Category: Education


(Written July 2015)

Dear All,

In considering what the underlying theme in the teaching of science at school should be, I have taken a great deal of what I present here from, The Visionary Eye: Essays in the Arts, Literature and Science, by J. Bronowski, (MIT Press, 1978). In particular, the inspiration is drawn from the description of a mathematician in the company of scientists, “turning into fact what the imaginative mind conceives”.

For it is the imaginative mind that sets us apart from the animals. Certainly animals use ‘words’ and gestures to communicate, but they do so in a restricted, contextual way; a particular bark or signal is always understood by others in the troop, herd or pack in the same way.  Humans are different in that, in our minds eye we can recreate and reinterpret the past, we can imagine and plan the future, and we can convey ideas through a range of complex symbols – any one of which may allow for more than one sensible interpretation. Most importantly for this discussion, we can express our manifold imaginings by way of extremely abstract representations. But we are not born with these skills, we have to learn them. To communicate and to succeed in a civilised, ordered society, we need to be educated; and from this point of view, all teaching is directed at making it possible for humans to ‘visualise’ their experience in mental models and mental images, and then to turn what was imagined into fact. Incidentally, an appropriate and extremely useful theory of human cognition – in terms of mental models, mental images, and propositional reasoning – was developed by Philip Johnson-Laird in the 1980s (see Mental Models, Cambridge, 1983).

The key idea here is that the ability to create and manipulate images in the mind is the basis of reasoning; and irrespective of whether we are experimenting with logical concepts or with artistic materials, we are engaging in imaginative processes that use the same mental faculties in all cases. Further, if the above is true (which I believe it is), then there is no intrinsic difference in the way in which we use the concepts of ‘energy’ and ‘mass’, as Einstein did in the equation E = mc2, and the way in which we use the words ‘sad height’ and ‘fierce tears’, as Dylan Thomas did in:

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Both of these expressions convey a very deep understanding of the world as it may be experienced, but neither is obvious from the outset. A considerable amount of effort may be required to rediscover what these two authors meant, an effort that is well worthwhile; but in the process of doing so it would be a mistake to believe that in order to grasp the meaning of one compared to the other you need to have ‘a different kind of brain’. As Bronowski puts it (p. 21):

We do a great harm to children in their education when we accustom them to separate reason from imagination, simply for the convenience of the school timetable. For imagination is not confined to wild outbursts of fantasy. Imagination is the manipulation inside the mind of absent things, by using in their place images or words or other symbols.

Both science and art are imaginative processes in which we are constantly rediscovering for ourselves what the experimenters, theorists, authors, sculptors, painters and poets have discovered before us; and the point has to be emphasised that it is not possible to appreciate the deep conceptions created by science and art “unless we do something to recreate them for ourselves”. Each of us has to engage in this journey of discovery with whatever idiosyncratic set of imaginative tools we have at our disposal – irrespective of the field of human endeavour. And in every case we do so for the same reasons, viz.: 1) to experience the pleasure of exploring imaginary situations, and 2) to give expression to something that is entirely personal. In short, we do so because we delight in our own creations.

This motivation, that ‘we delight in our own creations’, lies at the heart of whatever we truly learn; and this is as true for a babe in arms, an opsimath, and everyone in-between. It follows that if we are ever to have effective educational institutions then they have to speak directly to this motivation.

Does the phrase ‘our own creations’ imply that there should be a free-for-all approach to the way in which we approach the acquisition of knowledge, an, “I did it my way” approach? Certainly not! In considering the idea of having the freedom to act, we note that “you cannot be certain how to design something well, but you can be certain how to design it badly”. This is true of every human endeavour and so the foundation of every creative ability requires an investigation into the existing body of knowledge in that field. It is only when one understands the underlying structure of whatever it is that is being explored, before setting out on the journey, that one may be found in a position to extend that knowledge. Here also it is necessary to deal with a misconception that has found a place in some quarters; it is the idea that in some way science is constricting, while art is liberating. Quite how this view gained traction is not clear to me, but a little thought will show it to be a bogus notion for we need to recognise that freedoms and limitations have a deep connection and are never separated. With every creative act we are met with liberation on one hand, and simultaneously, limitation on the other. Bronowski again (p. 51)

