Monday, February 12, 2007

It's true that KI is a damned demanding subject, especially considering that it's a compulsory 4th H2 which adds on the workload. Most normal people take only 3 H2s, which makes for a saner timetable and an overall easier life.

ST interviewed a KI kid who's struggling with his readings and coming to grips with 'alien concepts', which makes me wonder if collectively we've run amok with the content of the subject and forgotten the spirit and purpose to which it was conceived in the first place?

In terms of content, we examine the history of ideas, how knowledge is built up block by block, how knowledge diverges according to the different branches people have taken to discover how things work and how we can use our knowledge to our best advantage. We discuss the rightness and wrongness of the acquisition and application of knowledge, and determine what methods are most reliable for ascertaining The Truth, giving recognition to such a thing as a Universal Truth but at the same time discerning that truth is also a shifting conglomeration of conclusions drawn from imperfect and subjective interpretations of observations and other stimuli.

All that is already quite a headache, though fortunately we've got a considerable number of eminent thinkers in our history who've already written about their thoughts about human thinking and so, voila, people to read up like Plato, Hegel, Heidegger, Newton, Freud and other scarily-named personages whose brains we make our business to pick.

But if that's all there was to KI -- learning who said what about which obscure aspect of some esoteric theory about human thought -- then we've missed the point... again. We can never get enough content -- our brains are voracious, bottomless pits of information storage -- but to overemphasize content without purpose makes smart kids dumb.

KI students need to know the history of their subject because in their turn they will also be adding on to that illustrious history by being thinkers after their academic predecessors. So just reading the manuals is really only for background information -- to see how they did it in the past. But like a gongfu practitioner only becomes skilled through practicing the Master's moves, likewise the KI student also needs to practice thinking, and sparring through debate and discussion with fellow students.

We don't need KI students who hide in the library all day, we need KI students who treat the library only as a pit-stop for food for thought then, having prepared themselves, come back out into the sunlight with a just and worthy cause to pursue.

In a sense, all we want is for our KIds, like Newton, to "[see] further... by standing on the shoulders of Giants." But if the KIds have to name every bush, tree and rock along the way, they'll never reach the summit in time for their exam. And they won't appreciate the view once they arrive either.

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