Skip to content

October 18, 2011


Question Authority – (6 of 6)

by Peter Skillen

Humankind is Both Art and Science – The Art and Science of Learning Disabilities

Sixth, and final, in the series of Humankind is Both Art & Science based on the TEDx talk given on Oct. 1, 2011 at TEDxYMCAAcademy.

  1. Humankind is Both Art and Science; 2. Limited, and Fooled, by Our Senses; 3. The Trickery of Temporary Truths; 4. Post Gutenberg Parenthesis; 5. Emotional Rescue; 6. Question Authority

Question Authority

Question Authority!

I am often in trouble. Perhaps it is because I am a product of the sixties – of (r)evolution  – of anti-establishment.

But, I think not. It is because I really like to question authority – because authority – the common wisdom – sometimes just does not make sense to me.

So I ‘question authority’.

In fact, I used to have a sticker for my motorcycle helmet.

Honestly Officer – It’s an Academic Comment!

Question Authority

Unfortunately the police didn’t find it as intellectually stimulating as I do.   LOL

I have questioned some common practices in classrooms where kids have been identified with various LDs. Now these things may not work for you – but I have had tremendous success with these on various occasions. They fly in the face of common recommendations. That’s the way I roll. 🙂

In schools, common practices often include a very reductionist approach. I understand why – to reduce the complexity of competing stimuli, to simplify the material, take it to its barest elements and to logically sequence it.

I think there is a place for that.

However, I do not believe it should be the main course of a student’s school life.

Natural Complexity Brings a Context

Learn within the Natural Complexity

I think that the complexity of life is essential for a passionate engagement with the world. I believe that the complexity is required for making sense of the whole and its parts.

“…young children are able to steal that which they need to know…”


The Construction Zone

I have had a classroom in the YMCA Academy that is called The Construction Zone.

By all rights, ‘learning disabled’ kids should not have done well in that space. Too busy. Too distracting. Too ‘unmanaged’.

The Construction Zone

I have been accused of being too laissez-faire …. but I expect kids not just to learn the content at hand, but indeed I expect them to manage the learning of that content as well.

How ‘meta’ of me.  😉

People should make their learning as explicit and as visible as possible – that includes the teacher.

So I would have multiple projectors running with kids working ontheir tasks and everyone else able to see the content AND the processes as they worked.

I would always have my twitter stream running and projected so that kids would understand and see how I engage and how I learn with my PLN.

The students, like very young children, seemed to be able to ‘steal that which they needed to know’.

Build Thoughtful Environments

Create Thoughtful Environments

We need to build thoughtful environments, both F2F and with Blogs, Wikis, FaceBook, Twitter, Nings, etc. – ones that support multimedial minds in natural collaborative endeavours.

Such ‘thoughtful’ environments can be supported with many Web 2.0 tools these days.

But, alas, today I wanted to share the ‘why

There is no time for the ‘what’ and ‘how’!

The ‘what’ and ‘how’ will be part of the TEDxYMCAAcademy 2.0!

Or read some other posts in this blog if you can’t wait!  🙂

The Ying and Yang of Art & Science


At this point, I invite you all to think about the issues I have raised here.

When you are studying learning disabilities consider the science of us – but also remember that what we experience is also art. We are both art and science.

Recognize that our view of the world is both limited by our senses and that we impose meaning based on what we already understand. That may not be an accurate picture.

Remember that humankind’s knowledge base is constantly under revision.

What we see as ‘truth’ today, may not be the ‘truth’ of tomorrow. 

Educate for these times – not past times

Look at natural models of learning that engender passion – for that enhances learning.

So, therefore, I ask you to question authority.

Question Authoritatively!

But, be wise. Be smart. Be open. Be learned. Be a learner!

And, question authoritatively.

Thank you.


This brings to a close this series. Thank you so much.

1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Oct 30 2011

    Love it! Great series Peter. One of the things I always think about (rant too) is the mis-understanding of science as a process, not as a collection of facts or truths. If people saw science as something you DO, and not as something you KNOW, then we’d be better off. You nailed it in a few places about the self-correcting nature of the process, and that as we continually learn, what we know becomes deeper and more refined, and corrects the wrong turns of the past. (Being human, we all make a few! :)) One of my favourite comedians, Dara O’Brain makes a great statement when he says, ‘Science knows it doesn’t know everything, otherwise it would stop.’ 🙂 Thanks for the series!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments