Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Intellectual Docility

May 8, 2018



It is good to get others’ viewpoints, others’ interpretation of the world and the way things work.

All of us do this to differing degrees.

Some seem to merely parrot the teachings and thinking of their parents but even in those cases there has to be some evidence that it is the correct view and the proper way to think.

Some get their concepts and opinions from studying others, discussing with people, and so forth, balancing the input with what they KNOW to be true from their own experience.

Unfortunately, for most people, the growth stops at some point.

They get comfortable with what they know and decided nothing else could be more correct or more perfect to hold as opinions on a subject. Intellectual docility has set in.

Though there may be a vast array of untapped knowledge out there, they decided that what they knew now, what concepts and ideas they embraced in totality, was the culmination of all points in the known (or viewed) universe.

This applies to their political leanings, their concepts on race, religion, and so forth; all their biases are covered within the data sets they hold dear.

Many people stuck in this stage for too long a period seem to become upset easily with other forms of knowledge, especially with people of differing opinions. Whether it is religion or science or anything in between, they have come to the very firm conviction that anyone who does not think like they do are “stupid”, ignoramuses incapable of understanding the simplest of things.

Then, like radical adherents of some religious cult or other, they vilify different thinking and might even become violent, trying to force their singular opinions down other, less capable people’s “pie holes”.

This fixidity on a single level of stratum of knowledge may come about at any age.

I’ve known people who formed all their later mature opinions when they were only four or five years old. How they can fixate on such data so young is amazing. How it comes out as a middle-aged person, of course, then sound very immature but what would one expect of a four-year-old intellect. And, no, it never looks very pretty when coming from – chronologically, at least – a mature person’s mouth.

Many people can get quite knowledgeable on certain subjects to which they have become affixed.

They read and study in great depth a plethora of works approving or supporting their ideas; they can quote facts and figures along such lines for hours but when confronted with any portion of the opposing view they can only resort to ad hominem attacks because they really don’t know the subject – or possible variants – at all, no matter how well read on the subject they become.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong. This is just the way it is. I am not even suggesting such things need to be cured or fixed – heaven’s no!

Just as we can learn a lot in this world from the people who reject the borders, scoff at the boundaries, and lead themselves and us into exciting new worlds, new thoughts, blazing trails into new conceptual universes the likes of which have never been thought before, we can also learn a lot from those people who simply stop learning at a certain point, assured they have reached the summit of all available knowledge and that this, here and now, as conceived by them, is truly the best of all possible worlds.

If those of us who truly want to learn as much as we can about all things, these people are of interest as they can show you where you might be doing the same… fixating on one perceived fundamental universal truth (that is really nothing more than your labeling of such a concept) rather than testing the boundaries of reality to broaden the human vista into realms hitherto never even imagined.

Like Agent K said in Men In Black, “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

And like the Dowager in Alice in Wonderland, “Think six impossible things before breakfast.”

To do any less means you’ve become complacent about the wonder…

Not that there’s anything wrong with such contentment.



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How Learning Actually Occurs

December 12, 2012

Teachers are proud of their place in our society and proud of their role in the enormous task with which they have been entrusted.

There is even the popular bumper sticker: “If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher”.

Yes, teachers are the very backbone of our society. But that backbone is often bent, misshapen, or broken.

And, if the truth be told, they do not actually “teach” anything.


Now, before people go on the warpath and find some rope to lynch me for such sacrilege, let me clarify one thing: how exactly does anyone learn anything?

Even a cursory look at Pavlov’s experiments with the dogs will answer that one for you. And, no, it is not through stress and torture and food deprivation.

We learn things ourselves because it tends toward survival. And not everyone learns these things at the same speed. And not everyone has the same take on exactly what “survival” means to them.

Simply put, anything that improves the welfare of our mind/body/spirit is deemed pro-survival. Anything detrimental to that triumvirate is considered anti-survival.


But let’s extend the example a little bit further than Pavlov.

Let’s say you are trying to grasp a concept in class… say how numbers work… and the teachers puts up example after example of math in action…

But you just stare. The concept is completely foreign to you. Math! Addition! What utter nonsense! Who could possibly have a use for such things?

And then the kid sitting next to you gets it. And then another kid in the back of the room gets it. Suddenly, you realize that maybe this does have some importance, some relevance… If nothing else, you know you will become a laughingstock if you do not get it.

You puzzle over it for a time until the light bulb goes on and you see what the heck is going on with all the weird things the teacher is writing on the board.


Now, the tough question… where was the teaching done? Did the teacher actually bring the idea, the abstract concept into your head?

No. You did it yourself.

Certainly the presenting of examples was part of the process, the teacher’s guiding your attention to various parts of the process helped as well, but did the teacher actually teach you anything? No. You did it yourself.

