Process vs. Content

I spent the weekend at a conference discussing education, and what kind of program or curriculum is ideal for young students.  It struck me how easy it is to overestimate the role of the content of an educational program and underestimate the role of process.

One professor said he’s noticed that teachers who teach courses on comic books are no less likely to get students thinking about important concepts than those who teach philosophy.  The key is the quality of the teaching.  A good teacher can help students discover truths using a wide variety of curricular materials, where a poor teacher can’t wring enlightenment out of the best.

The process also matters in other ways.  Who owns the education of the individual?  If it’s the individuals own responsibility, and they primarily bear the costs and benefits, you get something much different than when students are a third party to a transaction between others.  Some self-selection, a level of interest on the part of the student, the freedom to direct their own inquiry – these are process related and are probably more important than the content of the education.

Process also maters to the method of how the individual educational processes are determined.  Do a small number of students or educators or bureaucrats determine what kind of system everyone will go through, or are myriad competing methods allowed to emerge?

It’s easy as a parent to worry too much about what books my kids are reading, what lessons their learning, and other content concerns.  I need to be reminded from time to time that kids are curious and eager to learn just abut anything if the process is conducive.