The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blank Slates and Children

The past few weeks, I have been seeing ads for Khan Academy. I have no problem with the academy or its goals. I do, however, have a problem with the structure and tone of its ads.

The opening line is "No one is born smart" and then goes on explaining how Einstein had to learn to tie his shoes or the alphabet and so on. It's true, we must learn these things and much more. Because we can be born smart but we are not born with the knowledge we must have to live and function in this world.

In fact, a great many people are born smart. There is a vast difference between being smart and being knowledgeable. I have talked about this before. I believe that we are born with a finite ability to learn; some have more potential than others but we are all capable of learning. As soon as we are born, we begin our learning. I like to think of it as "human programming." That is, we start out as blank slates; like a new computer. It can perform basic functions but it must be programmed (taught) to do the things we want it to do. How do we "teach" the computer? We install programs. We tell it who we are, we give it a name, we remove programs the manufacturer thought we would want and install other programs that we do think we'll need and use.

We do much the same with children. We teach them right and wrong, we teach them the ABC's, we teach them numbers, and we teach them to read so they can teach themselves. Reading is the "bootstrap" program of life, in my opinion. With that skill, you do not really need someone to teach you anything more. I learned to read about age six. I was already reading a bit before I was formally taught and, yes, I had those silly "Dick and Jane" books but it was comic books that made me want to read. I wanted to know what the words in the balloons above the characters heads meant, I wanted to understand why the pictures showed what they did and I understood that those words, that jumble of letters and spaces would provide that information.

We spend the first 4-5 years of our lives being programmed in how to function in the company of others. Our parents are primarily in charge of that programming. I believe that period of our lives is where we the foundation for our lives is created.

And I am offended when I seen and hear an ad that claims we are stupid at birth. We are not. But, like the ad eventually reveals, we can learn just about anything.


Vagabonde said...

What is ‘smart’ really? I believe that some people are more intelligent than others. At work, some people could grasp problems very quickly and some others had to be told, again and again – slow learners. In a way I also think that people are born gifted or not. For example my younger daughter was so advanced that I had to take her to Georgia State on Saturdays while she was in elementary school and while she was in high school she also went to college – at the same time! And she hardly studied – would read something and would remember it almost verbatim. She is a physician now, specializing in brain diseases.
How one is taught as a child makes a difference, but if there is not a great amount of little grey cells – then forget it! I have heard that the biggest difference between people is not culture – it is between people who read, and people who don’t. I think at birth we are born with intelligence, but it is just a start.

Douglas said...

I think many people mistake "knowledgeable" for smart. having a college degree doesn't make you smart but getting one does say you have discipline and the intelligence to grasp the concepts at least until the testing is done. I think I could have skipped a grade or two easily enough but that wasn't policy when I was in school. I also think that a good memory (like your younger daughter's) is a sign of intelligence.