Each of the great intellectual revolutions has broken through (the boundaries of our contagious anxieties, the rigours of convention and social institutions) at its time, and swum into a new sea of freedom in art, science, and society together. But beyond each isthmus there is another; each sea in turn is landlocked; there are natural limits to action in the new age too. The pride of the best men is to probe for these limits by the adventure of their work. These are the pioneering minds, who press forward in the new freedom and create those works which, in exploring it, discover (because they reach) the new frontiers. Lincoln Cathedral is such a creation, and Albertini’s Rimini, the craft of Dürer and Grinling Gibbons and Wedgewood, the Circus in Bath and the Chrystal Palace. And equally the plays of Christopher Marlow and Newton’s Principia, Coleridge and Cézanne and Rutherford, all stretch out and fill the freedom they themselves created, to its limits. The new age ends only when these limits in their turn become fixed and conventional, and wait to be cracked by another discovery toward the next freedom.

This brings me closer to the question of what I think the underlying theme in the teaching of science at school should be. I think a simple model that shows the interaction of four components in a creative process should be a recurring theme that would be a reminder to both teachers and learners that it is the act of “turning into fact what the imaginative mind conceives” that lies at the heart of the understanding of anything.

Model of creativity

With the imaginative mind at its centre, this simple model illustrates how we combine our experience with what we know of the existing body of knowledge to give expression to our thoughts and conclusions. And in doing so we go through an iterative process whereby we enhance our experience and our understanding to be able to express more clearly what is known, until we reach that limit where new knowledge is created, where freedom comes into its own.

It is my view that it is the task of teachers and the like to bring about educational institutions that forefront the idea that ‘we delight in our creations’; and then to bring about an environment that allows for the imaginings of the creative minds of the youth to be turned into fact.

Regards

Jeff

(Written 26 June 2012)

Dear All,

In a previous blog I wrote about lessons South Africans could learn from Singaporeans in regard to dealing with corrupt officials and I came in for a bit of stick about holding Singapore up as a paragon of political virtue (something I did not actually intend to do). So in opening, may I say that I recognise the fact that the political playing field in Singapore is not level and that the general tone of the blogs that I am predisposed to write may well get me into trouble if I were writing about the Singapore government rather than the South African one. Further, I believe that South Africa has a political system that may well be the envy of opposition politicians in Singapore, but that is not what I am concerned about here. I am concerned about the rapacious behaviour of public officials and politicians in South Africa and the fact that they are allowed to get away with it.

To illustrate the point I shall use a topic close to my heart; education, specifically the administration of education. And of the many, many possible examples I shall pick on the Eastern Cape School Feeding Scheme, the Books to Limpopo saga, and the question of SADTU paralysing any effort to correct unethical behaviour by teachers in the educational system.

The provision of primary and tertiary schooling in the Eastern Cape has long been a problem with multiple complexities and the following report on the topic is well worth reading. http://eprints.ru.ac.za/1399/1/Hendricks_school_book_article.pdf I would like to draw attention to the sentence on page 3 of the above, “The school feeding scheme debacle is just the most recent manifestation of an on-going malaise of inefficiency and corruption”. Now, the feeding scheme was launched in 1994 as a Presidential Lead Project and this report is one of many articles on the failure of this scheme. Just as widely reported is the fact that the Auditor-General has found that R100s of millions have been misappropriated over the years by the administrators of this scheme. In short, the officials in charge of this now collapsed feeding scheme have been complicit in the theft of significant amounts of money that was designated to buy food for undernourished children… and no-one has, or ever will be, called to account!

Presently in the South African news is the schoolbook debacle in which the Limpopo Province’s Department of Education has failed to supply the requisite school texts 6 months after the start of the academic year. If you read the Internet blurb on the company at the centre of the trouble, EduSolutions and its holding company African Access, you would think the task of providing the tools of education could not be in better hands, but even after a court order in May to make good on the delivery, part of a R320 million contract, the books were still not delivered. http://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/firing-motshekga-not-the-answer-zille-1.1326803 What we can expect to come out of this over the next few weeks and months is that a bit of dust will be kicked up here and there and details of some corruption will make its way into the public domain, but we cannot expect that anyone is ever going to be prosecuted. In short, the officials in the Limpopo Department of Education have been complicit in the maladministration of, and possibly even the theft of, significant amounts of money designated to buy educational material for children… and no-one has been, or ever will be, called to account!

