Let’s Discontinue History & Geography
Do We Still Need “Memorization” Subjects, Like History and Geography?
I read in Scientific American a few months ago that Australia finally started to (smartly) disrupt its educational system and is replacing history and geography in primary school with coding. When I’ve told people about this, most were appalled; most said, “Why can’t they teach coding AS WELL AS history and geography.” To them, my response is, we don’t need to learn history and geography anymore, do we? At this point, we either have a heated discussion, or I’m told to leave the room. OK, OK, I’m going!
I wonder why this worldview is so far-fetched? As I said before, we are in an age where the near entirety of humankind’s knowledge is available a few taps or a question to Siri away. We’ve had over eight years of immediate, intimate access to most of the world’s information, wherever we are, whenever we need it. Like it or not, we are already cyborgs – we’re already lost without our smartphones. How long before we realize that we no longer need to fill our heads with information we don’t really need to? If all of this information is available exactly when we need it, why do we need to memorize it in class? Why not just say it: the ability for humans to be connected to the internet and to tap that knowledge at any moment is now part of what makes us human. That we have officially evolved ourselves into a new kind of human. Maybe not quite Homo Nexus just yet, but we are getting there.
If we simply acknowledge that this will never go away – that the instant, always-connected access to the world’s information will always be available at a moment’s notice – then think of all that will change. I applaud Australia for realizing that this thing – our always-on connection to the giant corpus of human knowledge – is now a part of us – and that educators should just focus on those things that cannot be learned by a simple lookup.
I can hear the voices now! “I understand maybe not teaching geography, but history! If we don’t know y, aren’t we doomed to repeat it? How can we form any kind of world view or understand ourselves without an understanding of y?” Fair enough, we might need some history – but not forced on us via the rote teaching methods we use today. Learning history should be student-driven – let them read and learn. Besides, it already feels like people have forgotten anything that happened more than eight years ago (maybe 2016 should be labeled 8 AS – After Smartphone).
It’s not just education. If we are to truly realize the next wave of innovative new products and services, we have to realize that we are all moving towards Homo Nexus. If we can all now access any bit of information anytime, Matrix-like, think of everything that will change: the job interview, the exam, the sale, the app. When you did your last job interview, did you let the prospective employee surf the web for answers during the interview? No, but he would be able to on the job, right? What about the last exam you wrote? Did they let you use your smartphone to look up the answers? I’ll bet not. There are two examples of things that will need to change once we truly realize that we will never be disconnected again.
How will your business change? How will you cope when your customers can look up your competitor’s products immediately? How will you cope when your prospects know more about your company than you do?