Changing the Yardstick of Learning

Einstein was considered a genius.

We often refer to someone who has talent or a gift as an “Einstein”. Yet, growing up there was no distinct display of his gifts.. As a college student he wasn’t head of his class. After college, he worked as a patent clerk. He couldn’t even get a teaching job at a college!

There were no tests, or assessments to measure Albert’s brain or way of thinking. On the surface he was a “fish out of water.” We have no way to measure a person’s heart. What makes us think that we can measure his or her head?

A young Albert Einstein today would be evaluated with a learning disability. His career path would probably point him to mediocrity and obscurity. Einstein was not practical. He was a day dreamer. His experiments took place in this thoughts.

In the 1960’s George Land did a study with 1,500 children. Five year olds were measured for divergent thinking (creative thinking). 98% of these children tested for multiple ways of thinking and problem solving. This is the opposite of convergent thinking where there is only one right answer. Convergent thinking is taught and tested in our schools.

Tested again five years later, only 30% indicated different ways of problem solving. Again, five years later a mere 12% still thought beyond one right answer. Before school, 98 out of 100 children answered with many answers to one question. After ten years in school only 12 out of 100 could still think. What happened to the other 88?

My brother Tobey while teaching first grade was literally amazed at the use of color by his students. He commented on their creative use of color to a veteran teacher who responded, “That is because they haven’t been dumbed down by the system yet.”

Einstein never fit the system. His genius and contribution is self evident now. How many geniuses are we missing because of our current obsession with standardized testing. No child left behind? Left behind in what?

To quote Albert again, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And “What if we changed the yardstick?

What if we changed the yardstick of learning? What kind of brilliance is waiting to be discovered?


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