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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eliminate Learning Facts?

(With thanks to Mark Alexander, who emailed me the link to the recent Telegraph article cited below)

Get ready for the next fad in failed education curricula and teaching methods.

It has now been seriously proposed that students do not need to learn facts because facts can be accessed from students' Smartphones.

According to Jon Overton, a teacher from inner London:
“We are no longer in an age where a substantial ‘fact bank’ in our heads is required..."
Countering the statement by Jon Overton, we have the following:
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has warned that too many children are finishing compulsory education lacking the most basic knowledge because existing syllabuses have been stripped of core content.
One commenter to the article in the Telegraph made the following pithy statement with which I concur:
So everybody gets instantly stupid the moment the network goes down.
Or, as I have written about before, information on the web is subject to revision along the lines of Orwell's Newspeak:
Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, it refers to the deliberately impoverished language promoted by the state. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suits the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking—"thoughtcrime", or "crimethink" in the newest edition of Newspeak—impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character, Syme, says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."
Beyond the issue of language, particularly the issue as to how language shapes thought (pdf from Scientific American), creating revisionist history, with us for a long time and particularly since World War I, is merely keystrokes away from authors on the web.

The reality: just because something appears on the Internet does not make that something true or accurate.

Education consists of much more than the memorization of facts. Without facts, however, analytical thinking cannot occur. And without facts, all of us are subject to brainwashing by every agenda that comes along.

Smartphones and the Internet, valuable tools but merely tools, do not make people smart.

40 comments:

  1. Posting comments to this blog entry now enabled.

    Blogger had a glitch and somehow disabled the posting of comments. **sigh**

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  2. Your comments on Newspeak mesh well with Silverfiddle's post today about the lack of complex thought in the conservative mind.

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  3. I understand the concern that factual information can become relative to whatever political ideology is in vogue. But isn't that always the case?

    I have never been big on memorizing facts and would prefer that educators concentrate more on helping students learn to examine facts for their accuracy and context.

    Teaching how to "think" in a values neutral way would seem more important to me than memorizing facts.

    What I have greater concern about is the lack of any history education in today's public schools.

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  4. Oh sure! Because we can believe everything we read on the internet!

    BTW: I'm back and posting again.

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  5. w/o FACTS to remember, one's longer-term ABILITY to store and remember any facts (memory) is also diminished. With brains and neurons, its' either "use it, or lose it!" You either build the infrastruture for storing memories in early childhood.... or you don't. Billions of neurons soon are reduced to mere "millions".

    ducky, I suspect that the above explains the complete lack of ANY thought in the liberal mind?

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  6. I think students should know certain facts, but I never thought that memorizing population data or historical dates, or the names of Chief Justices was particularly valuable. Understanding population trends is important, along with the contributions of certain Chief Justices, and being able to explain why the war of 1812 occurred, along with its consequences —but we can see the trend in public education continues here. If you can keep the people stupid, they are more likely to cooperate with the communist left in relinquishing their inalienable rights.

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  7. The brain consists of a network of memory associations... and a brain devoid of facts has nothing which with to associate recent experiences.

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  8. It cannot contrast/compare or perform any 'differential' brain activity....Additvely or subtractively...

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  9. Gotta love blooger!

    The link to the article is broken. It should be:

    http://psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/sci-am-2011.pdf

    Interesting article, btw!

    Reminded me of an essay by George Orwell. He wasn't a scientist, but he intuitively grasped what the researchers in the article quantified scientifically.

    Here is Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language:"

    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

    The first part is practical writing advice and lamentations over unclear writing, but gets into the language-thought dynamic towards the end.

    Excellent post!

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  10. It is no longer useful to have the population think for themselves. This is by design from our friends on the left ... teachers unions?

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  11. just a continuation of the lazy teaching practices public schools are known for.

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  12. namaste: "just a continuation of the lazy teaching practices public schools are known for."

    Of course. If students aren't required to 'know' anything, teachers can't be held accountable for not teaching them anything.

    My kids hated me for banning their calculators while doing homework. "But the teacher said we could use it!" "Yes, but she already has a job."

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  13. FACTS? Why learn facts? There AREN'T any facts. Everything is a matter of interpretation.

    One man's fact is another man's fantasy.

    Facts are irrelevant -- just "arbitrary social constructs made up by Dead European White Males"

    Isn't that right?

    ~ FreeThinke

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  14. This is exactly what I thought when I saw this appalling post! "So everybody gets instantly stupid the moment the network goes down."

    God, we'd all be Democrats! :-)

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  15. Exercising the brain by memorizing facts is never a waste of time.

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  16. Silverfiddle,
    I have repaired the broken link.

    For some reason, Blogger inserted some broken code! I've been having that problem with Blogger accessed via Firefox with the OS Windows 7. **sigh**

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  17. It's a tough question. In mathematics when has a student mastered enough that a calculator can be used to eliminate the mind numbing drudgery of calculation?

    Math may be the most obvious (and most valid) but we see it in the abundance of spell checks and the like.

    Exercising the mind with creative thought is superior to rote.

