Saturday, December 10, 2011

15,015 hours in school...

K. Anders Ericsson, is a Swedish psychologist at Florida State University, who came up with the 10,000 hour rule on the attainment of mastery. The rule is understood to apply to a wide range of practices and was made popular through Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers... The rule can be applied to writing code on a computer, athletics, dance, or music, woodworking, art, and so many things that offer the opportunity to earn and express mastery. Anders Ericsson's article in the Harvard Business Review can be found here, or a pdf download here.
"Back in 1985, Benjamin Bloom, a professor of education at the University of Chicago, published a landmark book, Developing Talent in Young People, which examined the critical factors that contribute to talent. He took a deep retrospective look at the childhoods of 120 elite performers who had won international competitions or awards in fields ranging from music and the arts to mathematics and neurology. Surprisingly, Bloom’s work found no early indicators that could have predicted the virtuosos’ success. Subsequent research indicating that there is no correlation between IQ and expert performance in fields such as chess, music, sports, and medicine has borne out his findings. The only innate differences that turn out to be significant— and they matter primarily in sports—are height and body size.

So what does correlate with success? One thing emerges very clearly from Bloom’s work: All the superb performers he investigated had practiced intensively, had studied with devoted teachers, and had been supported enthusiastically by their families throughout their developing years. Later research building on Bloom’s pioneering study revealed that the amount and quality of practice were key factors in the level of expertise people achieved. Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born."
All of this presents a rather frightening scenario for the future of American culture and economy. We have no innate claim to excellence or superiority, and if we give up our inclination toward hard work and long practice we will make very little of ourselves.

Last night I began wondering how many hours children spend in school and what they learn from it. Bear with me as I do the math... Nine months with 4 weeks per month and with 3 weeks off for breaks equals 33 weeks. Thirty-three weeks times 5 days per week times 7 hours per day equals 1155 hours per year. Kindergarten through 12 grade equals 13 years which times 1155 hours equals 15,015 hours in school. Children in preschool have even more hours. Those hours are enough time to attain mastery in one thing, and half-mastery in another and yet there is not much chance of mastery of even one thing in sight.

They say that children facing employment in the next few years may have as many as 5 to 8 jobs in a 10-15 year period. What does this all say about the rewards of accomplishing difficult and demanding things that reinforce one's sense of self? Will there be opportunities to get really good at something? Even just one small thing?

What children most often learn in school is that they do not like school. And while 10,000 hours may be enough time to become world class in something, 15,015 hours could be enough to enter to make masters in boredom and mediocrity.

In our homes, we present children with wonderful technologies that entertain, and make easy. So again let's do the math. In an average day at home, each child sits in front of a TV or computer screen 3-5 hours (or more). Three hours times 365 days a year times beginning at age 3 equals 16,425-27,375 screen-time hours by the time a child reaches 18 years of age. That would be enough time to get really good at something. How about basketball or the clarinet, or wood turning... Mastery of one thing, and half-mastery of another?

1/16 in. brass stock is perfect for forming small cabinet door pulls
Yesterday we finished the filming of my DVD Building Small Cabinets which will be released in March, so now I can do all the finishing touches on the cabinets which will go in a show at the Historic Arkansas Museum starting in January. What you see in the photo above are brass pulls I'm making for a small white oak display cabinet. To bend the curves to create finger grips, I used the DuoMite bending jig shown in the photo below. Next I will need to cut these pulls to length, drill and countersink mounting holes, sand and polish the edges smooth and mortise the edges of the doors for them to fit.
The Duo-Mite bending jig is used to bend
precise curves in brass or steel stock.
After rounding the edges, I drill mounting holes.
After polishing the pulls are ready to install.

Make, fix and create...

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