Antidisciplinary Thinking: In Training


“The creative jobs of the future will not fit into boxes as neatly labeled and divided as the professions of today. The positions that involve mastery and the use of powerful technologies will be filled by people who combine a range of different skills from different disciplines. These jobs will require not just interdisciplinary but antidisciplinary thinking and doing.” ~ Mitch Resnick, MIT Media Lab

I just completed a seven thousand mile voyage going west across Canada, with an extended itinerary that led east across the United States. I traveled entirely by train. No internet, no access to bits of incoming information or news. It was, for me, a new window into big picture thinking. Although some were alarmed as they boarded VIA Rail from Toronto, most realized that something profound was about to happen en route to Vancouver, and it would reflect the best kind of learning.

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When we awoke the first morning to a wide angle view of the Canadian Shield, I got the full picture of a mineral-rich area of rock. I learned that it evolved somewhere between 4.5 billion and 500 million years ago. One fellow passenger explained that the Shield extends west from Labrador to the Great Lakes, and all the way to the Hudson Bay. Over breakfast, engaging in casual conversation and observing the vistas, I gave thought to this new concept. IMG_0430

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We sped along on the trans-Canadian rail with only brief stops. In the midst of nature’s extremes, from the Plains through the Rockies, I witnessed a majestic whole. My mind felt as wide open as the spaces. Without clutter or interruption, ideas flowed in a soothing, boundary-free stream.

I was astounded to find myself  back in training. And it became clear to me just how my experience could translate into crucial directions for schools.

Taking for a moment, the vantage point of a land even further away, I reflected on the Finnish perspective. Their’s is truly a big picture vision of education. The Finns cultivate active, independent learning, where kids learn to frame, dissect, and figure out diverse solutions to problems with the aid of well-trained teachers. Students work in tandem with their peers, crossing curricular boundaries, as they will when they enter the world of work.

“The aim of Finnish primary education is not ‘school readiness,’ but to promote children’s growth into humane individuals and ethically responsible members of society by guiding them toward responsible action…This framework emphasizes the development of thinking in relation to language and communication, mathematics, ethics and religion, environmental issues, physical development, and arts, and culture. All of these domains must be handled in a way that supports children’s holistic growth.” (Finnish Lessons 2.0, 2015) 

Learning can be a slow journey into unbounded (antidisciplinary) spaces where minds are free to imagine and students have enough time to envision their own connections. Let’s give our kids the chance to see the big picture – a meaningful context – in an era in which it’s so easy to get lost in the details.

Nancy Harris Frohlich




One thought on “Antidisciplinary Thinking: In Training

  1. I bicycled that route in my 20’s. It’s an amazing journey and such a different landscape than I ever thought possible. Did you get off in Jasper? Pam

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