Re: flexibility in schools (was: Ethics in a void)

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 16:46:23 MST

On Thu, Jan 25, 2001 at 01:44:52PM -0800, Samantha Atkins wrote:
> Huh? If that is what education is then it would be a pretty
> wrong-headed enterprise. Education is about learning to think and
> learning information gathered by those who went before you, at least
> enough to continue learning on your own as needed and desired. It is
> not about "cramming information" down anyone's throat.

Quite a few people might disagree with you ...

My take on it is that what you're describing *should* be the case --
but all too often, it isn't. I see two reasons for this. Firstly, it's
a lot easier to quantify cramming of facts (via multiple-choice exam
papers) than comprehension (via observation of critical faculties in
action); consequently, educational organizations focus on what they can
quantify. Secondly, and more controversially, as Ivan Illich observed,
schools are not in the business of educating children: they're in the
business of conditioning them to take up a role in an industrial society.
(A role that typically corresponds to the working practices prevalent one
or two generations ago, at that.)

(Note: I don't agree with Ivan Illich's ideology or prescription, I merely
think that his analysis deserves a cautious nod.)

> Kids don't know what they want to learn nor which basic skills will
> enable them to learn it straight out of the womb. While I agree that it
> is important to teach the joy of learning and the practicalities of what
> are fundamental tools, I don't think the average tyke is in a position
> to organize ver own education. Now after they learn some basic skills
> and get exposed to more of the broad world, say by high school or even
> junior high for many, earlier for some, more self-directed learning
> would be appropriate. At the least learning at one's own pace would be
> an improvement for many.
Yup. Unfortunately this isn't what most school systems are geared up to
provide. Hell, I went to a private school that prided itself on pushing
its students hard and on a very high university-level success rate ...
but I didn't get any explicit teaching in logic, philosophy or reasoning
until I was 17. (Calculus at 15, by the way. Just to give you a point of

-- Charlie

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