What Should We Really Be Teaching?

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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#41  Postby Scot Dutchy » Feb 14, 2014 2:11 pm

hackenslash wrote:It really doesn't get any more ignorant than that, Scot, so I'll leave you to your amusement. Have a nice life.


The ignorance does lie with me. If you have an educations system that does not teach this then your system is falling far short.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#42  Postby Scot Dutchy » Feb 14, 2014 2:12 pm

hackenslash wrote:Nor in Finland...


How do you know. I take it you have taught there or in other education systems.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#43  Postby hackenslash » Feb 14, 2014 2:15 pm

For fuck's sake, Scot, the national curriculum of Finland is a matter of easily checkable record. Take your troll-goggles off for a while.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#44  Postby Fallible » Feb 14, 2014 2:22 pm

Scot Dutchy wrote:
hackenslash wrote:It really doesn't get any more ignorant than that, Scot, so I'll leave you to your amusement. Have a nice life.


The ignorance does lie with me. If you have an educations system that does not teach this then your system is falling far short.


You are calling an education system the best in the world when they apparently don't teach it either. How does that work?
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#45  Postby Beatsong » Mar 15, 2014 11:03 pm

I'm not sure about this. I can clearly remember being taught to think critically at school - it's just that it was integrated within subjects like English, history and politics, rather than being a separate subject on its own.

I remember heated debates about analysis of texts, conflicting accounts of the causes of historical events, and the virtues or shortcomings of various political and economic systems. I remember teachers who had a knack for setting up these debates and then sitting back and watching as the class tore each other to shreds. I remember them deliberately playing devil's advocate and confining their input to whatever someone had overlooked in forming their opinion, whatever was likely to challenge it.

I vividly remember a specific example - it was quite early, probably year 7 or 8. Our English teacher set us a homework project to go home, find a piece of advertising in some print media, and then write an analysis of what was likely to be misleading about it.

I only went to an ordinary state school and I don't think it was particularly exceptional overall, but I think a lot of what's being described here is just what's known as "good teaching" in the humanities subjects.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#46  Postby Agrippina » Mar 16, 2014 3:32 pm

Then you come to Africa, where (today I heard this) a child is at university, having passed our "matric" (Grade 12) 18 years old, and having been awarded a bursary, her grades were that good, and she doesn't know if there are farms in western countries. Seriously.

Her dad asked me that question today. He said he told her that he sees "New Zealand butter" so he assumes that it comes from the country called New Zealand, but he's not so sure about America. When I explained to him that there are huge tracts of land given over to farming and that it's big business, he just said that they hadn't really thought about it. Sheesh where do these people think meat comes from?

My own experience of school and critical thinking: I wasn't taught how to write critically at school. Mostly we were thrown essay topics and told to make up something about it. So I agree that critical thinking should be taught.

So yes, I'm inclined to say that schools are nothing more than a baby-sitting service where kids learn to socialise and to acquire some basic reading, writing and maths skills. It's the few who are inclined to acquire some real education who make the effort and who pay attention to what's happening in the world around them, and whose parents teach them to question what they're told, or the ones who are driven to leave school with seven distinctions simply because they are competitive academically.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#47  Postby Beatsong » Mar 16, 2014 3:44 pm

Agrippina wrote:Then you come to Africa, where (today I heard this) a child is at university, having passed our "matric" (Grade 12) 18 years old, and having been awarded a bursary, her grades were that good, and she doesn't know if there are farms in western countries. Seriously.

Her dad asked me that question today. He said he told her that he sees "New Zealand butter" so he assumes that it comes from the country called New Zealand, but he's not so sure about America. When I explained to him that there are huge tracts of land given over to farming and that it's big business, he just said that they hadn't really thought about it. Sheesh where do these people think meat comes from?


That's got nothing to do with critical thinking though. That's an issue of factual knowledge about geography and social sciences generally.

So yes, I'm inclined to say that schools are nothing more than a baby-sitting service where kids learn to socialise and to acquire some basic reading, writing and maths skills. It's the few who are inclined to acquire some real education who make the effort and who pay attention to what's happening in the world around them, and whose parents teach them to question what they're told, or the ones who are driven to leave school with seven distinctions simply because they are competitive academically.


