Summary

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This text is part of: "I would never send my kids to school" by Piotr Wozniak (2017)

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
  • providing children with answers to their own questions can also be suppressive for the learn drive
  • low learn drive makes schooling an unpleasant experience for most kids
  • 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 unschooling)
  • 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)
  • displeasure of boredom is part of the learn drive targeted at maximized learning
  • instilling passions in a class of students is rarely effective

Creativity

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
  • in a healthy circadian cycle, best learning and creativity occur after sleep, i.e. in the morning or after a siesta
  • sleep deprivation is one of the main reasons schooling is ineffective
  • early school start is one of the main reasons kids dislike school
  • 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
  • sleepiness is a defense against sleep deprivation

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
  • pushing the brain to the limits does not benefit the evolution of the brain

School

Learning

  • loss of freedom and excess work are a frequent reason for school hate
  • 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
  • excess volume and excess speed of learning result in a leaky vessel approach: new knowledge easily displaces old knowledge via interference
  • 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
  • schools can easily produce an illusion of good learning and an illusion of long-term memory
  • 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
  • most often mentioned reasons for linking school are: friends, physical education, good grades, and very rarely, actual progress in learning

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 lead 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

Dropping out

  • great people can be found among college graduates and among high school dropouts
  • genius is incompatible with schooling. This is why there are many high achieving school dropouts

Unschooling

  • unschooling provides most freedom to develop powerful learn drive, and paradoxically, produce best learning outcomes
  • homeschooling, unschooling and democratic schooling resolve nearly all causes of school hate
  • 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
  • education system invest heavily into teaching things people can easily learn on their own (and with pleasure)

Reform

  • freedom in many platforms is the key to effective educational reform
  • freedom in education should affect children, students, teachers, educators, parents, innovators, organizers, and more
  • adult-centric point of view is one of the driving forces behind the failure of modern education
  • changes in brain function from early childhood to adulthood make it virtually impossible for adults to understand child's brain without the help from science (i.e. mostly learning neuroscience)
  • mass production of great teachers is no easier than mass production of genius
  • grants for students to get to college are as good as grants for students to skip college. All support for the youth is welcome

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
  • poor declarative memories in children imply that formal instruction should best be delayed until the age of 7-9
  • children learn best via self-directed play
  • children rarely recall memories from before the age of 2-3
  • children form episodic and declarative memories from birth. The term "childhood amnesia" refers to rapid memory turnover in childhood
  • lifetime survival of early memories depends on (1) memory formation, (2) forgetting, (3) interference, (4) re-wiring, (5) exposure to memorable events, and (6) post exposure review
  • earliest memories are often unpleasant (e.g. related to daycare)
  • stress tends to improve learning, and undermine brain growth
  • maternal separation improves memories via stress hormones
  • the myth of children as perfect learning machines comes from their ability to generalize with the use of 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
  • 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: Pleasure of learning, 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
  • slow brain development may result in better long term outcomes (see: Infantile amnesia caused by neurogenesis)
  • math and physics geniuses often come from slow or troubled childhood
  • development acceleration induced by daycare may turn out to be harmful

Childhood passions

  • relentless lifelong pursuit of goals born from childhood passions is a solid formula for success
  • minor events in childhood can turn into lifelong passions
  • child passions have a dramatic positive impact on the power of the learn drive
  • child passions should be cherished and protected
  • true passions do not need to be stoked up as they serve an inner need
  • childhood passions can easily get lost due to preoccupation with schooling
  • best formula for helping kids get interested in science by Neil deGrasse Tyson is: "Get off their back!"

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

Daycare

  • daycare is an inferior substitute of good parenting
  • healthy childhood of few concerns without the relegation to daycare is the root of future greatness
  • in western societies, there is a social pressure to send kids to daycare
  • to a large extent, social pressure originates in self-exculpatory mindset of young career-oriented parents
  • peer pressure in favor of daycare is based on a series of myths about the biology of child development
  • daycare acceleration is often a short-term phenomenon with poorer long-term outcomes
  • daycare acceleration works only for kids from families characterized by low resources (incl. time), neglect, pathology, and/or poor education
  • daycare boost to immunity is a myth
  • daycare socialization is often negative
  • daycare results in an increase in aggression and other behavioral problems
  • for many kids, daycare begins too early and necessitates forceful waking
  • for most kids, daycare violates natural creativity cycle
  • for most kids, esp. young kids, or early in the process, daycare involves significant stress
  • for small kids, maternal separation is bad for the brain
  • kids suffering from chronic daycare stress are likely to experience inferior long-term brain development
  • learned helplessness of daycare increases the likelihood of depression in adulthood
  • daycare often produces a positive feedback loop: slower development, lower immunity, infections, antibiotics, missed days, more stress, more sleep deprivation, etc.
  • potty-training is a waste of time, and can involve unnecessary stress
  • all forms of physiological and developmental acceleration make sense only if they are child-driven, i.e. natural

