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Momentum Learning and Linear Curricula

On Education and Learning



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In this chapter, we'll begin to focus our thoughts about education and learning. We'll do this by creating a list, a sort of brief contrast and compare between Momentum Learning and Emergence Learning. We'll also discuss the idea that most of what we teach, we present in linear predictable sequences, and how most graduates, years later, would fail academic competency tests because of this. So is linearity the culprit? We'll begin to look in this chapter on Momentum Learning and Linear Curricula.

The Four States of Learning

Chapter Four

Momentum Learning and Linear Curricula

So far, we've raised a few questions about how we learn. What makes it so hard. Why can't we retain more. In this chapter, we'll come up with a list of some of the questions we'll address in coming chapters. This is what the list looks like so far.

On Momentum Education
Behavioral Psychologists tell us that the deepest psychological reinforcement comes from intermittent reinforcement. We retain best what comes at us in ongoing but unpredictable sequences. Brain experts agree. They tell us our brains flag the unexpected; in Broca's area, to be exact.

If this is true then why do so many of our curricula unfold in predictable sequences, rather than in unpredictable sequences? The answer; we favor momentum learning over the more permanent variety. Why? Because we use parroting as our test for learning. And because kids taught with linear curricula parrot answers well.

Now consider what I've just said. Most schools organize their curricula in sequences of linear patterns. Yet the most permanent learning occurs in settings wherein the curriculum is non-linear.

Are you beginning to see my point?

On Revising Education
OK. So momentum learning is largely a waste of time. Pathetically poor retention. Especially for subjects such as English Composition or Calculus II, which many students will have little exposure to after graduation. In other words, after graduation, most educational momentum stops. All too soon, then, most students will have forgotten what they supposedly learned so well. So much for final exams as a measure of learning, eh?

So is emergent learning the answer? In the long run, yes, it is. In fact, it is the single most important investment we could ever make in our kids. And in our future. The question is, how do we even know where to begin, when so much of our world is based on the false promises and empty certifications of momentum learning?

Not sure what I mean? Ask yourself this. If you were to have to take an exam today, a test for competence in whatever career you now practice, could you pass? What about if your MD were to be tested for competency today. Would she or he pass? How about your plumber? Or telephone repairman? Or your child's third grade teacher. Would they pass? In truth, I'm not sure I could pass either, even though I daily help people heal their lives.

Here's my point. How many people, if tested today, could pass competency tests for their current careers? Twenty percent? Five percent? Whatever the case, the thought is scary.

Am I being too harsh? Please forgive me. I mean no disrespect. All the same, consider this. What would happen if we all had to take competency tests today. Could you pass? Could your friends? In truth, we all know that what I've just said is accurate. We usually just hide this truth from ourselves except in cases wherein we get screwed by someone obviously less competent than we are. Then we complain to high heaven about how education means nothing. And how incompetent people are.

What would happen if we were to admit this truth? What if we admitted that college degrees mean almost nothing as far as ensuring competency?

And what if we all had to regularly pass competency tests, tests which were based on creatively exhibiting real solutions rather than on simply parroting other peoples solutions? What would happen to our world?

At first, I would think, we would all feel really scared. To be honest, we should feel scared. Our educational system is, for the most part, a lie on a par with the Emperor's New Clothes. Think I'm being too hard on educators? Well, consider this. I personally know some amazingly good educators, the kind I'd send my own child to if I had a school aged child at home right now. I even know them to be genuinely motivated toward changing children's lives. Even so, they work in a system wherein parroting is the norm. So how much of the time can they offer the kids their wonderful energy?  Once a month, if they're lucky.

So what about all the incompetent educators, the ones who believe in parroting?  Does it sound like I'm blaming them for the flaws in the system? Please know, in truth, I'm not. This is not their fault either. In fact, there is no one to blame for the mess we're in. You see, we have all been victims of momentum learning. This means we must all take responsible for the mess we are in. As well as for developing a genuine educational system, one in which children get real opportunities in which to discover the joy in learning. God knows, our kids deserve this.

Where can we begin to take responsibility? By admitting that we have been blaming the failure of education on our children's teachers and principals, and on the kids themselves. Neither teachers nor the kids are to blame. They have all been forced to conform to the "standards." Translation. Teachers are graded for competency based on how well their students parrot information. No surprises here. After all, how do you think they got tenure? They got tenure by parroting the very same information they teach their kids.

On Emergent Education
So what can we do to improve education? We could opt to put more efforts into matching teachers to kids. How? For one thing, by using Emergence Personality Theory's Social Priority Tests to match students to their teachers. These six question tests do a pretty good job of matching teachings and students by learning styles. And they take only minutes to administer.

