Aims for Examination and Education

I’m not entirely sure of the origin of this quote, which I’ve found in several places on the web:

“The education system is so geared toward fact drilling and rote memorization that students often exit with a head full of dates and formulas, but without the ability to constructively think. Now, if we readjusted the testing and educational system to focus on critical reasoning rather than memorization, then even if we knew fewer facts off the top of our heads — we would be smarter overall. We would take a step toward doubt – and a step toward thinking for ourselves.”

I heartily agree with the sentiment; although I think that to properly learn from the mistakes of the past one needs substantial fact recall as well as critical thinking ability. I have much less problem with tests and examinations when they test this kind of skill: metaphorically, how well you can fish as opposed to how many fish you have brought with you to the exam? In practical terms, it’s very difficult to test e.g. pure reasoning skills with no assumed (memorized) facts or axioms. Nevertheless, it’s something that I’d like to see more of in all tests in all walks of life; hence, training for that exercise should be a core element of all teaching. Independent, accurate exercise of reason (and its congnates in the physical arts) is our greatest potential as human beings, and all that separates us from being mere slaves or machines.

That really opens the door to a very big discussion on free will and how deterministic the universe really is, but let’s put a pin in that one, okay? 🙂


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