Everything I Learned in School About Being Wrong Is Wrong

Teachers reinforce that making mistakes will get you a dunce cap. Shouldn't it be getting you a gold star instead? 


I make a lot of mistakes. I’m wrong probably about half of the time, and I might even be wrong about that. Often we are quick to point out when others are incorrect, but if we miss our own mistakes, we’re missing an opportunity to learn. That’s one of the problems facing the education system, an issue discussed in a recent article by education expert Peter DeWitt. Teachers are giving students answers instead of letting them figure it out, and when they don’t have the chance to explore and possibly be wrong, they’re not learning.

John Hattie, a preeminent education researcher at Visible Learning, says that one of the most positive environments to foster learning and comprehension is when “errors and trust are welcomed as opportunities to learn.” Creating a classroom culture of accepting failure instead of dismissing it may be the best thing a teacher can do.

Lawrence Krauss passionately defends the idea that teaching facts and teaching critical thinking are not the same things — at all.

If you never fall off a bike, you’ll never have to get back on. Part of the lesson we learn when gaining new skills is that we have to be terrible before we’re any good. Anyone who has tried to learn an instrument can tell you that. Playing the wrong notes teaches you patience and acceptance as well as how to play the right notes. So it is with school — putting forth the effort and getting the answer wrong requires you to get back on the bike, or pick up the guitar, and try again. What you’re learning isn’t just the new skill or concept; you’re learning resilience, and that a little bit of failure won't kill you. 

The researchers over at the University of Pennsylvania call this “grit.” It’s a way of measuring how likely one is to reach long-term goals, and how quickly we recover from setbacks. If we teach kids that being wrong is in itself wrong, and we will give them the answer anyway, we’re taking away their chance to develop a trait that often predicts lifelong success. 

Making mistakes is smart. Being wrong is right. That’s how we grow, how we learn, and it determines how we will handle bigger life issues outside of school and later in life. Education has made a mistake in how it treats this issue, but perhaps it can learn from its mistakes. But then, maybe I'm wrong.

--

Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY. She has been published in The New York Times and on CollegeHumor. You can follow her on Twitter @LilBoodleChild to keep up with her latest pieces, performance dates, and wry observations. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Orlando/Hulton Archive 

Drill, Baby, Drill: What will we look for when we mine on Mars?

It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back

Surprising Science
  • In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
  • Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
  • The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points

Want to go to Mars? It will cost you. In 2016, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that manned missions to the planet may cost approximately $10 billion per person. As with any expensive endeavor, it is inevitable that sufficient returns on investment will be needed in order to sustain human presence on Mars. So, what's underneath all that red dust?

Mining Technology reported in 2017 that "there are areas [on Mars], especially large igneous provinces, volcanoes and impact craters that hold significant potential for nickel, copper, iron, titanium, platinum group elements and more."

Were a SpaceX-like company to establish a commercial mining presence on the planet, digging up these materials will be sure to provoke a fraught debate over environmental preservation in space, Martian land rights, and the slew of microbial unknowns which Martian soil may bring.

In National Geographic Channel's genre-bending narrative-docuseries, MARS, (the second season premieres tonight, November 12th, 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT) this dynamic is explored as astronauts from an international scientific coalition go head-to-head with industrial miners looking to exploit the planet's resources.

Given the rate of consumption of minerals on Earth, there is plenty of reason to believe that there will be demand for such an operation.

"Almost all of the easily mined gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, antimony, and phosphorus we can mine on Earth may be gone within one hundred years" writes Stephen Petranek, author of How We'll Live on Mars, which Nat Geo's MARS is based on. That grim scenario will require either a massive rethinking of how we consume metals on earth, or supplementation from another source.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, told Petranek that it's unlikely that even if all of Earth's metals were exhausted, it is unlikely that Martian materials could become an economically feasible supplement due to the high cost of fuel required to return the materials to Earth. "Anything transported with atoms would have to be incredibly valuable on a weight basis."

Actually, we've already done some of this kind of resource extraction. During NASA's Apollo missions to the Moon, astronauts used simple steel tools to collect about 842 pounds of moon rocks over six missions. Due to the high cost of those missions, the Moon rocks are now highly valuable on Earth.


Moon rock on display at US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL (Big Think/Matt Carlstrom)

In 1973, NASA valuated moon rocks at $50,800 per gram –– or over $300,000 today when adjusted for inflation. That figure doesn't reflect the value of the natural resources within the rock, but rather the cost of their extraction.

Assuming that Martian mining would be done with the purpose of bringing materials back to Earth, the cost of any materials mined from Mars would need to include both the cost of the extraction and the value of the materials themselves. Factoring in the price of fuel and the difficulties of returning a Martian lander to Earth, this figure may be entirely cost prohibitive.

What seems more likely, says Musk, is for the Martian resources to stay on the Red Planet to be used for construction and manufacturing within manned colonies, or to be used to support further mining missions of the mineral-rich asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

At the very least, mining on Mars has already produced great entertainment value on Earth: tune into Season 2 of MARS on National Geographic Channel.

Harvard scientists suggest 'Oumuamua is an alien device

It's an asteroid, it's a comet, it's actually a spacecraft?

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)
Surprising Science
  • 'Oumuamua is an oddly shaped, puzzling celestial object because it doesn't act like anything naturally occurring.
  • The issue? The unexpected way it accelerated near the Sun. Is this our first sign of extraterrestrials?
  • It's pronounced: oh MOO-uh MOO-uh.
Keep reading Show less

Study: The effects of online trolling on authors, publications

A study started out trying to see the effect of sexist attacks on women authors, but it found something deeper.

Maxpixel
Surprising Science
  • It's well known that abusive comments online happen to women more than men
  • Such comments caused a "significant effect for the abusive comment on author credibility and intention to seek news from the author and outlet in the future"
  • Some news organizations already heavily moderate or even ban comments entirely; this should underscore that effort
Keep reading Show less