how much basic knowledge should be taught.

Posted: November 3, 2010 in Untukmu Guruku

One of the big debates in public education, going all the way back to John Dewey, is just how much basic knowledge should be taught.

There actually was a time when children had to memorize a great deal of information. Arguably, that trend went too for. But now we’ve moved all the way to the opposite extreme, to the point where children know virtually nothing. Not even the most basic and necessary facts are allowed into their brains. Kids reach college not knowing what 6 x 8 is.

I write about this issue from many different angles, pointing out for example that if children merely learned one tiny little fact each day, that would be about 200 each year, and by the time they reached sixth grade, they would know more than the average college graduate of today.

Teaching facts is no big deal. Problem is, the Education Establishment has declared war on basic information. It is simply not taught, and I believe this is a crime against children. Our brains are hardwired to want new information.

I recently ran into a quote I put on my site several years ago: “Facts are to the mind what bones are to the body.” I don’t think I can improve on that. Without facts the mind is just mush. Schools are turning kids into jellyfish and then feeling proud of this.

One way I try to dramatize the bad job that many schools do is to create easy tests, with questions like, clouds are made of what, where is Japan, etc. Such tests are a simple way to embarrass kids into realizing how little they know. (I would like to embarrass the Education Establishment–but is that even possible?)

My newest easy-test has only 10 questions and is part of an article titled “Do American Students Know Anything At All.”

A fun read; and at the end there’s a link to “20: The Quizz,” which has 100 easy questions. (Also note the article has three videos: the one on the right is another easy-test with 12 questions. The left-hand video makes the case for foundational knowledge. The one in the middle explains why the brain wants new information.)

Also, I have to say that I take some pride in having created a new Latin proverb for this article: “Non cogito ergo non sum.” Which I translate: “I don’t think therefore I don’t exist.” This is meant to be an epithet for people who don’t know any facts. (Yes, “new Latin proverb” is an oxymoron.)

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