Dixie Darr

In Learning on September 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Education Pyramid or Landscape?

It has always bothered me that traditional education is represented by a pyramid, with high school forming the broad base and successive degrees from associate’s to Ph.D layered above. Somebody defined education as learning a little about a lot and a lot about a little. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for all of us. It doesn’t make sense to me to continue to narrow my focus when there are so many fascinating things to learn in the world.

My style of learning, which Barbara Sher has brilliantly described in her book, Refuse to Choose, looks more like a mountain range, with peaks of all different sizes and shapes, and the occasional lake and stream. I call it a learning landscape. My pastor, who shares a similar learning style, says she is more interested in breadth than depth.

I’m a little annoyed that our education system doesn’t recognize landscape learning, but maybe that is changing. Author Frans Johansson, in The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts & Cultures, reports that “(college) students today have more hyphens in their majors than in the past.”

He also quotes Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who said, “Most major advancements involve multiple disciplines.” That’s music to my ears. I’d like to see colleges offering more inter-disciplinary, individually-designed degree and certificate programs, breaking out of the single-discipline boxes.

Over the next few weeks I will examine some educational innovations and the cultural changes that both demand and allow them.



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