- 1 Self-directed learning underappreciated
- 2 From jigsaw puzzle to a crystal
- 3 Crystallization metaphor
- 4 Summary
Self-directed learning underappreciated
The system of schooling has a powerful side effect of undermining the appreciation of self-directed learning. Regular and systematic coercive instruction leads to the withering of skills and interests needed for effective self-directed development. Schooling suppresses the learn drive.
The ignorance of the power of the learn drive and the power of the emergence in building coherent knowledge is omnipresent. All good educators, good teachers, and good students understand that self-directed learning has amazing values. However, for a societal breakthrough, we need to have a majority voice. Students worry that without school they will get lazy. They might be right. One of the reasons schools fail is that they undermine self-motivation, self-discipline, and they suppress the learn drive. Unless we learn independently from early ages, a corruption of self-discipline might set in. Teachers worry students would go astray or stay monothematic. They say "school broadens horizons". Parents fear the kids would spend all their days playing videogames. They get their proof when kids exhausted from schooling spend all their evenings on the computer. The good example of democratic schools remains amazingly invisible in the cacophony of pressures of the modern world. The success of homeschoolers is attributed to selective parenting, privileged upbringing, etc. Peter Gray has spent a lifetime investigating self-directed learning and self-development. His "Free to learn" could convince a brain-damaged ameba. The benefits are obvious and yet societies and schools still stick to the old Prussian dogma.
My convictions come from practising self-learning from birth. There was only one big obstacle in that self-learning process: compulsory schooling. This chapter visualizes the error of schooling by employing a crystallization metaphor.
From jigsaw puzzle to a crystal
The jigsaw puzzle metaphor of the learn drive explains that each piece of knowledge is like a piece of jigsaw puzzle. It needs to fit the puzzle, i.e. the knowledge of the individual. Students get a happy reward for each fitting piece. They get unhappy and helpless if they are forced to combine an unfit piece that finds no match on the surface of the knowledge.
Schools have a good program for building up the jigsaw puzzle from the very basics to the complete set. However, instead of relying on the learn drive, they pour pieces of a jigsaw from a bucket. The speed of flow is the same for everyone and goes far beyond the well-documented brain capacity to absorb new information. All students are supposed to drink from the same bucket and get constantly pushed to look for matching pieces of the jigsaw. Many get lost in the process and most consider school an unhappy experience as a result.
To illustrate the progression of unconstrained self-directed learning, I came up with a knowledge crystallization metaphor. A similar process of fitting pieces of information to the surface of knowledge occurs in attaching molecules to the surface of a crystal in crystallization. New molecules can attach to the surface of the crystal only given the right circumstances. Crystallization can be a good metaphor for comparison of free learning with schooling. I hope it will help many see why kids learn faster on their own, and how that early organic process can be extended to later ages.
Crystallization of the world view
Schooling disrupts crystallization
Figure: In perfect schooling we create a perfect crystal of knowledge. In college, we add an extra crystal of specialization. In reality though, learning looks a bit less perfect. For most kids, knowledge never builds sufficient coherence and falls apart due to interference (i.e. fast forgetting). As a result, in real schooling, knowledge asymptotically reaches a certain volume and keeps churning around from that point on with little progress in stability or coherence. In contrast, in free learning, the acquisition of knowledge is chaotic and uneven. However, as long as it is based on the learn drive, the volume of knowledge is very large. Individual crystals of knowledge collide, and build consistency and coherence. This in turn helps stability and further integration of knowledge. By the time of college, in terms of volume, free learners should know far more than ordinary students. Free knowledge has multiple areas of strength, and multiple areas of weakness. However, it superior in coherence. This is why it is more applicable in problem solving
Crystallizing power of an electric passion
Maximum speed of learning
Knowledge crystallization metaphor explains how knowledge is built into coherent structures in a way similar to building crystals.
Perfect education is supposed to build a perfect crystal, but it never works this way. In reality, schooling builds incoherent tiny crystals of stunted knowledge. Self-directed learning leads to organic crystal growth with a large surface that effectively activates the learn drive.
This is what we do wrong by enforcing compulsory schooling:
- suppressing self-directed learning: growing one crystal, instead of letting many crystals sprout naturally
- wrong learning-forgetting balance: trying to add too many molecules at too many locations on the crystal's surface
- suppressing creativity (e.g. discipline, ADHD medication): slowing down nucleation and dendritic growth
- low level of comprehension: trying to fuse local crystals together before they are ready. Building irregular lattices that crumble
- knowledge interference: adding cracks to crystals by piling up excess knowledge that leads to excess pressure. Knowledge interference destroys previously formed structures through crystal crumbling