A final point. There is a constant hum of conversation. Analyze that and you’ll find only a little of this is transactional, most of it is circumstantial and a fair amount is simply amiable gossip – something that keeps the emotional wheels turning. This always seeks to put the task into a larger context. Whole-hearted engagement in a task – where the level of challenge is poised just above your level of current competence – enables us to reach a stage of highly efficient brain functioning which psychologists call “flow.” At this point the brain works so efficiently that its consumption of oxygen actually falls so reducing those chemical by-products associated with stress that induce tiredness.

There is one continuous underlying theme. Traditionally the more skills a learner mastered, the more that learner was responsible for utilizing those skills. Learning followed a strict weaning process.

See Graph 2: Intellectual Weaning based on Normal Human Development (Opens in new window)

Look at this graph showing intellectual weaning based on normal human development. See how the Weaning Principle goes from a heavy dependency on external support to an increasing autonomy in adolescence. But note this. If the opportunity offered by the various predispositions is not seized when children are very young, then they simply can’t handle the hormonal and other changes of adolescents that crave increasing independence.

See Graph 1: Current Relationship of Expenditure (Opens in new window)

Now pause and look at a graph showing the current use of resources in schools. Here the figures are given from an OECD report on Western education.

Historically it has been assumed that children of five don’t need as many resources as young people of 18, or students of 21 or 22. Maybe they’re just too young to know how to complain! Look at the way class size falls with age. Note that five year olds, whose normal comfortable peer group is between five and 10, are plunged into classes of 30 or so, and note that those adolescents we have talked about, struggling to express their independence, are in classes of 10 or 12.

See Graph 3: The Clash (Opens in new window)

Now put these two graphs together. Isn’t the present system simply upside down? At the very moment when children would benefit from the highest level of support we leave their mental development largely to chance. Having failed to capitalize on the predispositions when they are young we leave adolescents so ill-prepared to deal with their hormonal and other changes that we increase the level of staff support – in practice we move into control mode. Look at the explosive convergence of these two lines…at the age of about 14 or 15.

Why have we allowed this to happen?

  • Intelligence was largely innate, as was creativity
  • As children become older they needed more formal instruction
  • Learning was dependent on direct instruction and extrinsic rewards
  • Learning was seen as being strictly logical, objective and linear
  • Real learning was accomplished in formal settings, and is measurable
  • Learning was dependent on class time, and the technology of paper, pencil and textbooks

Think of those historic assumptions that underpin the distribution of resources that explain the earlier graph. These assumptions have been around for a long time. Look at them carefully; they are mostly outdated. As professionals living with these issues you, from day to day, seek to modify these. But, I submit, these are the assumptions that the greater community and politicians still make.

I, like many others, have tired myself out by trying to capitalize on many of the new findings about learning by placing these within the present system. They just don’t fit; they collide head on. Not only is the system upside down, but in its failure to recognize the significance of informal learning within the community, it’s inside out as well.