A Better Way for Children and Adults to Learn

Excerpts from “The Future of Learning”

Mental tension occupies the mind with worry and stress-producing anxiety. All of this interferes with learning which can only occur in what we call “in the now,” or the present moment. Thinking out can only occur in the now. So all tension, mental and physical interferes with learning. Tension drains attention and the ability to focus. And physical tension drains energy. Anything that diverts attention and energy will adversely affect learning.

… Tension is an unconscious response to a stressful environment. Remove the stress in the environment and the tension will disappear… tension within the traditional system is based on certain learning modalities which are inherent in the system: on cramming for tests, on memorizing, on rote learning and on home work.

… within the traditional dis-educational system™, students come to class with tension, with expectations and with anxieties, all of which create more tension. There is an immediate association created of “I’ll try.” or “I don’t know if it will work, but I’ll try anyway.” Thus, with expectation and anxiety there is tension, made more intense by trying; and the tension is saying “not to relax.”

… The wonder of the subconscious mind is that it acts like an eternal sponge, soaking in everything, encoding it in the mind forever. Any tension, however, will close rather quickly the doors to the subconscious mind. __ The Future of Learning

The excerpts above describe a revolutionary approach to learning developed by a former member of the French Resistance in WWII, a man named Michel Thomas. In his life’s work after the aftermath of the war, Thomas applied his method to the accelerated teaching of foreign languages. Some of his many students included celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, Bill Murray, Emma Thompson, Melanie Griffith, and Pierce Brosnan, among others.

Although Thomas died over a decade ago, his method lives on in books, audiotapes, and video documentaries of his work. And the relevance of his approach to learning will only grow stronger with each passing year.

Language Learning is Relatively Easy for Children Compared to Adults

The minds of young children are indeed like sponges. Children are impatient to learn and to know, and as long as they see results they are content to chip away at a learning task day by day, year by year. If their efforts are well directed and the feedback they get is honest and relevant to their goals, they get better and better.

Children can accomplish wonders in the world of learning — including the learning of multiple languages — if given the opportunity and a good enough reason. For example, if multiple languages are spoken actively within the child’s own home, the child will want to join in so as not to be left out.

For children growing up in monolingual households, it will take just a bit more effort to establish mail or electronic “pen pal” connections or “skype language learning partners.” Beyond exposing the child to the possibility of enlarging his world and using due diligence in monitoring the exposure, monolingual adults are likely to find themselves being pulled into the learning experience.

In the absence of unusual stress, young children gulp in knowledge like a drowning person gulps in air. Adults, being typically under considerable stress, do not learn so easily. But under the right conditions, adults could learn so much more.

For Adults, Learning Foreign Languages is Too Often an Exercise in Futility

Many adults try to learn languages, but fail repeatedly. With each failure, a bit more of the initial enthusiasm and confidence is eroded. Eventually, most people tend to give up on ever becoming fluent in multiple languages. But what if it is the learning and training systems that are at fault, rather than the person’s age and maturity?

Now Adults Can Master a Foreign Language in Just 3 Days!

No, actually that would be fantasy. What the revolutionary language instructor Michel Thomas actually provided was a solid basis for competence in a language. This “nuts and bolts” level competence provided a solid foundation on which learners should have no problem building into the future.

Thomas claimed that his students could “achieve in three days what is not achieved in two to three years at any college”[1][2] (“three days” meaning sessions as long as eight or ten hours per day, although students claimed not to experience the lessons as over-intensive, but actually enjoyable and exciting), and that the students would be conversationally proficient.[3] ___ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Thomas_Method

Who Was Michel Thomas?

Born Moniek Kroskoff in Poland, he later adopted the code name “Michel Thomas” as his own, while working with the French resistance in WWII France and later with US Army counter intelligence. After the war he worked with American intelligence ferreting out secret nests of Nazi SS officers hiding in Europe from justice. After that, he moved to the US and developed “The Michel Thomas Method” for teaching foreign languages.

Michel Thomas (born Moniek Kroskof, February 3, 1914 – January 8, 2005) was a polyglot linguist, and decorated war veteran. He survived imprisonment in several different Nazi concentration camps after serving in the Maquis of the French Resistance and worked with the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II. After the war, Thomas emigrated to the United States, where he developed a language-teaching system known as the Michel Thomas Method. __ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Thomas

The Michel Thomas Method of learning is laid out in the book, The Future of Learning: The Michel Thomas Method. While the primary application for the Michel Thomas Method has been for language learning, the principles involved can be applied to any subject area.

Stress is toxic to the deep mental processes that are involved in the levels of understanding that lead to long lasting and generative knowledge formation. Since most parts of modern education are built upon stressful traditions and experiences, it is no wonder that most “school knowledge” is superficial, and easily forgotten. This is as true for school-taught foreign language courses as it is for most subjects taught using conventional curricular methods.

The only comfort we can derive from the dysfunctional systems of education that predominate today, is that modern brainwashing and indoctrinating are also likely to be forgotten eventually. Unfortunately, the very real stunting of young minds that accompanies the modern indoctrination process is largely irreversible. The sin is more one of omission than commission.

Many Adults Will Not Regain the Enthusiasm of Early Learning

Even if a relatively stress-free environment can be provided for adults — for sufficient periods of time to learn — most adults will have been stripped and battered by earlier education experiences. They will find it hard to muster the energy to work the learning experience again and again, until progress is made.

This is the tragedy of most modern approaches to education and child-raising. Out of ignorance, neglect, and ideological misguidedness, meaningful learning and personal growth are postponed — while meaningless and destructive past-times and habits are instilled or allowed to insinuate themselves. Stressful methods of indoctrination replace what could have been effective pathways to rapid growth and understanding. By the time a child or youth reaches college age, much of his potential will have been lost. And no one will ever know what might have been.

The Pathetic State of Universities, Newsrooms, and Popular Culture Illustrate the Problem

It is growing more and more obvious that societal elites — the “better educated” portions of society who shape popular culture and public policies — have followed a twisted and dysfunctional pathway to become who they are. The tragedy is that such elites are allowed to publicly promote themselves on very large stages, as examples of what young people should strive to become.

Such a travesty can only proceed successfully if modern children and youth are being raised and trained to lack independent competence and confidence within themselves. And that can only occur if the formative years (full of sensitive windows of development) are not filled with opportunities for learning, experimentation, skills development, and confidence building throught the development of personal competence.

Michel Thomas was only one person who noticed the problem of dysfunctional mainstream education, and attempted to do his own small part to push back. Many other people have made similar attempts, but the big money has always been behind the dysfunctional mainstream.

Few people are paying attention, because one of the main purposes of the modern interlocking systems of indoctrination is to distract the masses from anything important.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is to help build networked islands of competence in an ocean of dysfunction. But then again, who expected a popular political backlash in the US against the mainstream presidential candidate in 2016? Nothing may come of this populist “pushback against the elites,” but every day that the control of the elites is partially limited, is a day that people will live in relatively greater freedom. And who knows what may come from that?

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