The 21st century skill students lack is patience, writes cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.
We oldsters grew up with “fewer sources of distraction and entertainment,” he writes. The TV had four channels. ”Digital natives” can avoid even mild boredom, most of the time. They never learn that patience brings rewards.
Jennifer Roberts, a Harvard art and architecture professor, tells students to select a painting in a Boston museum, study it for three hours and write a paper on it.
The duration is “meant to seem excessive,” Roberts says. She wants students to think they’ve seen all there is to see, keep looking and see more.
As part of a book she was writing on 18th century American painter John Singleton Copley, she studied at length the painting A Boy With a Flying Squirrel.
Despite her experience, it took time before “she noticed that the shape of the white ruff on the squirrel matches the shape of the boy’s ear, and is echoed again in the fold of the curtain over his left shoulder.”
Students “need to feel the pleasure of discovering that something you thought you had figured out actually has layers that you had not appreciated,” Willingham writes.
Boring is bad, responds Tim Holt. He accuses Willingham of shouting, Get off my lawn, you damn kids.