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Posts Tagged ‘alike

The latest Pessimists Archive podcast episode might seem like a departure from the usual fare.

The usual message is how we do not study recent history when encountering new technologies. We then make the same mistakes from the past.

This episode started with a photo of two different-looking men sharing an earphone set.

When contacted and interviewed, the two guys did not think anything unusual about their pairing because they had a shared passion. To the outside observer, they were as different as night and day.

Therein lies the underlying theme: We tend to see what we have already seen. We look for how we are different, which might then lead to unease or conflict.

I have had the privilege of having conversations with educators from different parts of the world. Even though I do not meet as many of them now, one thing has stayed with me from those interactions. We are more alike than we are different.

When I was in Denmark a few years ago, my host asked me what I learnt from travelling overseas. I gave my standard reply: For the important things, we are more alike than different.

This is a particularly important lesson in today because of the social climate and our membership as world citizens. So I was pleased to find this video from a Danish broadcaster.

Video source

The video starts with people being put in boxes. We then discover that people move out of those categories into new ones based on different contexts we put them in and the questions we ask of them.

While it is human to take cognitive shortcuts by categorisation, it is far more important to question and challenge those categories. I would wager that by asking more questions and issuing more challenges to ourselves, we learn more about others. Then we might discover that we struggle with the same issues because we have the same differences.

When this principle is applied in schooling and education, we might question if single curricula and standard assessments are logical for different learners.

Do great minds think alike or do fools seldom differ?

Whenever someone pats a small group on its collective back with “Great minds think alike!”, I point out that fools seldom differ.

I am not being a wet blanket. I am merely pointing out there is more than one way to look at things.

I am also pointing out the original photo shared under Creative Commons that I used to make this image quote.

I like that we are different. I celebrate it and design for it and I wish more would do the same.

But sometimes we are more alike than different. I have made a point of pointing this out when I hosted visitors in NIE or when I have extended conversations with people when I am overseas.

In education, we all want the best contextual solutions for our children. We all face the same types of political, administrative, policy and other problems. We all have the same passionate problem-solvers.

So why do we tend to focus on our differences? For example, when visitors come here, they want to find out what we do “differently” in Math or assessment or ICT. Perhaps our visitors think that they will find something of value or out of their box.

It makes sense that if we seem to be doing better at international tests, then what we do differently is likely to be a contributing factor. If we are doing the same thing but the results are different, then the same thing seems unlikely to be the cause.

I think there is a more insidious reason for why we look for differences instead of similarities. I realized this thanks to a seemingly unrelated tweet for help.

I was piqued by the issue and Googled for leads. I found something promising.

I tweeted a link to a library article about an event where the speaker mentioned how authors and publishers were pressured into selling books that emphasized differences instead similarities.

If you were going to read about another culture or travel to another country, you would want to find out about the different food, practices, weather, scenery, etc. You would not want to bore yourself with finding out more about the same or wasting your money to experience what you already have at home.

But the fact of the matter is that when you make that jump and spend a significant enough amount of time in a place, the more likely you are to find out how similar the problems and solutions are.

I think that only focusing on how we are different is a mistake. We are more likely to bring home a different solution without fully understanding its context. If we focus on how we are the same, we are more likely to gain an understanding of that context first. We then understand our differences better and we avoid repeating the same mistakes.

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