"Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever'
Answers cause us to close our eyes, to only see limitations, to constrain us. But yet, we condition students to be experts of answers. We parade around as experts of answers. But why? How does knowing the finite help us move forward? How does knowing what has already been known going to help in our futures? Of course the obvious answers (see what I did there) are, well, obvious. But why do so very few teachers dare to be unusual? Why do we close our eyes and allow them to be closed forever? I believe there are two explanations to that question:
1. We generally perpetuate what was done to us. Often, we cannot see beyond our own experiences.
2. There is comfort in the known. There is a sense of control and directed-ness that answers provide. It sustains the paradigm we have grown accustomed.
Instead, shouldn’t we be valuing and nurturing curiosity? Shouldn’t we be seeking better questions? In Anthony Doerr's National Book Award winner, All the Light We Cannot See, young Werner is inspired to see. To see what is possible through the enigmatic voice on the radio that consistently encourages all that listen to "open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever".
The beauty of this encouragement is that Werner has no idea what is impossible. He isn’t constrained by answers. But, as Werner continues to mature, grow into adulthood, he must resist the temptation to settle for the world of answers. He must persistently refuse to accept this. He must always remind himself to “open your eyes” and “see what you can with them before they close forever”.
How quickly do we close our students’ eyes forever? Do they even get a chance to see? Make clear what is impossible. I would warrant a guess that there are some that would contend making the impossible clear is our primary role as educators. But doesn’t that type of thinking squash curiosity? And who’s to say what is impossible? In a time where quantum mechanics predicts over a dozen dimensions and multi-verses and parallel universes that have every potential form of our selves, how can we dare say that much of anything is impossible?
This leads me to one of my favorite writers and thinkers, physicist Lawrence Krauss. In this short video he discusses how a curriculum that centers on questions would push deeper understanding, engagement, and well, just better individuals. While he focuses primarily on science, I believe the issues are the same. (PLEASE ignore the title of the video)
So, what will we choose to do in our classrooms? Will we choose to see the impossible problems our students will have to deal with? Or, will we close our eyes, and therefore, our students' eyes before they have ever seen?