Clear your mind….
I want to take you back about 60 or so years, back to the early 1950’s in rural West Texas. Take you to a warm hot day in August; dry mountain air in a small one horse town. Exactly the kind of town you would imagine when you think of a one horse town in your mind. These types of towns continue to exist, they are full of tight knit communities where people know each other not on superficial level, but because they live life together. Most of these rural agricultural towns are at the mercy of weather patterns, supply and demand from large cities which to many seem foreign and threatening. Their shared experiences, both high and low, contribute to a combined and agreed upon awareness and understanding that defines their world view.
Now imagine in our one horse town there existed a middle school, attended by the boys and girls of the town, who are all growing up together, all have the same familiar chores, and responsibilities at home. It would be entirely possible that the teachers in this particular school would be some of, if not the only, college educated people in this small community.
Many of the children in the school are attending at a cost. In the case of middle school children, they are at an age where they are mentally able to grasp responsibility and the importance of hard work. Not only that, but the cost of attending he school, will at some point be recouped by the education and knowledge that they are gaining at the school. In essence, it’s a trade off that many rural parents are hoping will pay off for them, when their children return to the farm, and continue in its operation, maybe even bringing their newly acquired knowledge in implementing it to make the farm more efficient and profitable.
And what if you found a love for numbers. What if you found a love for numbers, and calculating. What if you would help your mother in her country kitchen by making sure her measurements were accurate and were more mesmerized by the measuring cups than the texture of the batter. What if you had a secret desire, hidden in your Heart, growing with your experience, to escape your rural confines; not in an effort to run away, but towards the coziness of a university campus, where bright educated minds can finally answer questions about life and the universe that you are too afraid to ask. Not because of some fear of rejection, but because you know that your physical geography limits your access to these special intellectual people. People who you know in your heart you would get along with, and could spend hours and hours listening to, because their thoughts would be so fascinating and amazing. And so you dream of knowing these answers, dream of finding yourself in a place that’s mentally stimulating and can offer you the answers to the questions that you wish you had.
Your access to this information is due to forces out of your control, so what you end up doing is settling in your mind for the information you have access to at your school. Understanding that at some point you might be able to arrive at a university, having confidence in your abilities and in your developing skills.
And on the first day of school, as a middle schooler, you enter your Algebra class eager to learn, ready to grow, understanding that your mind will be challenged and your want to learn will be fulfilled. You sit nervously in your chair, not only because it’s the first time you will meet your teacher but your also nervously anxious about seeing your friends, about any new kids that might have shown up, which in a very small town is a very big deal. So your anxious, your nervous, your excited…. Truly eager to learn because you feel that your old enough to get to the “real” education you’ve been waiting for. No more kid stuff.. your older, your wiser, and your ready. Your ready to learn and to grow.
Your teacher, a male, walks into your classroom. He looks knowledgeable. He looks and sounds wise and serious. He lays the scope of the land, and it’s all word and no play. He’s serious about what he’s teaching and he’s serious about his methods and his discipline plan. While the other kids might be dreading this kind of teacher, secretly, it’s a comfort to you. It’s a comfort to you because maybe this is the class where the boys won’t cause any more distrCtions. Maybe this will be the class where your really going to get all of the answers. There’s a comfort in his disciplinarian attitude, which you respect.
Day one, day two, day three goes past, and while there are some distractions, your chugging along, interested, fascinated, paying attention to the lesson (even if it is Review) but your going along with it. And it’s wonderful because your more confident in your abilities, your proud of yourself for knowing what you know, and not asking for help. Day four comes and your eager to prove yourself on the quiz he announced two days prior. Desk cleared, sharpened pencil in your hand, your ready to go. Your teachers lack of empathy and disciplined affect don’t faze you so much, not because it’s not intimidating, but because life is hard; your family has taught you that well. His scowled face, which never smiles, doesn’t affect you so much, so there’s no reason for you not to smile at him when he walks up to your desk and hands you your Quiz, straight faced.
It doesn’t seem appropriate for you to smile, even though your bursting at the seams because you know you will get a 100 on this quiz. So as you hold back your smile, you also can’t, hold back your smile. You finally make eye contact with him; he pauses in front of you, his face unresponsive. Then, as he places the quiz on your desk, he says in a calm and controlled tone,
”I’m not sure why you’re trying so hard, your going to end up pregnant in a kitchen regardless”
Steady, deep, and methodical boot sounds fill the silence left behind.
“It’s a waste of time to teach a girl anything” “it’s a waste of my time to invest in any girl” “they should keep girls out of school, so we can focus on more serious items”
This story is still happening today. We are not immune to the ideas of others. That is a 2×2 situation that we are all subject to. Let me explain….
