Education, knowledge, and skill

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Something about watching my wife homeschool our passionately headstrong daughter has made me think about education as a whole and what we value.

I think there’s something that we forget about in later grades with kids, and that’s the importance of practice and repetition.

I understand that our entire education system is meant to fill the kid’s head with as much knowledge as possible as quickly as possible in order to send them to the next step. Tests are meant to measure if the kid is doing well enough, and originally if they weren’t, they’d have to do the class again. (I don’t think they do that anymore.)

It’s a system that favours “clever” children. Those that can do something quick and efficiently the first time. Unfortunately, it’s also a system that in the end fails those same kids. Because they didn’t need help, they never learned study skills like time management, note taking, or prioritization.

The Awkward Yeti comic Motivation to Learn

It could be that I’m slowly turning into the “old artsy hippy”, but I think we need to start prioritizing doing something properly over doing it right. The current education system pushes kids to be smart or first in their class and not to be good or deeply know their subject.

One of my favourite teachers in high school taught me a valuable lesson when I asked her a ridiculous and precocious question in chemistry class. She said something I’d never heard a teacher say before, “I don’t know. I’ll look into it and get back to you.” She did and honestly I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember that statement and it has shaped a lot of my thinking since.

No knowledge I learned in school, no fact I had to memorize, no test I’ve ever taken, has been as important as the ability to research something. Boss wants a special pivot table in Excel, give me some time to look it up. I need to figure something out for a book, look it up.

So many of the abilities I use for my various jobs and projects, I learned from struggling in university or work, not from being clever in high school.

You don’t get better at something by constantly struggling to regurgitate what your teacher says. You get better by practice and repetition.

It’s also important to understand that our system favours a certain demographic of people. Not just post secondary education, but also the lower grades. Minorities and lower income families have a massive disadvantage in the way our education is set up.

I was extremely lucky overall, but there were advantages that I didn’t get because I was from a low income home. I didn’t get to do the more expensive sports or activities, I didn’t have the option of music, I didn’t have the newest tech, I didn’t have access to paid tutors, and I had to work through my university (3-4 jobs 30+ hours a week). I was, however, the only child in the house, I had a large extended family I could to for help, I had an excellent high school, I was clever, and I was a white male.

Basically, I think the push for the best grades leads kids to rely on natural cleverness or memory, and doesn’t lead to people who understand how to manage their lives or how to work to make or learn something with depth.

Repetition, practice, research, time management, and being able to admit when you don’t know something are skills that we need to pass on. Also critical thinking and detecting bullshit.

Be safe and be kind,

Éric

What I Learned Not Having a Phone for 8 Days

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

We recently went on a vacation to Paris. After looking into the roaming plans and their cost, we decided to leave our phones at home for the vacation.

I knew it would bug me, but I had no idea how or how I’d react.

A little background before we begin. I haven’t been without a cellphone since 2002. In high school, I was the dork with the digital organizer. I had an HTC-Dream in 2009 and remember Android 1.6 Cupcake. All that tells you I’m a little of a gadget nerd and haven’t been far from the convenience in almost a decade.

One of the first pictures I took and posted directly from my HTC-Dream to Facebook in October 2009. (604×402 pixels in size)

Like most people my age, I rarely make phone calls with my phone. Only when I have to or if I want to speak with my older relatives.

What I didn’t miss

I expected to miss the constant social connection of my phone, but it’s the part I missed the least. It was actually kind of nice to disconnect and ignore things that weren’t important.

I’m a little bit of a digital hoarder. Take for exemple that before this trip I had a mailing list subscription to TeeFury in 3 of my 5 emails.

The vacation and only being able to clean out my facebook and email once a day, sometimes less, gave me the push I needed to start cleaning out subscriptions, groups, and even a few friends.

What I have now is a quarter the amount of incoming emails and a lot less of an urge to check my phone every four seconds.

What I did miss but was glad I didn’t have

The camera on my phone is exceptional and I have a nasty habit of relying on it too much. I have a fantastic Mirrorless SLR and need to use it more often. No matter how good your phone’s camera is, at the moment, an SLR will be much better.

This forced me to reach into my bag and grab the camera instead of just pulling out my phone.

What I missed

Being able to search for random information, directions, locations, and even identify landmarks; was something I truly missed about my phone.

The ability to pull out my phone and be told what a landmark is and its history is extremely useful. Being able to ask where to find the closest café is extremely useful. Being able to find out the hours of operations for business over a holiday is useful.

I have terrible handwriting so being able to write a list for groceries on my phone is something that I love. The list is shared with my wife so if she forgets something while I’m out, she can add it to the list no problem.

Despite being French Canadian, there was a language barrier and some words I had no idea what they meant. It would have been nice to have a universal translator in my pocket for shopping.

We went to Paris with my in-laws and being able to separate without detailed plans of where and when to meet is something I greatly missed.

I also missed being able to listen to music, read, play games, and jot down ideas.

 

I still think that the roaming is excessively expensive, but I sure missed the convenience of having my phone.

Éric

Screw Money Time is Knowledge

John Lennon

You were only killing time and it’ll kill you right back / Come on! come on! / It’s time to burn up the fuse / You’ve got nothing to do and even less to lose
– Meatloaf “Out Of The Frying Pan”

Wasting Time

Have you ever thought about a project, game, tv show, series of movies, or book and thought, “Dang! That was a large chunk of my life.”

I read an average of 15 hours a week (Fiction, articles, news, facebook). I read much more fiction in grade school and high school and almost finished an English degree in university. If you stretch that over my entire life (24 years of which I read regularly) that’s 18,720 hours or just over 2 years of my life (It’s probably a little higher than that). Some would say I’ve been slacking that’s only 1/18th of my life.

I’m sure if you looked into my other hobbies (Writing, TV, Movies, Tabletop games, Video games, Tabletop role playing games, acting, and talking) you’d find that it’s a huge part of my life as I am a “ GamingBuff

Is all that a waste of time? Does my deep seeded love and obsession with stories “Wasting Time”?

If you know me you’ll already know that I don’t think it was but I hear so many people accusing activities of being a waste of time.

I’ve seen every Star Trek episode ever aired (Yes including the Animated Series) does that mean I’ve wasted over 600 hours not counting the movies? I don’t think so, I think it made me think throughout the 6 series. It challenged my idea of humanity, morals, and various other concepts.

“Well that’s Star Trek,” I hear you thinking. It’s not. Any story has something in it to make you think and challenge your preconceptions about the world. Even if all you have to think is how bad this story is and how you could fix it.

I think for something to be worth your time, it needs to have two things:

1. An idea or lesson (Something to make you think)

2. Fun (Something that you enjoy)

If you read my book or movie reviews you know I’ll talk about “important” stories that I didn’t enjoy but that I believe are wonderful. It means I didn’t enjoy it but it made me think. These are often great works that are too painful for me to re-watch but I feel that I’ve grown while watching/reading them.

So my imaginary friends, next time someone tells you to get your nose out of a book, your ass off the couch, your head from a game, or your hand off the polyhedral dice, and stop wasting time. Ask them what is more important than learning about your world and yourself through its best, worst, and average stories. (I’d also apply this to Sports, Travelling, and Creating.)

Until later, remember to see your world through a critical eye.

Analyze, Understand, and Grow!

John Lennon