This post was first published July 10, 2017.
It was one big, fat, stinking lie.
She promised I was wrong. She swore she was telling the truth. The wooden schoolhouses circling her neck and cat sweater made her deception all the more convincing. As she peered through the lenses balancing on her nose, I knew. I saw her chalkboard scribbles of cosigns and quadratic functions for what they were: propaganda. Despite Mrs. Kurlee’s insistence otherwise, I knew I would never use pre-calculus in “real life.”
Twenty years later, I am not backing down. I have yet to find a use for my knowledge of rational exponents. Looking back at my primary and high school education, I am faced with a sea of useless knowledge.
- The Romans would host great feasts and vomit in-between courses, so they could continue eating. Why thank you, eighth grade world history.
- The poet Christopher Marlowe was stabbed in the head during a bar brawl. Lovely, twelfth grade English.
- Hippo milk is pink. How special, second grade science.
I am not suggesting that my education was pointless or subpar. To the contrary, I am very grateful for my first twelve years of schooling. However, it is not the content I absorbed that has had a lasting impact. It is the process I took in with which to understand it.
Traditional schools often value abilities and skills not necessarily reflected in the real world. Memorization, speed, and retrieval tend not to be the strengths of dyslexic learners. Thankfully, their importance stops at the classroom door.
Despite schools’ reluctance to change, I believe the future will put a premium on dyslexic thinking. In his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brain Thinking Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink outlines six essential skills for the future: meaning, design, empathy, symphony, story and play.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, these characteristics are disproportionately high in people with dyslexia. One third of all American entrepreneurs are dyslexic. I am confident dyslexic thinkers like Steve Jobs and Charles Schwab would not attribute their success to knowing that Cheyenne is the capital of Wyoming (I had to Google it). Their genius derived from the novelties and connections they saw within the information.
As the 21st century unfolds, memorization, speed, and retrieval will be the work of machines. Thinking will be the new engine of our economy. It will be the age of dyslexic thinking.