Summary

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This text is part of: "I would never send my kids to school" by Piotr Wozniak (Fall 2016)

Learning

Learn drive

  • learn drive is a natural tendency of the brain to seek new information
  • learn drive activates the reward centers upon detecting novel patterns in memory storage
  • healthy learn drive is the basis of good learning
  • self-directed learning grounds its efficiency in the learn drive
  • learn drive innate but is trainable
  • learn drive is universal
  • learn drive does not need to decline with age, it can be sustained till the end of a healthy lifespan
  • learn drive can be suppressed
  • established knowledge undermines the learn drive
  • compulsory schooling is usually a suppressor of the learn drive
  • one of the main goals of any modern education system should be to help learn drive flourish
  • best enhancer of the learn drive is rich learning
  • learn drive corrections within the optimum push zone can improve learning and its direction
  • there is a positive feedback loop: learning feeds interest, interest feeds learning (see: Learning history)

Self-directed learning

  • self-directed learning is efficient due to amplifying the learn drive, operating within the push zone, knowledge generalization, knowledge matching, etc.
  • self-directed learning is best achieved in conditions of freedom (e.g. in democratic schools, in homeschooling, or in deschooling)
  • self-directed learning leads to faster learning and to richer knowledge
  • at societal level, self-learning does not lead to communication breakdown due to convergence of knowledge

Learning reward

  • pleasure of learning is a highly reliable indicator of the efficiency of learning (as measured by the total of well-structured long-term memories established)
  • instilling passions in a class of students is rarely effective

Creativity

  • natural creativity cycle can be used to boost creativity and improve problem solving
  • natural creativity cycle helps promote positive thinking and optimistic frame of mind
  • natural creativity cycle is disrupted by schooling, which severely affects learning
  • creativity and focus stand in opposition. Both are desirable and vital (see: ADHD)
  • classroom focus is maximized by suppression of creativity via learned helplessness
  • high creativity can easily produce behaviors that can be confused with symptoms of ADHD
  • ADHD may correlate with giftedness

Sleep

  • all efficient human operation requires strict adherence to the demands of the circadian cycle
  • efficient learning and creativity requires strict adherence to the demands of the circadian cycle
  • sleep deprivation is one of the main reasons schooling is ineffective
  • circadian system and sleep patterns develop slowly over the first year of life
  • co-sleeping is a natural way of sleeping and breastfeeding
  • waking kids in the morning can have consequences that may last a lifetime
  • kids should sleep when they are sleepy, not when we think they should sleep
  • free running sleep is the best form of sleep for children and adults

Stress

  • stress is one of chief reasons why schooling is ineffective
  • expanding student freedoms is the best way towards reducing stress at school
  • bullying is one of the main sources of stress at school and may have highly destructive long-term impact on young minds
  • teacher attitudes have a tremendous impact on stress levels at school

School

  • self-directed learning outperforms schooling by an order of magnitude in the efficiency of gaining coherent long-term knowledge (see: Learning history: school vs. self-directed learning)
  • there is an optimum volume of reading in a learning session that maximized long-term learning outcomes. Teachers who pile up too much, do actual harm to learning itself and, more importantly, to the love of learning in the end
  • rigors of schooling may reveal creative personalities as most disruptive
  • school schedule design stands in mortal conflict with lifestyle conducive for learning and creativity
  • compulsory schooling suppress the learn drive in kids
  • most kids adapt to the compulsion of schooling via learned helplessness
  • learned helplessness may lead to problems such as depression, obesity, addictions, risk-taking, aggression, bullying, cruelty, etc.
  • as experience shapes the brain, inaction in the wake of learned helplessness is bound to stunt cognitive abilities of children

Homework

  • morning hours are best for homework, yet most kids do homework late in the evening
  • self-directed learning is superior to homework
  • trading school hours for homework will increase the efficiency of learning in a large subset of students
  • homework amplifies the inefficiency of schooling by re-conditioning of the dislike of learning
  • self-directed learning with a correction within a push zone is the best form of "homework"

Cramming

  • schooling schedules inevitably leads to cramming
  • cramming is bad for memory, mood, and long-term learning outcomes
  • schooling conditions the brain to underestimate the value of lasting knowledge and the cost of quality learning
  • cramming techniques inspired incremental reading, which has nothing to do with cramming

Unschooling

  • ubiquity of information and convergence of knowledge imply that we have fewer reasons to worry about unschooling and/or free education
  • unrestrained development of personality may take three decades. Accelerating that process limits human cognitive powers

