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A new school curriculum (notes-txt.com)
70 points by zerobits on Nov 25, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 81 comments

>there are mental techniques, such as the memory palace, which enhance your ability to store and remember knowledge by 10x (not an exaggeration!). how did we miss that in school?

Memorizing is pretty useless for doing anything except for passing highschool tests, and it can stop you from learning for real because it replaces understanding and independent derivation with recall. Of all the people I remember passing classes, the person who understood the least I later found out had the ability to recall anything the professor wrote on the board. Clearly with that ability you would never have to learn anything to get As.

Also, the author should add the idea of capitalizing sentences to their curriculum somewhere. ;)

Memorization sure looks incredibly important to, say, mathematics, a topic in which practitioners often push back against memorization-based learning yet certainly appears to be pretty damn memorization-heavy. I know they're not deriving every theorem from first principles every time they apply it, nor starting from scratch every time they recognize a pattern that allows for a leap toward a solution, and discussion of mathematics sure appears to require having a huge mental mapping (memorized) of names of things to what they are and what they're used for, not to mention memorization of a large number of symbols.

On a more practical note, lots of memorized knowledge appears to be the primary thing the big tech companies want out of candidates, plus highish general intelligence (ability to quickly spot similarities between one problem and another so you can apply a memorized solution, chiefly).

I realized the importance of memorization in math during college calculus. In high school, exam integrations were easy, so long as you knew the material covered over the past few weeks. In college though, exam integration questions were brutal, unless you remembered all of the trig identities and formulae. Our textbook had a list of 180 or so equations that were required knowledge to complete the sample questions at the end of each chapter. I just had to memorize a lot of them, as the derivation was not something I was capable of doing.

Being able to quickly recall facts is really important for problem solving, even though we live in an era where you can search online for just about any fact known to humanity.

Bear in mind that memorizing trig identities was something you had to do for exams. If you want to get any use out of trig identities in "real life" you will need the kind of understanding that comes with being able to do the derivations yourself. In the time before computers there was a lot of value in being able to do the mechanistic kind of problem solving you're describing, but now that we have Mathematica, the only useful professional tasks that are left for humans to do involve the kind of knowledge it takes to do a derivation.

I had a professor that loved to make simple substitutions to values in questions, where the original question would be incredibly difficult, but if you spotted the substitution, the amount of work you had to do was dramatically reduced. Think something like integrate cos x + i sin x dx, if you spot that cos x + i sin x = e^(ix), and perform substitution, the problem becomes trivial.

Deriving information from facts is a vital skill. But recalling facts is also incredibly important as well. Having knowledge immediately available for use allows a person to apply that knowledge in real-time, which is important for problem solving and thinking on your feet.

Every college math class I took gave me a sheet with those kinds of identities on it. If I was doing the kind of work where I actually had to do calculus involving trig functions, you can bet I'd pull up a similar sheet while I was working. Sure having it memorized would be a bit faster, but that's true for far more things than I can actually memorize.

I think you might be confusing memorisation with intuition.

Memorization is valuable for learning music and speaking performances. You can't add style and flourish to something you don't know. I'd argue you can't reason about things effectively without knowing them "by heart," either.

I do partially agree with another commenter here on Foucalt's quote about universities and education being the tools of one class levered against another, insomuch as you can apply that power relationship to literally anything, not because it's rigorous or meaningful, but because it is sufficiently abstract. Similar to comments I've made here about how "graph based," solutions to certain problems are not new solutions, as anything you can express (encode) as objects and morphisms is going to have "graph," properties. Foucalt and other post-modern (Marcuse, Derrida, etc.) writers simply characterized that simple encoding in a moralistic power oppressor/victim narrative instead of a logical one.

The public curriculum is the bare minimum, and parents and family provide the enrichment to basic education. The outcomes are going to be unequally distributed, but at least a public curriculum raises the boats.

Your second paragraph has to be the single best account I've ever read of my own view. Kudos for nailing it so well yet so concisely.

(note: which isn't to say that it's easy to avoid perception- or value-induced biases, nor that it's possible (yet, or ever) to describe all of reality in strictly logical terms; as such philosophers may paint extremely subjective characterization of models that could otherwise be better generalized in more neutral terms.)

It's like if Einstein said "gravity is oppressing spacetime": assigning intent beyond mere behavior of large informal human groups ("the rich", "the 1%", "workers", "mothers", etc) is a slippery slope down hubris-bias road, de-elevating the science in favor of perception.

