(Via David Warlick.)


Value vs Source: "

I think we’re all sorta jumping around the same bush. It’s been a good dance because I’ve learned some things. First of all, nothing’s simple and it isn’t getting any simpler. There are no rules any more and as much as I’d like to come up with some kind of all encompassing unified field theory of ethical research method, I know that smarter people than me have already done a better job, and none of it is perfect.

Please allow me to do something kinda strange. I want to look backward for some clues. When I was young, my Dad loved to build things. He was the preeminent do-it-yourselfer. Every weekend, he had a building project, and every Saturday morning he loaded us boys into the station wagon and off we went to the Lowes Hardware Store in Shelby, where he bought the tools and materials he would need for the project.

He did not have a list of criterial for selecting his materials, because every project was different — the goal was different. If he had selected everything based on the same criteria, then everything he built would have been made with pine shelving, two-penny finishing nails, and all the work would have been done with a Craftsman common nail hammer. Instead, he selected his building materials and tools based on the goal of the project. To do otherwise would have resulted in a product that did not last long, and that would have been unethical.

Bill EdwardsYears later, I studied under the best teacher I ever had, Mr. Bill Edwards — my industrial arts teacher. His technique was to help us learn industrial arts skills by helping us to build something of value. I built a kayak. Other students built book shelves, stools, and chess boards. Two friends of mine built a life-size replica of a Gemini Space Capsule. Mr. Edwards taught us to set goals and to make decisions based on those goals.

This was the perfect way to teach industrial arts skills, since we were in the industrial age. If Edwards had taught us in the same way that my information arts teachers were teaching, he would have put a stack of lumber on our desks and asked us to practice driving nails. But he taught us by putting us in the industry. We should be teaching today by putting students in the industry of information. We need to stop teaching science and start teaching students to be scientists. Stop teaching history, but rather teach to be historians. Stop teaching students to be researchers, and instead, teach them to solve problems and accomplish goals using information.

I am certain that there were brands of wood and nails that my father wouldn’t buy, because he couldn’t depend on them. He swore by Craftsman tools. To build with materials that were unreliable would have been unethical. But his conscious work in finding and selecting materials was based on the goal at hand. All else pointed to that criteria.

It is critical to know and understand the source of the information. But what is it about the source that helps you accomplish your goal. It’s important to understand when the information was generated and published. But what is it about ‘when’ that helps you accomplish your goal. It’s important to understand what the information is made of, and what it is about its format and how you can use it that helps you accomplish your goal. It’s important to understand the information’s cultural, economic, environmental, and emotional context, and what it is about the context that helps you accomplish your goal. All aspects remain critical, but its problem solving and goal achieving that children need to be doing, not just hoop-jumping in their schools. The need to look for the information’s value as a tool for ethically accomplishing their goals.

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Portions of this post come from Raw Materials for the Mind ISBN #1-4116-2795-4

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