Never trust parents nor teachers

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

Chinese whispers

People have a natural flair for mythmaking. This is why I have minimal trust in parents and teachers in their assessment of their educational "methodology". Due to the natural and precious property of the human brain, generalization, we are all fast at building models. With frequency inversely proportional to the quality of data, and the overall knowledge of the modeler, we often arrive at vastly wrong models. Wrong models have a tremendous value too, esp. in science. It is very hard to kill myths based on wrong models. In case of a parent, a single anecdotal fact can build up into a big story from childhood. The fact may be accurate at first, and be counterbalanced by surrounding contextual evidence. However, the attractiveness of an anecdotal myth leads to self-perpetuation and the death of counterevidence via forgetting. Then there is a problem of distortion and amplification over the years. This is a sort of "game of gossip" in which a brain plays the game with itself by retelling the story over the years. Finally, 2-3 decades later, we have a parent who can claim with conviction and certainty: "my child could walk at 6 months", or "my child spoke full sentences before it was one" or "my child could read before it could speak". And then there is the omnipresent myth that takes seconds to falsify: "my child loves school!" (see: Big Fat Lie: Children like school).

Even as a collective, parents do not seem to show much crowd wisdom and averaging their models does not brings us much closer to the truth. Models tend to fall into the extremes, e.g. the other end of the memory might be "my son did not utter a word till he was 6" (this one is very popular in ref. to great minds like Einstein)(see: Precocity paradox).

Most of all, all adults suffer from deficits in educational empathy. Teachers suffers from fish tank perspective. Parents fail to communicate with their children. The following disparity shows in epidemic proportions: a parent claims that the child loves school, while the child, on the same day, says she hates school to death.

Parents and teachers have very weak insights into the effects of learning in children

Mythological ecosystem

Mythological models are also very popular in the teacher community. One anecdote from years ago can underlie a wrong methodological approach that keeps hurting children. The most striking form of harm done in classrooms are multiplication table drills (and other forms of asemantic learning), however, each teacher seems to have his own anecdotal evidence to excuse his adherence to that classically Prussian prescription. I know dozens of fantastic teachers, but they all suffer from the fish tank perspective syndrome: they see kids as a colony inhabiting an aquarium without noticing the social context and progress of the world outside. The same kid may exhibit two entirely different personalities and behaviors in and out of school (see: Behavioral system).

In the high stakes game of upbringing and education, we cannot trust players with vested interest. Anecdotal evidence from parents and teachers is valuable but vastly unreliable

Genius minds

I would love to formulate a prescription for breeding genius minds. To produce that prescription I need to understand the brain growth from embryonic times to senility. To construct valid models, I need corrective feedback from kids, parents and teachers. However, for me, the guiding light should always be neuroscience, esp. its computational variety (e.g. as inspired by artificial intelligence). Parents are blinded by love and the glorification of schooling. Teachers are blinded by their idealism, romanticism, and the fish tank perspective. Most of them went to school, and schooled people do not understand free learning. It is free learning that is my prescription for intelligence.

In contrast, kids are a great source of knowledge because they can be reasonably reliable when talking about their feelings at the moment. I apologize to all loving parents and all great teachers for my limited trust.

When interviewed at the time of learning, children provide fantastic insights into their own feelings and progress

For more texts on memory, learning, sleep, creativity, and problem solving, see Super Memory Guru