Sunday, May 20, 2012

Is "10,000 Hours to Mastery" a myth? We haven't a clue.

I'm not sure how I came upon this post; I was searching about more radical views on assessment, to supplement my own and that of my assessment hero, Gary Stager. But I came across this, and I got all bent outa shape over it.

The Myth of 10,000 Hours

My comment is not yet published, so I thought I'd put it here.

"I’m trying to figure out why I find your post so annoying. As a violinist who is well short of 10,000 hours as well as an Suzuki teacher and education activist, I gobbled up Outliers as well as books like Fires in the Mind Bounce,  the Talent Code, Mindset and Drive.

The Talent Code also talks about 10,000 hours; it’s the Talent Code that really captured my thoughts and made me think about education in a different way; it’s that book that made me celebrate.

Anyone who knows the philosophy of Shinichi Suzuki has celebrated the Talent Code, and Dan Coyle has spoken at the Suzuki Association’s conference, and teacher-trainers require their students to read it. It’s because everything Coyle says is familiar to us, and he gives the neurological reasons why the things we know by instinct are scientifically true.

Our system of public education does not devote itself to finding the passions in our students, and we don’t put time and support and resources to making sure they’re able to develop those passions and see it through to mastery. But what the Talent Code told us was that everyone is born with an equal ability to grow intelligence and skills and work toward that mastery. Sure, the Mozarts and the Perlmans and the Horowitzes are created by partly by serendipity plus good luck, plus possibly something special that they were born with (and I think neuroscientists don’t have any notion of what that something might be) but our system of education doesn’t even try. We push kids through a curriculum that has no meaning for them, hoping that they will do well enough on tests to keep a district’s funding stream flowing, but we don’t get credit for much more than that.

If you simply shrug and sniff and say, “10,00 hours won’t lead to beauty or mastery in all of us because we’re not all born with Something Special,” I say to you, bullshit.

We have no idea what our children can do, because we don’t teach to their passions. We don’t find their passions, we don’t set up a school system that works on exposing kids to as much as we can, we don’t seek the spark of ignition that energizes our kids. And when we find that spark, we don’t provide the master coaching that Coyle talks about. And even when a “coach” is available, we don’t teach kids how to deep practice; not for half an hour, let alone 10,000.

If you’re sick of hearing about “10,000 hours to mastery,” maybe you’re too easily satisfied with how we’re educating kids now? I don’t know — this is the only one of your blog posts I’ve read so I don’t know where you’re coming from, but I can tell you that I’m not at all happy with how we’re pleased to flush kids’ passions down the drain now."


  1. You will be very happy to read what this teacher is doing (trying to least)

  2. Here is my take of 10,000 hours:

    I kinda got bent out of share over his post, too.