One of the most provocative idea presented in this text is early in chapter
system promote the process of critical thinking, as it now promotes the cramming of information.
Any study will show you that the retention rate for memorization vs. true understanding is vast. As I read this part of the text and the article, I thought of a commercial that aired a while ago. It
was a Sullivan tutoring commercial where it showed a kid shaking out his ears, and, instead of water flowing from them, it was knowledge seeping out. It then states a statistic that students lose 70% of the knowledge that they learned over the summer. Continue reading
While looking for an article for this week’s post I stumbled across a piece in The Atlantic that discusses how important one’s thought process is in education. The way Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses his experience of learning French immediately sparked a connection between his experience with French and the slave Plato discusses in Meno. Continue reading
Posted in Ancient Philosophy, Education, Experience, Knowledge
Tagged Education, Effort, Harry, learning, Mentality, Plato, Struggle, The Atlantic
The conventional school is a dictatorship. Students enter their classrooms, sit in their assigned seats, obey the teacher, memorize a bunch of facts, and take exams testing their knowledge of those facts. This model of schooling has been used for centuries now. This model produces children who are capable of following and obeying rules; however, the children do not develop sufficient creativity and problem-solving skills to make the world a better place. True democracy can only exist when the people are active, collaborative, confident, and creative citizens. The conventional model does not offer that; however, Escuela Nueva may provide a better schooling model.
The Escuela Nueva (New School) model, first adopted in rural Colombia, employs a different approach to education. Students actively shape their own curriculum, work on their own projects, gain hands-on experience, and participate in class-wide discussions. In Escuela Nueva, students are no longer passive learners. They become active learners applying the concepts they learn in the real world. In his NY Times article Make School a Democracy, David Kirp argues that the Escuela Nueva model of schooling can help foster democracy in a country. This is because kids are taught to become active and participating students. These attributes are necessary for the success of democracy. Studies have shown that students who go through the Escuela Nueva model are more likely to be active members of their communities.
In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that experience is extremely important in the education process. Escuela Nueva takes that into account. Students do not just learn abstract concepts; they apply them in their everyday lives. Students learn to write short stories, grow and garden plants, run their own experiments to explore their early scientific enquiries. This way school appears to be more relevant rather than a tedious and forced process. The conventional model for schooling is ancient; it is time for a drastic reform that adopts the Escuela Nueva style.
Here is the link to the article.
The passage by Plato about the conversation between Meno and Socrates commences with a sentence that distinguishes teaching from practice and experience. Although these have different meanings, they are not contrary ideas as the passage seems to suggest. That’s not to say that these are the same or always used together. Both teaching and experience can serve the purpose of learning independently of one another. For example, a child’s mother may tell him that the skinny limbs on a tree will break easily. This is one way for the child to learn this fact. Another way, of course, would be to physically snap the thin branch of a tree and learn from experience. In this case, experience is different from practice and the two words are not interchangeable.
Sometimes, the two methods are used in congruence with one another, and often in these situations practice and experience are closely related. An example of this would be learning to shoot a soccer ball. The coach teaches the players to strike the ball with their laces, how to aim, and how to exert the proper amount of power. The players then practice applying these skills, and in this way, gain experience.
All of this is also assuming that teaching involves a third party. A person could teach themselves the notes and keys on a piano and practice reading music and playing songs to gain experience and through that teach, practice, experience, and learn to play piano all at once.
Overall Socrates offers a very narrow definition of the words teaching, practice, and experience and then treats them as true and factual and applies them to his arguments. Looking at wider or more flexible definitions for his words calls into question Socrates’ proceeding arguments.
Write about the role of “perplexity” in learning or knowing (80a-d, 84a-c).
To summarize the two selected sections of Plato’s Meno, Meno begins by saying that Socrates has “baffled” him about what being good really means, and that he has “got no idea how to answer the question. And yet, damn it, [he’s] talked about ‘being a good man’ thousands of times” (80b). Then, in the next section, Socrates explains to Meno that baffling his slave by proposing a difficult geometry question was not intended to mistreat or mislead him, but rather guide him to the true answer.
