Quick Links – Children need facts to learn; parents read more to girls; a new blog

by Grace

‘Children can’t think if they don’t learn facts’ (The Daily Telegraph)

The academics who criticised rote learning are wrong – it is at the heart of all knowledge

Author and journalist Harry Mount responds to the professors of education who oppose Britain’s new national curriculum.  They claim it will ‘will place an overemphasis on memorising “endless lists of spelling, facts and rules”’, thereby robbing children of the “ability to think”‘.

Those academics think knowledge and thought are at war with each other in a zero-sum game; that you can’t have one without destroying the other. They say that rote learning is less important than “cognitive development, critical understanding and creativity”. How wrong they are – and how depressingly keen on the dreary, Latinate jargon of academese. You can’t be critical or creative, or develop, without knowing anything. Knowledge and thought aren’t chickens and eggs: knowledge always comes before a decent thought. Brilliant thinkers invariably know lots of things; and people who don’t know anything are usually stupid, unless they have had the cruel misfortune to have their natural intelligence stunted by an education system that prizes ignorance.

Daniel Willingham would further argue that we need “inflexible” knowledge , which is “memorizing with meaning”.  Rote knowledge, which is memorizing without meaning, is typically a precursor to flexible knowledge.

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Why parents read more with their daughters

Girls get more reading time with their parents than boys do.

There Are Plenty of Reasons Why Parents May Read More With Their Daughters

One theory holds that girls might have a greater inclination toward such activities. (Theories suggesting innate differences between boys and girls and between men and women are hotly debated.) Another theory is that parents may be following cultural scripts and unconscious biases that suggest they should read with their daughters, and have active play with sons.

It is also possible, Baker says, that the costs of investing in cognitive activities is different when it comes to boys and girls. As an economist, he isn’t referring to cost in the sense of cash; he means cost in the sense of effort.

“It is just more costly to provide a unit of reading to a boy than to a girl because the boy doesn’t sit still, you know, doesn’t pay attention,” he says, “these sorts of things.”

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Check out a new blog.

My son recently launched a new blog.  Occam’s Razor Scooter “is dedicated to news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else the author finds interesting”.  Politics is a particular focus, with a regularly updated guide to next year’s US Senate elections.  And the blog’s “dog of the day” feature is worth checking just for a daily smile.

20130717.COCDogOfDay1

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2 Comments to “Quick Links – Children need facts to learn; parents read more to girls; a new blog”

  1. I agree that kids need to learn lots of facts. I just don’t think that memorizing lists of facts is an effective way to do it. In order to be retained, facts need to be incorporated into a kids mental model of the world. That would seem to imply that facts are best learned by reading or observation, so that the child is building the model and bringing in the facts at the same time.

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  2. “the child is building the model and bringing in the facts at the same time”

    I think that might be an ideal but unachievable way to do it all or even most of the time. I’m inclined to agree with Willingham, that rote memorizing is part of the process, and that just learning facts can work. Later on the pieces come together in a mental model. I’ve experienced learning this way, and have observed it among others.

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