Obviously there's a wide variety of schools, particularly if we're talking across geographical borders. So generalisations like that are unlikely to be very meaningful.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#48  Postby Agrippina » Mar 17, 2014 5:13 am

Beatsong wrote:
Agrippina wrote:Then you come to Africa, where (today I heard this) a child is at university, having passed our "matric" (Grade 12) 18 years old, and having been awarded a bursary, her grades were that good, and she doesn't know if there are farms in western countries. Seriously.

Her dad asked me that question today. He said he told her that he sees "New Zealand butter" so he assumes that it comes from the country called New Zealand, but he's not so sure about America. When I explained to him that there are huge tracts of land given over to farming and that it's big business, he just said that they hadn't really thought about it. Sheesh where do these people think meat comes from?


That's got nothing to do with critical thinking though. That's an issue of factual knowledge about geography and social sciences generally.


Yes, you're right. It's more to do with what they're taught. I don't understand why kids everywhere aren't taught some facts about other countries. Our "social science" classes are called "life orientation" and what they're taught in those classes doesn't have much to do with sociology, it's mostly about how not to get pregnant. When teachers try to introduce some knowledge about the rest of the world, they're told not to stray from what's in the curriculum, which is why the more innovative teachers leave the profession.

So yes, I'm inclined to say that schools are nothing more than a baby-sitting service where kids learn to socialise and to acquire some basic reading, writing and maths skills. It's the few who are inclined to acquire some real education who make the effort and who pay attention to what's happening in the world around them, and whose parents teach them to question what they're told, or the ones who are driven to leave school with seven distinctions simply because they are competitive academically.


Obviously there's a wide variety of schools, particularly if we're talking across geographical borders. So generalisations like that are unlikely to be very meaningful.


I'm not talking about private schools that are really excellent. The trouble is that most parents can't afford the fees so they have to rely on our government schools which are really terrible. Our government spends more money on financing the president's private residence upgrades than it does on building schools and paying for better teachers. Fifteen years ago I would've made concessions about Apartheid, and poor school standards, when the minority were ensuring that the schools were producing servants, but this is 20 years after democracy, and even the parents who were themselves the products of the Apartheid school system are now moving towards voting for another party, because the ANC isn't doing what it promised especially about schools. In our case, the generalisation is pretty valid.

There was a recent announcement by the "Minister for Basic Education" about how the pass percentage had increased over the last 20 years, but what she failed to say that the percentage required to pass was only 35%. How can someone be called educated when they only need to know 35% of the total knowledge of their subject at any time. I certainly wouldn't trust a professional who had achieved only 35% on his university exams.

Argh! I shouldn't rant about this. It's not my problem anymore.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#49  Postby Dissident » Aug 02, 2014 3:53 pm

(Please forgive my unobservance of proper procedure, I will introduce myself soon :grin: )

I think a distinction should be made between lower and higher education, certainly lack of instruction in critical thinking skills is not that prevalent in higher education, probably because of practical reasons. University is expected to "produce" people capable of advancing their field or at least independently make decisions and act in it, these (I claim) cannot be done without critical thinking, so even if indirectly it has to be taught or developed. Lower education on the other hand doesn't have such a definite practical purpose and therefore that is where the question "What should we really be teaching?" is most relevant.

Should kids get a basic factual understanding of the main fields of study? Should the teaching be focused on practical life skills, or moral values and social issues, or development of personal skills and expression, etc.? Depending on who you ask you will get different answers and critical thinking will be more or less important to them depending on what they think school is for.

I think that memoristic repetition-based learning is a remnant of the 19th century education model that, even if usually identified as a problem is still at the core of most school systems. It is probably time to start from scratch, think about what we want education to do, and based on what we know about pedagogy, psychology, etc. make something from the ground up to achieve it. This would be just for state-run public schools though, there is not much you can do if a parent wants to send their kids to, for example, a private school that focuses on artistic expression, social skills, etc. instead of knowledge and critical thinking (not that anything should be done, having different options is a good thing).
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#50  Postby Evolving » Aug 02, 2014 5:47 pm

Hi, Dissident, and welcome!