A report has recently found its way into the media about the role that the South African Council for Educators (SACE) has played, or not played, in the improvement of the clearly failing educational system in South Africa. http://inside-politics.org/2012/06/25/how-sadtu-and-the-sace-have-damaged-accountability-in-sa-education/ A key mandate of the SACE is to “uphold ethical practice by educators” and it has emerged that of some 350,000 active teachers in the educational system, only 97 have been fired in 12 years. This sounds like a pretty good statistic until you stop for a moment and ask yourself what happened to all those many cases of physical abuse of pupils (some even videotaped), cases of getting pupils pregnant, of the rape of pupils, of misappropriation of school funds, of teacher absenteeism and of teacher drunkenness that have been published in the papers over the last 12 years? Certainly there have been way, way more than 100 reported cases of very serious misdemeanours… Is it really possible that all these people are still on the Department’s payroll? Sadly yes. And as a reward for a job well done, the CEO of the SACE, Rej Brijraj – who has the responsibility to the children to ensure ethical standards in the teaching profession – was paid bonuses totaling almost R1 million to add to his already handsome salary over the last seven years. In short, the officials of the SACE have been complicit in the SADTU-backed conspiracy of silence that has protected those guilty of unethical teaching practices, once again leaving the children as the losers… and no-one has, or ever will be, called to account!

I return to the question posed at the start of this blog. Would the teachers and administrators of the educational system in Singapore be able to get away with behaviour like this? I think not.

Regards

Jeff

(Written 9 June 2012)

Dear All,

There has been much discussion in the South African media about the destruction of interpersonal relations and the problems that arise from some considering themselves inferior or superior to others; what we would readily recognise as the old problem of racism. The reaction by a portion of South African society to the Brett Murray painting The Spear is a case in point, to which I should like add the comment that it takes two to make racism ‘work’, there has to be a victim and a victor.  

In 2008 I took a job as a science teacher at a school that was specifically focussed on working with children from disadvantaged black communities. Having spent most of the previous 35-odd years of my working life in some or other engineering capacity, this was a significant change in my life, one that presented unexpected challenges. I had expected that my offering and expertise from the world of science and technology would be welcomed – and indeed they were warmly welcomed by the children – but you can imagine my surprise when, as a person, I was rejected by the inner management of the school. Rejection of this sort had never happened to me before and it took a while to figure out why an industrious, well-meaning, committed and friendly person would be ostracised by the adults at an institution like that? The reason was that my behaviour was seen as that of a “dominating white male”.

The question of racism on such a personal level is generally not confronted in the engineering world and so I had never before been accused of real, or imagined, interpersonal racism. I have always taken the view that racism is a bad thing but I had had no real, personal understanding of the destructive nature of racism in its many guises. In any event, at the time I was struggling to find my feet in the classroom and given that I had been told by an otherwise knowledgeable friend that, “Honkies cannot teach in the Townships” (Whites cannot teach black children), I was very focussed on trying to find out how to relate to children in a learning environment, especially children who’s experiences and cultural background was quite different from mine. So being accused of racism at a time like that was a bewildering problem.

A useful way in which to understand human interaction of the sort outlined above is based on Patsy Rodenburg’s book, Presence: How to Use Positive Energy for Success in Every Situation (Michael Joseph, 2007). Rodenberg develops the model by which three modes of human interaction are described and she refers to these modes as “circles of energy”. An excellent description of these concepts is given at http://sciencestage.com/v/5454/patsy-rodenburg-the-second-circle. Here is my summary of the circle model:

1st circle of energy: Where interaction is characterised by introversion, withdrawal, subservience and “being the victim”.

2nd circle of energy: Where interaction is characterised by balance, give-and-take, intimacy and “being an equal”.

3rd circle of energy: Where interaction is characterised by extraversion, imposition, control, domination and “being the boss”.

As noted, for a number of years I had been an engineering manager and although I was conscious of being a newcomer in teaching, I suppose I unwittingly took on the look of a ‘boss’, although I am not sure of this. Certainly I had a lot of skills to offer but that, paradoxically, also seemed to be a failing. Apparently my colleagues didn’t need a capable person to lay a golden egg every other day, they wanted people around them who would let them feel as equals; something they apparently could not do with me because I was perceived as a dominating white guy. All their lives they had been threatened and demeaned by dominating white guys and they resented it deeply. Using the Rodenberg model, my behaviour was seen as being of the 3rd circle, imposing and controlling, which automatically drove them into 1st circle. When I found I was inexplicably being frozen out of the team by the management of the school it was my turn to exhibit 1st circle behaviour… and because I did not know why all of this was happening, I remained in the 1st circle until I left the school.

