The thought process behind this article began while watching a commercial for an insurance company. This was, to me, a startling revelation about our society and the lack of commitment by everyone towards life education. In the commercial a mother standing next to her son (in his later teens) talked about how great her insurance company was because when he had a flat tire at night the insurance company covered sending a service person to change his tire. It goes further by showing another young person calling his father because he had a flat tire and was totally lost with regard to a solution. He didn’t even know what a lug wrench might be. To me, this was an appalling statement about our lack of commitment, as a society, to education – education that isn’t limited to what happens in school, but rather how we all view our role in the education of our population. Where did we go wrong if a teenage driver has no idea how to change a tire?
As we look at the current approach taken towards education (in school and in the home) it is apparent that there is a disconnect. This disconnect begins with a separation of what people should know and what people are able to do. When the trend is to minimize or eliminate shop, music, art, home economics, and some physical education as budgets become tight – then we have all but given up on teaching students to apply what they are learning. When families emphasize technology over playtime; when family vacations gravitate towards theme parks and beaches and disregard historical sites, camping, and connections with science, history, and art, then we create a true gap between formal education and the experiences that make it real.
What is most interesting about application classes and life experiences is that there is a direct connection to many of the concepts and disciplines that are deemed essential to a formal education. Math is a part of everyday life, yet when it is treated as if it were a separate course or isolated concept then many students tune it out. For those who love music – music is math. Rhythm, harmonies, time signatures, and the vibrations that result in certain sounds are all math centric. Learning to cook is all about chemistry and biology and an appreciation for these sciences can be easily brought to life through the processes of caramelization, baking, coagulation, fermentation, and the breakdown of proteins through various cooking methods. Logic and common sense can become evident through active playtime and psychology and sociology principles are evident in team sport. Writing can become personal, and enjoyable when the focus is on personal life experiences – teaching students to become storytellers first and writing technicians second. Tending a garden builds respect for others, the earth, and the wonders of nature and combining that with cooking helps a student to appreciate how good food nourishes the body, mind and soul. Demonstrating that playing pool or billiards is really an exercise in geometry will be enlightening as a person discovers that you really do use math principles throughout life. And, training a person how to change a tire and use the concepts of torque and leverage will bring physics to life in a way that might be much more difficult in the classroom.
If we want to teach students about history and the impact that political and social decisions have had on society as a whole then parents can help by creating a “must visit” list that includes the battlefield at Gettysburg, the Vietnam War Memorial, the National Parks, and the Kennedy Space Center. These experiences focus on demonstrating the wonders of science and nature and the horrors of war. Visiting the Holocaust museum in Boston and the Slavery Museum at the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana will wake individuals up to the wrong doings of the past and the extent of evil that must be faced head on. Spending a few hours at the 9-11 memorial in New York City is one of the most humbling experiences – demonstrating the callus nature of terrorism, the single most terrifying moment in modern American history, and the divide that exists among people of earth. A textbook can never bring these events to life – learning only happens when they are experienced.
When a young person spends a day working on a farm then he or she learns to appreciate what hard work really is and how much passion is invested in our food supply. A morning on a lobster boat will help people appreciate, and not take for granted, the work that goes into bringing that product to the table. Visiting a ranch, feed yard, and processing plant for cattle, pigs, and chickens will help people to truly understand the food cycle and the sacrifices made to bring these proteins to market. Spending a few days during harvest on a vineyard and taking part in the crush of the grape make the connection between farming, the impact of nature, and the chemistry necessary to make a bottle of wine. All of these experiences help to connect the dots and allow people to truly understand.
This may be an opinion piece, but the facts regarding the connections between knowledge and application should not be broken. Learning is a comprehensive process that relies on experiences to make sense. Somehow we need to take a step back and absorb the relevance of learning to change a flat tire.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training