What Is Education’s “God Particle”?

Tim Goral's picture
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Back in the late 1970s, Douglas Adams’s cult classic radio play, book, and TV series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” first asked the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. The recent discovery of the Higgs-Boson subatomic particle, popularly called “the God particle,” which scientists believe is the “crucial building block of the universe,” seems to answer that question at last (though diehard fans will probably still insist that the answer is 42), because it explains how everything in the universe has mass.

But this issue of essential components has me wondering if there is one key element necessary to successful education, the one element that makes everything we do work. In other words, what is the educator’s answer to life, the universe, and everything? What is our “God particle”?

Some reformers believe that technology is the answer to all of education’s current woes, while others believe that personalized education, constant assessment, or more fully-trained teachers are. I disagree with all of this, because there’s one thing that is always necessary no matter how creative the newest solution to education problems might be. It doesn’t matter how fancy the technology, how many standardized tests are conducted, or how many degrees or certificates an educator has if the students aren’t engaged in learning. Engagement is our God particle.

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