How might we educate learners for "the tension"?

 Photo by  Tanguy Sauvin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tanguy Sauvin on Unsplash


In a recent episode of Seth Godin's podcast Akimbo called "Distribution and cultural identity" (S2E4), Godin fields a question at the end about "the tension."

He says,

"We got taught for 12 or 16 years at school that our job is to get an A. That if we are defective, we fail: we are reprocessed, sent back a grade, and have to do it again.

"This idea--that we better be right, that we better be perfect, that we better get it all correct--goes deep within us. And the Industrialists wanted that to happen, because it makes us a better factory worker. It makes us better at following specific instructions. 

"And when something comes along that might not work, we feel the tension, the tension of experiencing two different things at the same time: 'This might work; that would be great!' and 'This might not work; I'm gonna be doomed.' The tension exists when we feel both of those at the same time.

"And if you're not feeling both of those at the same time, you're probably not doing your best work. You're probably not having your most honest relationships. You're probably not inventing the future; you're probably simply a victim of the future.

"So this tension isn't something to avoid. It is something to seek out."

Go back to that first sentence.

For 12 or 16 years, school reinforces the idea that learners should avoid "the tension."

And yet "the tension"--that place between "this might not work" and "this might work"--is the only place where we can do our best work.

So if you want to form learners who will bring their best work into the world...

  • do you design assessments to encourage them to seek out "the tension"?
  • do you reward them for navigating "the tension"?

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Christian Talbot