Problem of schooling: My qualifications

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

My whole life seems to have converged on the thesis included in this book: schools do a lot of harm to our love of learning. This is why I believe you should consider my words carefully.

My knowledge

Here are my qualifications:

  • My work, research, and expertise are all about how the brain works. In particular, I am involved in memory, learning, creativity and the highly underappreciated impact of sleep and the circadian cycle on productivity (incl. performance in learning, creativity, and in problem solving)
  • 20+ years of experience with incremental reading (2019), which provides a unique perspective on the emergence of knowledge, knowledge coherence, impact of coherence on memory stability and many other aspects of free learning (see: jigsaw puzzle metaphor)
  • 26 years of learning in public institutions! I have suffered through 4 years of daycare, 8 long years of primary school, 4 years of high school, and 2 x 5 years at two different colleges (molecular biology and computer science). 20-21 of those years were largely compulsory (e.g. under a threat of military service)
  • 30+ years of free learning after schools! (2019). I have enjoyed 30 years (and counting) of free learning since my last day at school. For learning to bring true fruits and be fun, it needs to meet the following criteria: (1) self-directed, (2) self-paced, (3) self-timed, and (4) based on memory science (see: incremental reading)
  • I was a top student. I was also a bottom student. I was top and bottom at all levels of learning: primary, secondary and university! Yes. That makes for six unusual combinations that give me a unique insight into schooling: from the very top and from the very bottom. I was a glorified apple polisher, and I was a bottom scum feeder too.
  • I was propelled forward by the school system. I was also pushed backwards. I was a knowledge olympiad gold medalist. I was also a wanna-be terrorist, and a criminal. From an ordinary hooligan to a committed missionary of knowledge
  • I was a tutor with excellent outcomes, and some mistakes
  • I attended hundreds of classes and lectures, slept through many of those, and I gave a dozen lectures myself too
  • I had teachers of all sorts: awful teachers, abusive teachers, dumb teacher, wonderful teachers, friendly teachers, influential teachers, inspiring teachers, and many other teaching species
  • I was a compliant student at times, but I was also a rebel, most of the time. I would often fight for individual student rights
  • I was a bully, and I was bullied too (see: Personal stories)
  • I was fascinated with knowledge (mostly when self-learning), and also bored to death with my only escape: not paying attention
  • All my own personal stories in the texts are backed up by an extensive system of notes I have been taking since the age of 12

Last but not least, my method of fast learning, SuperMemo, re-christened as "spaced repetition", is now gaining widespread acceptance in the global self-learning community. This might be the #1 reason why you bothered to read this text. Today, SuperMemo is powered by the concept of "incremental learning" that goes well beyond "spaced repetition". If you consider self-directed learning, homeschooling or unschooling, I hope you also read about: incremental reading.

My ignorance

I also sport some areas of serious ignorance. Those can introduce a heavy bias. Please take those into account while reading:

  • I have always loved learning. When there was no love, I just did not learn. I have never hated learning, or school. I have never hated a teacher. My "hate" was limited to selected classes such as pointless PE, or my pet dislike: Polish literature
  • I have never been employed by a school. I have never been the ruler of a noisy class. My lectures with selective and positive audiences do not come close to emulating that pain
  • I have never gone to a private school
  • My learning has not been complemented by taking private lessons
  • Most of my personal experience is limited to Poland
  • My formal education ended in 1990
  • I have never been abused (although there was a close call)
  • I have no knowledge of illegal drugs. They arrived en masse in Poland only after my years at school
  • My school life has never been derailed by problems with a romantic relationship
  • My love of learning has never been damaged at home. There was no rod waiting for me for a bad school report
  • I do not think I have been damaged by the system as much as I claim children would on average. I credit that to my rebellious nature, disobedience, and freedom at home

My love of SuperMemo and free learning also introduces a serious bias. SuperMemo is my hammer. I cannot help but see nails all over the place! Today, anti-school sentiment is my hammer. Each stone I turn, I see harm inflicted by schooling.