Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A response to a response about 'well roundedness.'

I felt compelled to respond to this comment from a facebook member referring to Kate Fridkis's interview (previous post).

Christopher Nicholls wrote:

"I don't understand what the issue is with an extensive, 'generalist' education...

First of all, nobody is saying there is something wrong with an "extensive, generalist" education if that is what interests you, the learner. But why should it be the case for everybody?

If someone doesn't care a fig about medieval history, why should they be made to study it? I think what Kate is arguing is that to pursue well roundedness as a goal will leave you a 'jack of all trades and a master of none' -in most cases. Something that leaves people feeling inadequate- and wishing that they were really good at something.

The whole emphasis of school needs to be revised so that it removes that weird notion that schools have developed, in claiming that they prepare kids for their careers by training them in skills and giving them 'tools' for getting jobs.

I think this is altogether wrong - schools should be about firing up imagination, creativity, curiosity, and all those good things which make the kinds of human beings that try to understand, to learn more and to be assertive in their world - those who explore knowledge and those where ignorance is not a factor.

My question to Chris;-in your opinion, what do schools do if not to prepare kids for their careers, and if they don't fire up creativity and imagination?

As long as school is compulsory, the noble dream of it (school) being a vehicle to promote "imagination, creativity and all those good things" will likely fail. When a person is made to do something because someone else thinks it will make them a better person- it's the wrong approach. People end up resenting this approach in the long run.

Note that there's plenty of balance and generalism in that, and yet there's potentially specialisation too as the children start moving down tracks of interest. Each track opening out into and onto more areas.

Somehow, I've been a generalist all my life and it has been such a great experience. I'm still doing it too! I know heaps of things about a lot of things - from botany to mechanical; repairs. From cooking to renewable energy... It's amazing how important some things become when you are focusing on your career and you are able to pull into play all sorts of knowledge and skills learned from a more general approach.
'Well rounded' is fine by me..."

It sounds to me that you are a person who loves learning and who is going after what you're interested in. That is the whole point of what we are talking about. By following what you are interested in you have become well-rounded. So you see, we actually don't have a quarrel after all. Grin!


Jessica said...

Publically educated 'jack of all trades and master of none' here.

Sure am glad I was made to memorize all the countries and capitals of South America as a 12 year old. Sure, I've forgotten every single one of them now, but really, it's taken me far in life. I feel well. And rounded. ;)

Anonymous said...

I am a huge fan of your blog and i agree with you on every thing! keep up all the great work!!!!!

ChrisN said...

I can't post my response here because it is too long. See the FB RFS wall.

ChrisN said...

I recommend that readers of this blog monitor the progress of this discussion at:


Unfortunately, blog responses here are limited to 4,000 characters or so...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...