Like your display name suggest, Remembering people's name/face/"where you've first met" is one of those social abilities that can get you very far in life. So yeah, remembering is kinda something you should practice.

Disagree strongly here. Memorization is a workout for the brain. Being able to recall the exact words of, e.g. poetry or prose, admits them to reflection at any time, not just when notes are available. There is no substitute for knowing something without reference; it then becomes part of consciousness, not another book on the shelf that yeah, could be opened at some point, but in practice. Your brain is weaker and emptier when you opt out of actually committing things to memory.

I can see your point, although it's ironic that the final refuge of mechanistic behavior, after being cast out from math, would be poetry.

Memorizing is not useless at all. Here is a few examples:

In order to sing a song, you need to memorize it.

If you play poker, you can memorize useful probabilities, because you don't want to perform calculations all the time.

As a sys admin, you need to memorize commands and their syntax.

The list is endless.

> As a sys admin, you need to memorize commands and their syntax.

As a sysadmin, I just Google it (or DuckDuckGo it, nowadays). I also take notes; why should I memorize something if I can tell my computer to memorize it for me?

So much this. I like the metaphor of tree-trunk learning https://lifehacker.com/elon-musk-on-learning-new-things-view... — every bit of knowledge you can't connect to first principles or internalized second principles just falls down.

The mentioned memoization techniques are like synthetic trees for real leaves, but these tend to rot extremely quick.

Point in case:

I had two history teachers I can remember. One only because he was the most boring teacher I ever had and because of him I dreaded history forever. I can't recall a single thing about his class other than he talked about stone age people once. He made us remember lots of dates with weird mnemonics and I forgot every single one of them.

The other teacher was the best I ever had. She visualized the international politics leading from the age of industrialization in Europe to WW1 and WW2 so vividly in causalities, entities and relationships that I can recall the important development over 300 years of central European history any time. I don't have any year numbers for it, but it's one clear, coherent and logical story.

It's been 20 years since I sat in her class.

I agree with you -- we need to find better ways to teach deeper understanding rather than rote memorization.

at a minimum, it would've been nice to spend less time on brain-numbing repetitive tasks and test preparation.

there is value in memorization as a precursor to true understanding, you can't have understanding without association


- math: memorization of single digit addition/multiplication makes higher digit arithmetic easier, and comes in handy in higher-level math

- music: memorization of scales unlocks better ability to play & improvise songs (before deeper knowledge of how it relates to other notes/scales/modes, how this connects to dividing the frequencies of air waves, etc.)

>there is value in memorization as a precursor to true understanding, you can't have understanding without association

In math, there is something called the Moore method, where the professor sits back and has the students invent everything on the spot. The students are discouraged from reading books or even talking to each other outside of class. Apparently this works, and if so it's strong evidence that you can have understanding without any memorization at all, and even without teaching as it is commonly known.

Minor exception: Language. Memorization is extremely important in developing language- you're sure as hell not going to derive Chinese from academic linguistics first principles!

That's a major exception, actually, because it includes systematic naming in chemistry and so extends across more than one field. There are also all of the names and processes that you have to memorize to be a good biologist or microbiologist, and the large number of facts that organic chemists have to memorize. However, I hesitate to say that those things are pure memorization, because the connections between different facts that elevate them above memorization are usually only apparent to people who know a lot about the subject. For example, history to someone who knows very little is a bunch of dates and isolated factoids, but to someone who knows a lot about it, it's a continuing and cohesive narrative where everything reinforces and relates to everything else. Maybe the same is true if you know enough about biology, chemistry, or even language. I know there are a lot of connections between different languages, due to their shared evolution. Maybe, once you've learned dozens, all of the isolated coincidences start to fit together.

A few years ago I would have agreed with you, however not anymore. Memorization is an integral part of internalizing some concepts and subjects. Check out this thread from Michael Nielsen on the topic:


This is a common complaint that confounds me. Did other people go to schools with radically different curricula?

I had multiple teachers discuss note taking habits, using a planner, how to approach reading a book, using mnemonics, and using the internet for research projects.

I had a health class that discussed good eating and exercise habits.

I remember being encouraged to find an after school club/activity and a day where career counselors came to class.

We had multiple arts and gym classes.

I remember a section of an English course where we covered professional skills such as public speaking and drafting emails.