The teachers have to realize their role is simply as a facilitator, a guide in this process. For them to think they actual teach is a bit of a stretch and it gives them some sense of power that was never theirs to begin with.

Having children copy information down, over and over, learning to recite data, repeat things by rote, is all fine and good but it is NOT teaching.

Studies through the years have shown this is the most effective way at “teaching” because it forces the child to go over the data again and again, and those same studies have shown that continuous exposure to the data will – in many cases – eventually cause it to become lodged in the child’s brain.

Unfortunately, those same studies also show that in very few cases do the children actually learn the concepts, though they can repeat the data well enough to get them through the battery of state tests.

There are even children who excel at taking tests. They know how to study for them and how to score well on them. Yet many of them have no understanding of the subject matter.


So we have a wonderful population of robotic drones with great test scores!

And America’s place at the forefront of scholarship and technological advancement slips ever so slowly from the top of the list…

We have become mediocre.

And we had better figure out a way out of the quagmire before we lose too many more generations through a lack of proper education.


Survival is the key to learning. Anything that brings happy, fulfilled beings leans heavy toward the survival side of the scale. If this is one key to the problem, it is only one.

Another key, and probably more important, is the natural state of children. This is the one key that should be utilized most heavily in education but it is usually ignored and quite often killed as brutally as possible: a child’s natural curiosity.

Rather than attempting to shove data down their throats, one needs only create a mystery about something and the child will generally move toward it. If the mystery is presented strong enough (not forcefully, but interestingly enough for the child) the teacher, as facilitator, will not have to do anything but get out of the way and let the child discover the answer.

Make resources available for the child to uncover the mystery and their curiosity will drive them to find the answer. Getting off-track? The facilitator can nurture them back on the task, with questions and instilling more curiosity.

Working with the basic temperament of children is so much more efficacious than trying to stifle their natural gifts. Use their powers, direct their strengths.


Another natural gift of children is the love of play. If “learning” was more like “playing” they would embrace it all the more quickly.

Quite often in pre-K and kindergarten, the teachers play games with the kids and help them learn that way. Why not continue the practice in later years as well?

Older children love to play as well even though recess and such physical activities are usually phased out of the curriculum in favor of more rigorous forms of (boring) rote learning.


This is not to say that children instructed for years in the normal manner used at present cannot become contributing members of society, because they can. And they do.

I just wonder, though, how much further we could all go if the education system was designed to be teaching human children rather than Pavlov’s dogs?

the Different Schools of Historic Thought

November 4, 2012

There seem to be two very different methodologies in the study of history.

The oldest is the study of the times and the peoples and the events that shaped the times, people and events within the framework of their own world.

And then there is the most common methodology used today: the study of history and how the past has shaped today, and therefore what that past means to us, today.

Historians love this one because it means they constantly get to “revise history”, which means they can keep getting published for the same material just with a “newer” slant that is more “to the moment”.

This is what I can the “zenithal” form, that form of thinking that puts us at the apex and everything in the past has lead us to this great height. Of course a few years from now, we will be at a new “apex of history” and everything will have to be revised for how we were guided to that apex.

It is a very ego-centric method. It is the same sort of thinking that led us to believe the Earth was the center of the universe, with the Sun and planets rotating around us.

And led us to believe that we are they only form of life in the entire universe.

And that we are the reason the Creator made Heaven and Earth.

In other words, it’s always all about us.

It is almost too easy to stroke our own egos and think everything has been leading us to… well, US.

I am certain many ancient Greeks and Romans had the same thought, that they were the pinnacle of evolution, both biological and social.

It might be a valid argument on social grounds (i.e. survival of the species) but doesn’t it sort of get in the way of understanding the past?

They were not ALL busy trying to make the perfect world for us.

Still, most Christians throughout history have thought the fabled “end times” was in their generation and many today somehow think the Maya created their wonderful calendar just to tell us that our world was going to change. Somehow, I don’t think the ancient Maya were really thinking about us and our problems.

And it may be true that, as a species, we need that sort of positive reinforcement like some unconfident people need, but is it really good history?

Not really, except for the fact that people throughout history have thought this way. And as that seems to be encoded into “human nature”, is it right to expect anything different?

Probably not for humans.

And history does seem, after all, to really be about us. No other species seems much to care so much about the past.

So, why then should the past matter to us?

I have always thought that we, as individuals, can learn from our mistakes. So, would it not be possible to learn, as a people, from the mistakes of our past? It seems likely that we could… if we would only stop repeating it long enough to try and understand the past.

But history will never be put to that usage until we start teaching it toward that end in view, rather than treat it as a parade of urban myths to glorify our patriotism.

Or used to stroke our egos.