Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We want to know the Truth

I happen to be pontificating again, so I'll just do a little copy-and-paste here as I respond to a couple of questions from the blogs of a couple of my current kids. Context: they're asking about the need for them to study hard in school because the end result as they see it is just a paper qualification that they are unlikely to make use of when they start a totally unrelated career [like maybe once the recession is over].

My response is a bit airy-fairy, a bit philosophical, but I only hope to provoke more questions to prolong an already interesting online debate. Here goes:

"We study because we want to know the Truth, and if we can't get the Truth immediately, we need to learn the tools we can use to discover the Truth for ourselves.

Why is the Truth so important? Knowing the Truth means you cannot be lied to, cannot be cheated or manipulated to do other people's bidding. Knowing the Truth sets you free, indeed.

Do we need a rigorous education system? Absolutely. The Truth is a slippery devil, and knowing the Truth will not always make us happy. So you have to be prepared to uncover the Truth and to deal with it when you find it.

Schools present truths (broken up into the different subjects) in their purest form. The longer you stay in school (right up to post-degree level), the more practice you get in discerning Truth from mere truths. Hence, it's a lot easier to become an empowered person through the school system than in any other environment because the school focuses its energy on EXAMining the Truth more so than anywhere else.

Sadly, most people go to the university just to get a degree they won't know what to do with when they graduate, when there is so much more education has to offer.

I'm actually a believer in education for education's sake. Our big mistake is to be rushing through the "system" and by doing so we take a lot of short cuts in the learning process.

If we examine the word "study" we see a process taking place in our minds: we observe (something... let's say a subject topic) -> we analyse it (break it apart to see what it's made of and how it works) -> we experiment (put it back together in new ways to see how it might behave differently in new and different forms) -> we apply (see connections between what we have just learned and what we already know in order to understand future implications) -> and when we are able to connect both prior knowledge and our new knowledge, that's when memory kicks in.

But because we are all in a rush to become paper qualified, we skip all the middle bits and what we end up with is students struggling to memorise a load of material that is new and unfamiliar because there's a test coming up tomorrow. That is no longer by definition "studying", that's just donkey work.

I know you don't have time, but I really hope you pick up one thing (just one) from our GP sessions: to stop doing donkey work and learn to study for real."

Oh dear, I just hope I haven't killed the ongoing debate. This looks like quite a chunk of text for the kids to wade through.

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