Many of my classes required group projects.

I had multiple science classes that covered evolution and the cell.

Nearly everyone of the author's bullet points raised my eyebrows and left me wondering what their science/health/gym/English classes covered. I think the author fails to realize how much of what they want is already incorporated.

Edit: Corrected punctuation.

I'm in the southeast US. Have been my whole life. Went to public schools in populated wealthy counties, and in a sparse, poorer county.

> I had multiple teachers discuss note taking habits...

I had similar, but it wasn't part of the official curriculum, so didn't get the amount of focus it might have required to get students to take it seriously. Now that I'm an experienced adult, I know that I had a way of learning that worked for me, and having a teacher who A) knew what good note taking looked like and B) could identify my own peculiarities and help me adapt the techniques for me would have helped tremendously.

> encouraged to find an after school club/activity ...

More time at school? Ugh... didn't want that. Offer me a "job" doing something I enjoyed? OK, I'm there - I need the money.

> ... career counselors ...

These people talked like my extended family - "Why would you want to do that? Clearly you're more qualified to swing a hammer..." uh, no thanks. I recall one specific instance where a supposed mentor replied to one of my stated career goals with "do you think you're smart enough for that?"

> ... English course where we covered professional skills ...

I think I got a total of two weeks of that in four years of high school. At least this was part of the official curriculum, but there just wasn't an actual focus on it.

> ... evolution and the cell

Only AP classes for us. Elective AP classes, which personally I did choose. (By 'elective' I mean students had to choose these classes - there were required science credits, and these fulfilled the requirements, but why choose the harder classes when the easier one will suffice? I was interested, most other students were not.)

I guess my point is that although you might have had access in your public school education to these things, they're just not as ubiquitous as the need to be.

IMO, the entire problem with the US education that I experienced is the insistence on a bullet pointed list of things to cover, a minimum grade on how well the students retained that specific knowledge until the test, rather than gauging students' understanding and ability to learn and adapt.

> IMO, the entire problem with the US education that I experienced is the insistence on a bullet pointed list of things to cover, a minimum grade on how well the students retained that specific knowledge until the test, rather than gauging students' understanding and ability to learn and adapt.

I 100% agree and I think the educators I've spoken to (several friends are teachers) would also broadly agree, but that's not what the post advocates.

My understanding of your reply is that your school had many of these elements, but they weren't quality or weren't emphasized appropriately to students which is fundamentally different from the post's view that these things didn't occur.

> ... your school had many of these elements, but they weren't quality or weren't emphasized ...

Yes, that exactly. I hope I didn't come across as arguing back in the direction TFA, just adding my input to your input :)

> "do you think you're smart enough for that?"

I've found, being a kid from a rural area with family that never went to college, that such people vastly overestimate how capable other people are, and vastly undervalue their own skills. I guess something about people telling you you're stupid and to know your place your whole life does that to you.

It turns out success isn't so much about being particularly smart as it is just knowing the right people.

I actually do think most of the topics I mentioned are 'covered'. But many were covered briefly, as a day or week long unit in my personal experience, instead of as a core area.

My point isn't about crossing these items off a checklist, but re-balancing the effort we put towards these core skills, instead of memorizing arcane trivia about U.S. history, literary figures, and some impractical Math/English skills that seem to be more of the focus.

I went to a "good" school, whatever that means, but I've found myself and many of my peers lacked many of the skills and deeper understanding of these topics even during/after university.

I still meet many people who don't quite understand what a stock is, and most people seem surprised to hear Wi-Fi is a type of invisible light. Many people seem to be pretty bad at communication. About 1/3 of the US seems to not be convinced we are actually apes.

> Did other people go to schools with radically different curricula?

(Not US, but I think still applicable)

In general: yes.

I myself also recognized a lot on this list; my school spent a lot of effort on extracurricular activities, personal development and responsibility, mentoring etc. However, I just looked up the national statistics, and my school was ranked among the top 10 public schools in the country, awarded a "predicate of excellence" by the education inspection.

I can totally see how not every school has access to this level of education, as technically it is all outside of the base mandatory national curriculum and likely the first thing to get cut when funding is difficult.

Making the skills mentioned in the post a part of the base curriculum, like traditional subjects as English and biology are, might give them a more even footing.

A lot of the things on the list confound me, too, but I suppose we should use caution and not be too quick to judge. It is possible that schools are really that different in some countries; the author never had the opportunity to go through normal schooling due to illness; family issues; drugs; and, well, the list goes on.

