Big History at Vivid Ideas


This was a lecture and Q&A session at MCA Sydney on a wet Sunday morning. I was really keen to see what David Christian had to say because I too believe that education should be taught more holistically and not segmented into little chunks. How can students possibly become lateral thinkers if we teach them that this is chemistry and this is biology and that that over there is history and that they have nothing to do with one another. It’s simply not going to happen! And unfortunately that’s not good enough because our world requires lateral thinking. We need to amalgamate information into coherent sequences and we need to know that it’s okay to mixup different faculties.

David Christian with sponsorship by Bill Gates has developed an online curriculum called Big History. What this is is basically a history of time from the Big Bang up until now condensed into a 10 week course. Pretty neat huh? I love this idea. Why do we have to teach students about all the nitty gritty details. Let’s teach them the BIG PICTURE. It’s the most important thing. Those nitty gritty details, in our current age we don’t need to memorise them. That’s not 21st century thinking. We have all that knowledge indispensable to us at our fingertips. We are faced with far bigger challenges that simply memorisation. We need to be able to synthesise and create. Let’s give our students an opportunity to do THAT. It was a really inspiring talk.

David talked about how we give up on asking the big questions at school because getting through the curriculum simply doesn’t allow for it. How wrong this is! We are literally asking our students to stop asking important questions. Imagine if a student asked you what the purpose of life was in class. I can almost guarantee you that you would not indulge them.

His presentation made me think of a fantastic book that I own called “A short history of nearly everything” by Bill Bryson. It also aims to talk about everything in one novel and does justice to every crucial event throughout history.

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