Warning: the following material may confuse you, or even make your head hurt. Because who knew it was sooo hard to effect change??
Teachers, that’s who. Especially teachers of young adults. Because when you’re little, learning is still FUN. There are cool toys that teach: blocks, puzzles, word games. And there are crayons, scissors, and little books. It’s all a kind of game.
And then testing and GRADES enter the picture. It’s obvious to students that we care far less about learning than grades. At least teachers — and students, and sometimes parents — know this.
But this isn’t a discussion of how misguided standardised testing is. I wish such a conversation would change policy, but I’ve had similar wishes and they don’t come true. There’s far too many $$ at stake (and yes, I’m that cynical…just follow the money, and you will be too).
Instead, I’d like us to look at a new study. One that examines how minds change. And the bad news: most of the time, they don’t.
We seem to have forgotten that the expression
“a liberal education” originally meant
among the Roman one worthy of free men.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth who conducted the study, is automatically suspect to many neo-cons. I’ve talked recently about why so many neo-cons are anti-university, but suffice to say that a good education should include critical thinking. And if you think critically, you will eventually question all assumptions — including religious beliefs. Note: I know MANY academics who believe in various wisdom traditions, ranging from conservative Christianity to Islam to Hinduism to Buddhism to Unitarianism to Wicca. And more. Belief needn’t be antithetical to critical thinking.
Here’s what Nyhan’s study found, basically: people don’t change their opinions on things because of facts. Almost ever.