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Next entry: The girl who was in The Wonder Years is now a math wizz
Previous entry: Can you raise a kid to be a future millionaire?
Wednesday February 20 2008

imageCarlotta links to this letter about home schooling, quoting this from it:

The psychologist Frank Smith in The Book of Learning and Forgetting chronicles how the current schooling model has only been in existence for the last 120 years. It was based on a plan used to produce soldiers for the Prussian army.

Sounds interesting.  Google google.  Here it is.  And lots of reviews, which is the bit at Amazon I always find most helpful.  I knew there would be, because the home schoolers would be interested.

But, pointing out that education as we now know it was invented for the Prussian army doesn’t totally invalidate it.  It wasn’t nice, but in its own way and judged by its own standards, the Prussian army worked very well for quite a while.  It certainly trained soldiers more effectively and fearsomely than any of the other armies.  Can it simply be assumed that such methods are of no use in training any other sorts of people, to do other things besides fight battles?

It would certainly be nicer if Prussianism was only applied to those who have volunteered for it.  It can work now, still, if the expulsion threat really is (in the eyes of the tormented soldier) a threat, rather than a promise of early release.

My other reaction to this book (having read only the summary of it and some reviews of it) is that education is not only about teaching people things in such a way that they remember them for life.  It is also, among many other things, about teaching people to handle information under conditions of extreme stress - like battles, like examinations, and like business presentations or strategic arguments during crises.  Merely remembering everything that you learn is absolutely not the only point of education.  Employers like fancy exam results not because they expect him or her still to remember everything they learned for that long ago exam, but because doing well in that exam suggests being able to do well when pitched into other high stress circumstances, using whatever information they mugged up in the weeks, days and nights before, this time around.

But without having read the book, I am in no position to accuse its author of not realising this, and I don’t.