Conceptual Errors of the Liberalized School System

The successive reforms that "liberalized" the school education 30 years ago are implicitly based in a number of false notions of the intellectual development of a child, on the mechanisms of cerebral activity, memory, thinking, motivation and learning. These gross errors eviscerated the educative process, converting it into a useless waste of time for a great majority of at least 80% of all pupils.
The concept of possibility of arbitrarily accelerated intellectual development of a child

The insistence of the reformed school to develop Critical, Creative and Independent Thinking (CC&IT), starting from the 1st year of the primary school, implies the assumption that it is possible to develop CC&IT in average children of 6 to 9 years of age. This is false, as we all know from our personal experience that CC&IT appears in fact in puberty, and not before that. Clearly this makes every sense from the biological point of view, as only at such age a human being becomes physically capable of constituting his/her own family. In fact, and contrary to the concept of the intellectual development of a child, adopted implicitly at School, the children of 6 to 9 years have perfectly developed capacities of memorization and imitation (M&I) instead, which also makes perfect sense biologically – at this age, a child will have difficulty in surviving alone, needing all the possible help, which includes all the information transmitted by the surrounding adults, consciously or unconsciously.

Therefore, by insisting to use and further develop in these children the capacities of CC&IT instead of capacities of M&I, the educator tries to perform a fait impossible – to use capacities that are physically absent, in a vast majority of cases. The reaction of a class may actually demonstrate some indications of the presence of CC&IT, although in fact the children are only doing what they know how to, and what are well capable of: imitating the adult (teacher), searching and interpreting keys and hints, given by the teacher, explicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciously. Thus, they do something similar to a circus trick of a magician, who can find a coin in a room full of people, taking clues from the behaviour of these same people, although not reading their mind as he claims he does. The desired result is achieved both in the classroom and in the circus, although by ways completely different from the alleged ones.

This conceptual error has fatal consequences in studies of every discipline in the curricula of primary and secondary school, and in the first place, of disciplines that require the use of abstract thinking, such as Mathematics or Philosophy.

The intellectual capacities of a pupil are developing in a natural rhythm, each one at its proper time, and can not be created arbitrarily at any time, idealized by our sheer will, in absence of physiologically essential conditions. We should not waste the time and effort of the pupil and the teacher uselessly, trying to achieve the impossible.

The concept of learning without memorization or memory training

The reformed School had got rid of all of the memorization exercises in all of the textbooks of the school curriculum, of every year of study and in every discipline. This has been done in order to develop CC&IT in a pupil, without constraints or restrictions imposed by any memorized knowledge. Apart from the impossibility, already discussed, to obtain the required CC&IT in young children, this decision has even more serious consequences, destroying the entire track of intellectual development of an average pupil.

Firstly, the lack of memory development exercises fatally damages the normal development of systematized long-term memorization capacities in an average pupil, which do not develop without such exercises. In the same way as a sportsman can’t obtain good results without arduous and prolonged training, pupils are unable to develop their capacities without hard intellectual work, such as required, for instance, when facing a challenge to learn a poem by heart.

As a consequence, without a properly developed capacity for long-term associative memorization, average pupils have to study from scratch for every test, as they remember nothing of what they have been taught previously, and can’t use any such previous knowledge. Such pupils are unable to relate and conjugate different pieces of knowledge, because they just have none of that knowledge in their heads.

On the other hand, there exists knowledge that has to be learned by heart, or else it loses any usefulness, for instance, because it can’t be deduced neither from our daily experience nor the information available for solving the respective problem. One of such cases, namely, that of tsunami in Indonesia, will be discussed in another chapter. The lack of memorized knowledge fatally impairs the studies of disciplines that require abstract thinking and are based on definitions, leading to generalized failure of pupils in Mathematics, the language of all Sciences.

Therefore, typical pupils are completely crippled in disciplines that require some abstract thinking, such as Mathematics or Philosophy, and consequently badly impaired in Sciences. These disciplines are based on definitions, which have to be memorized, otherwise pupils can not understand, for example, what is written on a page of mathematical formulas, as they can’t even remember the priority rules of arithmetic operations. In this particular case, as in many others, the rules have to be memorized, and there is no other way to achieve the desired results.

In this context, the insistence of the School to teach without memorizing, but relying only on the pupils’ capacity to learn to deduce the knowledge that they may need seems absurd and deprived of good sense – once again, we can’t expect humanly impossible things to happen by recurring miracle.

