The Simple Art of Learning

Natalie Cline is on to something in her plea for simplicity. Her presentation, entitled “The Simple Art of Learning,” makes the case for addition by subtraction in a number of ways in our schools. In our zeal to analyze, measure, and micromanage every aspect of a child’s life, from cradle to career, we’re managing to cripple the natural, boundless, and intuitive process of learning that people have managed to manage for centuries–without the compulsion of cookie-cutter assessments, curriculum, or centralized planning.

Watch the presentation. Our kids are struggling more than ever under the ever-increasing Frankensteinian “science” of formalized instruction. It’s time we pull the plug on the educational experiment that has reduced our kids’ lives to something unnatural and almost unrecognizable

The Simple Art of learning, full presentation, by natalie cline

The Simple Art of learning, original presentation, March 10, 2022, given to Utah state Board of Education by board member Natalie cline

How many policies, instructors, programs, assessments, assignments, data-driven reports, curricular plans, learning strategies, professional development trainings, standards, dollars, modules, organizations, procedures, surveys, etc. (you get the picture) does it take to teach a child to read the word “CAT?”

In today’s education landscape, an overwhelming amount, apparently. And even then, let’s just say that Little Sally being able to master the alphabet and feeling joy doing so isn’t something our school system can necessarily guarantee. Why is that?

In the March 10, 2022 Utah State Board of Education meeting, Member Natalie Cline proposed her own theory on why our public education system misses the mark.

It’s not because educators are underpaid (in Utah, teachers’ average salaries are actually 1.4% higher than the average salaries of all other occupations). It’s not because we don’t have enough specialists or experts or technology. And it’s definitely not because we don’t have access to curriculum, data, infrastructure, or other instructional resources. 

It’s conventional wisdom that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, as Shakespeare pointed out. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. There’s truth in these sayings, and we’re seeing this truth exposed in our public schools today. When we see something that needs doing, the modern impulse is often to overdo it, to overcompensate. Very rarely do we sit back, clear our minds, fill our lungs with fresh air, and ask the question, “Can less be more?” Simplification is not a science, it’s an art. It’s never easy. And it requires asking tough questions.