I have a six-year old daughter and don't think that it is practical to encourage her to criticise everything that she is taught: she is not yet equipped to do that, and at the moment it is important for her to learn a whole lot of things without constantly challenging them. And a generation of smart-arses populating our schools, doesn't strike me as helpful.

What I do think we should be doing (and I try to do that myself) is, when a fact is imparted to her, to give some indication as to how we know this fact. Then, later, when she is ready to learn critical thinking, this is where she can start; like this:

"When I was told about how birds came from dinosaurs, I remember that I was also told how we know. I remember seeing fossils in the Natural History Museum, and I remember hearing about DNA. Now, here's an assertion about possible harmful effects of vaccination (for example). I wonder how we know about them."
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#51  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Aug 02, 2014 6:07 pm

I think most teachers would agree with you Hack, but the problem, over here at least, is that they have little to no influence over the national education standards.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#52  Postby Dissident » Aug 02, 2014 8:24 pm

Evolving wrote:Hi, Dissident, and welcome!

I have a six-year old daughter and don't think that it is practical to encourage her to criticise everything that she is taught: she is not yet equipped to do that, and at the moment it is important for her to learn a whole lot of things without constantly challenging them. And a generation of smart-arses populating our schools, doesn't strike me as helpful.


Certainly not at 6. Since kids obviously don't know that much they are particularly susceptible to Dunning-Krugger effect, so yeah, you would en up with lot of smart-arses that are very hard to teach. Encouraging them to doubt and challenge everything when they are not yet ready would make them take sides and make (most likely wrong) judgments that they would have trouble getting rid of later (because of that bunch of congnitive biases we have to protect our own beliefs), the idea is to reduce prejudices, not increase them.

According to Piaget (not uncontroversial, but still), you can expect full cognitive maturation at around 12 years of age (formal operational stage), so asking proper critical thinking from kids before this point is unrealistic and potentially counterproductive.

What you do is a nice option, to tell them the process, even if just like a story, about how things were discovered, some mistakes that were made before they arrived at the "right" answer, etc.

Thanks for the welcome, by the way.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#53  Postby Agrippina » Aug 03, 2014 10:00 am

Happy birthday Thomas. :cheers:
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#54  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Aug 03, 2014 10:12 am

Agrippina wrote:Happy birthday Thomas. :cheers:

Thanks! :cheers:
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#55  Postby Scot Dutchy » Aug 03, 2014 11:13 am

Prettig verjaardag jongen. :)
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#56  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Aug 03, 2014 11:20 am

Scot Dutchy wrote:Prettig verjaardag jongen. :)

Dank je Scot.
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#57  Postby tuco » Aug 03, 2014 11:24 am

Allegedly, when Feynman returned from school his grandmother did not ask him what grade he got not even what he learned but what kind of question he asked. This said, I am not sure curiosity can be taught. Critical thinking, as method to follow, perhaps.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#58  Postby DarthHelmet86 » Aug 03, 2014 11:28 am

I don't know if curiosity could be taught, but we could do better at not stamping it out of our kids.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#59  Postby Nicko » Aug 03, 2014 12:10 pm

Beatsong wrote:I only went to an ordinary state school and I don't think it was particularly exceptional overall, but I think a lot of what's being described here is just what's known as "good teaching" in the humanities subjects.


I certainly agree with this, but a lot of good can come of a more formal course in critical thinking.

When I went back to Uni a few years back, in first year I did a course called "Critical and Creative Thinking". It explicitly taught how to separate arguments into their premises, identify the conclusion and assess whether the premises supported it. It covered the structure of a valid argument and identified the classic fallacies.

It set me up - as a mature-age student - for the rest of my degree. I had always had a sense when some argument didn't "feel" right, but now I had the tools to identify whether that feeling was caused by me encountering a new idea or the argument being rubbish. I remember thinking, "Why wasn't I taught this before?"

Kids should be explicitly taught these skills, rather than being expected to pick them up informally.
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Re: What Should We Really Be Teaching?

#60  Postby hackenslash » Aug 03, 2014 12:22 pm

Precisely.
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