the Analogist's Musings on Education
For those of you seeing this a second time, I am re-posting so as to begin a thread of, blog posts I guess.
I wanted to promote my ideas in a better format, where somebody new to this thread can easily read it from the beginning. The older thread got a lot of views, but weren't structured right for my purposes.
Open Source Learning: the Three Category System
What is Open-Source Learning?
It is an approach to learning that seeks to turn anything and everything into an educational experience.
What is the Three Category System?
It is an approach to knowledge that sorts everything into one of three categories.
(1) Facts, those truths which we simply have to submit to.
(2) Opinions, the things that are subject to debate.
(3) Experience, those things you must do to understand.
The purpose of this framework is to aid in analyzing any given situation. Our knowledge is never complete, so as a way of figuring out how to fill those gaps, we consider these three aspects.
The difference between a “fact” and a “conclusion” is decisive, for one is actually an opinion. The Art of Conversation is that we listen attentively to the thoughts of others as in (1), though we also seek to understand, clarify, or challenge in pursuit of a more fact-based understanding (2). We also don’t ask our physics teacher how to throw a curveball, we ask a pitcher for some tips and then we grab an actual ball (3).
What about the different learning styles of kids?
I don’t believe that different learning styles exist, rather that we have interests and inclinations and that the nature of those interests are different.
I ask, if you need to learn with your hands, how then would you approach literary analysis? Does it just need to not be a Kindle? What if you are more of a visual learner, how would you approach theology? Do we need to now draw a diagram of God?
It might also be that some honesty reflex goes off when we hear an opinion that is not our own, and we don’t trust it until we arrive at the conclusion ourselves. This process will vary based on the question, not the questioner.
How can “Anything” be made Educational?
Consider that any activity bears these three aspects in some form or another. One of my favorite examples is Legos.
The materials you work with are what they are, they are not subject to debate (1), but the possibilities still remain endless. You work (3) to bridge the gap between your imagination and reality constantly making decisions (2) along the way on how to best construct your vision. The play itself is already educational, though it might not be obvious how.
Consider too that I’ve just described the basic skill set for a wide range of high-paying and respectable jobs. Engineering and architecture aside, consider how much technology is employed to make a house work or a car work. Understanding how to repair things can make good money, and even beyond that is the prospect of being a reseller fixing up old ones; appliances, cars, or even houses themselves.
How do we prepare kids for adulthood/working?
The process I envision is as follows, that the natural interests of children are encouraged enthusiastically at first, and as they grow up over time, our support becomes more challenging and critical.
The “facts of life” are, as facts, a matter where the child should be sat down and made to listen, but we have to be honest with ourselves about where our knowledge ends, and work, perhaps even with them, to fill those gaps.
Trips outside the house to find information and the people who have it are wonderful, meaningful, purposeful adventures which can result in contacts, networks, and even the possibility of referrals to people in a position to employ or invest.
If your child wants to be a(n) “X”, find some “X’s”, and ask them hard questions about what is it really like and how do you get in. Curiosity needs to be satisfied and the greater world needs to be made available to pique such curiosity.
Don’t just “get out of the house”, do it with purpose, conviction, and objectives, even if they are vague.
How could I ever do this? I am so busy!
Useful things always require that time be budgeted in some way. My suggestion, practice first the Art of Conversation by scheduling about 30 minutes for meetings on a regular basis to discuss the interests your child is currently pursuing. The goal of these meetings is to identify new objectives in the pursuit of those interests and to review written reports they make on their progress. You take a moment to review these for correct Grammar, Logic, and follow up with questions.
By taking such an active interest in them you can count on them to follow through with the work, even if their interests change (it will). And since your explanation of Grammar and Logic, which are facts of communication and reason, is in the context of their interest they should be more receptive than if those same subjects were handled in an abstract manner.
There are more than 10,000 minutes in a week, so 30 minutes should be reasonable, but they should be focused with multi-tasking kept to a minimal.
I came up with an epistemological framework to critique educational methods. My idea is like this; knowledge should be taught according to its nature.
The difference between facts and opinions is decisive, but confusing. Frequently "facts" are mere opinions stated in an authoritarian manner, but facts do exists in theory. So what exactly belongs here in category one?
