Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

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“The sciences of the mind can also provide a sounder conception of what the mind of a child is inherently good and bad at. Our minds are impressively competent at problems that were challenges to our evolutionary ancestors: speaking and listening, reading emotions and intentions, making friends and influencing people. They are not so good at problems that are far simpler (as gauged by what a computer can do) but which are posed by modern life: reading and writing, calculation, understanding how complex societies work. We should not assume that children can learn to write as easily as they learn to speak, or that children in groups will learn science as readily as they learn to exchange gossip. Educators must figure out how to co-opt the faculties that work effortlessly and to get children to apply them to problems at which they lack natural competence…

The obvious solution is instruction at all levels in relatively new fields like economics, evolutionary biology and statistics. Yet most curriculums are set in stone, because no one wants to be the philistine who seems to be saying that it is unimportant to learn a foreign language or the classics. But there are only 24 hours in a day, and a decision to teach one subject is a decision not to teach another. The question is not whether trigonometry is important — it is — but whether it is more important than probability; not whether an educated person should know the classics, but whether it is more important to know the classics than elementary economics.”

-Steven Pinker, How to Get Inside a Student's Head

People often get carried away in the age we live with all the technology around us. Some say we should give every student a laptop and it would solve today’s education problems. But we may be forgetting the basics- that the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) matter at the end of the day. It is also important there are simple ways to test the performance of education like this story told by Per Kurowski; “I just saw a short video produced by the World Bank in Peru where they tried to establish whether the kids at the end of their second grade could read 60 words a minute, which supposedly is a minimum, for Spanish. Some could and they were therefore also able to answer some very easy questions on what they had read, but many could not read even one single word and of course had not the slightest idea of what was going on.”

A presentation at NYPL by Kathy Hirsch-Pasek: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards
How our children really learn and why they need to play more and memorize less. Discover how everyday experiences can provide kids with the foundation for learning. A program for parents, childcare providers, and educators with author and Professor Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, Ph.D., a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and Director of the Temple University Infant Language Laboratory. She has written nine books including How Babies Talk. She serves as the Associate Editor of Child Development, the leading journal in her field.

1 Comment

By all means, let the kids play, and play with them.

But I find much to grumble about in the webcast, though I'd like to focus three snippets:

1) at around 16:00:

We are all under tremendous pressure today to create a generation of Einsteins.

That's simply phooey, hogwash, nonsense!

I'm under ZERO pressure from any person, any company, any organization, "society", or any government to do any such thing. None of the parents I know feel that they are under such pressure. But then again, being a humorless economist, maybe I just don't recognize the social cues. Rather, I think I would recognize them, but I'd argue that there just not there in my social circle. Maybe they are there, and I like most parents, are actually very good at ignoring or laughing at all types of hype -- most notably in brain-food toy packaging. I'd hypothesize that this whole pressure-problem is an education/academic/media exaggeration of a highly visible, but very small, minority of super-aggressive parents that have always existed. I gather that the webcast audience was probably heavily biased towards those types of parents.

2) at around 47:00 -- The Three R's:


I agree with the REFLECT and RECENTER sayings, which basically mean to set up your kids with fun and interesting things to do, and to pay attention to them. But the "RESIST" saying is nearly sexist. The Dr. Hirsh-Pasek doesn't seem to realize just how unintentionally woman-centered her advice is. Why? I don't know of any fathers who call each other up to show off what they're doing with the kids, or any father who would hear what Bob is doing, and feel that he has to emulate it. Fathers compete with each other in other ways.

3) at around 52:00:

We think every moment has to count...

How does this square with the excessive amount of TV most parents let their kids watch?


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on June 12, 2006 10:48 PM.

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