The importance of stupidity

Martin A. Schwartz in an essay titled, The importance of stupidity in scientific research, published online by the Journal of Cell Science, says:

...I don't think students are made to understand how hard it is to do research. And how very, very hard it is to do important research. It's a lot harder than taking even very demanding courses. What makes it difficult is that research is immersion in the unknown. We just don't know what we're doing. We can't be sure whether we're asking the right question or doing the right experiment until we get the answer or the result. [...]

Second, we don't do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid – that is, if we don't feel stupid it means we're not really trying. I'm not talking about `relative stupidity', in which the other students in the class actually read the material, think about it and ace the exam, whereas you don't. I'm also not talking about bright people who might be working in areas that don't match their talents. Science involves confronting our `absolute stupidity'. That kind of stupidity is an existential fact, inherent in our efforts to push our way into the unknown. Preliminary and thesis exams have the right idea when the faculty committee pushes until the student starts getting the answers wrong or gives up and says, `I don't know'. The point of the exam isn't to see if the student gets all the answers right. If they do, it's the faculty who failed the exam. The point is to identify the student's weaknesses, partly to see where they need to invest some effort and partly to see whether the student's knowledge fails at a sufficiently high level that they are ready to take on a research project.

As a teacher who seems to constantly be changing, updating, redirecting, and otherwise in flux with the curriculum that I present to my students each semester (even if I'm teaching the exact same classes every semester), I identified strongly with feeling stupid.

I'm constantly wondering if there aren't better ways to do the things I'm doing; constantly doubting whether I can get the important bits of science through all the standards, state assessments, and district requirements.

This article reminds me why I constantly change things up. I could rest on my decent curriculum & teaching skills and take it easy. However, decent isn't enough. I may never be great, but I'm sure I'll avoid being mediocre. I may fail in some pursuits, but I hope that those failures can guide me to successes.

What I'd love: to work alongside teachers and administrators who enter this realm of stupidity to try to figure out a better way than the current way.