Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ephemeral Skills

video
I use to be able to do this in under a minute, and knew several tricks, but now, I plod through. As I initially learned how to do this by reading a book, my ability to solve this is not very impressive (figuring it out without help would be a real achievement). It's a pretty pointless skill, so I imagine most people who have ever learned how to do this, have forgotten.

I took French in high school and college, but my French skills are pretty lame. This is understandable, as living in the US, there is really no need to know French, it never really comes up, and without practice, you simply forget. I often think, it would be nice to learn German, or multiply 3 digit numbers in my head quickly, but then think, no, it would be pretty pointless given my current situation.

This is why most kids find school boring, because they are often asked to learn things they know are merely difficult: diagramming sentences? how a bill becomes a law? Understanding "Peasant Blacksmithing in Indonesia: Surviving and Thriving against All Odds" (Obama's mother's dissertation)? Kids have a sense of what is tripe, what is merely pedagogically convenient, or PC, versus something that can actually be useful. I used to teach, and when I look at what I learned as a teacher, it was mainly to give better examples and exercises, ones that are not merely for the test. Anything can be rationalized as essential knowledge, because almost any fact is useful knowledge to someone, but it's all context and reasonableness. Thus, kids know most of the their day is spent learning stuff that they know is about as useful as learning the Rubik's cube, and dread it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the guys that cube blindfolded in 30 seconds? Whenever you think you're good at something you can go to the Internet for a true smackdown.

I agree most elementary and high school curricula are pretty lame. And the various testing standards and mandatory government methods make it much worse, the teachers become very focused on making kids memorize exactly what they need to know and have very little room to be creative, give examples, etc.