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.
Years 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
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
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
accomplishing their goals.
Portions of this post come from Raw Materials for the Mind ISBN