Reason + imagination = education

David Weinberger participated on a panel at the just concluded Milken Global Conference 2006 on the subject of social media and education. Live blogging while the other panelists spoke, he wrote:   

GeorgeSiemens explains his term "connectivism." The half-life of knowledge is diminishing, he says: it's becoming obsolete faster than ever. Courses can't keep up. Connectivism says that the knowledge resides in the networks we create. Our education system was designed to create certainty.

Doug Thomas, who has an article with John Seely Brown in Wired this month, says he's concerned that we're training kids for the best jobs in the 20th Century. Instead, we should be helping expand imagination. He knows a student who has to sneak art and music into his studies because they're not on the test. "Our mission is to try to re-integrate imagination back into the curriculum."

Via monkeymagic, which pointed me in this direction, Weinberger also listed some ideas prior to the conference that he might bring up. Two that caught my eye were "knowledge is a social product, or at least heavily socially contextualized," and  "Knowing has been primarily a way of seeing the simplicity behind the world's apparent complexity," which Piers Young blogs as "simplicity is hard."

That knowledge might be a social product interests me a great deal given my skepticism that consciousness - our knowing of ourselves and the experience of others - is simply the result of brain activity. We demonstrably conceive from the top down as well as the bottom up, and, as Weinberger blogged, can pierce complexity to deduce something basic. We "complexify" things (read the Weinberger and Young posts) because we misapprehend knowing as something received solely from the data, which is now everywhere, a rising crap tide of factoids. Yes, we must have data, but "re-integrating imagination" will in the decades that follow be viewed, along with the long-privileged knowing faculty of reason, as partners in education. One without the other leads, simply, to confusion.