What confounds me more is how the list got onto the front page of Hacker News to begin with (not being flippant). They are basically assertions with no references, there is little to learn from it, and there doesn't appear to be a lot of context/background on the author that hint to why this may get upvoted so much.

Cynical opinion: School is first and foremost a place where kids are kept so they're busy. Much like compulsory military service is a place where young adults are kept so they're busy.

The answer to "Why aren't schools as good as they could be?" is mostly "Because they are as good as they need to be."

I'm a K-12 school admin and I think the dirty secret of our profession is that there's more truth to what you're saying than we'd all like to admit. To be sure, there are basic skills we do teach, and some kids do require interventions that school specialists can provide in a way that can meaningfully impact that child's life. But that's not the bulk of what "schooling" is. A nontrivial part of the job is simply daycare. I've had the benefit of working at very different schools in different continents, but had a control in the sense that they served very similar families. I often think about how much passion and energy were devoted to certain policies/programs/issues and how the schools land on the opposite side of them in a lot of them yet how little that seems to affect the student outcomes we observe.

Even more cynically: to paraphrase from George Carlin's last comedy special in 2008, public education will never get better because the powers-that-be don't want a well-rounded populace capable of critical thinking.

"It's a big club, and you ain't in it"

You don't need to resort to a conspiracy to explain the massive dysfunction in the US educational system. It explains itself: education is a mess, so smart critical people are rare, so it is hard to get them to teach and even harder to keep them teaching in the presence of overbearing and awful governance. The field of education research is also a mess on the level of 1910s psychology, and that's not helping the quality of schools either.

> The field of education research is also a mess on the level of 1910s psychology, and that's not helping the quality of schools either.

The faddish education "research" stuff that ends up being implemented in schools and used as material for professional development is often on the level of bad pop-business books, for the same reasons that bad pop-business books are so common and so widely read, I suppose.

Actually it's kind of like pop-parenting books and bad pop-business books had a baby and that baby is education books. They are, in the lingo of our times, hot garbage.

Admin, principal through superintendent, are largely careerist political types with shockingly poor reasoning and critical thinking skills considering most of them have been granted a PhD—another problem: for a bunch of reasons including demand outstripping legitimate supply by a large margin and a whole pile of bad incentives, education degrees on all levels are about 99% bullshit and there's no shortage of morons who shouldn't have been able to achieve a bachelor's in anything running around with graduate degrees and an ego to match—so they're terrible at evaluating this stuff and quite gullible, while also being very certain of any decisions they make. It's a recipe for disaster.

> education is a mess, so smart critical people are rare, so it is hard to get them to teach

I'm not sure I agree with this. If our schools were 10x as effective and we produced 10x as many smart people, I think we'd be having the same conversation. It would just be about how hard it is to recruit people to teach quantum computer programming when you can make 5 times as much working in the teleportation industry (facetious example, please don't debate the physics of this).

The most cynical of us follow it down the rabbit hole to Foucault:

"The university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class."

I would also add many things that are taught have a lot of historical cruft.

For example, calculus. What is taught currently by most high schools is a horrible mess that mixes infinitesimal calculus as devised by Newton-Leibniz with late 1800s epsilon-delta formalisms. Clarifying this would shed a lot of light into student understanding.

Same thing can be said about linear algebra, where lots of algorithmic stuff hides a simple abstraction that is rarely mentioned. Matrices encode linear transformations.

I was taught way too many algorithmic tricks without proper conceptual motivation.

Thanks for saying what I was about to.

Yes I find the curriculum often runs in 'historic' order, as if the students are expected to learn in the same order as humanity discovered things.

Why not teach the powerful underlying principles as soon as they can be comprehended? For example, it's not until after you've learned about many kinds of chemical reactions that you actually learn what chemistry is, about atomic electron shells, valence, etc.

Same with biology, too much naming flower parts, and not enough evolution, molecular biology, etc.

Completely agree. I think there should be a way to review and crit public curriculum... I guess I have to wait till my kids are in the class

I would argue that a well-run school addresses many of the items on this short list. I learned most of these in my schooling, and I saw most of these things being taught in the reasonably-run schools I have been a part of in 25 years of teaching middle school and high school in the US.

That said, I also know there are many schools that are so poorly run that very little of this comes up. So the larger, and much harder question becomes: What do we do politically to make more schools well-run?

