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. ;)
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).
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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 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?
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.
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.)
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.
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 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.
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.
Yes, that exactly. I hope I didn't come across as arguing back in the direction TFA, just adding my input to your input :)
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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."
"It's a big club, and you ain't in it"
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.
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 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are requirements for social studies, civics, economics, geography, and world history.
But seriously, spending a week or so in a civics class to cover W2s, 1040s and 1099s would do wonders.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"How to use the Internet to learn: Google, Wikipedia." This is "learning about learning" to you?
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.
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.