Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning to learn-and is there a problem here?

In his article Problem Solving- A skill for the 21st century, Richard Rusczyk, mathematician and founder of Art of Problem Solving understands that getting straight As in Math will not guarantee you a spot on the 'intellectual frontier' of our times- the cutting edge -where the action is.

He gets that the skills for that can't be taught, 

"because no one knows what specific skills will be important in the future."

As another mathematician Paul Lockhart said, "I worry that the most talented mathematician of our time may be a waitress in Tulsa, Oklahoma who considers herself bad at math."

Where I take issue with the article though is his  thinking that we have to learn to learn.

don't think so. I am getting really, really tired of this ridiculous notion that masquerades as a fundamental truth or wisdom, when really it is a manufactured and unquestioned belief readily perpetrated by 'school type' thinking.

"Learning to learn" is another brainwashing concept that gets bandied about making people feel again that they have to go to school in order to to learn?

We already know how to learn -until someone tells us otherwise. Or until they unknowingly mess it up for us. When we need to learn something- we learn it.
Some learn things faster than others. Some will never be able to learn a skill to any level of proficiency. So how can a person "learn how to learn?"

I also question the idea that what we need in this world more than anything else are problem solvers. In an interview with John Taylor Gatto we discussed that notion. He said that problem solvers are often the cause of even worse problems.
The biggest hype that comes through school, is that the highest form of thinking is problem solving. That is very far from the truth. Problem solvers are valuable people who often cause hideous problems because they dont understand that their problem is part of a much more complex context. That by solving their problem, they might make things considerably worse. The example, I usually use is the problem that was set long ago to America’s best biological scientists. It was to come up with a bug spray that kills all the bugs so we could double and triple and quadruple food harvests and they did. They solved the problem. It was called DDT. And by 1960 the whole food chain on the planet was being threatened by the accumulation of this poison that didnt biodegrade, and past some point caused sterility. So by solving the problem, which they did brilliantly, they put life on the planet at peril. You see what I mean about problem solving. The great thinkers are people who think in contexts and understand the historical and the economic, the philosophical, the religious, the social aspects of what they are thinking about. So they can judge whether a problem should be solved, or forgotten, or lots of stages in between. That takes judgment.
What we need to learn as far as I can see is limits. We need to learn to stop and consider before rushing ahead with our 'wonderful, so fantastic solutions.'


Debra said...

This was my whole goal in raising my kids- to give them a love of learning and the tools they need to learn everything on their own. So far they are all self learners.. 2 have graduated and 1 is 16. Then I have 4 more boys still learning at home..
Blessings, Debra
Raw Vegan Diet

Anonymous said...

I am confronted with this issue every day. Everyone wants to be on the "cutting edge." But haven't we cut enough edges? By cutting edges, we've produced factory farms and nuclear weapons, as well as overrunning indigenous people groups and taking their stuff. Now I'm not against learning, but do we have to destroy the soil we walk on to do so? And we want to go into space to colonize other planets and do the same! As philosopher Peter Kreeft says, If there is life on planets other than earth, may God save them from our spaceships. Can't we just live simply and peacefully?

Anonymous said...

@rfs-problem solvers ARE necessary and important. How can you say otherwise? Of course people have to learn how to learn! We are born a blank slate. We learn how to learn!!

rfs said...

@Debra.Thank you. You said it perfectly. THE TOOLS they need.
They do not need to learn how to learn. Only computers or robots need to learn how to learn.

rfs said...

@Anon-I agree. We need to learn how to really consider our actions before we do what we think will benefit humanity.
@Anon 2-I am not saying that problem solvers are not important people!!!
Only that we need to be deep thinkers and learn from the Elders who have said consider what your actions will do up to the seventh generation after you.

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