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  18. No z, it means that it is better to understand the political implications of say signing the Magna Carta than it is to know the exact date.

    Simple.

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  19. Ducky: "In mathematics when has a student mastered enough that a calculator can be used to eliminate the mind numbing drudgery of calculation?"

    When they can do it without the calculator. Not before.

    "Exercising the mind with creative thought is superior to rote."

    Disciplining the mind with logic both mathematical and propositional is probably more useful. At the very least it's of immense aid in seeing through all those 'creative' ideas and solutions based on fallacious reasoning, misconception, misperception, and wishful thinking that are all the vogue these days

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  20. I HAD A LONG DAY TODAY (FIRST DAY BACK TO CLASSES AFTER EASTER BREAK). BUT I WILL TAKE A MOMENT TO TYPE IN ONE COMMENT HERE.

    Duck,
    it is better to understand the political implications of say signing the Magna Carta than it is to know the exact date

    1. In order to discuss those implications, one has to know WHAT is in the document and the background leading up to what precipitate the drafting and signing of the document. Having those FACTS in one's head facilitates moving on to the further learning and analysis. Plus, knowing facts is a time saver, particularly in a classroom setting, when time is limited.

    2. I myself am not big on memorizing dates. I've never had much of a head for numbers. Nonetheless, June 15, 1215 is a date that I easily recall -- for whatever reason. I do think that it is essential that people know at least the CENTURY so that one can understand the process of the development of the implications you mentioned.

    It is my contention that understanding is developed because one knows facts. Furthermore, having access to facts doesn't necessarily lead to a greater understanding of principles, developments, implications, etc. Knowing and processing facts is one step toward the greater understanding.

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  21. The precise date might not be important, duckmeister, but the chronological sequence of events certainly IS. After all, A random collection of facts is useless w/o an ordered sequence to string it together with. And dates facilitate retention of said sequence, despite the inutlity of date information for other purposes.

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  22. The problem is textbooks dictate curriculum in most classrooma therefore precluding the development of critical thinking skills.

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  23. @@Libtard

    State boards of education dictate curricula; textbook companies merely incorporate what the leftists tell them, and collect their big fat checks from the taxpayer. In a few decades, after you’ve matured, you may gain some insight into how corrupt the education system is, including the swindle called “state mandated testing.” It goes a long way to explain why you are incapable of critical thinking.

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  24. @Lib- Mann: And what, pray tell, would they be critically thinking about if they know nothing?

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  25. How about we replace the teachers with smart phones, I'll bet the fellows enthusiasm for technology will quickly evaporate.

    The way I'm seeing things, the easier and faster it becomes to find information, the dumber and more ignorant some of us happen to become. Particularly on the liberal side.

    "...lack of complex thought in the conservative mind."

    That's based on nothing more than bigotry and dislike of Conservatives. Time to get over your fear and ignorance ducky.

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  26. RWT: "...the easier and faster it becomes to find information, the dumber and more ignorant some of us happen to become."

    The problem with the information age is that the mere possession of facts confers neither knowledge nor understanding. It just creates 'instant experts' on any and every topic, who don't know what they don't know, and consequently make fools of themselves.

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  27. If the Internet goes down, everything closes. I'm pretty sure that most, if not all major store cash registers are connected through Internet networking to inventory programs, so that inventories can be 100% up to date. When the Internet shuts off, most commerce in the United States will abrubtly cease. You won't be able to buy groceries. So if I were to attack the U.S. guess what I'd hit first?

    Likewise, telephone systems are all going over to the Internet. No emergency services, no communication and coordination.

    It doesn't even have to be an enemy attack. A really major solar flare could do the job.

    Humans are so smart. What a piece of work is man, so noble in reason.

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  28. Ducky likes to pretend that he and his ilk are superior to any other; it merely proves that Ducky is delusional. But let us examine the complex thought of Ducky’s hero, Vladimir Lenin: “Give us the child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever.”

    In contrast, we have an example of complex thought of a true American—whom Ducky detests more than anything. Thomas Jefferson advised, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

    If anyone is incapable of complex thought, it is the clowns who elected Barack Obama.

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  29. Okay… Thanks, you git!

    Ducky likes to pretend that he and his ilk are superior to any other; it merely proves that Ducky is delusional. But let us examine the complex thought of Ducky’s hero, Leon Trotsky. “None of us desires or is able to dispute the will of the Party. Clearly, the Party is always right... We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right.”

    This makes one wonder what the Russian people were thinking —even the Bolsheviks— when they elevated such a douche bag to national leadership. With that said, I think it is true that the creep to socialism and communism in America is impossible without democracy —and a leftist run public education apparatchik that each and every year makes our children dumber than the year before.

    I suspect that having Trotsky slugged with an axe might have been Stalin’s only contribution to humanity.

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  30. Don't worry about learning facts, kiddies, let's have a sing-a-long instead:

    Barack Hussein Obama...

    mmm... mmm... mmm.

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  31. I know lots of facts, most of them trivial, however, I find that when a little known trivial fact is needed in certain unusual situations, the knowledge comes in mighty handy.

