False Dichotomies

In the business world, we often hear these false dichotomies:

  • Profit vs sustainability
  • Work vs life
  • Machine vs human


Similarly in the education sector, we hear these debates:

  • Knowledge vs skills
  • Attainment vs character
  • Consistency vs creativity


These false dilemmas lead to polarisation. We need to move away from black and white thinking to shades of grey. We need to move from ‘either-or’ reasoning to ‘and’ reasoning. What hybrid models could work? How can we change mindsets and think of a new paradigm that unites rather than divides?


Human + Machine + Better Processes is what is needed to bring about transformation in life and work. Robots will not replace workers. Teachers will not be replaced but assisted by technology. We can improve learning for all by focusing on what makes us human. Schools need to teach creativity, communication and critical thinking alongside building character, resilience and well-being. And all these skills can be developed while still building a broad knowledge base through academic subjects taught in a multi-disciplinary approach.


Why do we need to change our mindset?

ying yang

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (“dark-bright”, “negative-positive”) describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

The false dilemmas at work and in education mentioned above are indeed mutually reinforcing – a more sustainable future will lead to better profits, a purposeful life will lead to better more fulfilling work, more efficient and personalised knowledge acquisition will lead to better skills where knowledge can be applied to solve real world problems.

Research tells us that by building grit, character and resilience, students get better exam results and go on to do better in life.


The way forward

  • Create awareness: about these false dilemmas and empower teachers, parents, and learners to forge their way forward with a hybrid model.
  • Challenge assumptions: rather than following the widely accepted norms, we need to have the confidence to challenge the status quo.
  • Experiment: we don’t know all the answers to how we can make these hybrid models work but there are pockets of innovation and evidence. Especially with the fourth industrial revolution, we should encourage businesses, governments and education sector to experiment new ways of being and doing.
November 28, 2018