Socialization

  • socialization can be modelled and optimized
  • for biological reasons, optimization of socialization is achieved best with minimum intervention
  • individualistic socializations serves the good of society along principles similar to market economics
  • optimum socialization can be achieved in abstraction of value and in different value systems
  • individual personality and values may determine the optimum level/degree of socialization
  • socialization is a lifelong learning process
  • early socialization should focus on establishing a lifelong learning platform
  • coercive socialization may backfire and result in asociality or anti-social behaviors
  • critical periods in development make it important to opt against early socialization in daycare
  • social intelligence might have had a significant contribution to the increase in the size of the human brain
  • social intelligence is essential for further progress of mankind on the social platform and well beyond

Health

  • modern baby management results in harmful restrictions in the exposure to healthy natural stimuli
  • all forms of medical intervention during pregnancy and birth may have negative impact on health
  • moderate exposure to pathogens and allergens is vital for the health of the immune system
  • exposure to changes in temperature ensures efficient thermoregulation
  • thermogenesis is one of the most powerful body defenses (e.g. against infections)
  • benefits of daycare for immunity are questionable
  • exposure to pathogens is good, sickness is not
  • daycare infections often produce consequences that last a lifetime
  • daycare infections often affect entire households
  • daycare shifts the burden of disease to younger ages which may have negative impact on long-term cognitive development
  • kids in home care are often overprotected, which weakens their immune system
  • we tend to underestimate the power of newborns and toddlers to combat infections on their own
  • we tend to underestimate the power of innate immunity in combating colds and influenza
  • media headlines which claim that home care weakens the immune system are misleading and dangerous
  • in most cases, the best care for young kids is provided by their biological mom with support of members of her family
  • handling infections one at a time seems to be a safe strategy
  • Graham Rook's "old friend" hypothesis implies that we should expose kids to pathogens from natural environments
  • daycare provides excessive exposure to particularly dangerous pathogens in conditions of weakened immune system
  • respiratory infections are one of the chief destroyers of productivity
  • it is possible to avoid infections for decades in otherwise vulnerable individuals
  • good sleep is essential for immunity
  • alarm clocks destroy the quality of sleep
  • winter swimming can be helpful in preventing respiratory infections
  • moderate exercise helps prevent infections
  • stress management is essential for immunity
  • rehydration helps combat infections
  • healthy diet and lifestyle help combat infections
  • it is important to avoid heavy exposure to viruses during epidemics

Alzheimer's

  • the root neuronal cause of Alzheimer's is excitotoxicity, which comes from excessive cognitive loads on networks with insufficient processing power
  • good learning is preventive, while bad learning may contribute to Alzheimer's
  • the best reassurance for the positive impact of learning on prevention of Alzheimer's is the adherence to the Fundamental law of learning
  • schooling inherently violates the Fundamental law of learning through its coercive nature
  • for many kids, schooling leads to neural injury, which may be instantly apparent, e.g. in developing depression
  • despite all calls for reforms, mainstream schooling in the western world still keeps evolving in the wrong direction: more haste, more stress, greater loads, less coherence, and more neural injury
  • main factors of schooling that lead to excitotoxic injury are: overload, low coherence, high interference, low retention, low stability, sleep deprivation, circadian violations, stress, and toxic memories
  • even though literacy is preventive, bad learning and bad habits taken from school may contribute to Alzheimer's pathology later in life

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 can hardly ever 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
  • most kids gain just about one item of history knowledge per week
  • 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

  • catching a cold was a joyous moment in my young life: I did not have to go to school!
  • 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 12 years, I learned no history at school
  • in the course of 8 years, I learned very little English at school
  • SuperMemo accelerated my learning in 1987
  • incremental reading accelerated my learning in 2000