Childhood

Learning in childhood

  • children have a very bad long-term memory
  • bad long-term memory in children results from fast growth, and re-structuring of the brain
  • the myth of children as perfect learning machines comes from their ability to store information in short-term memory
  • children store a lot of information in short-term memory because they spend all their days learning new things
  • children can use words and phrases in the long term because they keep relearning things they use often
  • all forms of early instructions must be taken with caution. Kids learn best via self-directed play
  • early academic teaching may slow down brain development and begin a lifelong hate of learning
  • kids should never be made to learn if they show no interest or refuse (see: Learn drive and Push zone)
  • early acceleration in development does not need to translate to success in adulthood
  • child prodigies often experience burnout at adolescence or early adulthood. This may be an expression of the early peak in development
  • overstimulation can best be prevented by letting kids decide their own exposure to stimuli
  • infantile amnesia means that children hardly ever remember things from before the age of three
  • slow brain development may result in better long term outcomes (see: Infantile amnesia caused by neurogenesis)
  • math and physics geniuses often come from troubled childhood
  • stress accelerates learning
  • maternal separation improves memories via stress hormones. This may limit brain's growth potential
  • development acceleration induced by daycare may turn out to be harmful

Baby care

  • we should follow hunter-gatherer prescription for child care to maximize development and minimize the whole host of behavioral problems
  • weaning should be natural and may take up to 4 years. In particular, it should not be accelerated for the sake of daycare
  • forceful weaning begins the negative process in which child's brain adapts to the environment via learned helplessness
  • all limits on the freedom of movement, slow down baby development
  • for brain development, baby wearing is superior to using strollers
  • keeping kids safe with proofing makes it hard to teach them safety
  • playing Mozart to a womb is more likely to scare the baby than to produce a music genius
  • large behavioral spaces with fewer rules are beneficial in cognitive development
  • rigid regiment of rules enforced by strangers has a powerful impact on the brain via learned helplessness

Health

  • modern baby management results in harmful restrictions in the exposure to healthy natural stimuli
  • moderate exposure to pathogens and allergens is vital for the health of the immune system
  • all forms of medical intervention during pregnancy and birth may have negative impact on health
  • exposure to changes in temperature ensures good thermogenesis that is one of the most powerful body defenses (e.g. against infections)

ADHD

  • a creative and lively child may easily be branded ADHD by parents, teachers, or "well-wishing" strangers
  • what a teacher recognizes as ADHD may actually be a sign of giftedness
  • schooling provides an ideal breeding ground for ADHD-like problems and symptoms in otherwise healthy kids
  • diagnostic criteria for ADHD in DSM-5 (2013) have been relaxed, which may lead to further overdiagnosis
  • ADHD may be managed better by understanding the circadian and homeostatic aspects of mental activity
  • circadian disruption may amplify symptoms of ADHD, or lead to a wrong diagnosis
  • free running sleep is vital for managing ADHD
  • before administering medication, e.g. Ritalin, children should be evaluated in free running condition, i.e. away from pressures of schooling (see: prescription)
  • psychiatric drugs target receptors and neurotransmitters, not specific brain structures. As such they are bound to have side effects
  • schedule designed around the circadian cycle may mitigate all negative aspects of ADHD

Domain-specific conclusions

Learning English

For details see: Schools are useless in teaching English!

  • English is now a global means of communication
  • all citizens of the globe should know English
  • most kids in Europe learn English
  • learning a language is costly
  • kids who learn English only at school cannot speak English
  • (formal) language learning in children is largely futile
  • a month with SuperMemo can bring as much vocabulary as 13 year of schooling (see: Learning English)
  • in the course of 6 years, I learned no English at school
  • SuperMemo helped me learn English and pass TOEFL at 99 percentile
  • my need to know English sparked the development of SuperMemo

Learning history

For details see: Learning history: school vs. self-directed learning

  • average high school graduate knows little history
  • self-learning based on incremental learning proved to be the fastest way to learn history
  • national curricula often feed nationalist sentiments that harm global communication and cooperation

SuperMemo

My own experience

  • at high school, I would learn 16 times faster on my own during summer vacation than during the school year (see: Learning history)
  • schools have been extremely efficient in destroying my enthusiasm for schooling (at all levels of education)
  • in the course of 8 years, I learned no history at school
  • SuperMemo accelerated my learning of history