Monday, June 13, 2011

The Turkey and the Crow - The Tension Between Expertise and Creativity

Although we train students toward expertise and mastery, a tension seems to exist between cognitive efficiency and automaticity representing expertise, and divergent problem solving and innovation.

Once we started looking for the turkey-crow split, the more we started seeing it everywhere.

Please share your thoughts, comments, and criticisms, and share this video with your friends if you find it helpful. Education would really be much better if it recognized  how fundamentally different turkey- and crow-biased thinkers approach learning. It wouldn't hurt either for more teachers, parents, professionals, and really everybody else came to appreciate the remarkable talents of the crow.


  1. This helps me understand myself and what I am trying to achieve by remaining in the system as a teacher. I am a Crow, and I am there to help make room for other Crows.

  2. As a psychotherapist (and homeschooling mother) of 2 gifted visual-spatial creative thinkers, this concept really resonated with me. Bricks and mortar school failed us as a family because of this unrelenting march to the ways of the Turkey! We are in Australia and sadly the miserable US lessons of "no child left behind" (or is that "most crows totally abandoned"?) have not been learnt yet. Each year more emphasis is put on teaching to the test, with less emphasis on creative pursuits or integrating learning in interesting ways. Shall embed this link on my homeschooling blog to spread the word (hope that is ok). Caaawk Caawk!
    from a reformed Turkey person now speaking out as a Crow : )

  3. Much more than crows and turkeys, humans have rich brains and spinal cords. The brain is the main thinking devise (e.g.crow), while the spinal cord is the reflex, habit, and automation (e.g. turkey) device or location. The brain is comparatively slow, it needs to consider and weight things out, but the spinal cord is very fast, especially as its application executions are automated and bypass the brain. Still, it is the brain's responsibility to select, define, and program the spinal cord applications.

    Habits and reflexes are very powerful tools, if they are used appropriately, including constant program improvement, evaluation, and reprogramming.

    Reprogramming is clearly the most demanding. Replacing an habit or reflex with a better one, as the reflex to be replaced returns (e.g. replays) automatically, and needs to be deprogrammed, under brain control, before the new one can be programmed to replace it. Of course it is easier to learn the best programs in the first place, but perfection does not exist, and reprogramming skills are key.

    Clearly both "devices" are designed to work together and to complement each other. The real problem is separating them and separating people based on either. Innovation is mostly in figuring out which programs are better and required and reprogramming reflexes accordingly. These (learned) reflexes are tools that allow the brain to consider other matters, knowing that the spinal cord will handle everything that it is programmed for. In fact, they are one, and require understanding, training, and development, forever.

  4. Weren't Temple Grandin and Vernon Smith crows?

  5. This video has made me think. I always thought that I started school with lots of creativity, but by the time I left it had all evaporated away.

    You have suggested a number of teaching methods that crows would appreciate. I beg to differ with you as I think that everyone would appreciate the diverse teaching methods they suggest of case studies, experiments, examples, stories, application before concept etc.

  6. Thank you for this insightful video. I have three children, all intelligent and capable learners. My older daughter A (middle child), however, is particularly bright and active. She makes amazing mental connections from observation, but finds the school day to be a challenge. The work itself is easy, when she can sit and be bothered to do it, that is. She's only in second grade, but every year her teachers ask me how to deal with her (make her sit, make her finish her work, etc). I try to tell them, she will wiggle, but she IS paying attention - just ask her what you just said and she can tell you AND why it was important usually. I try to get them to sit her by herself if they actually want her to finish her work, but more importantly I try to have them let her be more creative and give her other opportunities to do her work (like illustrating her stories, giving her blocks for math, etc) but the school system is too rigid to provide her the flexibility that she needs. I'm at a serious loss of how to proceed with her. She needs to socialization of being around other kids her own age, but I believe in my heart that her learning needs will never be adequately addressed in the school system. Is there any advice you can give, or resources you can tell me about that would help her? She is very bright, and I want her to love learning. I don't want the school system turning my shiny crow into a dull turkey! Ka-caww!! ~ Maggie