Information Age Education Blog

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Two Ancient/Modern Educational Problems

"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." (Socrates; Greek philosopher; circa 469 BC-399 BC.)

"If you want to make enemies, try to change something." (Thomas Woodrow Wilson; 28th President of the United States; 1856-1924.)

I spend a lot of time reading about proposed changes designed to make our educational system better. The desire to improve education is not new. This IAE Blog entry is based on two quotes from long ago that are still quite applicable.


“When you spoke of a nature gifted or not gifted in any respect, did you mean to say that one man may acquire a thing easily, another with difficulty; a little learning will lead the one to discover a great deal; whereas the other, after much study and application no sooner learns then he forgets.” (Plato; Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world; 428/427 BC-348/347 BC.)

Plato observed that his students varied greatly in how well they could learn what he was trying to teach. That situation has not changed over the centuries. What has changed is:

  • Our understanding that each child is unique.
  • Our development of compulsory schooling that attempts to have all children learn much of the same content at much the same rate.

Instead of accepting the quite large differences in individual children, we (adults, educators, politicians) have decided that the decisions we make about what children should learn in school, and the organization and pacing of this learning, should be relatively uniform throughout the country. After all, this is a relatively cost effective and efficient way to run an education “business.”

Since the development of relatively inexpensive books, we have had the capability to do much better for our students. Now, with the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)—and especially the development of good and steadily improving teaching machines—we can do much better for our children (Moursund, September, 2014a, September, 2014b).


“Our youth now loves luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect for older people. Children nowadays are tyrants. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble their food and tyrannize their teachers.” (Socrates; Greek philosopher; circa 469 BC-399 BC.)

This quote provides evidence that for well over 2,000 years youth have revolted against the “traditional” expectations that adults have for them.

Think about the alternative—youth quietly fitting into the mold that adults have in mind—even though the adults did not themselves fall into that mold. We have creatures such as ants and herd animals, where offspring exactly follow the pattern that nature and nurture reproduce generation after generation. They survive quite nicely, unchanging or only very slowly changing over thousands of years.

Is this what you want for humans? Our alternative is to support and encourage children who leave the nest because some combination of nature and nurture prepares them to boldly go out into the world where they can create and live their own lives. The development of our formal schooling system provides us with a way to help smooth the paths of these children. It can help to prepare them for situations that they do not encounter in their “sheltered” home environment.

What You Can Do

Our educational system can be substantially improved. Focus your efforts on changes that you believe are “doable.” Pay careful attention to human nature, but take advantage of the current worldwide trends and massive change agents that the Information Age is bringing us.


Moursund, D. (September, 2014a). Education for students' futures. Part 15: The future of teaching machines. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 2/1/2015 from

Moursund, D. (September, 2014b). Education for students' futures. Part 14: The future of teaching machines. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 2/1/2015 from

Suggested IAE Readings

Moursund, D. (12/24/2014). Quality of life: Working toward a better future. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/4/2015 from

Moursund, D. (2/2/2015). Are high schools seriously misleading our students? Update. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/4/2015 from

Moursund, D. (2015). Brain science. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 2/4/2015 from

Moursund, D. 2015). Computational thinking. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 2/4/2015 from

Moursund, D. (January, 2015). Education for students' futures part 16: Folk computing and folk mathing. IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 2/4/2015 from

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