Brave New World

A physicist and an educator were once discussing scientific education being imparted in schools. Physicist was puzzled about the curriculum that was being taught, so he inquired:

“Why is that we still teach our kids Newtonian physics till class X. Why don’t we teach them basics of quantum mechanics and relativity. Why don’t we tell them that nothing in the physical world is fixed or solid. Objects at their base, are mere processes and space and time are very elastic concepts.”

“What good will that serve. Parents and kids will cry fowl that we have introduced tough ideas as a replacement for easy ones. “ the educator objected.

“Well it serves multiple purposes to give them the correct approach:

1) It gives them a worldview that physical world is a realm of possibilities. Since nothing is fixed and everything is probable so it opens up new windows of possible actions and thus nurtures their curiosity.

2) The concepts from physical world when transported to mental world gives new insights into purely human situations. For example we have something called multiple world interpretation of the quantum mechanical phenomenon. This means that everything that can happen in a lifetime of a particle does happen in a parallel universe. It is a serious theory with hundreds of papers published on it. Applied to human situations, it denies that there is one fixed right path and opens up various viewpoints on the same situation.This flexibility of approach fosters creativity.

3) Since very many people discontinue science education after school so they carry wrong ideas about the surrounding world. Such people are easy to indoctrinate by other rival ideologies. So instead of teaching science as a fixed doctrine if we teach it as ongoing enterprise of truth seeking, we will condition them much better to resist other fixed doctrines. This is building up their immune system for lot of trashy thoughts that the world will throw at them. “

“Oh I see doctor that you totally misunderstand what public education in world is all about. It is not about the quest for truth, fostering individual potential or even giving them right attitude towards learning. It is about literacy, giving reasonable answers and providing vocational training. The intent is not to produce thought leaders but instruction followers.” The educator smiled.

“Even if that is the objective you are doing it wrong. You know why?

Fostering fixed mindsets by giving definitive answers and concrete theories served well for an industrial economy. It mimicked fixed routines, less choices and local lifestyle of previous generations. However we have already entered the knowledge economy where people are not required to take blind instructions as for that we will soon have robots.

Normal people will now be required to do actual mental work, like thinking of new approaches which are less wasteful, solving new problems which will have 100s of moving parts, creating new solutions for old problems. Also with technology leveling the playing field, competition is and would be global.

So unless we change the fixed worldview we are indoctrinating our future generations with and start to give them an open world view or tell them that there are multiple solutions to each problem and multiple ways to reach each solution, we are loading them with a handicap.

I am sure as an educator you must be aware of the “principle of minimum harm” which states that if you cannot actively help somebody at least do not harm them. So my suggestion if you really want to build human resources for the future economic system will be, to rewrite science books majorly and open them up as a book of questions rather than as a treasury of answers.”

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