The answer to that question is critical, but probably isn't covered in a 2-min read.

You ignore the problem of inputs. What if the unfortunate truth is that educational outcomes are mostly determined by the native capacities and attributes of the students. If the input determines the output and school or teacher level effects merely mediate some of that, then isn’t it all just a cruel charade designed to give the illusion that we live in a meritocracy. It seems like students and our society are the ultimate victims If that were true.

There is certainly a strong influence brought by the student, but then one of the key influences in that regard is that of the parent(s) and what happens in early years, especially encouraging kids to read books. That is one of the most crucial 'learning how to learn' things you can do for a child. And if kids grow up to be parents themselves without understanding how to learn, the responsibility is passed even more to schools.

Learning starts in the home and continues there through school life. I've seen parents complaining to teachers about how their kids aren't doing well enough, but as though it's nothing to do with them.

Of course innate capacity has something to do with how much or how well any individual student can learn. But there is a world of difference between a well-run school and a poorly-run school. In the simplest comparison, a well-run school is a relatively safe place, and a poorly-run school is an extremely unsafe place.

If you take students from some of the more well-run schools and place them into poorly-run schools, most of them will learn very little. If you take students from some of the more poorly-run schools and place them into well-run schools, many of them will learn quite a lot.

Warning: comment strongly biased towards a specific type of learning technology :)

At a molecular level, all memory (dendritic spines) declines at roughly the same rate. Some memories last much longer because the dendritic spines formed were much stronger (such as traumatic event, a well-formulated memory, or a memory strongly linked to other things such as a smell). But they all decline at the same rate nonetheless. I've been a fan of spaced-repetition learning for a few years. Programs like Anki use a variation of an old algorithm (SM-2) based on decay-rates for memory extrapolated from data gathered through tens of thousands of people over many years. I use a similar program for rote memorization first, and then to remember concepts.

After I grasp the basics of a subject I can eventually delete that flashcard and create a concept-based flashcard that allows me to understand the forest for the trees. Example: "very frothy urine is a possible clinical symptom of what disease? Proteinuria/Nephrotic syndrome" → "what macro-nutrient, when mixed vigorously in liquid, makes it frothy? Protein". So now I understand the key concept for both nephrotic syndrome and why I should only add whey protein to my shakes at the end of the mixing to avoid creating bubbles, etc.

If I had started using these programs when young, I would have saved years of life not having to re-learn the same thing year after year, because it takes much longer to re-learn than to remember. And now imagine I hadn't been forced to rote-memorize useless things just to pass a boring exam. Years of life... I wonder if spaced-repetition can also be used to remember skills that aren't practiced often.

The only limitation I know with spaced-repetition algorithms is that the data shows that it's not very useful for children until they're about 7 yo. This is because the algorithms are tuned to adult-level memorization, and children under 7 usually aren't nearly as good as adults at retention (for many reasons).

Do you have a pointer to where do you get that children under seven have bad retention? Or is it a personal observation? (this is not a "citation needed", i'm genuinely interested as I look into spaced repetition from time to time).

Sure. It's from the personal wikipedia maintained by Dr. Piotr Wozniak, the guy who invented spaced repetition and put it into software back in 1986 (SM-2 algorithm) when computers became available to him.

The relevant part of the article starts here: https://supermemo.guru/wiki/Childhood_amnesia#Plasticity-vs-...

The summary of the article can be read here: https://supermemo.guru/wiki/Childhood_amnesia#Summary:_Child...

You may be interested to learn more about the work of Dr Taddy Bleacher.

While he is not hitting every item on your list, his organization provided over 600k street children with a highly diverse education based on developing whe whole student and not just a scholastic portion.

Recent talk: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kvcgBOizjN0

You missed personal finance in that list. I'm not sure if you are recommending doing away with regular curriculum completely or supporting it with your curriculum. I am all for latter because that's the change which is feasible, former is not.

I'm guessing that'll go under "organization". I think these topics are intentionally general to cover a bunch of stuff.

I learned most of this in school. Did everyone else not?

My partner is a grade 2 teacher, and she covers a lot of this. Everything in learning skills, individual skills, social skills, and most of our world.

You probably just don't recognize it when it's taught at a level understandable to six year olds, or 14 year old. Before writing posts like this it's a good idea to go look at a your school board's curriculum. You'll likely be surprised how closely it matches this.

