Testing Stuff: Metacognition and Character

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"I have to read this to you!"

She's already in bed, happily browsing the internet with the iPod I got her for Christmas. "It turns out that rats have metacognition!"

She's ecstatic. This latest insight gives her even more reason to love Rambo the Rat, happily consuming his dinner pellet in his cage in the basement below us. He may be able to determine his knowledge of a subject--like "is this edible?"--but he doesn't care much about that skill. He just wants to know if anyone is going to swing by to give him seconds.

Brittany and Rambo

I smile at my wife. "How'd you find that?"

"I googled 'do rats have metacognition?' and it's the second one down."


Scientists have known about this for three years now. But I've only been aware of it for about 18 hours. Still, it got me thinking: What kinds of things do we think about thinking about?


My mom presents something at one of Sonlight's large group prayer meetings every month. This morning she talked about how we teach character. She recently read The Wisdom of Pixar by Robert Velarde (who works 10 feet from me once a week here at Sonlight). She was inspired by the book's presentation of virtue and talked about how stories seem to be the best way to teach goodness. Christ, she noted, used many parables when He walked the earth.

And this is why Sonlight has no formal tools to teach character.


That's because we, like the scientists developing clever ways of testing metacognition in rats, are more interested in what our children think about virtue than their ability to recreate pat answers on worksheets.

Read more about this reason NOT to buy Sonlight...

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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