In the tradition of Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) – who invariably used himself as an example – I can see evidence in my own life of not being properly schooled in the art of living in the 2nd circle. Like so many people in our society, somewhere early on the knowledge of how to live effectively in the 2nd circle appears to have been knocked out of me to some extent. Was it that boarding school? Perhaps it followed from the rigid instruction always to “stand on your own two feet”. I do not know how or why it came about, but I have since become convinced that the best way to get through the world is to learn the skill of graciously receiving and giving, as equals, for as Rodenberg puts it, “we need to be in 2nd circle in order to survive.”

Accusations of racism such as those experienced at the school automatically result in 3rd and 1st circle behaviour, which in turn allows for the justification of the disengagement on both sides. In a perverted way, racism offers an illusion of ‘safety’ in the interaction in that it defines where each stands in relation to the other. But sustained 3rd and 1st circle behaviour is insidiously dangerous in that it wilts the human spirit and destroys what could have been. A country in which its citizens lock themselves in such a paradigm is doomed to fail.

And what of the cure for racism? Well, that may not be so easy for it requires both parties to want to interact in the 2nd circle, an engagement that requires a degree of personal courage and understanding from both sides. It requires that both parties want to give and take. And it requires that neither party identifies victims and victors, but that each learns to see themselves and the others as equals. Far sooner said than done… a task that requires great leadership.

Regards

Jeff

PS:  In considering all of this I went back to my notes on Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Freedom, writing that makes a lot more sense to me now, and I have made it a personal goal to try and lecture in the 2nd circle. Although I still have a great deal to learn about the subtleties and nuances of speaking, listening, feeling and thinking in each of the “circles of energy”, there is something of which I am already quite certain, “We need to be in 2nd circle in order to survive.”

PPS: Thanks to Vicki Bawcombe, who, by way of helping me develop some teaching skills, suggested I read Patsy Rodenburg’s work.

The personality of organisations

(Written 29th April 2012)

Dear All,

Towards the end of a sports festival day at Wynberg Boys High School the story was told of an older couple who had, some 20 years ago, sent their sons to prominent boys’ schools in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. And at the time of their choosing those schools Wynberg was never considered a suitable school for their brood of young men. But they went on to say that if they had had another son now, they would have no hesitation in making Wynberg their first choice. So why the change?

http://www.wbhs.org.za/

May I state from the outset that I consider Wynberg to be one of the finest educational institutions you will find anywhere in the world; but I hasten to add that while it has, in it’s 170-year history, always been a good school, it has not always been a great school. For instance, there was a time around the 1970s when the school was in the doldrums and I was very fortunate to have been party (in a very small way mind) to the setting of the direction in which the school was to develop since the mid-1990s.

In expressing my thinking on this matter it is perhaps necessary to point out that since I do not read MBA-type literature this phenomenon may well have been studied in some formal way, and if it has, then perhaps someone could tell me by whom. In the meantime let me say that it has been my experience that the development of a healthy, vibrant organisation is a delicate weave of a large number of factors such as circumstance, history and events, opportunities and skills, organisation and management, but most of all it is guided by the vision of the person in charge. Moreover, in this process the organisation comes to reflect the character and integrity of the person at the top. I have also found that it works the other way round. Organisations that may once have been vibrant soon become moribund when the person in charge lacks vision. Worse is that corrupt leaders soon corrupt the ‘personality’ of the organisation they represent. Let me give you some examples.

Some 10 years ago I had occasion to be part of a group who were working to rebuild a struggling manufacturing organisation in America. The business in question had been run into bankruptcy and I had been offered the opportunity to be part of the team that would nurse the company back to financial health. It was a marvellous challenge; there was a lot to be fixed which I am happy to say went well for the most part. The disappointment however was that the new owner’s vision was not actually to build a sound company, but to tart it up and to sell it to an unsuspecting investor. I soon found out that there was a good reason why the new boss spent a great deal of his time in litigation, he was the most mean-spirited person I have ever met and it soon became apparent that the ‘personality’ of the company had also become deceitful and mean. The owner had no integrity and neither did the company. I did not stay long.