Unfortunately, the current tests apply only to teenaged students and older. We have yet to design Social Priority Tests for younger children. Can we design tests for younger children? I'm certain we can. However, we need educators who are willing to join with us in order to bring these tests into being. We need their experience and their expertise. And to be honest, we would love to have you join us in this, no matter who you are. After all, investing in children is the best investment any of us could even make. And the most potent self learning environment as well.

What else could we be doing? We could begin to explore non-linear curricula, for one thing. Admittedly, designing and refining these curricula could take years. Even so, when you consider the alternative; continuing to ignore incompetence and the failures of parroted learning; this investment would  be more than worth our efforts. Even investing in decades of efforts.

So where should we begin? In truth, you already have, simply by reading, not skimming, this very article.

Do you disagree with me on what I've been saying? Then rather than simply choosing to rebut these ideas, get out these and prove me wrong, by investing some time in exploring these topics for yourself. And please do not simply read other peoples' work either. No way. Go out there and personally investigate how our kids are being taught. Or try to learn something new yourself. You may be surprised at how your whole world opens up.

Finally, lest you hear these opinions as merely the scattered thoughts of a disenchanted teacher, let me tell you, what I've written here is backed up by more than a decade of my own research. It's also being practiced by at least one teacher. His name is Scott, and he is literally blowing kids away with how he gets them to love reading and writing. The sad thing is, it took him four years before he found the courage to risk his license in order to truly teach kids. Not that he was ever a bad teacher. He wasn't. It's just that now, he is an awesome teacher. And a courageous one at that.

On What's Next
So what's coming next? We're going to explore how teaching-by-questioning questions is the place to explore. The teachers in the Emergence Teachers Group and I have been exploring this method of learning for some six months now. We have found that it is a viable and potent way to learn for oneself. And a way to build personal connections between teachers and students.

Can't picture what I'm describing? You can find plenty of examples on a variety of topics by going to our web site and clicking on the No Parroting! link. There you'll find a slew of teaching-by-questioning questions examples, some of which may provoke new learning in you. Or at least make you curious. Which may then lead you to want to make some of the very differences I've been talking about for the kids in your life. Go for it!

People, Places, and Unusual Terms I've Referred to in This Chapter

Broca's Area
The area of the brain that is involved in language processing, speech production and comprehension. Significant in that it flags our attention when we hear unexpected grammar and syntax in language.

Emergent Education
In essence, an education based on teaching children fractal sequences of non linear learning. Here, logic and facts exist but only as a bridge to true realizations. Thus emergent based education sees emergent activities spaced over the course of childhood as the best way to prepare children for life. The focus here is on having children rediscover concepts for themselves. This differs markedly from education which focuses on creating enough momentum in children to enable them to be able to parrot information on standardized tests. In a way then, emergent education teaches children to reinvent the wheel rather than to imitate "wheel makers." Thus, conformity is tolerated but not at the expense of originality.

Emergence Personality Theory
A non linear theory of personality wherein the birth separation moment is the beginning of personality. Sometimes pictured as a set of ten Russian Nesting Dolls, sometimes as a ten layered onion, this theory posits personality as a developmentally interdependent nested system of fractals.

Momentum Education
Essentially, an education based on teaching children linear sequences of memorized facts and logical learning. Hence this chapter's title: Momentum Learning and Linear Curricula. Here, true realizations happen but only accidentally. Thus momentum based education sees sequential activities spaced over the course of childhood as the best way to prepare children for life. The focus here is on creating enough momentum in children to enable them to be able to correctly parrot information on standardized tests and beyond. This differs markedly from education which focuses on having children rediscover concepts for themselves. In a way then, momentum education teaches children to imitate "wheel makers" rather than to reinvent the wheel. Thus, originality is tolerated but not at the expense of conformity.

Social Priority Tests
A collection of nine question tests which ask "would you prefer this or this" questions. From these nine questions then, children and their teachers can be personally matched by both Social Priority (a fractal personality preference which develops within the first four years of life) and Character Type (a fractal which reveals a person's default preference for either giving or receiving, or both).


Education and Learning 1Education and Learning Week 2Education and Learning Week 3Education and Learning Week 4Education and Learning Week 5Education and Learning Week 6Education and Learning Week 7Education and Learning Week 8Education and Learning Week 9Education and Learning Week 10
Learning and Education Series - Week 11Learning and Education Series - Week 12Learning and Education Series - Week 13Learning and Education Series - Week 14Learning and Education Series - Week 15Learning and Education Series - Week 16Learning and Education Series - Week 17Learning and Education Series - Week 18Learning and Education Series - Week 19Learning and Education Series - Week 20
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