Old School

Much of what we (25 and over) learned in school is now moot.

Makes me wonder how schools cope with the lag in updating textbooks in the Information Age. Even the most advanced teachers who largely dispense with texts in favour of videos and such cannot hope to keep up with students who follow science blogs. I imagine schools turning into battlegrounds – at least those that have teachers like mine who encouraged students to challenge them in class. And if you think I am exaggerating the issue, let us take stock of the magnitude of what has changed.

Religion may have led to settlement and necessitated agriculture, rather than the other way around. That is a big one. For all the militant atheism supposedly sweeping the world, it seems we might need a second look at religion after all. To understand who we are and where we come from, we examine how we progressed from a gloriously natural animal existence to the present. It is profoundly central question - what came first? Did the need to transcend our physical existence to seek a higher spirit give rise to the first fixed building or did the discovery of cultivating a food surplus finally allow us to settle down?

You might want to sit down for this next one. I often goes after E, never mind where C is. And this is not even a new finding. Turns out, there are – and have always been – far more words that flout that rule than otherwise! English teachers around the world - yes, including English English teachers - just never bothered to check. Many, I fear, still continue to refer to it while helping students to spell better. Imagine the shock they get when they leave school. Even Harry Potter was stumped, which is some consolation.

ChampagnePool-Wai-O-Tapu rotated MC
Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu, near Rotorua, New Zealand © Christian Mehlf├╝hrer, Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Life arose in the sea, we were told and always thought. It certainly added to the awe I felt during pre-dawn strolls along sea shores; apart from its sheer vast spread and unfathomable depths, it was also where we came from. Evidence since uncovered suggests that the first living cells may have emerged in geothermal pools on land. The open ocean just got a little less enigmatic.

Pluto used to be planet. There were nine. But this one I expect they must have corrected even in texts by now.

(Update: We have far more than five senses, including thermoception, proprioception, equilibrioception, and nociception. And oh, glass is back to being consdered boringly solid. I remember being fascinated to hear in class that window panes of old churches get thicker at the bottom because it 'flows'.)

From revisionist accounts of history and alternative economic models to genuinely new insights in physics and biology, there is plenty more that is rapidly changing in the human ken. I just hope teachers learn some way to deal with it.