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Tag: knowledge

Rote Learning is for Robots

Ray Kurzweil:

Knowledge isn’t just a database. Knowledge is a symphony or a jazz band or a poem or a novel or a new scientific insight or an invention. These are also examples of knowledge.

We on the other hand only teach – and test – the database.

Learning What From Your Elders?

Thomas Friedman thinks he’s found why the US places so low in those international education rankings in an article by a Post economic columnist.

A big lack of student motivation.

“The unstated assumption of much school ‘reform’ is that if students aren’t motivated, it’s mainly the fault of schools and teachers.” Wrong, he [Robert Samuelson] said.  “Motivation is weak because more students (of all races and economic classes, let it be added) don’t like school, don’t work hard and don’t do well. In a 2008 survey of public high school teachers, 21 percent judged student absenteeism a serious problem; 29 percent cited ‘student apathy.’ “

Both Friedman and Samuelson are full of crap!

But at least Friedman stumbles across one primary reason why so many kids aren’t motivated to dance the standardized testing waltz that takes up most of their time in school (even if he doesn’t seem to realize it).

… it is a microcosm of a larger problem we have not faced honestly as we have dug out of this recession: We had a values breakdown – a national epidemic of get-rich-quickism and something-for-nothingism. Wall Street may have been dealing the dope, but our lawmakers encouraged it. And far too many of us were happy to buy the dot-com and subprime crack for quick prosperity highs.

So much of today’s debate between the two parties, notes David Rothkopf, a Carnegie Endowment visiting scholar, “is about assigning blame rather than assuming responsibility. It’s a contest to see who can give away more at precisely the time they should be asking more of the American people.”

Those attitudes are certainly a large part of the problem.

However, the bigger issue when it comes to student motivation in school is that they don’t live in a vacuum and learn much from the actions of the adults Friedman describes.

And what kids have learned from many of those so-called adults over the past two decades is that the only information of value is that which can be multiple-choice tested.

That leadership means going with your gut and accepting the judgement of experts in a particular field only when it fits into your pre-determined belief system.

That debate consists of two manufactured fair-and-balanced sides shouting personal opinions at the top of their lungs.

Hey, American leadership! You want better students?

Clean up your act and provide better role models when it comes to respecting learning and using knowledge.

Knowledge on the Back Burner

Carolyn has an interesting post about using vs. having when it comes to knowledge and how we teach.

And kicks everything off with a quotation that really registered with me.

“They say knowledge is power. We say the use of knowledge is power.”

Elliot Washor in The Big Picture by Dennis Littky

Short and to the point! That is the essence of what is wrong with the American education system!

We concentrate almost all our energy on the accumulation of information (with the ritual end-of-year recitation, aka standardized tests), instead of on learning to actually use it.

Carolyn goes on to make an excellent good point about how we process that data after collecting it.

In The Big Picture, Littky points out that learning is very personal. He also posits that the “real learning happens after” the encounter. “It’s what you do with it, how you integrate it, how you talk to your family, friends, and classmates about it” that constitutes the learning process.

Once again, I’m led to wonder if we give students enough time for that “learning after” process. I believe that we learn as things go on the “back burner” and we process them in the background, but in the rush for “new” lessons each day, do we allow enough room for reflection?

Of course, some people require more time on the “back burner” (I love that analogy!) than others.

But we don’t seem to acknowledge that fact until after they’ve left the K12 system.

BTW, I do have one gripe with Carolyn’s post. She’s added one more book to my growing pile of summer reading. :-)

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