People tend to forget a lot of what they learned over the 9-18 years they spent in school. Then complain that a topic, which is taught in schools, should be taught in schools.

Example: how interest is calculated. It's been part of algebra for a while now and most states require algebra to graduate. Thus, if you graduated high school, someone taught you about interest rates. You just forgot.

I'm guilty of this too. I don't remember much of what I learned in grammar school. I went back to research the parts of sentences and found that it's a topic taught in the third grade.

> absolute pitch, the rare ability to identify a musical note like F# just by hearing it, can be a massive benefit to a musician. you can learn the skill in a matter of weeks, but it can only be acquired before the age of 7. only 0.01% of people end up learning it in time!

I find it dubious that you can only learn this by age 7 - although I'm sure it's easier if you're younger. Is there science behind this claim?

I am not a musician, but I have recently started learning to play piano, and training my ear is something I'd really like to learn. I've used some apps to practice ear training, and I'm able to discern intervals decently, but I can't recognize and identify a single note on its own. I do hope I can get there with more deliberate practice.

> I find it dubious that you can only learn this by age 7 - although I'm sure it's easier if you're younger. Is there science behind this claim?

A better way to put this would be "difficulty goes up exponentially, much in the same way as learning a new language".

> I am not a musician, but I have recently started learning to play piano, and training my ear is something I'd really like to learn. I've used some apps to practice ear training, and I'm able to discern intervals decently, but I can't recognize and identify a single note on its own. I do hope I can get there with more deliberate practice.

As a professional musician, absolute pitch is very helpful but definitely not necessary. Being able to hear intervals and the contours of a melody well enough to pick it out quickly (this also goes for recognizing what kind of modes scales are being used, i.e. major, minor, penatonic, mixolydian) is so helpful that I might actually call it necessary, depending on what you plan to do with your music.

> the rare ability to identify a musical note like F# just by hearing it, can be a massive benefit to a musician

It can also be a curse. I've known a number of people with perfect pitch. Those who were pianists typically insisted on playing only electric pianos, because a typical mechanical piano that's not in a performance hall is probably not tuned until "regular" listeners can tell it is out, but it could be out enough to make it unplayable to a performer with perfect pitch.

Another thing I noticed which I thought was surprising - they weren't notably better composers despite their "better understanding" of pitch.

I'm probably one of those people that can identify specific notes, but probably only if they're played on a piano. I play an electronic piano and what I find amusing/frustrating is if I use the 'transpose' function. So when I play for example in C but it is D that comes from the speakers, I will often find my fingers migrating to 'correct' the pitch. And if you wonder why I'd transpose, it's because - to my ears - a piece of music can sound noticeably different shifted just half a tone.

It's been conjectured (with some evidence) that it's actually relative pitch that is learned, and absolute pitch forgotten, early in childhood. It's useful to be able to recognize a word as the same object regardless of whether a low or high voice is speaking it. This would also help explain why absolute pitch seems to be more prevalent among speakers of tonal languages, where absolute pitch content carries more semantic information.

The challenges to the education system go way deeper than just a better curriculum. I was speaking to a local administrator last week in our fairly affluent community and she estimated that about 10% of the kids in our district are functionally homeless. The only decent meals they will get are breakfast and lunch on school days. That many within this group don't have a place to wash their cloths. If the goal is to bring up things like test scores across the board with an improved curriculum then you have to first address some of these societal issues.

Ctrl-f taxes: 0

This might be under "how the world works" but I think there should be a separate "how to be a reasonable citizen" like how to deal with taxes, voting, civics in general, that kinda stuff. It has a pretty big impact on day-to-day life.

This is part of social studies curricula. Here's an example from Washington state standards for social studies:


There are requirements for social studies, civics, economics, geography, and world history.

but taxation = theft.... according to the current Secretary of Education </sarcasm>

But seriously, spending a week or so in a civics class to cover W2s, 1040s and 1099s would do wonders.

there is lots of work done to improve education, mostly in how information is conveyed to people, and how they are engaged to interact with subjects. a lot of current western educational facilities still implement the banking theory, where people are seen as an empty bank, and filling them with information is filling the bank with money, i.e. more information provided == smarter people. now people are realising this is terrible ,and applying different models.

doesn't really have to do with memorisation techniques or other little nicknacks that can help people in specific domains. more about how people take in and interpret information, process it and make it their own to apply.