Concept of thinking based on images

The attempts of our School to teach to read using the visual (global) method are implicitly based on the notion that human beings build their thinking on a visual image of the word, instead of the image of the respective sound, and thus better memorize visual images, rather than sonic images. To understand the folly of this notion, we should recall that during the larger part of its course of tens of thousands of years the development of human civilization was based on oral communication, whereas written communication only appeared 5 or 6 thousand years ago, and thus hardly had enough time to significantly affect the evolution of the human brain. Thus, during tens of thousands of years all the existing knowledge had been transmitted orally, from one generation to another, and memorized in the form of the sonic images of words, but not in the form of their visual image, as writing had been unknown at that time. The same still happens in primitive tribes and some animal species, with the pre-language evolution adding a still longer period of brain adaptation to sonic communication.

Although every concrete notion may be memorized in the form of an image of the respective object, the more abstract notions can hardly be represented in the brain in this manner, due to the absence of the respective images. Apart from this, the number of concrete objects which we encounter in our daily life is much inferior to the number of different words, which may correspond to such objects (nouns) or to the respective actions (verbs), as there are many different grammatical forms for each word.

Indeed, in ideographic Chinese and Japanese writings we must note both the limited number of images, always associated to the respective syllables and sounds, which a pupil needs to study and know (about 1000 at the secondary school level), and a significantly larger effort demanded from the respective pupils, as compared to the Occidental pupils, showing larger costs of image memorization as compared to sound memorization. This cost comparison could be interpreted in terms of the information contents of the respective information units.

Thus, we see that the capacity to process sounds and use their mental images in thinking has arisen earlier in our history, and is more and better developed in our brain, requiring much lesser effort than the capacity to process images.

As a consequence of teaching to read by the visual (global) method, the pupils only learn to visually recognize a very limited number of words, never learning to read new unknown words, as they can’t build syllables from letters, or words from syllables. It is easy to verify the existence of this calamity by way of a simple reading test, using text with unknown words – for example, in a foreign language, naturally, using the same alphabet. Such pupils are usually unable to understand what they are reading, jumping over the unknown words, incapable of reading them and discovering their significance. The visual (global) method is the major reason of the generalized scholar failure in Portuguese, compounding the learning difficulties in all the other disciplines across the scholar curriculum.

The concept of learning without effort or stress

The School wagers on learning without effort or serious work, avoiding any stress to the pupils. In order to avoid stress at all cost, the disciplined behaviour is not imposed in the classroom, and it is not necessary to learn anything at all but heart, with the lessons reduced mostly to games and discussions.

Although pupils have natural curiosity, they also have laziness inherent to any live being, which tries to avoid effort, if at all possible. The school should direct this curiosity to the learning process, stimulating the pupil to learn, to memorise and to think. On the other hand, the pupils, whose intellectual capacities are already underdeveloped, by the action of the entire collection of the conceptual errors that we are discussing, avoid at all cost any intellectual effort, extremely distressing for them, preferring to execute tasks that require no such effort, or else find occupations foreign to the process of learning, both in the classroom and at home.

Physiologically, stress is an even stronger motivation for learning than curiosity. Stressed and disturbed, the live being tries to learn the ways to avoid being bothered in the future. Therefore, eliminating from the learning process all the factors that may trouble the pupils in some way, such as strict order in the classroom, exigency towards the pupils both in the classroom and at home, necessity to know (know by heart, or else know perfectly at any time of day or night) anything at all, the School creates learning difficulties for a great majority of pupils, which do not have their learning motivations properly conditioned by family or society.

The concept of teaching and learning by mutual aid of the pupils

The group tasks, which teachers use very frequently, as such tasks allow to improve evaluation of genuinely weak pupils without any effort or hard work by the same pupils and allow the teacher to avoid evaluating the real knowledge of each pupil, are based on the idea that weak pupils can learn from the better pupils, when they are doing something together.

This concept has been implemented in several European countries, starting from the beginning of the last century, with no success, as it was quickly dropped due to undesirable counter-productive effects. Namely, instead of motivating the weaker pupils to learn, it causes the better pupils to loose their motivation, as the weaker pupils would typically leave all the work (see the previous point, on the natural laziness) for the better pupils. The better pupils have to work much more, receiving an evaluation below their expectations, due to the reasons that may include the lack of participation of their weaker colleagues, subjective evaluation of the capacities of their working group by the teacher, who knows that the weaker pupils would never be able to do the task on their own, and the complexity of the relations with the rest of the class, consisting predominantly of the weaker pupils, which, however, are trying to affirm themselves among their peers.

The usage of this concept at School results in the subversion of the educative process, destroying its moral foundations, as it allows the teachers to approve pupils who have no knowledge, on one side, and on the other side degrades the evaluation of the strongest pupils.

Measures proposed

Reinstate the scientific validity of the curricula and teaching methods used at School, as we discuss in the other chapters:

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