VIDYA.
January 6, 2018
ASTROLO.
January 10, 2018
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A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR.

The ‘David
Attenborough’ method of delivering scientific information – as
outlined by Will Ratcliff – proceeds from the assumption that human
beings are much better at absorbing complex information when the
information is presented in the frame of an interesting story.

There
are a couple of points that arise in my mind after reading
this.

First: Yes. Absolutely. This is why Carl Sagan was
such a force for good; he was able to make science interesting and
exciting for the average person. Carl Sagan could explain the concept
of the 4th dimension to you using simple English and
visual metaphors. This, in contrast to the stuffy data-driven rules
of essays and papers.

I remember learning those rules in
school, and finding it strange and difficult that we were not to
include the word ‘I’ in papers. It felt dishonest! To go back and
rewrite perfectly valid information because I hadn’t effectively
pretended that I did not exist. You cannot write an unbiased paper.
You cannot free yourself from bias. Trying to seems to, amazingly,
make your information less interesting and worth listening to. What,
at that point, is the point of writing it?

Second: This
doesn’t have to be limited to scientific information. The greatest
philosophical texts transfer their information through allegory,
parable, and most importantly, imagery. Rumi used poetry. The Bible,
the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, all use verse. There are countless ways
to envelop important or high-minded concepts in appealing exteriors,
easy-to-digest and remember for later sharing. Graham Hancock (author
of ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’) makes a stellar case for the
existence of an ancient, advanced civilization – by analyzing
mythology from around the world, and finding mathematical and
astrological information hidden within. If YOU wanted to ensure a
primitive culture remembered your complex calculations, you’d do
best to conceal them within the epic dramas of a pantheon.

‘A
spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.’

People
are not stupid. We are designed to learn, and our brains are very
good at it. But in my experience, you only ever learn what you’re
ready to learn – what you WANT to learn – and nobody can force
you to absorb information you don’t want to absorb. Conventional
education seems to rely mostly on ‘fear of long and short term
consequences’ to convince students to absorb information…and this
works, to an extent. The problem with it is the collateral
damage.

When you use fear as your primary motivator, and
trap people in a system in which they must either academically
perform or suffer punishment, you create a pavlovian association with
‘learning’ and ‘pain’ in the minds of your pupils. You may
get your short term results, your increased test scores or attendance
or grade point averages – but you will also inevitably saddle
countless students with a heavy load for life: academic anxiety.

I
am an intelligent person, and for several years outside of high
school, I could not be bothered to pick up a book. I had very little
interest in anything except playing video games, and the uninspired
work I did at various corporate restaurants was seen as a means to
that end. It was a bleak existence. I didn’t mind at the time,
because, hey, video games are very absorbing. But I wasn’t DOING
anything.

I suppose, in a sense, that I was doing
something; I was quietly healing from the spiritual damage my
education had inflicted on me, and these things take time. Eventually
I rediscovered the path of betterment. But it’s not like it was a
guaranteed rediscovery, and my re-orientation was as much to do with
luck as it was with fate. I am blessed to have grown as I have, and so I
cannot have regrets in a real sense, but I CAN make observations
related to my experience, and my observation is thus: School Is
Overrated.

Books – especially well-written books with
engaging stories and senses of humor about themselves – are NOT
overrated. I am certain that I would be more than capable of learning
rocket science if it were presented to me in a fun, approachable,
humble package that made the most out of the human capacity for joy.
In one sense, this is a cop-out on my part. I could likely learn
anything if I really wanted to. But that’s my point; if you’re
the AUTHOR of a piece of information and you truly wish for great
numbers of people to appreciate the information you are presenting,
then you should clearly have an interest in making that information
WANT-ABLE.

I find all of these ideas nourishing, and
affirming, as I have been planning my own allegorical tales for some
time now. But without this lens, I hadn’t totally seen the
potential. I can hide truth in any nooks and crannies of my art that
I choose to, and if I do it well, another being will eventually be
able to decipher it.

Even children can appreciate the
complex flavors of absynthe, if you serve it to them with a drop of
honey.

 

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