Since the fall of apartheid South Africa has had the mixed fortune of having had presidents from opposite ends of the visionary spectrum. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that the sheer presence of Nelson Mandela saved the country in the 1990s, giving rise to the temporary sense of a rainbow nation. For a short while the nation actually adopted the magnanimous personality of that great man but sadly it was not to last. Just 15 years later the country has a president without vision and without credibility; and it shows in the everyday lives of its citizens. Jacob Zuma’s mumbling of puerile questions has taken the place of debate and his slow reading of pointless statements has taken the place of actual messages to the nation. Worse is that the prevailing personality in the country is one of secrecy and graft. South Africans have become a corrupted nation.

On the other hand, I have over the last 15 years had the great privilege to get to know the Headmaster of Wynberg, both as a friend and as someone in charge of an institution for which I have a great affection. Not only is Keith Richardson a man of integrity but he is a man of vision involved in a great work… educating young men. While continuing the work begun by his immediate predecessors, Rowan Algie and Bruce Probyn – that of returning the school to greatness – he has done more than that. He has imbued the organisation with a philosophy that reflects his character. He has given it a personality that has made Wynberg the school of choice.

Regards

Jeff

(Written 18 March 2012)

Dear All.

What single piece of writing has, more than any another, influenced your thinking? Perhaps even influenced your whole life?

For most this may not be an easy question to answer. You may well have read a number of influential pieces in your time… but for me the choice is simple. It is Chapter 11 of The Ascent of Man (BBC, 1973). In 1979 Bronowski’s insightful essay, Knowledge or Certainty, one of the chapters in the 13-part BBC series, came to my attention; and have I revisited it many times, as the picture of my dog-eared 1981 Futura copy may testify.

The Ascent of Man is a series about the intellectual and cultural development of mankind as viewed through the lens of science and in chapter 11 Bronowski considers what we can and cannot know. The piece starts with an explanation of how shorter and shorter wavelengths are required to detect smaller and smaller objects and how the inevitable uncertainty about what we can know from such experiments may be modelled by a Gaussian distribution. Inevitable because we can never know anything with absolute certainty! Then he goes on to talk about the development of ideas in physics in the 1920s and 30s, culminating in the development and use of the atom bomb in 1945. He points to the irony that just as scientists in Göttingen were formulating a precise understanding of tolerance, “all around them tolerance was crashing to the ground (in Nazi Germany).” When speaking about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle he writes:

“(Heisenberg’s) Principle of Uncertainty is a bad name. In science or outside it, we are not uncertain; our knowledge is merely confined within a certain tolerance. We should call it the Principle of Tolerance. And I propose that name in two senses. First in the engineering sense. Science has progressed step by step, the most successful enterprise in the ascent of man, because it has understood that the exchange of information between man and nature, and man and man, can only take place with a certain tolerance. But second, I also use the word passionately about the real world. All knowledge, all information between human beings can only be exchanged within a play of tolerance. And that is true whether the exchange is in science, or in literature, or in religion, or in politics, or even in any form of thought that aspires to dogma” (p. 231).

It is worth remembering that Bronowski was writing at a time when the world lived under the immediate threat of nuclear war and the burgeoning computerisation scenarios of the day sounded like something from Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. While the space race of the 60s had increased the public’s interest in science, there was at the same time a nervous reaction to the notion that somehow science would overtake our humanity. There was a fear that an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-controlling scientific juggernaut would regiment the population in some way, turning souls into “numbers”. Subsequent to reading Knowledge or Certainty, I found out that Bronowski had dealt with the subject of science as a human expression on a number of occasions and almost 60 years after its original publication, I consider his collection of three essays in Science and Human Values (Messner, 1956) to be a great work.

But perhaps the best way to illustrate why this piece has been so meaningful to me is for you to read it for yourself, or to see the last part of it at:

(Please ignore the comments that follow the Youtube video.)

Regards

Jeff

PS: It may not be a coincidence that in the last part of my life I have turned to a formal study of Uncertainty and the epistemology thereof.

Where US teens get ‘serious’ news‏

(Written 23 Nov 2011)
 
Dear All,
 
One of the television programs I watched without fail when in the US was Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Have a look on the ‘net’ if you have a good connection. It is good stuff. See http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-november-12-2009/jane-goodall for example.So it doesn’t come as surprise to learn that more US teens believe what they hear on a parody of the News in the Daily Show, than what they are told on the formal news channels.

