Tunnel vision of school letteracy

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

Digital counterculture

Millions of kids are denied the benefits of modern education due to irrational fears of the adult world. Psychiatrists such as Dr Manfred Spitzer insist that electronic devices and the Internet lead to Digital Dementia. Parents fear gaming disorder. Teachers lament over children who lose their fine motor skills due to their reluctance to use a pen and paper. Psychologists do not seem to appreciate the value of digital socialization, even if it spans continents and cultures. In 1993, Seymour Papert predicted the arrival of new media and the decline of letteracy. In his vision, he might have underappreciated the power of mass cultural hysteria that accompanies the arrival of the new.

Perfect conceptualization

In the ideal model of perfect education, a perfectly adaptable human brain uses the best channels of communication, and controls knowledge acquisition by the brain's learn drive system. In this model, optimal conceptualization in the concept network of the brain would produce a highly applicable model of reality. It would also optimize for a well-fitting position of the individual in that reality.

In simple words, kids should be given the best tools to figure out their best place in this world.

Today's schools, and a majority of the adult world stand in opposition to that ideal process. Under the leadership of figures such as Manfred Spitzer or Nicholas Carr, parents and teachers do their best to prevent the arrival of Homo tabletis. Using the tools of compulsory schooling, children are forced into letteracy instead of conceptualizing the true nature of the universe.

Shackled childhood

While digital kids can skillfully drink from a firehose of digital knowledge, the remaining vast majority is shackled to a school bench and forced to learn the codes of adult communication (the 3 Rs perfected for 3 centuries). The difference between (1) drinking from a firehose at school and (2) drinking from a firehose at one's own pleasure is the optimizing impact of the learn drive. While the river of knowledge from compulsory curriculum results in quakes of interference, the same river controlled by the child's mind will actually deposit coherent sediment layers of new knowledge that will result in efficient conceptualization. Only the learn drive can make the jigsaw puzzle fit.

While digital kids conceptualize reality and slowly absorb whatever they might need for their perfect adaptation to the adulthood, school kids can avail of a trickle of information blocked by long hours of lecturing, drills, exercise, and homework.

Morse code planet

The mythology of letteracy is so prevalent that I kept looking for the right metaphor to illustrate the problem. I hear "How can one pay an electricity bill without reading?". I say that conceptualization has the priority. A child needs to understand energy, electricity, billing, payments, law, society, etc. well ahead of getting down to the payment. Moreover, today's kid would probably easily solve the problem by using her speech-synthesis app.

To explain the problem of letteracy, I came up with the idea of the morse code planet. Here is the metaphor:

Imagine a morse code planet inhabited by morsians, i.e. a subspecies humans who communicate in audio morse code messages with their eyes closed. The art of morse code communication on that planet would be hard to comprehend. Like children learning cursive today, little morsian would learn the code using fantastic melodies that would challenge the imagination Beethoven. Adult morsians would hear morsian audio-literature and extoll the benefits of morsian imagination. If humans landed on the planet and suggested that morsians learn to read books with open eyes, many morsians attached to their culture would protests. Like fearmongers of Digital Dementia, morsians would condemn books as not challenging enough. If morsian children chose books over morsian symphony codes, they would be accused of taking an easy route. As more and more morsians dive into rich book literature, there would be a widespread fear of book addiction. There would be family wars in morsian homes. When little morsian read books late into the night, parents would confiscate books as penalty. If morsian kids went loco for the violation of their autonomy, they would be diagnosed with a book reading disorder and be medicated. The greatest hope for the morsian culture would be for the earthlings to deliver the blessing of books and other communication technologies. Civilizations need to see that the blind morse code is of value. However, they must also see it as just one of many tools that help the brain sense, decode, and model the reality.

Children should be allowed to soak in knowledge at high speeds, instead of being tormented with a trickle of bits transmitted at slow rate in an inefficient code

Future shock

By denying our children access to modern technology, we behave like the worshipers of the morse code culture. We want to limit the communication channels to slow down conceptualization that is the key to the survival of the young generation in the modern world that will soon be dominated by artificial intelligence technologies that will demand an entirely different skillset. Kids who are free to adapt today will adapt better.

Parents who attempt to control the education of their children risk exposing them to severe maladaptation with serious implications for the mental health of the entire generation

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