The Importance of Problem-Solving Skills

07/24/2010
Santa Fe, approximately 60 miles North-Northea...
Image via Wikipedia

I saw a very odd thing today.

I am on vacation in Santa Fe, NM and my wife Jill and I were walking back to our hotel from an event on Saturday morning when we saw it.

Someone had abandoned a Range Rover automobile in the traffic lane at an intersection.

Cars were pulling up behind this one at red lights and, because they could not see through the heavily tinted rear window, honking when the light turned green as if there were an inattentive driver behind the wheel.

Jill and I steered a couple of cars around the very expensive abandoned one before I looked in through the car’s open window and saw the key in the ignition.

I called the police and waited for the officer to arrive.

When he got there he ran the license plate and looked around the inside of the car. There was a wallet in the little storage box next to the driver’s seat.

A second officer arrived.

As the two officers were discussing what to do next a young woman wearing a nice dress ran up to the car.

She told the officers that it was her boyfriend’s car but she had been driving it.

Range Rover Supercharged
Image via Wikipedia

According to her, the car stalled in the intersection and as it was near her boyfriend’s residence, she had gone to get him.

The police officers were very polite and clearly skeptical.

The woman repeated her story and looked down the street waiting for her boyfriend to arrive.

I wanted to hang around to see how it all played out but the skies were threatening (this is the aptly named rainy season in the high desert) and I’d already gotten drenched once on this trip.

As we walked back to our hotel I wondered how this woman had done in school.

The thought is not as strange as it may seem.

As the police had told the woman, she should have stayed with the car and asked someone who had a cell phone (on the odd chance she didn’t have one) to call her boyfriend.

Doing as the police suggested required what I consider the bare minimum of problem-solving skills.

Apparently this young woman did not even possess that level of ability.

For that matter, neither did the somewhat older driver who sat behind the abandoned car for two light cycles before finally driving around it.

I am so glad that schools are increasingly using project-based learning that helps students develop problem-solving skills.

That is more and more how I teach.

None of my students will ever abandon their cars, even cheap ones, in traffic lanes.

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