Normally we divide up the elements of knowledge into the traditional categories of history, literature, math, physics, chemistry, psychology, fine arts, and so forth. We are so used to these divisions that it may not even occur to us that knowledge can be split in plenty of other ways. But imagine, for instance, a school that offered the following subjects:
- Making Observations
- Formulating Theories
- Making Predictions
- Testing Predictions
- Developing Happiness
Making Observations could include exercises where students make and record observations about the physical world, biological world, social world, political world, cultural world, etc. The tools students would learn about and employ could include stop watches and rocks to study how gravity works, telescopes to study the stars, microscopes to analyze blood, newspapers to study the government, and televisions to examine culture. Students would learn to operate these tools, pay attention, record, summarize, categorize, explain and simplify.
In Formulating Theories, students could learn about equations, probability, data, evidence, induction and deduction. They could study how various physical, psychological, economic, literary, musical and artistic theories arose. And they could be asked to develop their own theories about art, literature, culture, physical phenomena, psychological facts, and so on.
The subject Making Predictions would involve the study of many of the powerful theories from physics, economics, chemistry, and psychology, and students would learn to use each of these theories to make predictions about what one should expect to see.
In the study of Testing Predictions, students could learn about the scientific method, falsification, statistics, markets, computer prediction algorithms, the prediction algorithms of the brain, and randomized controlled trials. They could also learn how to do thorough research in order to be able confirm or disconfirm their future predictions based on knowledge gathered by others.
For Cultivating Happiness, there would be an emphasis on art appreciation, literature appreciation, food criticism, movie criticism, creative writing, art creation, meditation, exercise, health, positive psychology, cognitive therapy, etc. all directed towards learning how to increase pleasure, enjoyment and fulfillment as well as reduce misery. This could also involve a study of what makes humans happy and what makes them unhappy, which could lead to discussions of governmental systems, psychology, sociology, ethics, history, etc.
New ways of carving up knowledge can give us new ways of thinking about education.