Logic is the strong arm in opinion formation and analysis because in general logic calls upon us to be honest about the evidence we are using to support our case. With logic however only three conclusions can be reached (1) necessary, (2) possible, or (3) impossible. Facts we say are anything that can be shown as necessary or impossible, everything else which is less than definite belongs in the second category.
Somethings must be experienced to be understood, even though some science may exist or be developed to support it. This is the third category
(1) Fact > Lectures w/ Q&A
(2) Opinion > Conversations
(3) Experience > Mentoring
As for matters of fact, a proclaimed knower should be allowed the chance to explain is understanding. Listening attentively, taking notes, and preparing follow up questions most befits the student of such a discipline. We are all fallible, and some of us just process information different, but we need to allow ourselves to be led sometimes.
As for matters of opinion, the one which isn't stated cannot be tested, therefore taking turns putting forth ideas in a process where mutually interested people work towards sounder conclusions is the best way to approach opinions.
As for any activity, you must learn by doing. For this a mentor gives you tips or basics for you to be mindful of while doing. The physics teacher may be able to explain how curve-balls work, but there is a big difference between him and a pitcher who can actually do it.
(1) Fact > Lectures w/ Q&A > Purity & Sincerity
(2) Opinion > Conversations > Wisdom
(3) Experience > Mentoring > Excellence
When we allow ourselves to be open and submissive to others, we get a chance to take in stuff which argumentative types might miss out on. Red Herrings crop up frequently if allowed to, so we let the case be spoken before we summarize our understanding in the form of questions, if necessary. It is the act of a person genuinely interested in learning to sit and pay attention.
In spite of how confusing things may appear, those who can connect dots and form sound judgment are the ones we label as wise. To make clear the muddy waters is to be a person qualified to judge which we practice by judging with fellow judgers. This is done most effectively when the 1st quality is being practiced: cognizance of Logic.
To act with presence and soundness of mind is to perform excellently. Trying is the means to perfection, so the best of us are those who practice.
(1) Fact > Lectures w/ Q&A > Purity & Sincerity > Logic & Basic Math
(2) Opinion > Conversations > Wisdom > the Humanities & Sciences
(3) Experience > Mentoring > Excellence > the Arts
Rules are what they are, and so how we evaluate things objectively is learned in the first category. Although physics is a science, gravity is a fact, so lets be careful how we position that ladder. These are those things that you simply receive and classes make sense for these subjects.
The oxford method is probably the best where you simply work on whatever subject you want to research and your professor just meets with you now and again to check and guide your progress. Reliance upon secondary sources can be problematic however since new questions frequently require original research, which is most definitely an Art.
Anything which is done should be taught by one who has. They should make their best effort to turn their Art into a science but should also have the humility to realize that expertise kinda doesn't exist here.
You approach something you want to learn about in this way: Figure out how each part of that subject fits into which category and treat it according to its nature. Find out how "the Facts" of the subject are obtained and critique them if necessary. Form opinions with others of the same interests. Make an effort to obtain new information and add it to the discussion.
I'm taking the lack of engagement with these ideas as a sign I need to give them some more content.
I'm going to write a book about this. That's the plan at least, as soon as I finish a much smaller project I intend to post here. (not on this thread)
I'm planning the book to be a collection of essays, planning the table of contents first which I would then write according to all of the separate integrated ideas I have regarding not just this system, but how to apply it to existing academia, schooling, and life in general.
Skimming the wikipedia page on informal logical fallacies it can easily be gleamed that pretty much every fallacy is simple an abstract example of how to not be honest about whatever subject you are discussing. This is why I place Logic in the first category since THAT is the category of "Truth" or its best approximation, thus it has the strong arm in debate. You reject an idea of mine, so the question becomes "on what basis do you reject my opinion" and if an actual error in logic can be discovered I either have to come up with a new more logical explanation or change my opinion.
So a big part of my book would be examining the role Logic actually would play in our daily lives and how to integrate it into existing study. of course one of my concepts I mentioned in the pamphlet, though I didn't name it, is "Prior Investment", that is since somebody is already interested in something and has pursued that interest, they have a "Prior Investment" in the subject, and would hopefully, therefore, be more receptive to constructive criticism on the basis of Logic, just as one example.