One of my English teachers when I was 13 asked us what 'to educate' meant. Everyone associated it with being told things by a teacher, in school.

Educate comes from the Latin ex duco - to draw out of. Education isn't about pushing knowledge in, it's about pulling understanding out.

I think the schools systems worldwide struggle with balancing skills for life vs qualifications for the next stage of life.

Dorothy Sayers (a contemporary of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, and friend to both) wrote an essay about this about 60 years ago, titled "The Lost Tools of Learning" https://gbt.org/text/sayers.html

I attended private Catholic schools in NYC starting in 1960. I remember being told early and often by the nuns, brothers and priests who taught that "you are going to live 80 years, we will be teaching you for a small fraction of that time and it's impossible for us to teach you everything you are going to need to know. What we can teach you is how to learn on your own." And they did.

Public schools are representative of politics: it's all about special interests. People have deeply held-beliefs that their special interests are more important than someone else's.

In my state, we had state history class, I believe this to be utterly unimportant to be a functioning human. How do I know this? Literally every other place on the planet doesn't teach the history of my particular state and gets along just fine.

Same with Literature, it's culturally focused, and seems to be self-perpetuating. Why don't we spend as much time focusing on, say, Japanese culture as we do on Shakespeare? Well, that's because some self-entitled, rich rulers of ours decided we should learn about Shakespeare.

I think it's a perfectly suitable system to maintain the status quo of the world. Public education's format is believed in so dogmatically that the only choice is to defect and choose home school or private school.

Seems to me that a lot of things on that list were in my curriculum, at a fairly typically crappy rural school system. I'm guessing that it was in OP's as well. Did they just miss it because it wasn't explicit?

Things that don't change because they've always been that way are thing things that most need to change.

This is neat but plain wrong. xD The premise AND the conclusion (the suggested solution).

>How to use the Internet to learn: Google, Wikipedia

About 10 years ago, in my second year CS program, I created a program to Teaching secondary school students how to use the internet to find stuff online for free and learn. This was in lieu of a 6-month internship program.

I first spent weeks creating a training manual. (I should have spent time selling before spending weeks on the manual). I then talked a friend into helping me send proposals to private schools. A marketing manager friend of mine proofread the proposal letter - that's when I learned about business writing - Must Be Straight to the Point.

I approached a number of government secondary schools. The teachers there loved it but told me a government approval was necessary for the program. I pursued the approval but it didn't go through.

The private schools were lukewarm. Approached my alma mater and received the same lukewarm response. The students who I spoke to listened to the pitch and gave me a response I would never forget. They said, "Google? I know how to use google."

I didn't expect the naive response. In hindsight, I should have made up a complicated sounding title for the program. It's just that I'm a, "say it like it is person."

I sold only one copy of the manual and received a thank-you note (Found it a few months ago. Unfortunately, there was no name signed to the note and I don't remember who it was).

Now I work in a school environment and 90%+ of the students hate learning. They only go through the motions because it's required.

>memory palace, mnemonics, Sleep's role in learning, note-taking

I did teach this when I handled an elective class and my students loved it. They spread the word, and their classmates who weren't taking the subject started hanging around my class. I also taught them the difference between reading for pleasure and reading for exams. And that perfect practice makes perfect.

Reading for exams simply practices reading. But setting one's own questions, and answering past questions is much more effective at preparing for exams.


I thought deeply about this but never implemented it. Or I didn't know how to. Also, it kept skipping my mind.

>Writing of all forms

This was the first thing I tried with the students - their writing ability is subpar. Out of 30 students, just one did the exercise because I wasn't their English teacher and that was the end of that.

>reading old literature.

Now I mind the library most of the time (it was locked before). And I've spent on different occasions up to 5% of my salary on story books and literature. Wanted to buy 10 used ebook readers from the US (eBay) in October but couldn't work out my own shipping. Buying from sellers who send directly to my country means a 5X price increase.

>Our World

Downloaded kolibri late last month. Downloaded 2,007 khan academy videos so far. Set up one of my laptops as the server and networked it with my phone wifi with another. Created accounts for 2 senior students who are library regulars. And they love it. One other student showed interest this afternoon. Time will tell if their interest is sustained or not.

> absolute pitch, the rare ability to identify a musical note like F# just by hearing it, can be a massive benefit to a musician. you can learn the skill in a matter of weeks, but it can only be acquired before the age of 7. only 0.01% of people end up learning it in time!

