Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hockey Stick Effect in Learning

I didn't play hockey as a child so I don't know a lot about the sport. This post is not about hockey but learning, let me explain. The hockey stick effect was initially a term used by climatologist Jerry Mahlman to describe the "disputed" rapid rise in the temperature record of the past 1000 years after a period of relative stablility. The period of relative stability is the handle of the hockey stick and the rapid rise is the blade of the hockey stick. The hockey stick effect could also describe the rapid rise in the national debt under the last two presidential administrations and the rapid rise in the price of corn over the last 5 years.

I wanted to use this hockey stick concept to think about the learning needed to be successful in farming. I have found that the learning curve while substantial is typically uniform for the first few years as skills are learned, varieties are explored and markets are expanded. Then if seems that multiple factors align and the farm revenue often multiplies rapidly is a short period of years. In my experience, the knee of the curve seems to be around 8 to 10 years.

This hockey stick concept also seems to be the pattern followed in the learning development of our children. The children go through a grammar stage learning the rules of phonics, spelling, mathematics and science. They then learn logic in middle-school and understand the cause and effect in different fields of knowledge when their capacity for abstract thought begins to mature. This is followed by a rhetoric stage that builds on the knowledge of the first two. I have really appreciated the ability of our high school students to write and speak with originality in clear and forceful analysis. As a father I have enjoyed reading papers and hearing the speeches from our children. The conversation around the supper table also takes on greater coherence and intensity. So we progressed along a gradual path of learning and then experience an explosion of topics, in-depth discussion and synthesis of ideas as our children prepare to enter the adult world. This is a very cool process to watch unfold.

Whether farm or home the hockey stick prevails.

No comments:

Post a Comment