When I was in Middle School (~12 years old, around 1971), we did a murder mystery exercise in class. The teacher passed out slips of papers with clues and then shut up. The children milled around aimlessly for a while, comparing slips. Finally, I got fed up, got everyone’s attention, and said, “OK. Everyone with clues about the murder weapon, go over there. Everyone with clues about the victim, over there.” Then I went from group to group, and we quickly solved the mystery.
I learned three things that day.
Sometimes people need external organization to get things done.
I can do that organizing.
People will get mad at me when I do.
The lesson has affected my consulting. I suspect that my daughter’s homework today—identifying the parts of a knight’s armor—will not affect her future in the slightest way. Social studies no longer appears to involve the study of society. Not surprising, I suppose: too much risk of children drawing conclusions that will get their parents mad at the school, and who needs the hassle?
And the New Math rocked, by the way. It was good that I learned simple set theory so young, and the idea that there could be number bases other than ten was a good lesson in questioning the verities.