"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Monday, September 14, 2020

Improving Education in the Modern World: Teaching The Dry Facts Prior to the Teaching of Conceptual Ideas and Cognitive Concepts

"Bad Teaching is Tearing America Apart" is an article by Naomi Schaefer Riley at the Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2020, reviewing "How to Educate a Citizen", by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., a timely book just published by HarperCollins, in which Hirsch examines important aspects of the teaching focus of the American educational system and its connection to problems of culture and race.

Naomi Schaefer Riley writes inter alia:
"The current fashion is for teachers to be a “guide on the side, instead of a sage on the stage,” [Hirsch] says, quoting the latest pedagogical slogan, which means that teachers aren’t supposed to lecture students but to “facilitate” learning by nudging students to follow their own curiosity. Everything Mr. Hirsch knows about how children learn tells him that’s the wrong approach. “If you want equity in education, as well as excellence, you have to have whole-class instruction,” in which a teacher directly communicates information using a prescribed sequential curriculum." [emphasis added by us]
The valuable -- if also surely controversial -- educational issues of our time presented by Hirsch in his book would appear to be essential reading for everyone, not just educators, and at all levels of teaching and learning.

Studies show that many teachers prefer to teach "concepts" rather than "facts", which is understandable, since concepts can be far more fun to teach, being a creative focus of attention, but it is of course the often dry "facts" that people must learn and utilize first, since they provide the necessary practical knowledge usage base for teaching and learning, and -- in later application -- since they establish areas of accepted expertise in all fields of life. 

"Conceptual ideas" viz. "cognitive concepts", on the other hand, are important dynamic tools down the road that are necessary to obtain more or improved knowledge beyond that which has already been taught and learned or is allegedly "known" to be true of thought to be true.

But the foundation of facts must have initial precedence, and must be taught in the schools, rather than the conclusions based on such facts -- and this also applies to the religions, and similar "conclusory" disciplines -- whose concepts may be true or not. This order of priority should apply especially -- but not only -- to primary school teaching and learning levels, and should also take priority precedence at undergraduate college and university graduate research levels.

FIRST the facts, and only then can we rightly ponder what those facts mean, always checking those same alleged facts for veracity and up-to-datedness. The state of the art of knowledge is always in flux, and what is seen as true today, may not be seen as true tomorrow. Get your facts straight and only then let your conceptual thoughts and conclusions follow. Tempus fugit. Consider that what "is known" is always much less than what can still be known or will be discovered as new facts in the future, with new concepts to follow -- that in any case is the history of human knowledge.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.