Who Taught Sherlock?

There’s this vlog series I love called Nothing Much To Do that is based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It’s set in New Zealand and follows a group of teenagers as if they were going through the events of the play in a modern day high school. In one of the episodes, a character poses a question to the audience: “In which school did Sherlock learn to become a detective?” The question is meant as a joke, and the answer is, of course, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” (which is interesting because he never actually says that in the books) but I took it on a more serious standpoint. In which school did Sherlock Holmes – arguably one of the greatest and most well known detectives of all time – become a detective?

The Sherlock Holmes story is a rather long one, and unfortunately I’m not very far into the original writings, but I am fairly certain that Sherlock, having lived in Victorian England, did not learn to be a detective at any school. He just started watching things. Observing.

Which is what many teachers are trying to teach students now: observe. See how things work. Notice patterns. It’s almost like we’re trying to make an entire generation of Sherlock Holmeses, just without the drug addictions.

One thing that’s interesting to note about Sherlock, however, is that he doesn’t know everything and doesn’t expect himself to know everything. He deletes the things from his memory that he doesn’t need, like the fact that the Earth goes around the Sun. To someone else (like Dr. John Watson), that might seem like a very important fact. To others (like Galileo), it might even seem vital.

But what’s important (or, for that matter, vital), and what’s not? How can we tell? Do we just have to do like Sherlock: learn it all, find our niche, and then delete the things we don’t need in that niche?

And can we expect of our student to know everything, do everything?

Tonight kicked off Fuse15 (the name of my blog post for Fuse14 was MoVe(ing) Design Thinking Into Our World, should you want more background into what Fuse is. You can also check out #fuse15 on Twitter). At this event, we had MoVe talks and two of my teachers from my freshman year presented in them: Holly Chesser and TJ Edwards.

In Mrs. Chesser’s talk, she examined the language used in IDEO’s description of design thinking, focusing in on how the skills you learn in humanities classes are the skills you use when designing. Design thinking is said to take us back to natural ways of creating that are often bumped out by other problem-solving methods.

In Mr. Edwards talk, he presented a graph that showed how most of the world – engineers, schools, business – operate on the Analytical side of thinking and designers work on the Intuitive side of thinking, with design thinking being exactly between the two. The safest place to think is somewhere between analytics and intuition.

What’s interesting about all of this is that it says we don’t need to be taught how to think. Sherlock was not taught how to be a detective. Design thinking takes us to our natural problem-solving method. The best place to think is a balance of the left brain and the right brain.

The thing about school is that it’s supposed to teach us how to think. We are taught ways to solve problems. It focuses on the left brain.

Maybe it’s time we find the balance again.

There are many different kinds of intelligences, which is why we have tests for them. I have a high musical intelligence but not a high mathematical intelligence. This probably means I’m more right brain focused, yet I’m forced to work with my left brain all day long.

The current set up of school tells students that they have to live with their head, rather than their hands, in order to succeed in the world. The goal of all school up until college seems to be, “Let’s get you into college,” and then the goal of college seems to be, “Let’s get you ready for the rest of your life.” We have created a society in which you are seen as lesser if you do not go to college. Even artist go to college. Sorry, but I don’t think Michael di Angelo and Picasso and Vincent van Gogh were heading off to university when they turned 18 to be taught how to draw and paint.

I think of the arts as a very personal thing. Personal, not private. I don’t think it should be taught, I think it should be nurtured. I don’t think students should copy down the work and methods of the teacher, I think they should be encouraged to invent their own.

I think the rest of school should work much the same way.

This isn’t to say that I think we need to stop teaching students how to read and write and add and subtract, because I think we do, but we need to start encouraging them to create more. If there is one thing I’ve noticed over the past year, it’s that we pull from the things around us. I’ve noticed that I’ve subconsciously copied methods and styles from my favorite authors and created my own unique blend. I’ve seen my classmates solve math problems a different way from the teacher and still get the answer right. It doesn’t mean that that method will work every time, but the student could very well learn something from that.

Being completely honest and straightforward: I’m tired of feeling like I’m being coddled.

No, that doesn’t mean the teachers should make themselves completely unreachable, but please take a step back. The best moments of learning happen when we screw something up really, really badly. Or when we get to say, “Boo ya!” when something works that was a total game of chance. Or when some of it worked, but other parts didn’t, and we can go back to the drawing board. The important thing is that we do it alone. No more training wheels, but a first aid kit ready when we fall (we apply the bandages, you just make sure we don’t accidentally kill ourselves).

Everyone should learn the lesson, not be taught it.


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