When was the Declaration of Independence signed? Most of us are taught it was signed on July 4, 1776. A date we are told is very important to memorize. A fact we are quizzed, tested and drilled on. A fact it is necessary to learn if, migrating from a different country, we want to become citizens. But that “fact” is incorrect. And, I would argue, not even that important to memorize.
Think about the skills you use to live a successful life. The skills millions of self-help books, graduation speeches and Ted Talks are filled with. Self-confidence, determination, listening, negotiation and other soft, people-skills. Did we learn these things in grammar school? One could argue we learned them as secondary skills. We learned to be determined and persistent when memorizing a list of important historical dates. We learn self-confidence by slowly collecting better and better grades in spelling or math. But what if we have if backwards?
With volume of human knowledge and “required” skills expanding exponentially, I’ve come to believe we are doing a disservice to people, children, by having these soft skills, so critical to success and happiness in society, take a back seat to facts.
Of the issues that cause the most disruption and pain in life, a lack of cooperation skills is definitely more detrimental to a person’s success than forgetting when the Declaration of Independence was signed. In fact, the kind of skills needed to come to agreement over this critical document in our history are more important than the arbitrary day it was actually signed (August 2, 1776).
Think of the times you encountered an issue at work or in your family that caused disruption. Something you might characterize as a failure, a regret you vowed to learn from, a piece of advice you’d pass on to a younger you if you could. Was it a fact you got wrong? Was it a math problem?
More likely it centered on an unskillful interaction with another human, or yourself. A conflict that escalated due to impatience, misunderstanding or emotional ignorance. What if the skills we started to learn in kindergarten, sharing, playing well with others, listening, were kept in the forefront of education throughout our full course of learning? What if we were taught how to learn so that we could keep up with the every growing library of facts?
Some facts do need to be learned and memorized. ER staff need to have some things under their belt to do their jobs well, no matter how sweet their bedside manner. But overall, if the dynamic shifted to learning how to inhabit the planet peacefully with each other, wouldn’t it follow, to some extent, that together we could find solutions to fact-based problems? Maybe.