My Son, from Victor Niederhoffer

February 18, 2020 |

 My son has to memorize an exact definition of about 10 words for 50 different vocab words. There are so many other things that are more useful to memorize and so many other things besides memorization that they should be learning, including learning how to learn. Especially in this changing environment for learning. I believe the education police will be hearing from me.

Henry Gifford writes: 

Education is like the field of saving energy in buildings.

In buildings, it is OK to save $1, but better to save about $0.50 and be able to prove it. But, the best of all is to be able to save $0.10 and measure it precisely, and have some accompanying graphs.

Teaching students to learn is hard to measure the results of, while asking them to memorize things produces results which can easily be measured. Many types of real learning cannot easily be tested for, which is one of many reasons to avoid teaching such things. 
Then there is the problem of some teachers being lazy. They can tell the students to go home and memorize the definitions, and expect to be tested on them. These teachers will likely end up with enough passing students, while better teachers will also have an acceptable number of passing students. When most everyone passes the test, pressure on the school administration to improve learning is eliminated. This goal can easily be achieved by making the definitions easy enough for most students to pass the test.

Then there are the opportunities for educational consultants to measure the results of different methods of teaching memorization, different lists of things to memorize, examining the word lists and the definitions for political correctness or racial bias, etc. Real learning would put a lot of consultants out of "business." As what they do stretches the definition of "business," suffice to say memorization and the data streams it generates opens up many opportunities to obtain "funding," which is the polite term for money in those circles. 
Note I never mentioned benefits to students or lack thereof.





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2 Comments so far

  1. Ralph Di Fiore on February 19, 2020 11:53 am

    I couldn’t agree more with you Victor. As an educator for the past 20 years, I begin each year off with the definition of what an education is. To quote Einstein, “education is learning how to think.” It is not the regurgitation of facts which is in no way a demonstration of knowing how to think. I am the principal of a large private international high school in Toronto and most of our students come from countries where they learn by rote and are not taught to think. It is the biggest challenge to show them what the thinking process is and that it is not rote memorization and regurgitation.

  2. Anand on February 25, 2020 12:52 pm

    Any good ideas on what to read to learn how to learn? This would Im sure have been useful to me several decades ago, but better late than never!


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