Posted by Rojas @ 9:30 pm on February 27th 2007

Whippersnappers III: The Whippersnappening

The famous powerpoint by Dr. Scott McLeod of the University of Minnesota. He’s one of the leading specialists in educational developmental theory, but we won’t hold that against him.

I find myself orienting more and more towards the educational philosophy of Mortimer J. Adler. Adler was highly cynical about the idea that people under the age of 18 could pick up virtually ANY content, as they lacked the contextual experience to truly internalize it. Hence, he believed that early childhood and adolescent education should emphasize thinking skills and “great books”. Adler would have dedicated a very substantial share of societal resources to content-based education of adults.

The main problem with Adler’s ideology is that there doesn’t seem to be any terribly reliable way of teaching thinking skills to kids, though lord knows there are a lot of approaches out there being aggressively pimped to the education community. I think that McLeod’s powerpoint demonstrates some of the reasons why such an approach might be necessary, though; in an environment where most people will hold several jobs that don’t exist at the time of their educational instruction, a “workplace prep” approach simply isn’t functional anymore.


  1. The CASE (Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education) project had some good stuff in it. I taught it myself on teacher-training and then used some of it afterwards, in my career once I’d qualified.

    Additionally, the Nuffield Physics course put some stress on teaching people to think like physicists. This was done whilst teaching them content, too, though.

    Comment by Adam — 2/27/2007 @ 10:07 pm

  2. I’ll just have to inadequately echo Adam here. Science and math (in partiular, perhaps, certain branches of math) are exceedingly good in my own experience at teaching critical thinking skills. Science puts an absolute premium on open but honest skeptisism. Evaluate ideas on their own merits within the confines of reason. It’s a useful in all of life, not just science. I think this is why I get so worked up about dogmatism particularly when it goes to work on school curriculums. If I had a wishlist of things to teach young kids, I would start them early with science and math (but in both really emphasizing the exploratory nature of them, the scientific method etc) and require at least one foreign language starting around grade 2 onwards. The arts and literature are and were very important to me, but that seems incredibly hard to fit into a standardized curriculum, if only these could somehow be made more exploratory too instead of a forcefed diet of what others consider best (undoubtedly we can’t and shouldn’t completely escape a canon, however).

    Comment by tessellated — 2/28/2007 @ 12:00 am

  3. That is a damned interesting presentation.

    Comment by Yank Crank — 3/2/2007 @ 1:10 pm

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