Friday, November 13, 2009

All life is problem solving

Philosopher Karl Popper (1903-1994) said that "all life is problem solving" and proposed that the basis of science is essentially biological in that the same problem solving methodology inherent in the most primitive one celled animal is the same trial and error methodology of science. He likened the exploratory movement of a one-celled animal toward a food source as being the foundation of all human exploration and discovery. Hypothesis, testing of hypothesis, resolution. Of course there are some differences between the amoeba, and man in that man has the capacity to remember, organize information drawn from his environment and share what he has learned with others that they may also test and affirm the same hypotheses.

The same testing method is inherent in the arts, and the arts can be considered the hands-on laboratory or gymnasium for the development of the scientific method. You may remember from my earlier post, Popper's leap from the craftsman's bench to his theory of classical music.

In schools, we have pushed the arts aside, casting our children far aside from the doorway of discovery. The patterns of music are the same patterns to be found in biology. The patterns of attention guiding the hand passing a knife through wood are the same patterns of attention and method that lead to scientific discovery and guide us on a journey toward truth.

If all life is problem solving, we must ask about the problems we are asking our children to solve in school. Are they real? Are they significant? Are they relevant to the child? Do they build within the child an attitude of resilience and strength of method? Do they lead our children steadily closer toward truth? Are they problems through which the noble character of the child might arise? I am concerned that in some American classrooms the challenge some children must solve is that of staying awake until the bell. While one celled animals may be propelled toward truth through cellular distortion, our own methodology requires that we reach out with our hands. It will be by placing the hands and the arts at the center of education that schools will be made effective.

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