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Knowing Everything Makes Everything Boring

If  you attended Big Bang 2016 in Orlando in July, you may have noticed a number of people walking around with video cameras. Some of them were members of a production crew, some were simply Big Picture students doing what they do best and most often, pursuing their own passions. One of those students was Josh Feinsilber, a student at the brand new Gibson Ek High School in Issaquah, Washington. Josh shares his thoughts on Big Bang, and on the potential of Big Picture Learning, via the audio clip below (followed by a transcript).
Knowing everything makes everything boring. My sister once asked me after getting off a roller coaster:
How was it? Does your stomach drop? Is it scary? What’s the best part? Where do they take the picture?
I don’t get it. Not knowing that information is what makes the coaster fun. You don’t know how it is. You may know there is a drop, but don’t know if you’ll get the butterflies. You don’t know if it will be scary or what the best part is. Or even where they take the picture.
Sure, knowing that information still doesn’t kill the fun but it takes it away. It takes away from the surprise. That’s normally why I prefer to do the least bit of preparation as possible. Laziness? Could be an excuse but I think life is just a little bit better not knowing everything.
But in this case, since I think of this to be a very special part of life and especially my education age, I wanted to know things that could help me for the next three years. So I went around asking students at Big Bang, a Big Picture Learning conference, about their experience and what they had learned.
The main question I asked students was what their biggest mistake was and the main mistake was not taking the opportunities presented to them. They told me that Big Picture was a place to experiment and to discover. Turning down any opportunities would be asinine. That being said, they said most opportunities were created, not given. If you wanted something, you had to work for it.
One example of this was a kid named Noah that I met. During his time at Big Picture, he joined the entrepreneurship program at his school and gained enough money to go to Egypt during the school year for 3 months. He made all of this happen by himself. The money wasn’t there. He earned it. What he organized in Egypt being with a host family? He organized that. The opportunities out there are only limited by the work you do.
I also asked around for advice coming into a Big Picture school. The main piece of advice was “nobody owes you anything”. Don’t go into a Big Picture School expecting everything to be there because it won’t. Another piece of advice was to not be afraid to fail. Big Picture students complained that in traditional school, trying new things and risk-taking was not to be seen because the letter grade drowned the attempt of anything new. Trying anything new was risky because it could result in a bad grade. At Big Picture, failing is a great way to learn.
I usually hate rating systems because most things that are rated shouldn’t be rated. Film is rated from 1 to 10 on IMDB or from 1 to 100 on the Tomatometer. Music is rated from 1 to 100 on Metacritic. But I asked anyway for traditional school to be rated from 1 to 10 and Big Picture from 1 to 10. Not that the number mattered too much to me, I just wanted to see some comparison.
For traditional school, it was a bit of a broad spectrum. I heard someone say 0. Most said 4, 5 and 6. Highest I think was 7.5. I would be curious to see what they rated traditional school before Big Picture.
On the Big Picture scale, the lowest I received was a 7. Most were 9 and 10 and some 11s. Not sure if I would agree personally on the 10s and 11s because I don’t think anything is perfect…even Big Picture.
Finally, I wanted to know the hardest thing these students went through during their time at Big Picture. Surprisingly, I got a consistent response. It was all about independence. These kids had grown up in an education system that told them exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Breaking from the structure was hard and uncomfortable.
It’s like a lot of kids getting out of high school and going into college. They feel lost because all of a sudden they have choices to make and responsibilities. This is the same way these kids felt but they got to learn the feeling and importance of independence at a much earlier age. It started off as something they didn’t like, they were so used to being told. But slowly it became the thing they loved most.
So my time at Big Bang was fantastic. I wish that the conference was a least a day longer. I just wanted to stay there longer. Do I feel prepared? No. But I think that is okay. Because I don’t want all the questions answered. I want to answer them myself. And I am looking forward to doing just that.
In the above blog, Josh refers to having interviewed a number of Big Picture Learnings students about their experiences. He captured their responses for a short documentary he made about Big Bang, entitled Eleves (French for "students"). You can watch Josh's documentary in its entirety below.