Monday, February 06, 2023

Notable Links Noted

 * Johan E. Gustafsson, Did Locke Defend the Memory Continuity Criterion of Personal Identity? (PDF)

* Rebecca K. DeYoung reviews Thomas M. Osborne, Jr's Thomas Aquinas on Virtue

* Wilfred Reilly, How Political Bias Explains Everything, at "Tablet"

* Donald L. M. Baxter, Identity Through Time and the Discernibility of Identicals (PDF)

* Derek S. King, Seeing the Face of Christ (PDF), on divine hiddenness arguments

* Jane Lymer, The Phenomenology of the Maternal-Foetal Bond (scroll down)

* Jennifer Fitz, Modesty for Priests

* Stephen Harrop, Academic freedom and adjunct instructors who aren't so free to speak, at "Boston Globe"

* Carl Hendrick, The evidence is clear: learning styles theory doesn't work, at "Aeon". When I was an undergrad, I had a few friends were Education majors, and they spent an extraordinarily amount of time with learning styles theory. But over time, it just became very obvious that nothing was really replicating. It's been certain for quite some time now that it was not effective, and yet I still come across traces of it.

Here is the dirty little secret: Nobody knows how to teach. Teaching gets done; basically, teachers work with students and some learning happens, and different teachers over time find things that seem to work through trial and error and a bit of imagination. But it becomes very clear that what works for one teacher won't necessarily work for another; a lot of things that seem very effective if you only look at one teacher turn out to work only because of the teacher's background familiarity or comfort or personality or preferred way of doing things. Some methods seem to work (like the Socratic method), but do not do so in any way that shows up consistently in any measurements we can make; they might be defended on intangible grounds, but it's difficult to prove to skeptics that they work, much less work better than any other method. Others sound like they would work, but when implemented don't have any consistent results. Since before my time there has been one and only one pedagogical method that measurably, consistently, and for every student demographic (equitably, as we would say today) delivers: rote drills. People will remember for decades finer points in which they were properly drilled. But very, very obviously, most of what needs to be taught in any field cannot be taught by rote drill.

A major reason for this in most cases is, I think, the Platonic one that teaching happens because of the student, not because of the teacher; the teacher is mostly just clearing things away and pointing out shortcuts, the actual act of teaching occurs in the student and is the same act as the act of learning -- learning is the act of the student insofar as we focus on the student, and teaching is the act of the student insofar as the student's doing it is related to the teacher. I think a crude recognition of this is behind the popularity of learning styles theory. But learning styles theory ran up against another major problem: nobody actually knows how they learn. The feeling of learning something is extremely deceptive; in cases of learning we all sometimes confuse the effectiveness of learning, which requires something that endures through time, with the ease with which we can process something in the here-and-now; we massively underestimate the number of different things that come together when we really learn something; we tend to assume, falsely, that if we like something we are learning from it.

I don't think this is a reason for pessimism in general; as I said, teaching very often does happen. But the great modern error here, as elsewhere, is assuming that all you need to solve a problem is the Magic Method. That would indeed be nice, no doubt; it just runs into the problem that sometimes there is no Magic Method, and things that look like Magic Methods, even sometimes for very modest problems, are sometimes just snake oil. One should be skeptical of methodism in education; despite the recurring temptation to it, it has always been one of the most devastatingly serious failures in human intellectual history. Teaching and learning, however, are part of who we are as human beings; we mostly do it naturally, not artificially.

* Liam Bright, The New Alexandria, at "The Sooty Empiric", discusses problems faced by contemporary analytic philosophy. I largely agree with it, although I think I would emphasize mounting infrastructural problems much more.

* John G. Brungardt, The Polyvalent Hierarchy of Wisdoms

* An interesting article on the upcoming beatification of the Ulm family, including if the article is accurate the unborn child in the womb, who were murdered by the Nazis for sheltering Jews.

* Michelle La Rosa, Why some pro-lifers think that 'free birth' should be the next policy goal, at "The Pillar". This is, I think, right, although it trickier ground than simply arguing for a universal basic right to life; despite continual attempts to treat it as simple, medical treatment is always a complicated tangle of rights, goods, standards (sometimes reasoned out but sometimes quite arbitrary and existing only because some standard is needed), and available materials.

* David Polansky, Against the hysterical consensus, at "The Critic", on American foreign policy

* David Kordahl, The Incommensurable Legacy of Thomas Kuhn, at "3 Quarks Daily"

* Sandrine Berges discusses do's and don't's in writing about women in the history of philosophy, all of it good advice.

* Richard Chappell, Don't valorize the void

* Meg Hunter-Kilmer, The CIA and the Rosary Priest: Venerable Patrick Peyton, CSC, at "Church Life Journal". This sort of thing is more common than usually recognized, I think; during the Cold War, both the First World and the Second World spent immense sums of money on a wide range of things, hoping to find something, anything, that would stick. Very famously, much of the success of abstract expressionism as an artistic movement was due to American intelligence patronage; the CIA spent large amounts of money backing abstract expressionists on the hope that abstract expressionism made people somehow or other less sympathetic to communism. It's also worth remembering that the same thing is happening even as we speak; the bugbears may have change, but modern governments fund all sorts of things on the idea -- sometimes reasonable, sometimes crackpot -- that it gives them some kind of advantage in some kind of political project.

* Sarah DeWeerdt, The peanut snack that triggered a fresh approach to allergy prevention, at "Nature"

1 comment:

  1. What do you think of Siegfried Engelmann’s Direct Instruction approach to education? There seems to be evidence that it’s more effective than many other approaches to teaching.


Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.