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  32. Adeo in teneris consuescere multum est

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  33. I agree, Speedy … but if you and I contend the expression “sound principles” excludes Marxist ideology, it is not hard to imagine that a devout communist would accuse us of being subjective. Our failure to “stand our ground” against what has been a neo-communist insurgency upon American values places us in this untenable position. The only solution is for parents to remove their children from public educational institutions, and place them with home schoolteachers or in private academies. Sadly, this is not likely to happen because most parents today are themselves a product of neo-communist indoctrination.

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  34. Adeo in teneris consuescere multum est.

    For those who are interested in the meaning of that Latin proverb:

    Literal: So important is it to grow inured to anything in early youth.

    Beyond literal: There is a value of instilling sound principles in the mind during the early years.

    So imperative it is to form habits in early years. — Vergil

    'Tis education forms the common mind;
    Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined. — Alexander Pope (English poet and satirist; 1688-1744), in his Moral Essays.

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  35. Very interesting and sad at the same time.

    This reminds me of something that went on in "teaching" colleges like George Peabody College (not part of Vanderbilt). They adopted the policy that teachers did not need to KNOW a subject in order to teach it. They simply needed to know HOW to teach, and could then teach any subject. Didn't work.

    Same thing now with schools not teaching spelling, or not checking spelling, because students have "spell check".

    Should a disaster happen and humans be left to their own devices/knowledge, we would be doomed. Well, some would be doomed, some would still have knowledge in their brain/computer banks, so it would be the survival of the fittest to the nth degree.

    Debbie
    Right Truth
    http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

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  36. Sam Huntington said..."State boards of education dictate curricula; textbook companies merely incorporate what the leftists tell them"

    Yeah, tell that to Texas who is now using new text with all kinds of wacko distortions. I've been in education for 30 years. College Level. I know what I'm talking about. If you want to label this a another 'liberal plot' you're showing your ignorance.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/16/texas-schools-rewrites-us-history

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  37. Lib-Mann

    What that article most clearly illustrates is the usual leftist bias of the Guardian. They apparently object to:

    "One amendment requires that students be taught that economic prosperity requires "minimal government intrusion and taxation"."

    " The new curriculum asserts that "the right to keep and bear arms" is an important element of a democratic society. "

    " a belief in America as a nation chosen by God as a beacon to the world, and free enterprise as the cornerstone of liberty and democracy."

    Something wrong with any of that? Other than it annoys you?

    Texans deciding what to teach their children is their business

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  38. Adeo in teneris consuescere multum est.

    So important is it to grow inured to anything in early youth. There is a value of instilling sound principles in the mind during the early years. So imperative it is to form habits in early years. —Vergil

    ________________

    A MINOR POINT OF INTEREST:

    Is it Virgil or Vergil?

    The name of the Augustan Age poet and creator of the Roman nationalepic, The Aeneid, is sometimes spelled Virgil and sometimes Vergil. Which is right?

    Answer:

    While it is common to have at least 2 different spellings for Greek names, it is not so common with the names of ancient Romans. That's because the Greek alphabet is substantially different from ours whereas the Latin alphabet is substantially the same, so you wouldn't expect variable spelling for the name of Virgil/Vergil.

    There are some differences between the letters of the alphabet that the Romans used and the ones used in English. The Romans had a few fewer letters. Consonantal "i" used alternatively for "j" and "u" used alternatively for "v" are potentially problematic. You might see Iulius or Julius, for example. But the Latin vowels and the English vowels are written in the same way. A Latin vocalic "i" is written as an "i" in English, and a Latin "e" is written as an English "e".

    The Roman poet who wrote the great Latin epic The Aeneid was called Vergilius by the Romans. This is shortened in English to Vergil.

    So, Vergil is actually correct
    , but as in most matters of absolutes, there is good reason for the alternative.

    According to Gilbert Highet in The Classical Tradition, the misspelling (Virgil) began early, possibly as the result of Vergil's nickname Parthenias which was based on the poet's sexual restraint. In the Middle Ages the name Virgil was thought to refer to his magical (as in the virga magic wand) powers.

    It would seem that modern literature classes may spell Vergil's name Virgil. I never studied Vergil outside of the context of Latin, so for me, the name remains Vergil, but Virgil may by now be the more popular spelling.


    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/aeneid/f/VirgilVergil.htm

    Submitted by FreeThinke

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  39. The Latin motto Adeo in teneris consuescere multum est seems to have been adopted early on by the Jesuits -- certainly in principle if not literally.

    What I see there is tells me that INDOCTRINATION of one kind or other is vital in forming character.

    The Marxists have been in the process of PERVERTING and REVERSING centuries of CHRISTIAN doctrine and replacing it with diabolical human constructs now causing Western Civilization to march in lock step toward The Abyss.

    Of course you can neither embrace nor reject "God" without knowing who -- and what -- "He" is.

    Despite our vast capacity for cleverness, inventiveness and the acquisition of superfluous -- often distracting, misleading -- knowledge, human understanding of Truth remains in its infancy.

    [HINT: God IS Truth -- among several other elemental-seminal things each of which are synonmous with -- and inseparable from -- each other]

    ~ FreeThinke

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