Sunday, April 06, 2008

Take note

I wince when I watch my daughter attend various coaching classes, take tons of notes and later commit to memory, thousands of Chemistry equations, hundreds of Physics formulae and pages and pages of theory. . The whole thing is a futile exercise as none of that stuff is going to help her cope with the real world, I feel. All that trivia and minutiae have a short shelf life- up to the examinations. And then she would discard all that junk from her brain and move on.

So, why do it at all? With so many ‘guide’ books available in the market, why should she attend lectures and take copious, hand-breaking notes? Why subject generations of students to this form of torture? What purpose does it serve?

Jonah Lehrer of Frontal Cortex offers this perspective:

It's easy to be misled into thinking that the real purpose of taking organic chemistry or "The 19th century English Novel" is to learn about benzene rings or the writing habits of Charles Dickens. But that's an illusion. What nobody bothers to tell you is that you will forget everything, that all those chemical equations will be purged from your hippocampus shortly after the semester is over.

Rather, the real purpose of all those big lecture classes is to teach you how to learn. You are being given an education in education, forced to develop the kind of thinking habits that will allow you to synthesize, memorize and analyze information later on, in real life. The content of the lecture notes is virtually irrelevant. What's important is the fact that you know how to take notes in the first place
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So - stretching the point beyond taking notes - education or a degree is not an end in itself. The process merely arms you with the basic tools to cope with the real world. You learn how to learn.

4 comments:

Santhosh C said...

I have also wondered about how education is touted to refine a person. It does condition the thought process too I suppose.

Usha said...

Absolutely. And that is a very insightful quote.

Raj said...

santhosh, it does. It is just a means to equip yourself with the right tools. You don't necessarily come out as a refined product.

Usha, thanks.

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