Jay Cross
Jay Cross

New blog
Links & more

Subscribe with Bloglines
Enter your email address to subscribe to Internet Time Blog.

Just Learn It
Sunday, June 12, 2005
A few days ago, I finished reading Roger Schank’s latest book, Lessons in Learning, e-Learning, and Training, and I’ve recommended it to everyone with whom I’ve spoken at any length since. If you follow Roger’s work, you won’t find many new concepts. What’s new is that Roger has chiselled his messages in bold relief so that only the totally clueless can fail to get the point. He eats his own cooking by bringing his material to life through compelling stories.

Admittedly, Roger is a lightening rod. No one who has experienced him is ambivalent. Many people can’t get past his faux-movie star persona: Roger’s a big, buff, bald, larger-than-life character who beats George Hamilton in the tanning department and tops Salvador Dali in ego. He’s also an original thinker whose acolytes from the Institute for Learning Sciences have spread his gospel far and wide. He particularly irks academics because he’s one of them, having been a professor at Stanford, Yale, Carnegie-Mellon, and Northwestern.

Ruth Clark sums up Lessons in Learning, e-Learning, and Training in the foreword: “The basic premise of this book is that learning is an inductive process. In everyday words, learning occurs by experience, and the best instruction offers learners opportunities to distill their knowledge and skills from interactive stories.”

From the book:
“People who learn on their own learn exactly what they find interesting and potentially useful.”

“For years I have been preaching that the big three issues in education are reasoning, communication, and human relations. Schools must enable students to learn these skills, that they are more important in daily life by far than physics, mathematics, or ancient history.”

“Classrooms are, for the most part, a waste of time.”

“We define ourselves through the stories we choose to tell. Story exchange is what conversation is all about. Stories are at the center of our ability to understand the world around us.”
“Time constraints are the enemy of learning by doing. It takes time to practice – and without practice there is no real learning.”
Socratic Arts links to many of Roger's papers and to his hyperbook Engines for Education. Excerpt from Engines:
Mostly, [kids] should be learning that learning is fun. They should be learning that expanding one's horizons is fun, that learning you were wrong about something is not so painful, and that taking an educational risk is worth doing. They should be learning that school is a good place to do these things. The children of today dread going back to school in September, dread exams, dread receiving their grades, and are generally fearful. No wonder school is stressful. But there is no reason children cannot have intellectual fun, cannot be excited by ideas, and cannot be challenged to acquire new knowledge. Natural learning is a basically enjoyable thing to do. Two-year-olds love to learn. Many adults love to learn. Only school-age children associate learning with fear of failure. We must get the fear of failure out of the school system. Cramming for an exam or trying to please a teacher ought not to be the goal of those seeking an education. If we fail to understand this in a profound way, there will be no helping our schools or our children.
Roger's latest Educational Outrage column rants about criticism of Trump University (of which he is Chief Learning Officer). Why does the press take on Donald Trump for naming a university for himself but accept it when Leland Stanford did the same thing? Actually, Stanford named the school for his son, Leland Stanford, Jr., but that's beside the point. The reaction of the press sets Roger in motion on an old but worthy rant:
The question is why school teaches the subjects that it does and whether that should be allowed to continue. Most of what you learn in high school is irrelevant to anyone’s real life. Ask any high school student – they know this all too well. The truth is that unless you want to be a professor, most of what you learn in college or graduate school can be quite irrelevant as well. Even MBA programs, practical as they may be in principle, tend to forget that the students are just there to learn how to do well in business. Professors, who are of course quite academic, might not be the best determiners of what students want to learn or need to learn. Typically they just teach what they want to teach, which is not the same thing. The high school curriculum, school incarnate, was designed by a bunch of professors in 1892. They were not thinking about what students might need to learn in order to succeed in today’s world.


I have always said that everything wrong with education starts with the letter P:

1. Publishers — because they dominate the world of education the way it was.
2. Politicians — because they only care about measurable change in existing education, hence tests.
3. Princeton — or any great university that requires SATs and a fixed HS curriculum that was designed in 1892.
4. Princeton — home of the education testing service the great evil of our time.
5. Press — which intimidates all schools with publishing results of minute differences in test score results.
6. Parents — who insist that school be like it was when they went to school.

A good friend of one of my Princeton roommates went to Yale. When the two met up the summer after their first year in college, my roommate couldn't stand his friend any longer, having been taught one of Princeton's major messages: Hate Yale! Hate Yale! Hate Yale! Hate Yale! Where did W come from? Hate Yale! Hate Yale! Hate Yale! Hate Yale! At least I remember something from four academic years on the campus.


Post a Comment

<< Home

About Us | Contact Us | Home |

Powered by Blogger

Copyright 2005, Internet Time Group, Berkeley, California