195 Countries – And the Seven Myths

One interesting, and almost genuinely surprising component of this exercise for me was seeing how often members of Daisy Christodoulou’s ‘Seven Myths’ made an appearance.

Daisy’s seven myths about education are:

  1. Facts prevent understanding
  2. Teacher-led instruction is passive
  3. The 21st Century fundamentally changes everything
  4. You can always look it up
  5. We should teach transferable skills
  6. Projects and activities are the best ways to learn
  7. Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

Of these seven, at least four cropped up in some form (in bold).  I won’t take much, if any, time to respond to them, since Daisy has already dealt with each in her book.  That said, I will undoubtedly have to touch on responses to some of these points over the next posts, which begin to set out the argument for why I believe the names and capitals of all the countries should be learnt; it’s unlikely to be possible to make that argument without addressing the issues raised here head-on.

Myth 1 – Facts Prevent Understanding

Regardless of your claim, this would indeed be a “meaningless rote exercise.”

Knowing locations and capitals will be the focus vs why people might need to know relative location and how it impacts people

I noted at in the previous post how some people I had also spoken to in person had misunderstood my intention when stating that I felt it would be a good idea for everyone to know all 195 countries and capitals.  In these discussions, they tended to voice their discomfort by explaining what they felt an education of that sort would miss out, specifically a deeper understanding of these countries and their place in the world relative to us.  As expressed in the comment quoted above, there was a feeling that it would lead to meaningless or rote knowledge.

I already addressed this point in the previous post, but it’s interesting to see how readily this fear manifests itself.

Myth 3 – The 21st Century Fundamentally Changes Everything

Because they change for a start. And because it’s a waste of mental energy.

Without context this <constantly changing> knowledge is meaningless. Whist it will be of importance to some, cartographers – even they will work in teams cross -checking etc.

To my mind, these comments seemed linked to myth 3.  The premise of myth 3 is that people perceive a world changing at an ever increasing rate, and so conclude there’s little point in learning anything; it’s all going to change soon anyway!

It is epitomised in the popular video Shift Happens.

Myth 4 – You Can Always Look It Up

“Why?

If it can be ‘Googled’ it’s not a great question to begin with.

Unless I’m on Jeopardy why do I need this info? ”

In the age of Google, why bother learning random information like the names of countries and their capitals. I would rather know the symbols of the elements

Comments - Twitter - No - 5

This is obviously one of the most pervasive myths.  When I posed my question to friends who were not involved in education in any way this was often their immediate go to explanation for why they felt it wasn’t necessary.  The trendy idea that in the Information Age we can always just Google anything we need from the device in our pocket is as surprisingly erroneous as it is difficult to move away from.

An explanation as to what the suggestion that ‘you can just Google it’ fails to take into account is given in American Educator by E.D. Hirsch, in the article “You can always look it up… Or can you?

Myth 7 – Teaching Knowledge is Indoctrination

Comments - Twitter - No - 6

Comments - Twitter - No - 1.2

Poe’s law is well known to the denizens of the Internet.  In brief, it states that it is impossible to tell the difference between extremist views, and a parody of extremist views.

I have to admit, on seeing these ones I was genuinely unsure if they were serious, but there they are.

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About Kris Boulton

Teach First 2011 maths teacher, focussed on curriculum design.
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One Response to 195 Countries – And the Seven Myths

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