IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Why do we learn to construct main ideas in school?
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, July 12, 2008 - 11:14 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Mending Wall by Robert Frost Wiki ScienceDaily This report shows that good fences (international boarders) are "good" for strong states but "bad" for weak states.

Ben asks "I guess I wonder this: Why do we learn to construct main ideas in school? ... I suppose I could ask "Why do we learn to tell main ideas in school?," but that suggests they exist empirically, rather than having a more subjective existence relative to each person's nervous systems and evaluation."

If by "empirically", you mean something that can be "measured", then these so-called "main ideas" can be measured empirically through the process of asking people to summarize the story. They may not have "physical" "existence", but they do have a measuable "relative invariance" in the abstract summaries produced by readers familiar with the culture. They are part of our semantic-symbolic virtual "reality", and learning to construct/find them in stories in school is part of time-binding - the part where individuals learn how the symbols in our culture have been used. Some evolutions and change takes place, but not so much as to make the symbols "lose the association" that is taught to youngsters. True, some slang terms come into use and go out of favor in as short a time as a season. What's "hot" this year is "cool" the next, and so on. But the vast majority of our symbols exhibit a munch longer life of relative invariance, with mathematical terms perhaps showing the longest peiods, with science close behind. Cultural traditions also take a long time to change, and the symbols - words, stories, etc., - a correspondingly long time. We still teach many of Aesop's fables, the Arabian Nights, Grimm's fairy tails, "Santa clause", "A Christmas Carol", "It's a Wonderful Life" (Jimmy Stuart movie), and many more. By gaining feedback from listening to others interpretations of "main ideas" and the teacher's we see a pressure to conform and to learn to use symbols consistently with each other. The learning process extends past the (a) "main idea" of a story, to all the words and sentences used in discussing it, including the grammar, as well as exposures to each other's semantic reactions to the words, sentences, and abstractions. A physical phenomenon which we call "resonance" in which objects tend to vibrate at their common natural frequency operates in the process of intearction verbally and non-verbally in the school context thus pressuring - through Maslow's need to belong and for approval - to bring a significant percentage of the class into agreement as to the "right" answers - and thereby continue to propagate the "virtual symbolic and semantic" reality forward in time for future generations who will learn from these students.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, July 12, 2008 - 03:40 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

My fourth link above timed out, so I put a copy here

Ben asks "I doubt we learn to generalize for the sake of GS in school; for what sake(s) do we learn in school to generalize?" I don't think we learn to generalize in school; we have evolved to generalize with cortex circuity evolved to draw distinctions, boundaries, and evaluate "relative value" to immediate needs and long term needs. In school we learn how to apply that well developed ability in our symbolic environments - in the multi-level hieararchy of map organization that dominates our everyday existence (except possibly for a few hermits). We are also taught maps of those symbolic environments and how to apply those maps to what we see, hear, etc. But "school" is only a small organized part of all the learning we are exposed to. School passes on some traditional academic "standards" (official) as well as a host of interacting possibilities (unofficial) such as social position, prejudices, power politics, competition in the symbolic environment, and much more. Think multiple causality and try to make a list of all the things that one is exposed to or learns while attending school, not just the subjects taught by teachers. We get our abstracting and categorizing capabilities from our evolved brain structures; we just have to have it adapted for our varying cultures we have to learn to navigate. We have created organizations to impart some standard "learning" possibilities, expecting that the recipients of that training will become "fine upstanding citizens of our culture" (whichever one you are a part of). "Being" such a "fine upstanding citizen" means that you know the accepted questions and the "right" answers to them, including how to summarize common (traditional) stories. We survive as a species by means of community, and that means mostly cooperation and mostly conformity.

How far away from common norms can "improv" be taken before it exceeds the boundaries of accepability, and is no longer deemed "good" or even "passingly adequate"?

I once heard that "good music" contains enough of the familiar for a person to get ahold of it and enough of the unfamiliar to make it seem fresh. Too much unfamiliar makes it unrecognizable as music.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, July 26, 2008 - 09:52 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

"Art" vs "discipline"

If you hold a twisted pair of threads by one end using an insulated holding device (rubber glove, etc.,) and then you apply a static electric charge to the thread, the hanging ends will begin to separate from each other and un-twist forming a curved upsidedown "Y" shape. Call the ends "fun" and "discipline". (Yes, I change "art" to "fun" - due to the "improv" context.) Call the end you are holding "a generalization". Call the separated ends a "differentiation"; call the joined end a "unification". A little experimentation will show that the more the charge (energy) applied, the greater the separation that will be achieved.

The principle is everywhere in physics. Hot and cold tend to mix and form warm/cool - it takes effort to keep them apart. Two gasses will mingle; energy (mass - barrier) is required to keep them apart.

The moral of this is: relax (reduce "tension/energy") in the persuit of a discipline and you can have more "fun" with it.

Relax and the discipline can be "fun".