The fact is, all of this content is applicable to adult people living "real life" and ultimately these ideas would be not as a way for home-schoolers to reform their methods, or teachers to change their approach, but to put everybody on the same page and on equal footing on the basis of not just Logic, which is the argumentative trump card, (which students are dis-armed of) but by understanding how to open the curriculum up to endless possibilities while maintaining justifiable discipline.
Every method has its place. sometimes shutting up is in order, the question is when. Sometimes arguing is in order, the question is when. and sometimes just doing it and shutting up is in order, the question is when. This is what my Three Category System is intended to answer.
The western academic tradition is not without its merit. In general the real benefit of studying the humanities or the sciences is just to develop the ability to reason to a conclusion, using evidence as needed.
This quite practical use however is subverted in two ways. (1) in the needless compartmentalization of the various disciplines and (2) dogmatism.
As for (1), everybody knows that literature informs history and that history informs literature, but in school these disciplines are made trivial by their lack of the other. Trivial in the sense that their relevance to real life or to the other subjects is neither apparent nor a part of the study.
As for (2), when you get those teachers who don't appreciate that research and argumentation are the skills sought, they make the class a lecture with tests, assignments, and virtually no discussion (authoritarianism). This of course varies, with people exposed to good teachers wondering what the rest of us are complaining about...
Take for instance my interest in educational methodology. It has some elements of religion to it, since its actually a secularization of the Islamic scholastic tradition. It has some basic epistemology, drawing on philosophy. It draws heavily from my own experience, which is never a part of school, that is you never bring anything to the table... I'm not really talking about psychology, but I do deal with "learning disabilities" as a subject. This particular interest is not easily classifiable, and the uniqueness of this interest leaves no place within established "subjects" as they are classified.
Lets talk about my juxtaposition of King Arthur and his Round Table to Pharoah and his Pyramid. Watching the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies I could connect all of these ideas to the manner in which corporate America organizes, arguing that a system of ethics derived from somewhat commonly accepted ideals could be possible in real life, but clarifying that human fallibility and moral weakness are ultimately the real reason we find what we do in the present day.
How would you classify a project like that?
Since by identifying the ends sought by studying the humanities, the question then becomes "why restrict the topics studied"?
The purpose of the Three Category System is to figure out where each discipline belongs in terms of method, and how to properly free it from hindering constrains. The distinction between the Humanities and Sciences is arguably arbitrary as well in that Medicine muddies the water quite effectively, although Medicine does tend towards "science" which is why everything is a pill and nobody seems happy...
If somebody is allowed to pursue their interests in an uncontrolled manner, perhaps this is bad... after all, you need the knowledge from the 1st Category, namely Logic, to ensure that the conclusions drawn from study are reasonable. Thus, I say the best method employed to teach/learn any of the Humanities and Sciences is by freely studying relevant material and following up with a cool minded mutually interested critic who is aware of Logic and perhaps knows where to go in further pursuit of the interest.
I alluded too but did not name a concept I call "prior investment". Essentially my theory is that when it comes time to learn the necessary science of reason, Logic, it need not be a dry dull lecture, but in the context of reviewing some study done by a student. In that case the student already has a "prior investment" in the topic and so presumably would be more inclined to tolerate criticism of his findings, provided they are fair and neutral, which is why I stress Logic.
A quick browsing of the wikipedia page on Logical fallacies ought to quickly demonstrate that most of Logic is about being honest about the topic at hand. That is why I say the 1st category, where submission is warranted, is the strong arm in debate which is necessary to develop to skill of arriving at conclusions based on research, the 2nd category. I call the 1st category the Traditional Sciences since they are essentially rules that are transmitted, but the 2nd category the Critical Sciences and mastered through research and debate, tempered by the 1st category.
Purity is to Believe only that which deserves it.
Wisdom is to follow only the Opinion which makes the best use of evidence.
Excellence is to be mindful of all these things in Living.
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(This post was last modified: 07-30-2016 11:19 AM by the Analogist.)