Fueling Mastery

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In his classic book “Mastery,” George Leonard writes, “The modern world, in fact, can be viewed as a prodigious conspiracy against mastery.”

That’s why when we see it or hear it or sense it, we’re awed by those who have gained true mastery of a craft or a sport or a talent. Because while mastery is hard to begin with, its especially hard when “we’re continually bombarded with promises of immediate gratification, instant success, and fast temporary relief.”

I wonder often the role schools should play in helping students develop mastery of something. Anything. I wonder whether what we do in classrooms gives them even a remote sense of what is required to become a master of something. Anything.

Most students who travel the road to mastery do so outside the classroom. They are musicians. Athletes. Gamers. Dancers. They are often the privileged few who have not just found a passion but have been given the time and resources to pursue them at depth.

Truth is, students master little in school. They’re not given the time or the freedom to do so. They’re denied the agency to pursue their bliss. Most never get a taste of what mastery truly requires.

Truth is, schools conspire against it.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If we value mastery, create the conditions for it to happen.

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