The Myth of Average

John Cleese Explains the Brain
July 31, 2013
Changing Education Paradigm — RSA
August 13, 2013

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Todd Rose’s brilliant talk at TEDxSonoma expands on a startlingly simple point:

When you design for the average, you design for no-one. He suggests instead we to need design for the extremes.


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For anyone who has children or has worked with students, it is an intuitive enough concept, in theory. Yet in application, it has proven challenging, especially when academic focus is on test scores, and average is king (or queen). Designing and delivering for the wide variability of students’ learning profiles necessitates a different approach than trying to get all students to the same level in all subjects. With education policies that claim to race to the top, but instead stagger for the middle, we miss out on the opportunity to race to capitalize on the intellectual diversity of our children and students.

As Rose so eloquently demonstrates with a story from military history, in trying to target the average, we invariably isolate everyone.

What makes him an expert in this topic? He was a high school dropout with a 0.9 GPA who is now an author of “Square Peg” and a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

He says,

I’ve been to the very bottom of our educational system. I’ve been to the very top. I’m here to tell you that we are wasting so much talent at every single level. And the thing is, because for every single person like me, there are millions who worked as hard, who had the ability, but who were unable to overcome the drag of a educational environment designed on average. And their talent is forever lost to us.

Watch his talk above for more. We guarantee you will be even more inspired to ensure that students’ learning environments and experiences reflect their unique individuality. Rather than leaving no child behind, doing so ensures we propel all students toward success. It was this desire — to explore a different approach to education and learning in order to focus on students first — that inspired CLC to begin with. It still drives us to this day.

A version of this post was originally published on the All Kinds of Minds blog

Photo Credit: ~Urban Prowler~ (www.anshumm.com) via Compfight cc

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