Opinion
Education Opinion

Learning: Hitched to Everything Else in the Universe

By Justin Reich — March 30, 2013 1 min read

John Muir once wrote, ""When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

While true in issues of ecology, it also rings true for me in the study of education.

Several weeks ago, my MIT students conducted a Town Hall-style debate (details here, login as guest) on the following topic:

“Should a student be able to independently pursue a course of study in mathematics using Khan Academy, and then take a test to certify competance in that course of study in lieu of taking a full course for credit in high school mathematics?”

In another post, I might go into the details of the particular positions that the pro and con sides took in the debate, but I wanted to list here some of the topics that we discussed in an hour long conversation:


  • mastery learning
  • Common Core standards
  • standardized testing
  • mathematical modeling
  • project-based learning
  • gamification
  • badges
  • student motivation
  • student achievement
  • homeschooling
  • online discussion forums
  • extended school hours
  • data-driven instruction
  • learning retention
  • learning transfer
  • argumentative reasoning
  • STEM careers
  • college admissions
  • credit hours
  • Carnegie units
  • achievement gap
  • digital divide
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Adequate Yearly Progress
  • cognitive science
  • 21st century shills and collaboration
  • differentiated instruction
  • flipped classroom models
  • GED
  • school choice
  • credit recovery courses
  • class failure rates
  • NAEP scores
  • school funding models
  • teacher training
  • teacher labor markets
  • urban planning
  • broadband access and access planning
  • public libraries
  • busing and school transportation

And here is further evidence of the endless fascination to be found in the study of human learning. Pick out any piece of the educational ecosystem by itself, and we find it hitched to everything else in society. We probably can’t claim connections to everything else in the universe. Astronomy students, maybe?

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.