Saturday, March 03, 2012

expert and a half...

I am still slowly recovering from my table saw injury, and finding that with fingers disabled, my mind is less acute. Should that come as a surprise to anyone but myself? I have tried dictation software but find that the corrections take nearly as much time as hunting and pecking away on the keyboard in the first place. So who knew that injuring my fingers would have such impact on the clarity of my thoughts?

K. Anders Ericsson, Psychologist at Florida State University, proposed the 10,000 hour rule that was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. According to the rule, it takes 10,000 hours to become truly expert at something whether playing chess, hockey, or viola. Gladwell offered the Beatles as an example. Ericsson offered as his first example two Hungarian educators, Lázló and Klara Polgár, who homeschooled their three daughters to become top ranked women's chess champions. The Polgárs wanted to challenge the notion that women couldn't succeed in fields that require spatial thinking, like chess. Their youngest daughter became a grand master at age 15.

While the 10,000 hour rule may be a generalization, it is an interesting tool through which to examine American education.

By the time a child has attended school from kindergarten through high school he or she will have been in school a total of 16,380 hours (13 years times 180 days times 7 hours per day), time enough to become expert at something and at least well practiced at something else, but what too many children learn in school is that they don't like it much, and that there is no passion to be found within it. They may fill seats while their minds wander. Doing something for 10,000 hours leads nowhere if he child's attention is not purposefully engaged. Take TV for an example.

Can you imagine what our schools might become if they were more clearly targeted toward the accomplishment of greater things that captured the interest and attention of each and every child?

Make, fix and create...


  1. Anonymous12:11 PM

    Just back after too many days without the time to just sit and read, the first thing I find is your saw injury. Get well soon. And at least your students got an object lesson in saw safety.


  2. Thanks, Mario. I am doing better by the day.