Why Bother Teaching? They'll Forget It All Anyway

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Last week I mentioned that daily lessons aren't nearly as important as how your children develop. Like you, they will end up forgetting much--most?--of the details of what they learn in school. But this raises a question:

Why bother teaching kids stuff they're going to forget?

Erased Lessons

I'm not an expert. I'm a guy who grew up homeschooling and has succeeded to various degrees in every educational venue I've encountered. My theories and ideas are based on what little I've read and heard, and a lot on my own experiences. That's why I'd love your input on this. But in my estimation...

  1. We use everything we learn. My mom says this often, and it's proven largely true in my life. Spanish? I've forgotten most of it, but I've used it. It's amazing how practical knowledge can be. <smile>
  2. You build off ideas, even if you forget the facts. It's true that I've forgotten things like the Ludlow massacre, but my exposure to such events have helped shape my ideas about business, government, personal responsibility, and economics. The fact that I forget the details of what Brittany and I talked about last week doesn't negate the reality that spending time with my wife strengthens our relationship. Gaining knowledge, even if you "lose it," is a vital part to developing our perspective on the world.
  3. Academics are important. There's a impulse to brush off academic knowledge/skill in favor of character. But this would miss an important nuance of reality: Working to prove ourselves academically is part of building our character. I firmly believe that character is important, but remember that academic excellence is part of that.
  4. We remember more than we let on. Memory is a funny thing. When my pastor asks us to remember something he preached on the week before, I draw a blank. But when he mentions the key idea or one of the stories he told, it all floods back. I don't know the physiology or psychology behind this phenomenon, but I see a distinction between recall and retention. In school, the focus is regurgitation (recall) so you can reproduce on a test what you were shown in class. But when I fail--yet again--to bring to mind how many tablespoons are in a cup, it's an indication that I haven't used it enough to have it in that part of my mind. When I verify that it is, indeed, 16, I'm not surprised. Instead, I find myself saying, "Oh, that's right."
  5. Learning builds pathways. I've been told that learning a second language helps you think better. Learning a third increases your creativity of thought even more. By the time you hit eight, you're, like, amazing. Or something like that. And this model works for all knowledge. Learning math helps with music. Building things helps with math. Music helps with writing. And on and on the various disciplines connect and intersect. Even if you forget "everything," your brain has developed a new way of seeing the world, and you are able to learn and do more. But since I have yet to master a second language, what do I know?

There are, I'm sure, more reasons to take the time to teach kids stuff. What are your reasons for doing so?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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  1. Pingback: Why We Learn Even Though We Forget | Sonlight Blog