It used to be that the key to being a smart kid in school was to memorize everything. But now that we have the Internet, memorizing is not such a useful skill. On the other hand, the ability to search is an incredibly useful skill. But what does that skill look like for homeschoolers?

Craft questions instead of answers.
Search is knowing what questions to ask and the most valuable education is learning how to ask good questions. Which upends school, since grades focus on your answers and give you all the questions. But answers are a commodity.

Take writing school papers, for example. It’s an old fashioned skill in the Information Age.  Teachers ask students to write papers to ensure the students understood the subject matter teachers are feeding students. But all papers have already been written, and we can find them online.

Recognize commodified knowledge.
A top student would be good at finding a paper someone has already written on the topic. A student with exceptional search skills would find reviews of writing services for students, find the best one, and not bother writing the paper themselves. Because no one gets paid in adult life to write things that have already been written somewhere else online.

I was a history major in college and the number of dates swimming in my head is astounding. I got A’s in high school history for memorizing: 1066, 1509, 1688, 1831, 1914. But I benefit from knowing how to label commodified knowledge and move beyond it, rather than lamenting the fact that no one learns those dates anymore.

The faster kids can recognize knowledge everyone has access to, the faster they can learn to focus on the insights they can provide that are unique to them. (Another good reason to help kids understand personality type—it shows them what is unique about their brand of information synthesis!)

Span subject demarcations.
In a poll that asked CEOs what the most valuable workplace skill would be in the near future, a common refrain was that people need the ability to span boundaries. The picture in this post is wallpaper called Brooklyn Toile. It’s Mike Diamond (of the Beastie Boys) giving us a new take on old-fashioned French toile.

What makes the wallpaper exciting is it bridges two different aesthetics. Which is, of course, another way to talk about information synthesis. While schools teach kids to think in terms of subjects – separate ways of thinking – the Internet creates a commodification of subject-based information.

The Internet is a sorting system for everything we know, and it sorts based on subject. What we need humans for is to think in terms of multiple sorting mechanisms at a time. That is, what is the information at the intersection of subject matter?

The most effective knowledge workers are people who are able to stop thinking in terms of subjects, which is ironic since the promise of school is that if you get good grades (by subject matter), then you’ll get a good job in adult life. So maybe the most promising candidates for the adult work world are students who refuse to be tied down by homework and get bad grades.

(An editorial aside about the Beastie Boys. Wait. Can there be an editorial aside if the editor is also the writer? I wanted to have italics and I knew I needed it to be something important to make italics. And editorial aside sounded good.

What I want to say is I love the wallpaper so much, so I got t to thinking about how their music is one of my first experiences of how information blends. I remember the joy I felt knowing they grew up as religious Jews in Brooklyn and then started rapping, and then developed their own goofy, white-boy rhythms and melodies. A good soundtrack for this post would be my favorite Beastie Boys song: She’s Crafty.

But now that you’ve gotten to the end of the post, you’ll have nothing to read while you’re listening. So check out this article in Fast Company about how listening to music at home leads to higher productivity, better attitudes toward chores, and – drumroll — more sex. That Beastie Boys song is sounding better already, isn’t it?)