Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Water Flows Downhill

It is a sloppy day on campus today. The rain and melting snow have created large puddles everywhere. As I was walking back to my office I observed two students approaching one of these puddles. The puddle was muddy and the sidewalk wasn't visible for any of the width. The students stopped and studied the puddle. Where do we step? I watched with interest as they made their decision. Perhaps they caught a glimpse of sidewalk that influenced their decision but they stepped into the down slope side and immediately yelled as four inches of water filled their shoes. I laughed and then passed on the uphill side which was centimeters deep.

I began to wonder if they had taken more science classes at Lasell would they would have chosen the uphill side of the puddle? We don't directly teach how to negotiate puddles in our science courses but we do try and teach students how to think scientifically. I'm not talking about applying the scientific method to study the puddle but rather applying a law of nature to their situation. Instead of science courses, maybe more philosophy courses would have helped these students. Something like, "If water flows downhill, then the puddle will be deeper on the down slope side."

The general education curriculum is up for review at Lasell. I have been thinking about what this means for our students. Students are not going to become scientists or philosophers by taking a few general education courses. But I still think there is great value in requiring students to engage in different ways of thinking. Challenging students to think in new ways just might be the tool needed to improve their decision making so, when they encounter that puddle, they can keep their feet dry.

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