Thursday, November 20, 2008

real experience vs. time spent...

John Grossbohlin sent in the following with regards to the idea of 10,000 hours leading to mastery:
I've pondered the notion of "real experience" vs. "time experience" quite a number of times over the years. To sum it up my conclusions, there seems to be a split between "experience with continuous learning" and the "experience of doing the same thing over and over again." Perhaps a bit more cynically, the real question is, for example, does someone have 20 year's experience or do they have 1 month's experience 240 times?

I've encountered a whole lot of folks who fall into the latter category and a much smaller minority who fall into the former. Even amongst "professionals" many folks start to follow scripts after a while and don't really keep learning. As a rule, intellectual curiosity drives the continuous learners... How to encourage continuous learning? Probably not by sitting kids in a chair for 6+ hours per day and bombarding them with information... The future may prove my personal philosophy wrong, but I've made a concerted effort to teach my sons how to learn and to see the patterns in life. This by doing "real" things such as working on our house, woodworking, taking photographs, digging big holes in our yard, target shooting, reloading shotgun ammo, etc. Making things gives a sense of accomplishment. Photography helps develop an observant and critical eye. Digging big holes by hand demonstrates that big things can be accomplished a little bit at a time. Target shooting and reloading introduces and demonstrates myriad things... math, physics, chemistry, eye-hand coordination, discipline, responsibility, perseverance...
I want to return briefly to another subject that I mentioned earlier. When conservative commentator Laura Ingraham said that Sarah Palin's appeal wasn't just to the Joe the Plumber types, but to "smart people as well". She illustrated the failings of the Howard Gardner "Frames of Mind" and "multiple intelligences" concepts to penetrate the thinking of the "intellectual elite" in America. In the thoughts of too many Americans, plumbers are dumb. People who work with their hands are those incapable of more intellectual pursuits. For the conservatives of America, Joe the Plumber and his kind are know-nothings to be manipulated toward political objectives. But the truth is that there are no limits to the potential of the intellectually curious. The school system may numb the intellectual curiosity and confidence of most Americans. But intellect is not just about science, law, banking and finance.

Inherent in the multiple intelligences concept are the seeds of dignity through which we nurture and understand the diverse intelligence and contributions of all people. We are desperately needing an affirmative action program in American schools, allowing all children, even those whose aspirations will lead them to the nations finest universities, the opportunity to work with their hands in the creation of real things... to be challenged by physical reality and tested in their aspirations of achieving quality workmanship.


  1. Good thoughts, Doug. Your school sounds great, too.

  2. Joe, I enjoyed finding your blog. Thanks for reading mine. It seems we have a lot in common. A love of old tools is just one.