The Educator is reporting that the ‘global education thought leader’ Charles Fadel is to visit Australia and ‘slam’ our education system. Apparently, it is ‘self-serving in a narrow and traditional sense.’
You might think he would be run out of town for such criticism but education has a taste for masochism and so, instead, he has been invited to give the second Australian Learning Lecture, a project backed by the State Library of Victoria among others.
You can get a taste of his pitch from the foundational paper of the Center for Curriculum Redesign that he established. But you don’t really need to because you can probably imagine it already.
As Fadel states in The Educator:
“We need to make sure that children have a strong foundation in the 3Rs but that they also embrace the transferable skills they need, such as problem-solving, collaboration and communication. This can be helped by digital devices.”
That sort of thing.
Of course, he presents no evidence that transferable skills such as problem-solving, collaboration and communication exist and can be taught to students either by using digital devices or by the interdisciplinary methods and projects that he suggests in the foundational paper. Cognitive science seems to suggest that such skills are highly domain specific: You can learn to solve problems in algebra but very little if anything transfers to solving problems in interior design. The thing that does transfer is a strategy known as ‘means-end analysis’ which we all have hard-wired into us through evolution and that therefore does not need extended, school-based training.
As John Sweller alerted us in his submission to Australia’s most recent curriculum review:
“It is a waste of students’ time placing these skills in a curriculum because we have evolved to acquire them without tuition. While they are too important for us not to have evolved to acquire them, insufficient domain-specific knowledge will prevent us from using them. We cannot plan a solution to a mathematics problem if we are unfamiliar with the relevant mathematics. Once we know enough mathematics, then we can plan problem solutions. Attempting to teach us how to plan or how to solve generic problems will not teach us mathematics. It will waste our time.”
But never mind the science. This is education, after all.