Tag Archives: learning

Let’s all babble!

In their article Babel is better The Economist encourages education in a person’s mother tongue, rather than English, and they are right to do so. It would have been helpful to explain why from a neurological and personal development point of view, rather than simply rationalise that it is difficult to find teachers that speak English, so here we go.

Thanks to Noam Chomsky we understand language in a deeper, relevant way. Chomsky revealed the critical importance to personal development of each individual’s language. Sadly, over 50 years since the science of linguistics impacted fields of neuroscience and psychology as well as its own field, it remains largely ignored

Language is for thinking. Sometimes it is used for communication.

The faculty for language is distinctive in humans because it demonstrates higher consciousness by unique characteristics, namely meta-cognition and understanding of higher numbers and the idea of “infinity”. The nature of language development in humans is consistent across all humans and differences in form are a function of the environment in which people find themselves. Linguistics would say we all use the same language, just different dialects. Some dialects are close, like “Tom” and “Pam”, others not so, like “English” and “!Kung”.

Each person develops their own language – no two people speak the same language, though they might be close enough to understand one another. I speak “Tom” she speaks “Pam”, yet we understand each other (sometimes!!).

“English”, “French” or “Chinese” are agreed codes to facilitate communication, but they are not representative of nations, for example Gaelic is not Irish or Scottish it is of a Gaelic people. The woman from London’s East End might be unable to communicate with the woman from Healaugh, Yorkshire simply because their dialects are so different, though they speak “English”.

The development of language in each person reveals innate creativity, problem solving abilities and the preference for collaboration. When children are told how to speak these innate, human abilities are suppressed creating a sense of frustration and anger and diminishing each person’s personal development.

As you rightly point out, we should learn language from our mother, not a text book and certainly not from a foreign textbook. If we are to learn other languages, the best way is by immersion, not instruction, during primary school years, as demonstrated by bilinguals. (If immersion occurs in these years there is a good chance different languages will even be acquired without incongruous accents.) The teaching of English, French and Chinese should be addressed just like Science, Maths and Geography – a tool selected by choice.

It is long past due time to change the mistaken views of educational institutions.

Let’s all babble.

Pedagogy of cooperation … Maltese National Curriculum!

In work on design of curriculum and pedagogy I came across this quote.  It must be shared because it’s good, and it’s Maltese.  (Malta is a tiny little country rich in culture being at the centre of history for thousands of years.  I’m half Maltese but spend too little time there 🙁  )

a pedagogy of co-operation, based on group work, should transform … classrooms in to a hive of synergetic collective endeavour … The vehicles for the development of critical and independent thinking are: questions, systematic investigation and the exchange of ideas with others … Genuine group work implies that the control over the production of knowledge does not remain in the hands of teachers but is shared among students.  An educational context based on holistic principles is essentially a democratic context in which a balance between individual and participatory learning is achieved.

Maltese Ministry of Education: National Curriculum 1999

This is good stuff.  Radical compared to what most readers might have experienced and certainly compared to the approach felt in most state schools, but actually very human, necessary and perhaps even leaning toward the ancient dialectic method of Socrates.

Unnoticed by everyone, education is regressing.

Understanding education is not easy.  We all think we know what it means but when it comes to defining it and suggesting improvements the challenge becomes amorphous.  I’m trying to create a framework to help improve curriculum and pedagogy.

Quotation-Matthew-Arnold-thinking-age-sense-Meetville-Quotes-111033One of the biggest problems I see as an educator, coach and parent is the rapid replacement of thinking by media devices.  We swipe a screen instead of adding a sum …

I’ve come across historical commentary which is as relevant today as it was decades ago.

This extract written in 1867 is sadly relevant today.

The mode of teaching in primary schools has certainly fallen off in intelligence, spirit and inventiveness during the four or five years which have elapsed since my last report.  It could not well be otherwise.  In a country where everyone is prone to rely too much on mechanical processes and too little in intelligence, a change in the Education Department’s regulations, which, by making two-thirds of the Government grant depend on mechanical examination, inevitably gives a mechanical turn to the school teaching … In the game of mechanical contrivances […] as it is now found possible, by ingenious preparation, to get children through the Revised Code examination i reading writing and ciphering, so it will with practice no doubt be found possible to get the three-fourths if the the one-fifth of the children over six through the examination in grammar, geography and history, without their really knowing any one of these three matters.

Arnold added a couple of years later:

The circle of children’s reading has  … been narrowed and impoverished all the year for the sake of a result at the end of it and the result is an illusion.

One example observed personally is that children in local schools are given the answers to their national secondary examinations prior to the exam so that they can memorise answers.  I’ve seen it in English, French and Science and I suppose it occurs in other subjects too.

matthew-arnold-poet-conduct-is-three-fourths-of-our-life-and-itsThis might not be the case in your child’s school, but it is certainly pandemic and dominant in public schools where most of humankind receives an “education”.  This is gross foolishness in a complex, sophisticated world where ingenuity, creativity and initiative are increasingly required to become self-supporting.

Matthew Arnold Quotes