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This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hofstadter, Chapter 5: Recite after me...

Apparently the "recitation" method of instruction involved students memorizing texts and then showing up to class to either recite from memory (worst case) or answer questions (best case).  There was no intellectual excitement in this (obviously), so the introduction of lectures was seen as a way of bringing more excitement and interesting, informed perspectives into the classroom.

I think the most important lesson here is that any educational method that becomes primarily about the promulgation of facts, whether by memorization from books or memorization from lectures, is doomed to fail.  On the other hand, the analysis of important ideas and solution of problems is education at its best.  The hard part is that really chewing on meaty ideas is hard, not everybody rises to the occasion, and so you either have to maintain some meritocratic elitism or dumb things down.  The current zeitgeist in the academy is embarrassed about that, and so the "sage on the stage" is a target of scorn in part because of the elitism inherent in the idea of an expert voice being the center of any part of an instructional session.

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