What are You Good at?
Against Algebra by Temple Grandin
The Atlantic, October 6, 2022
While "Against Algebra" appears to be an article about math curricula, it is in fact one of the most compelling and rich transdisciplinary articles about education this year. Temple Grandin observes: "One of the most useless questions you can ask a kid is, What do you want to be when you grow up? The more useful question is: What are you good at? But schools aren't giving kids enough of a chance to find out." She goes on to explore this premise in fascinating ways, worthwhile and generative for any educator. As Grandin discusses students' need for "engagement with real-life projects," she names her own unique perspectives, including those of a professor of animal science, a visual thinker who has autism, and a consultant — both recalling her own best learning experiences as a student and reflecting on those of her students now. "Students need more exposure to the way everyday things work and are made," she explains. Without using the words themselves, Grandin makes a philosophical case for project-based learning, tinkering, responsive teaching, differentiation, and the Mastery Transcript. "No two people have the same intelligence, not even identical twins. And yet we persist in testing – and teaching – people in the same way," she writes. This fresh voice on a familiar set of topics will delight and inspire independent school educators, resonating with the unique opportunities and mandates of our school missions and programs.