When we are children the idea of counting to 10 seems extremely difficult. But as time passes or abilities increased to the point where we can count to 100. And then at some point we can go beyond that and understand multiplication and understand the vision and at some point we can calculate 2×2. This becomes almost 2nd nature to us because we learn it so early in our development and it becomes such a common sense equation that at some point it is just a known fact about the world. We simply understand this to be true and relying on it; we can regurgitate the fact in a second. In fact there might of been a point in time where you either made fun of someone for forgetting this fact or you were the subject of someone making fun of you for not knowing this fact. Whatever the case maybe we take this as fact we absorb it and it becomes easily accessible something quick to bring up that is useful information for us. This not only happens with facts but it also happens with people and our perceptions of people and the world around us.
Thinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling book published in 2011 by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics laureate Daniel Kahneman
In the book’s first section, Kahneman describes two different ways the brain forms thoughts:
System 1: Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious. Examples (in order of complexity) of things system 1 can do:
* see that an object is at a greater distance than another
* localize the source of a specific sound
* solve 2+2=?
* read a text on a billboard
* drive a car on an empty road
System 2: Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious. Examples of things system 2 can do:
* point your attention towards someone at a loud party
* look out for the woman with the grey hair
* dig into your memory to recognize a sound
* determine the appropriateness of a behavior in a social setting
* give someone your phone number
* park into a tight parking space
* determine the price/quality ratio of two washing machines
The System 1 vs. System 2 debate dives into the reasoning or lack thereof for human decision making.
Overconfidence is a major issue.
Kahneman introduces the concept he labels “What You See Is All There Is” (WYSIATI). This theory states that when the mind makes decisions, it deals primarily with Known Knowns, phenomena it has already observed.
In the case of the teacher who already made up in his mind that we were not going to do anything productive with our lives with the knowledge we had of math. (*And I do want to add that this is not in anyway shape or form to say that women who choose to have that lifestyle are in any way less than other people because raising children and maintaining A positive home life is extremely important and it’s a very tough job and I praise women that make that decision. But there is a big difference between consciously making that decision and having someone else’s opinions of you dictate that decision for you or limit your thinking to believing that all you can do or all you’re capable of doing is that.)
Reasoning rarely considers Known Unknowns, phenomena that it knows to be relevant but about which it has no information. Unknown unknowns in this situation would be our interest in math, our desire to succeed. The teacher our eagerness and showed an awareness of the fact that we were putting in our efforts but he didn’t know how or where that came from. He didn’t even care to know where that drive was coming from and no information was looked for by him in order for him to figure out if this was a passion or if he was in the interest of ours doesn’t even matter to him. He was aware of this but never took the time to probe further.
Finally some people’s reasoning appears oblivious to the possibility of Unknown Unknowns; unknown phenomena of unknown relevance.
He explains that humans fail to take into account complexity and that their understanding of the world consists of a small and necessarily un-representative set of observations. Furthermore, the mind generally does not account for the role of chance and therefore falsely assumes that a future event will mirror a past event.
Teachers do this all the time. We will consistently without fail put that annoying kid in the corner because we know exactly how he’s going to act we don’t want to put up with that we don’t want to deal with it we don’t want to mess with that and that kid is going to go there. That teacher knew based on his observations that we were going to end up pregnant and in the kitchen that in our lives we were not going to be anything more than a set of expectations that
What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI)
What we see in our students as “bad”or unwanted or undesirable is really influenced by the limitations of their parents. Children are not poor; their parents are. Children are not badly behaved; that was taught and modeled. If we are to truly make a difference in the lives of our children, we need to stop seeing them as 2 x 2… and instead start seeing them as 17 x 24
You will stop to figure out 17 x 24
You will take the time to get that right
You will focus your energy and attention to solving that problem
You will pull in external resources to solve that
You will work hard to get that right
You will own that… understand it, maybe even re read it
You will not simply ignore that equation if it comes across your path.
And you shouldn’t… because you expect that from others….. you expect your assistant primpicals, your admin, your superiors to understand you. You expect your spouses and significant others to understand you. And you expect those people whom you have a deep vested interest in to take the time to underhand you because you are worthy of that time and effort and expense. Aren’t you?
Guess who else is worthy of that… every single child in your classroom…. Every single child in your classroom…. All of them….
Every child is 17 x 24… because so are you…
BE KIND…. so your students have the space to be COURAGEOUS!
And make sure every lesson, every interaction, eveything you do, is Sealed With Your Smile! 🙂