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In Defense of Learning (part one)

As I crossed the state this weekend for a wonderful DEN Day of Discovery at the Biltmore House, I decided to listen to the audio version of In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. While this book focused on the Western diet and how nutritionists have broken down and attempted to apply scientific processes to the foods we eat, I found a tremendous number of parallels to education and the reform that I believe is needed today in education. Driving on I-40 for over 300 miles gave me plenty of time to think, process and digest thisinformation, along with jotting down all kinds of messy notes on an envelope I found in my car. Over the next few weeks, I hope to put some of these thoughts into a series of blog posts.

I am going to start with Pollan’s idea about how much an individual’s metabolism should contribute to their selection and consumption of food. It immediately reminded me of the idea of learning. We all have varied rates that we metabolize information, and being aware of these rates will make a significant difference in understanding our tendencies as learners. Some children can take in a rapid-fire of information, and remember it all. These learners remind me of the people who could eat a diet of Twinkies and Dr Pepper and never put on a pound. They can take it in and move on to the next thing without any pause for indigestion. Other students have to choose carefully from the buffet, but they are free to eat most anything in moderation, especially if they make a little extra effort. These are the same people who can graze the buffet, take an extra run in the morning, maybe take a Tums or 2, and be alright. In learning, they take things a bit slower. Sometimes it requires some extra review and effort, but (for the most part) they get it. Lastly, we have those people who are perpetually dieting and exercising, yet they struggle to stay in a healthy weight range. To me, these are the kids who try and try and do the right things, yet it’s always a struggle to keep their heads above water.

If learning is a form of metabolism, I have to think that a prescriptive diet of appropriate combinations of learning strategies and individualized instruction can maximize the rate of learning absorption. It isn’t the addition or removal of one particular ingredient of the learning process, but rather the idea of changing routines and habits with the intention of increasing the learner’s health.  We must also consider those learners who metabolize information at the rate that some do Oatmeal Cream Pies. How can we keep them satisfied? And if we aren’t filling them with the right food, what kind of junk are they finding?

This book raised a lot of non-food related thoughts for me, but I appreciate the challenge. Here’s hoping that my thoughts will evolve for me as I process them with you.


3 Responses

  1. What a wonderful way to look at how children learn. This is a great metaphor for differentiated learning. I can find children and adults in each of the categories you listed. And know exactly what category I fit in as well. I hope that when I return to the classroom I am able to give each student the right “foods” they need to fit their “metabolism”. I have enjoyed reading your blog and you have given me so much to think about. You can check out my blog at http://butlersherikedm310.blogspot.com and I look forward to following yours as well.

  2. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and the rest of
    the site is also very good.

  3. Does your website have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail.
    I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

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