From Piaget to … Sea Turtles

In the last couple of weeks I’ve caught up on some reading that can only happen when I take to the bath as part of a much-needed break.

My first soak included a fascinating article in the December issue of Outdoor magazine that profiled how biologist Wallace Nichols is enlisting cognitive neuroscience in his advocacy on behalf of marine conservation. His thesis: Our neurology (not just confined to our brains) responds very positively to interactions with and imagery of various ocean-centred activities, so marine-conversation efforts, including saving sea turtles, should invoke this positive-affect response as much as possible. It’s good for us and marine conservation and sea turtles.

In my next soak I chose a musty book, “Piaget for Teachers”, written in 1970 by an American education professor. The book had langushed on my shelf since I retrieved it from the discard table in the education library at the University of British Columbia (where I once found a treasure-trove of rare books from the 50s and 60s advocating individualized learning). In scanning this book I concluded that, while Piaget’s conclusions on development were significant, they were over-simplified in many ways and rife with issues of credibility. But I don’t fault him; he was a pioneer and worked without the benefit of modern diagnostic technologies (FMRIs, CATs, etc.). 

What leaves me shaking my head is how Piaget’s conclusions became so foundational to educational theory and remain so dominating despite the many remarkable developments that modern neurology has brought us since Piaget’s death in 1980. In light of these developments, including how our neurology is positively influenced by such seemingly exotic phenomena as sea turtles, and many other recent insights into learning and development, educational theory needs a make-over. IMO, such a make-over would be based on adapting recent information and synthesizing a new model about learning, just as our brains assimilate new information to existing knowledge and arrive at a new destiny (“Ah-hah!”). I think the resulting model would be universally applicable and profound. The question is, are education’s self-proclaimed leaders willing to do this?

For information on my new book: Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now and to order a copy, go here.  

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