The title of my last post prompted this reader’s response: “Your title [what looks like lazy] reminds me of all the times I would look at the kids and see them just sitting there…”doing nothing”…..and then WHAM they would ask a profound question that would settle my soul, knowing that their minds are engaged.”

David Brooks referred to a similar phenomenon in a recent talk: “…We think about the things we can measure easily – things like grades, SATs, degrees, the number of years in schooling. What it really takes to do well, to lead a meaningful life, are the things that are deeper, things we don’t really even have words for.”

It’s easy to measure how well someone spells, how quickly someone can do arithmetic, how many facts someone knows.  It’s harder to measure the development of actual understanding, of the ability to question what you’ve learned and shape it into original thought and ideas.  And more and more, research suggests that it’s this other more elusive kind of learning, knowledge, and understanding that will drive economy and culture in the years to come.  It won’t function without the likes of spelling and computation and memory, but it will be the difference between thriving and not. As this parent recognized again and again with her children, the brain is processing and connecting all the time.  If we’re constantly cramming kids’ brains full of things we already know, there’s no time or space for them to do the job of synthesizing and extrapolating from what it’s learned, for generating new ways of seeing and thinking and interpreting. As long as we confine our teaching to that which we can comfortably quantify, we’ll be missing out, undermining the realization of full potential, and shortchanging kids in their preparation for the realities of the adult world they’ll encounter.