Uncommon sense

In olden days, the core skill taught to schoolchildren was factual knowledge. How much is the square root of 289? In what year did the French storm the Bastille? People learned these facts even when they had no application whatsoever in practical life. (Have you ever had occasion to spell the word 'myrrh'?)

In these, ahem, enlightened days, the education system doesn't believe in all that nonsense. Instead, the value of learning facts has now been shifted to the value of learning to find facts. Your trusty old calculator can tell you that 17 times itself equals 289, and Google is aware of the fact that the French Revolution broke out in 1789.

The problem is, of course, that the facts are as useless as ever. Worse, many of today's 'resources' that claim to provide objective facts actually presented a selective or distorted view of reality and twist the 'facts' to accommodate some pet theory. Thanks to the Interweb®, misinformation now outnumbers information in many places (your spam-filled inbox amongst them).

What every child should learn, then, is to tell the truth from the lies by learning critical thinking. How is that people can convince you of something, even though it is false? How do people mislead you or trick you with arguments? In short: uncommon sense is what children and adults alike desperately need (myself included). I'll get back to this topic later.

Posted by cronopio at 12:13 PM, May 27, 2005