This seems to be a very problematic paragraph. In particular:

> it can only be acquired before the age of 7

I'm doubtful about how true this is. I can't find anything backing up this claim (unless you count "being born with synesthesia" or "being blind at birth" as "acquired"); the closest I can find is Mozart having demonstrated this ability by age 7.

On the contrary, this seems like the exact sort of thing someone could readily memorize well beyond that age (maybe not perfectly, but within a given margin of error, sure), much like one might recognize a given tempo or a given shade of orange. It's hard, but with practice it's possible.

In fact, most people are able to recognize the pitches themselves; even amateur singers (and non-singers entirely) can sing songs they've heard in approximately the right key, and the average person can usually recognize when a song is pitched up or down relative to how it's "supposed" to be (this is one of the common traits for both nightcore and vaporwave: shifting the pitch up or down, respectively). What's missing here is the ability to actually name that pitch, but just because one can't vocalize what the brain recognizes doesn't mean recognition/identification doesn't happen at all; it just happens through other mechanisms (like singing/playing that note again later).

In my case, I certainly don't have "absolute pitch" as defined by that paragraph, but if you sang something to me and asked me to play it on a trombone I could probably do it without having to fumble for a reference note. Worst-case, I can produce a reference note in my head (usually B-flat, since most brass instruments nowadays are keyed to it) and extrapolate.

And on that note:

> can be a massive benefit to a musician

I'm very doubtful about how true this is. Usually what's far more critical is relative pitch - that is, the ability to accurately recreate a pitch in relation to some arbitrary reference pitch (e.g. singing/playing a note in a chord or scale). Absolute pitch (in this specific sense, rather than the more innate/internal sense I described above) helps for music transcription, and... that's about it. Being able to sing a perfect 440Hz A does jack squat if that A's supposed to be in an F-major chord/scale.

If anything, absolute pitch recognition can make it harder to perform in an ensemble, or to perform music with a different pitch convention other than A=440 (e.g. Baroque music), or to otherwise be able to adapt one's pitch to match the actual music to be performed.

Post-capitalism skills conspicuously absent.

"How to be a friendly, well-liked person" is not a "social skill."

"How to use the Internet to learn: Google, Wikipedia." This is "learning about learning" to you?

Kids used to have to be taught how to use the library. Card catalogue, Dewey decimal system, all that. The kinds of things one may find at a library other than books. People aren't born knowing this stuff and may not realize what can and cannot be gained from a resource, or how to go about getting it, if they aren't told at some point.

Hell, you have to teach kids about book features like captions and tables of contents and indices and footnotes and, believe it or not, kids aren't always great at picking up that knowledge even when taught.

I get that, it just strikes me as ridiculous that a curriculum about how to use the internet to learn would be summed up by: "Google, Wikipedia." Maybe the author is sacrificing too much depth here and I'm missing the overall point, but I'd rather teach my kids how not to use Google than teach them how to use it.

yes, this is a starting point. I agree this topic has considerable depth which I omitted.

there are 100s of great resources (Wolfram Alpha, Khan Academy, GitHub, Wiktionary, to name a few) and techniques (Google search tricks like using quotes, site: tag, etc., good habits like avoiding distractions) to augment Internet learning

you could evenly weight this area like any other class, and expect to spend many hours on it.

Yeah, that makes sense. Hopefully that's an incomplete list of examples.

> "How to be a friendly, well-liked person" is not a "social skill."

Why not?

Being "friendly" and "well-liked" sound like the kinds of goals children would come up with on their own because they crave attention and positive reinforcement, not what adults should be teaching them.

The specific instruction is "how" to accomplish that goal, not that the goal exists- obviously, the goal exists for the reasons you specify. The difficulty is how to get there, which is extremely hard, doubly so for a brain that doesn't necessarily have the archiecture required for fully understanding the restraint, thoughtfullness, empathy, etc. of being friendly/well-liked.

The ability to be friendly in adverse situations is absolutely a social skill. I have a couple of coworkers that have the ability to remain friendly even in intense situations. I find it really helps deescalate situations (or keep them from escalating in the first place) without derailing the conversation.

Still, being "friendly" and "well-liked" is an important skill for later. People tend to not want to work or have sustainable relationships with people they can't stand.

It's probably poorly phrased, but I think we've all met people who just ∂on't really know _how_ to be a friendly, approachable person.

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