Recently, nerdy Donita and her nerdy sons settled in to watch yet another nerdy television show.  (What can I say; the nerd line is long and proud.)  This time we were watching an episode of NOVA, “Ape Genius,” where experts analyzed why apes haven’t broken through to create a human-like culture.
The one-word answer to the question:  teaching.  Humans have “both the passion and mental skill to teach each other.”  It’s not just cognitive; it’s more.  Humans want to teach and be taught, and “that seems to be really pervasive in humans and maybe mysteriously missing in apes.”
Apes learn by observing and imitation—not teaching.  So while there may be short term progress, it is not progress that can be built upon—the breakthrough to a human-like culture.  “Human culture traditions have a cumulative quality that each generation builds on the things of the previous generation. So if you looked at the history of any interesting technology, it started out simple, and the children of that generation learned the simple version. But then some genius made an improvement to it, and everyone follows right away, and we get this ratcheting up in complexity.”
Always the nerd, I wanted to record takeaways from this program that would help me in my work—educating professionals that educate professionals.  Here’s my effort.  As you can see I’m mainly asking questions, and I’d like to hear what you think.

  • Humans need to teach.  If it is in our DNA, does that mean as CE professionals there is a huge untapped resource of potential teachers out there?  How do we identify and give these teachers the opportunity to fulfill their DNA destiny?
  • Humans want to learn.  Again, it’s in our DNA.  Does that mean as educators we are doing something wrong if our classrooms aren’t filled or our online courses aren’t breaking records?
  • As humans learn, there is a “ratcheting up in complexity.”  How does that translate to how we educate professionals?  Do we create educational experiences that result in ratcheting up in complexity?  Shouldn’t we be providing that experience?

While not knowing the answers or if there are answers to these questions, I do know this.  Every now and then it is good to step back and think about the passion we have and bring to education.  It’s just too easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the real reason we all do what we do–the love of teaching and being taught.
NERD ALERT:  Watch the entire show here:
Would love to hear your thoughts.



Donita Bourns Douglas
Vice President, Professional Services