Further, of note in the attached article is the suggestion that putting in more money and hiring more teachers will not necessarily translate to students having a better understanding of mathematics and science.
See http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/10/12/paul-krugman-vs-the-daily-show/

Regards
Jeff

(Written on 13 Dec 2009)
 
Dear All,
 
Should we become hysterical about the use of historical? The attached is from the front page of the Weekend Argus Travel Supplement, 12/13 Dec 2009.
 
Here’s what Fowler has to say: Historic(al) The differentiation between the two forms has reached a stage at which it may be fairly said that the use of one in the sense expressed by the other is a definite backsliding.
 
Regards
Jeff
 

(Written 31 Oct 2010)

Dear All,

Listening to the intensity with which an under-something A cricket captain’s mother was talking about the minutia of how her son was “out” on Saturday, I was reminded of a time, some fifteen years ago, when I was doing exactly the same thing. In retrospect it is easy to see how the perspective of the instant when a boy misses a ball is lost; and how quickly the agonising that goes with questions about whether the youngster had “played too far forward, or should have played back, or the umpire must have been at fault” are unnecessarily placed on a knife-edge. Fortunately hindsight also makes it easy to see how the essence of schoolboy sport will generally triumph… outweighing the foibles of well-meaning parents.

Randy Pausch in his short book The Last Lecture (2010, Hodder & Stoughton, pg. 39) gives a cryptic but good description of the essence of schoolboy sport. He calls it a “head fake”, of which he describes two varieties. Firstly, the literal head fake. This when a player, such as in rugby, is running with the ball and with his head, fakes to get a defender to think that he is going to swerve in one direction, but then actually goes off in another. Then there is the really important head fake, the figurative head fake. This where people are taught things that they do not realise they are learning until well into the process. Often they only understand what they learned long afterwards… as in my case with schoolboy sport.

Pausch makes his point very well, “When we send our kids to play organised sports – (cricket), football, soccer, swimming, whatever – for most of us it is not because we are desperate for them to learn the intricacies of the sport. What we want them to learn is far more important: teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, the value of hard work, an ability to deal with adversity.” ibid. “There is a lot of talk these days about giving children self-esteem. (Self-esteem) is not something you can give; it is something they have to build.” The ultimate purpose of schoolboy sport is to create an environment in which children can experiment with, learn about, and build upon these essential life lessons; all the while giving them to believe that their raison d’etre is to get runs on the board, to win badges, to earn stripes. It is a wonderful, educational head fake… pity I understood it so late.

So to the Moms and Pops who are standing on the touchline or the boundary rope, take a step back. Enjoy the view, make the hamburgers with love, and cherish the fact that your little darling has been given the privilege of learning, inadvertently, strengths of character that will make a real difference in his or her life; irrespective of whether the game is won or lost. And the truly marvellous thing about this head fake is that it works in the E-team just as well as it does in the A-team… another thing it took me a long time to figure out.

Regards
Jeff

Wired for distraction?

(Written 27 Nov 2010)
 
Dear All,
 
I think a letter on the question of whether youngsters are being ‘wired for distraction’ (see below) would be a fine thing. Of course it has to be admitted that there is presently insufficient research data to show that what the NY Times article is suggesting is true, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that this is a potential problem that we should consider seriously.
 
What is unquestioned is that for an individual to achieve meaningful intellectual growth there has to be a degree of cognitive “sense-making” that goes beyond the normal (mostly superficial) observation and interaction we experience in our daily lives. A person wishing to make scholarly progress has to spent the requisite time applying their mind to whatever they are studying. As Isaac Newton had it, “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been due more to patient attention, than to any other talent”. It is also important to note that this “sense-making” process is entirely idiosyncratic… the learner has to work it out for him or herself. Learning is not a spectator sport! Watching the game at the JK Oval cannot make turn an enthusiast into a 1st-team player; just so, watching a teacher translate a phrase (from Latin of course), balance an account, or find a solution to an equation, cannot earn a pupil a place at a university.
 
It is left for parents to ask themselves if their children are being given the best opportunity to develop the skill of applying their mind to a question of study. Or are the gadgets that have been lovingly presented to their offspring – to give them instant access to social websites, movies and music – going to turn out to be Trojan horses?
 
Regards
Jeff
 

Listen to this!‏

(Written 12 Jan 2011)
 
Dear All,
 
If you have not already done so, please make sure you make the time to listen carefully to this important talk by Ken Robinson.
 
 
Regards
Jeff