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Thou shalt not reason


While having lunch in the company mess, one of my colleagues, who is trying to get himself a degree in Psychology, commented on how annoying and boring his next exam would be. It has something to do with sociology and he has to practically cram into his head a huge amount of statistical data on things such as gender discrimination, racism, job opportunities.

Why do you need to remember these figures? Wouldn’t it be enough to say there are certain trends and that you know where to get  the figures? No, it won’t do. It reminds me of the excellent work "Disciplined Minds" by Jeff Schmidt. He claims, and I agree, that the whole education system is designed to beat the spirit of reasoning out of you. You do what you are told to do and you don’t ask questions. You even grow to support it becuase if you can do it, you go ahead and the others who can’t, or refuse to, stay behind. Then you can think of yourself as the bright guy who did it and claim that it is only fair since you are smarter than others.

I commented that the exams boring and useless content was similar to what we did at work. A hefty 80% of what we did, if we were ever allowed to reason, we would never accept to do. There was a general laugh. Only 80%?

I get the same feeling when I try to help my daughter with her maths problems. She won’t accept my explanations because "the teacher said it another way". On one occasion I managed to get her to reason it out. Next test in the class, she did the way I had taught her to but the teacher gave her a lower grade because "that’s not the way it had been taught in school". Now she has learnt not to think for herself and just learn the "teacher’s method" by heart. Incidentally, as Jeff notes in his work, the teachers insist on testing the kids with twists and tricks and not with the basic understanding.

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