Back To The Future

Posted by Domenico, Uncategorized on Jan 31, 2016

According to Robinson, our current education system is, quite often, neither useful to the children nor to the development of our society. Lockhart also includes maths education in this soul crushing mayem and he arrives to lament that, we don’t actually teach any mathematics in school, but something equivalent to painting with numbers.

I found both the talk and the article very enjoyable. They reminded me of that story about a sample of people who is sent traveling through the universe in search of a new beginning for the human kind. Unfortunately, after some years, the people on the spaceship would not have a clue about where they have come from and what they are doing out there.

I believe that, compared to Wolfram, Robinson comes from a diametrically opposite school of thought. We, as a society, do not have any clue about what the future is going to look like when the children who are entering education now will retire, or even in just five years, says Robinson. Whilst Wolfram, as we know, is quite convinced that our future will be actually pervaded by mathematical knowledge, so we have to invest in using computers to make maths learning in school more interesting to students and secure our economical development.

In my opinion, despite being in complete antithesis, neither of them is wrong. Wolfram has a very pragmatic approach, but I have already expressed in my previous post that this vocational view of the role of education is not really taken for granted by everyone. I accept this view, but I do not share it.

Personally, I agree more with Robinson because his idea of educational anthropopoiesis leaves more space to imagination. We do not know how the future is going to look like, but we do know what we are now and we have a chance to construct our future in a way that we like, putting creativity at the base of human development. The role of education is therefore to support students towards this progress, to help children to keep their natural ability of coming up with original ideas until they grow up.

Lockhart seems to have the same opinion. Maths is beautiful because is useless. Students are deprived of the creative and imaginative characteristics of discovery in education, and if mathematics is really so important to the development of our society, then we’d better consider it useless so that children might take an interest in it. After all, until a few centuries ago mathematics was seen as an art and its practice just a pleasure, while disciplines such as painting or sculpting were a means to a practical end, to produce a finished work that could be exchanged.

The future lies in our capacity to educate kids, as long as we do not squander their capacity for innovation and anaesthetize them to be ready for the market of labour. We really need children to keep their ability to make mistakes that is at the base of innovation.


  1. Glen
    1 February 2016

    Lovely think piece, I found the arguments both strong and insightful, do you feel then that a better marriage between education for the sake of future employment and creativity can be achieved in today’s world if so, how?

  2. pepsmccrea
    8 February 2016

    Some strong analysis here, making connections between this and previous thinkpieces. Yes, I suppose what Glen asks is the next question: what might this ‘useless, beautiful maths’ look like in the classroom

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