I read a really interesting true and tragic story in Matthew Syed's Bounce book today. The story goes over the events leading up to a plane crash in the early 90s, causing over 100 deaths.
The story outlines how the flight had gone without fault or problem until the pilot tried to engage the landing wheels. As he did so he noticed that the light to signify that the wheels were in place wasn't on. The pilot called the tower to say that there may be a problem; leading to the plane needing to circle the area as the crew attempted to rectify the problem.
The pilot, co-pilot and everyone else in the cabin then got to work. They pulled off the light from the control panel, discussing how it could simply be that the light was faulty, that the wheels may actually be in place; the whole cabin crew was captivated with the problem.
As this was happening, the autopilot was disengaged; no one noticed because they were so engrossed with the light problem. Time went passed by; the ground warning system started showing that the plane was rapidly losing altitude; still no one noticed as their attention was totally focused on the light issue.
It wasn't until the plane was seven seconds away from hitting the ground that the crew noticed their dire predicament and attempted to take evasive action. Unfortunately it was too late, leading to the deaths of almost everyone on board as the plane crashed into the Florida Everglades.
Everything that took place in the cabin was recorded. The crew were so totally focused on the one, obviously important, thing that all other matters were left unattended. Later, air craft crash investigators found that there actually wasn't anything wrong with the landing gear; it was simply a matter of a cheap bulb not working.
As educators we need to have targets in key areas, such as numeracy and literacy. However, it is imperative that the the education of our students doesn't crash and burn as the arts, PE, science, social studies, ICT, and health are left unattended.