The combination of these two passages leads to the “perplexity” in learning or knowing. In the geometry question, Meno’s slave thought he knew the answer, but with a few simple questions posed by Socrates, he was thrown into confusion and doubted what he previously thought he had known. So by baffling the slave, Socrates helped him realize, what he did not know, thus what he needed to learn. This is also echoed in Meno’s Paradox, “that it’s impossible to try to find out about anything – either what you know or what you don’t know” (80e). Exemplifying the first part of the paradox, the slave thought he knew the answer so there was no point in trying to find out anything more about the problem at hand. And for the second part of the paradox, before Socrates’ perplexed him with probing questions, he had no idea that there was anything wrong with his answer or there was a different method of obtaining the correct answer. Through perplexity he was able to dismiss what he thought he knew and get out of the paradox to learn the true answer.
I find that most students have a similar experience with the confusion of knowing and learning in science classes, specifically chemistry. In every chemistry class I have taken, the professor teaches students some property or rule that the students are expected to master. Then students fall under the assumption that they know the property and are content with the explanation given of why that property is true. But as students move on to later semesters and more advanced material, they get confused very quickly. I have had professors directly tell the class that a rule we have learned is actually untrue, or that the explanation is not as simple as we thought. This is often perplexing and, more recently, I thought I knew everything there was to know about significant figures, which are essentially rounding rules for numbers. But on my first day of analytical chemistry class, the professor told me the rules I had known from previous classes were false and I was confused so I had to learn how to arrive at the correct answer. In conclusion, chemistry students are constantly thrown into the perplexity of believing they know something, then entering a state of confusion in order to reveal what they do not know, so they learn something new, like Meno’s slave and Socrates.
Plato, Protagoras and Meno, Penguin, 2006. Trans. Beresford.
In Meno, Meno starts a conversation with Socrates about what it means to be “good,” which morphs into a discussion of larger themes pertaining to wisdom and the acquisition of knowledge. At one point Meno gets fed up with Socrates always refuting his points and turns to what Socrates refers to as the “quibbler’s argument,” “that it’s impossible to try to find out about anything – either what you know or what you don’t know. ‘You can’t try to find out about something you know about, because you know about it, in which case there’s no point trying to find out about it; and you can’t try to find out about something you don’t know about, either, because then you don’t even know what it is you’re trying to find out about” (pg. 100-101, 80e). This argument is more commonly known as “Meno’s Paradox,” and essentially states that you can’t acquire new knowledge either because you already know said information, or you don’t know enough information to know how to get more.
Socrates found this argument to simply be a way for lazy individuals to avoid working on their own and found that “as long as you’re adventurous and don’t get tired of trying to find out about things,” you will always be able to acquire new knowledge because he believes that the acquisition of new knowledge is actually just a form of “remembering” (102, 82d).
We encounter and overcome this paradox in our everyday life by doing exactly what Socrates says, we continue to be “adventurous,” and rather than assuming that we aren’t able to garner more information due to a lack of a place to start, we find a starting point and build from there.
For example, if we wanted to learn about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, we could begin by finding an introductory book on the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and build or research from there. Although it might be difficult to start finding information, there are always ways around the blockage.
A better example may be solving for a derivative or integral in calculus. Someone may hear the terms derivative or integral and really want to know what they are but neglect to try to find out because they have no idea where to start looking, however, if you took the time to learn algebra and geometry prior to learning calculus you would have a solid base and initial set of information that then allows you to learn about the derivative and the integral.
To overcome the challenge of not being able to acquire new knowledge we simply acquire general knowledge through reading, school, experience, or even just speaking with others, and from their we build our research around a targeted topic.
Throughout the dialogue, Meno and Socrates talk about a certain problem: how can you look for virtue when you don’t know what it is? This paradox is later broadly expanded so it asks, “How can you try to find about something if you don’t know what it is, and if you did happen to come across it, how would you know that it’s the thing you’re looking for if you didn’t know what it was in the beginning?”