Range 

  • Head's Note
Tobin Bechtel

This past week I enjoyed leading two sessions for our Parent Education Book Club. Our initial selection for first year was a thought provoking work by David Epstein entitled Range. I highly recommend this book to everyone in our community as it raises questions and provides prescient insights not only into education but also how we are prioritizing overspecialization in life.  

Epstein delves into how we continually attempt to create kind worlds (bound by known rules) when we primarily have to deal with wicked environments full of unknown elements and situations. Studying patterns in kind activities improves the pattern recognition in an individual and gives them a leg up on the competition. However, the reality of our world is not kind. Most situations are not solely repetitive patterns. Our world is a wicked world - the rules of the game are not known ahead of time, and patterns are harder to see, if they’re there at all. If you desire feedback, it may take a long time to receive, and likely the feedback will not be what you need to make your next move. Education often attempts to create kind environments where we can be lulled into the sense that we can control outcomes through following a pattern of rules.

When we look back at our youth, it is obvious we have changed in a myriad of ways. Even so, we often try to educate our children by taking them through a series of structured exercises to inform them about ‘how the world works.’ We disadvantage our children when we impart knowledge with the idea that it will inform the future in the same way -- when we believe our current self will live on as we live now. This ‘end of history illusion,’ is a psychological fallacy and believing our environment will remain the same limits our capacity to thrive. If we want to persevere in the future, we must nurture dispositions and skills from contrasting domains to develop understanding about the issues that face us and address them with the creativity that emerges from a broad range of experiences.

Epstein explores the ways we have often given too much credence to specialization. His central question resonates with a central tenant of a liberal arts and sciences education - “…how to capture and cultivate the power of breadth, diverse experience, and interdisciplinary exploration, within systems that increasingly demand hyperspecialization, and would have you decide what you should be before first figuring out who you are.” Instead of knowledge – how much you know – he advocates emphasizing curiosity – a desire to learn more, willingness to look at new evidence, and ability to think with a genuinely open mind. We are fortunate that our founding philosophy at Sage Ridge continues to support developing what our children will need to succeed in the reality of a wicked world.

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