The Industrial model of education that fueled the modern era was focused on specialization. While blindly successful, it came at the price of open-ended exploration necessary to prepare us for the ‘unknowns’ that will define our future.
The Industrial model of education that fueled the modern era and its dizzying reach did its job incredibly well. Its prime accomplishment was the expansion of our ability to abstract the world. Until then, pragmatism reigned, limiting most people’s thoughts and interactions primarily because we lacked the tools to extrapolate information, to wield it for things that lay beyond obvious applications.
That is, most humans couldn’t see patterns behind inputs, because doing so required us to be able to entertain abstract concepts. And our education was what led us there.
If the inability to see patterns sounds implausible to you, it did to me, too, until I read David Epstein’s fascinating book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Early on, he introduces us to Raven’s Progressive Matrices — essentially the gold standard for general human intelligence tests, because it transcends education and culture.
Using Raven’s Matrices, New Zealand psychologist named James Flynn was the first person to amalgamate existing studies from around the world to test how results from Raven’s Matrices changed over time. His discoveries in 1981, dubbed the Flynn Effect, proved that across generations and nations, whether or not general scholastic intelligence climbed or fell, Raven’s scores always went up.
What drove this was the education system we had formalized in response to the complexities introduced by industrial-era machines and the businesses they sponsored. STEM subjects, knowledge of which our new machines and work processes required of the general work force for the very first time—at least to some degree—allowed us to extrapolate information from abstract concepts like math and scientific inquiry.
We used these to make sense of increased complexity.
Modern education introduced the public at large to things that had hitherto only existed in rare…