Friday, February 25, 2011

Noise to signal

The kids have completed something of an in-house survey regarding how they view themselves, and their personal goals and traits. Interestingly, the majority of them claim that they study best alone, isolated from external distractions. This I believe. When we set our minds to study, we don't like any unnecessary noise that would disrupt the signal we're trying so hard to focus on.

But the kids are now on the threshold of having to distill more knowledge from more information that they have ever encountered before. Alone, they're going to have a terrible time coping with such a deluge of material. That's why we put them in classes -- so they can work together, and help each other in the distillation process.

From this level onwards, study becomes an increasingly social process. We're looking at big concepts that have to do with life, human behaviour, and power relationships, for example, and are considering the many facets making up the big questions that we as a species have currently no answer to. What can a class of 16 year-olds do to make any headway in a task this huge? Same thing as the rest of humanity is doing: share our observations with one another and hope the pooling, sifting and combining of our collective thoughts and ideas will eventually help us make sense of it all.

So the class is like an old-time distillery, with lots of processes to break down the raw materials and lots of hands to make the machinery work. The finished product is a fine cognac to look forward to. This is the knowledge that the kids will take away from their cooperative labours. The best thing about a good liquor is that it can be further shared and enjoyed in a social environment, or taken into a private study to be savoured at one's leisure. That's when studying alone really comes into its own.

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