Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Temper Tantrum: Double-Think, I am certain about the Heisenberg Principle.

To those who visit this blog regularly, you won’t be surprised that I have brain damage. When I was 18 months old I was dropped on my head and it scrambled my brains.

The area of my brain that was damaged was the part that aids Rote Learning. Rote Learning is the process of memorizing something through repetition. The classic example is the multiplication table, where kids are taught to repeat it over and over until it sticks in their heads.

I can’t do that. I can repeat something a million times, but then immediately forget it. So instead of being able to just say over and over 5 X 5 is 25, I had to learn 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 is 25 and use that on the test. In one way this is a learning disability but in another it is a major advantage. Like the mountain climber that doesn’t use canned Oxygen, I’m not dependent on an artificial support to do things.

Because I couldn’t simply memorize things, I always had to learn the concepts behind things. By learning why something works instead of just memorizing things I could take a concept to its next level.

Because of my Learning “Disability” I was able to get the first prefect score on the Iowa Exams in 3rd grade and had a 12th grade math and reading level by then.

I don’t say this just to boast, I’m using my “problem” to show why the idea of grading teacher performance on how a class does on standardized tests is wrong.

For most people the way to learn something quickly is through Rote Learning, you repeat something over and over again until it sticks. Standardized tests are easily fooled by this type of learning, so it’s possible for a teacher to teach Rote Learning and have 90% of a class score in the top without having learned anything about the subject.

The most extreme example of how this type of learning fails was an experiment in “Sleep Learning”, subjects had recordings give them lessons while they slept. It would be something like, “The Nile is the longest river in the world at over 4,000 miles in length, The Amazon River is the world’s widest river and is slightly under 4,000 miles in length.”

This phrase would be repeated over and over in their sleep. In the morning they would be quizzed on the information and asked, what is the longest river? To which they would reply, “The Nile is the longest river in the world at over 4,000 miles in length.” Then how long is the Amazon?, answer, “The Amazon River is the world’s widest river and is slightly under 4,000 miles in length.”

Finally the researchers would ask “Which is longer the Nile or the Amazon?” and the subjects wouldn’t have a clue. They were able to repeat the phrases they heard over and over again but had no comprehension of their meaning.

As far as going out into the workforce for most jobs, even some seemingly complex jobs workers can get by with information learned through Rote Learning if they can learn how to pull out the right information packet at the right time and not have a clue to the underlying principals of what they are doing. However, there is more to education than just preparing for the workplace.

Thomas Jefferson said, "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."

Part of the reason behind the education system in this country is to keep citizens from being victims of what Orwell called double-think, the ability to think two contradictory things and believe them both.

If kids are taught to pass Standardized Tests by merely regurgitating what has been repeated over and over, when they grow to be adults they will take something that is repeated over and over to be true based on the fact that it has been repeated over and over. The truth becomes meaningless as the only important thing becomes how many times something is repeated.

This double-think is already effecting society and can be seen in the latest polls that show:

35% of Americans approve of homosexuals serving in the military, while 75% approve of Gays and Lesbians serving in the military.

The first group is affected by the MSM repeating over and over that homosexuals shouldn’t serve, while second group had the question phrased in a way that wasn’t covered by Rote Learning so they gave their true feelings.

A similar situation is how only 12% think they got a tax-cut when Obama cut the taxes for 95% of Americans.

By pushing for teachers to teach students to pass Standardized Tests, it encourages them to cheat by working on Rote Learning instead of full Comprehension. When that happens they will be easily influenced by repetition, and who ever controls the media doesn’t even have to think of a creative lie, they merely need to tell the lie over and over again.

With people being easily mislead by repetition tyranny can take hold by merely telling people the Declaration of Independence says, “All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” If they say it enough people will believe that even if they are looking right at the Declaration of Independence.

The most important tool in keeping America free of tyranny is push for an Educational System that pushes Comprehensive Learning and shuns Rote Learning.


OLLIE MCKAY'S ~ A Chic Boutique said...

Wow! That was quite a post!! Have never heard of this ~ thanks for sharing with all of us! Have a great week! :)

Stephanie B said...

As far as I know, I don't have brain damage, but I grew up being encouraged to understand why to everything. I suspect kids want this automatically, but I lived with parents (at least a father) with the know how to answer me. I'm skeptical of any bit of data until I know where it came from and what it means.

I've long been an advocate of encouraging critical thinking in schools. And I have always detested rote learning (which I resist for different reasons). It is so much harder to manipulate and control people if they have the capacity (and the habit) of thinking critically. Which you covered along with everything else I might have said in your post.

Great post. Great stuff.

Project Savior said...

It used to be embarrassing, being able to hold an intelligent conversation but then not be able to remember my phone number. Now I just live with it.

Another problem you touched on is kids love learning the why? If you talk to a kid about anything they say why and how constantly.
Taking this away is what turns kids off from learning.

Stephanie B said...

I completely agree with you. Not that teachers aren't important, but it completely defeats the purpose when they manage to teach that natural love of learning out of a kid - and I've seen it happen. Fortunately, there are also many teachers who tap into that natural tendency and nurture it. Unfortunately, our obsession with "measurable" values mean teachers often have less and less say over how and what they teach. More's the pity.

You don't have to instill a love of learning, but, for heaven's sake, don't quash it. That goes for the whole education system, not just teachers.

Stephanie B said...

I also, I might add, understand that thinking differently does not make someone stupid. My husband is severely dyslexic, so much so that people with his level of dyslexia aren't supposed to be able to read at all. He can (though it gives him a headache), but he can't spell or remember strings of numbers, etc. Yet, his tested IQ leaves mine in the dust (and I like to think I'm no slouch). He's brilliant, but, unfortunately, he often focuses on what he can't do instead of what he can.

That can be very destructive. No one is so brilliant they don't have things they can't do. Best to learn to work around what you can't do and focus on what you can so you do it as well as possible. Usually, that's more than enough for success.