live healthy, productive lives.

And so  I continue to wonder – will a test score ever bring anyone happiness, and if so, will the happiness be fulfilling?

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