Surprising truth #8 by Jeff Sandefer: No experts allowed.

I invited Jeff to write a post as we near the end of my list of  “surprising truths. ” Here are his words:

So here is one of the most surprising truths of all about Acton Academy – we don’t allow experts inside the classroom.  We’d prefer to keep teachers away too.

 “But wait,” you might say, “then how will my child learn?”

An understandable question, particularly given the way traditional education is delivered.  So here’s some more heresy.  We don’t think there’s much correlation between traditional classroom teaching and learning.  In fact, sadly, in many schools there may be an inverse correlation.

Now you really may think we’ve lost our minds.  But bear with me.

Put yourself in the shoes of a child.  Would you rather listen to an expert drone on and on or be challenged with a dilemma that matters to you?   Would you rather read about how some expert solved a problem two hundred years ago or wrestle with a difficult hand-on experiment that might lead to a new discovery?

You might protest: “But experts know a lot.”  Sure they do.  Sometimes what they know is even true.

Experts know a lot about a narrow subject, or at least pretend that they do.  In fact the definition of an expert is:  someone who has authoritative knowledge or skill in a particular area.  The difficulty is with the word authoritative.  Proper authority is to be respected.  But a synonym for authority is imperious meaning:  assuming authority without justification; arrogant; domineering

In other words, imperious, as in “the Emperor has no clothes.”  Sadly, this is what expert teaching too often deteriorates into – control without much value added.  Repeat after me.  Eyes up here. Sit up straight.  Pay attention.

Heroes don’t thrive in that kind of turgid environment.  Neither do our Eagles.

That’s why we want Guides in our Acton classrooms, adults and children who are willing to ask hard questions and dig deeply into research and practice to uncover practical answers.  We seek neither to nurture idealists who believe everything nor cynics who believe nothing, but rather curious, friendly skeptics who ask – “What’s your evidence?”

 We also welcome Masters.  Guides who’ve made the difficult journey through challenges, dips and plateaus to start as a beginner, dig deeply into the marrow of a problem, so they now can ask a beginner’s questions with even more insight and clarity. 

Masters know the art of being judgmental:  having the courage and clarity to take a black or white stand on an issue; while at the same time celebrating tolerance:  the open embrace of competing viewpoints in the battle of ideas.

Experts can stifle.  Experts can bully.  Experts can impose. Experts seek final answers.

Guides question.  Guides explore.  Master Guides persevere in looking for deeper and more important questions, for paths that lead to a more productive and meaningful lives.

Acton Academy: No experts allowed.