John David Garcia Curriculum IV

Original Source

Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
7.00 9.00 Consolidation of Greek
mathematics and geometry
using modern notation;
practical chemistry in
purifying common
elements from their ores
and making chemical
compounds such as
sulphuric acid, nitric acid,
hydrochloric acid, aqua
regia, and gun powder
Use geometry and
mathematics to design a
cathedral using Roman
arches, vaults, and
buttresses; isolate elements
from their ores; make acids
and simple compounds,
gun powder, and paints;
make mortars and cements;
continue modification of
sailing ship
Further study of
microscopic life, protozoa,
mites, worms, and other
microorganisms that live
on and in mammals;
diseases they cause and
symbiosis they provide
Microscopic observation of
classification in modern
terms; observe sea
plankton, sponges, and
hydra, and observation of
their life cycles
7.25 9.25 Mathematical modeling of
nature through advanced
algebra, geometry, and
trigonometry; derive
solutions to quadratic and
cubic equations; advanced
navigation, the compass
and the theory of the
sextant; advanced
geometry, trigonometry of
arches, domes and vaults
Masonry work, making
stone arches & vaults;
begin construction of small
wooden house with some
masonry; continue to work
with lenses and practical
optics, make large
reflecting telescope, make
better microscope; make
additional chemical
compounds, acids and
paints, dyes and cements;
construction of an
astrolabe; practical
astronomy; finish
modifications on sailing
Animal systematics,
invertebrate zoology,
comparative organ
systems, organ structure
and function, cell theory of
animal structures
Laboratory dissection and
study of the invertebrate
phyla in an evolutionary
context; detailed
experimentation for
function of organ systems
and microhistology
7.50 9.50 Mathematical modeling of
nature continued; quartic
equations; heliocentric
model of solar system
compared to Ptolemaic;
comparison of Viking
ships as fast raiders to
more seaworthy sailing
ships; prepare for two-week ocean trip, theory of
Continue work with wood
and masonry in house;
begin construction of
accurate water and
weighted clock; begin
construction of
astronomical telescope
with instruments;
alchemical preparation for
isolating elements and
making compounds; the
alchemical symbols as
Continue classification of
invertebrates for all
remaining major phyla,
specifying organ functions
and histology; show how
all metazoa have same
types of cells and all start
as single cell, simple
embryo egg
Laboratory dissection and
microscopic observation of
major invertebrate phyla;
tissue and embryology;
transition species to
vertebrates, tunicates, and
7.75 9.75 Begin study of conics and
analytical geometry; begin
study of the dynamics of
falling bodies and the
pendulum; continue study
of alchemy, showing how
acceptance of wrong
hypotheses impeded
progress; consider
measurements of time,
temperature, and position
Finish wooden house;
using telescope and clocks,
begin observations of
movements of planets and
earth relative to sun, and
deduce Kepler’s laws; take
a two-week ocean trip;
begin construction of
Continue classification of
invertebrates; compare
with anatomy of simpler
vertebrates; study all
organs and their
physiology and function;
identify cells common to
vertebrates and
Microscopic observations
and dissection of simple
vertebrates and their
organs; observation of
simple embryology and
comparison to invertebrate
embryology; full dissection
of shark
Psychosocial Integration
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
7.00 9.00 The Roman Empire and its
interaction with
Christianity, the Greco-Roman disdain for manual
labor, the Christian disdain
for the natural world, the
Gnostic Christians, the
stagnation and
disintegration of the
Roman Empire until the
rise of Islam
Write speculative essay on
how Roman Empire might
have endured and what the
world would be like if it
had; write speculative
essay on how Christianity
would have developed if
the Gnostics had not been
The ethical decay of Rome;
Roman bureaucracy; how
the Catholic bureaucracy
established itself; Catholic
intolerance of deviant
views; persecution of
heretics; inferiority
complex about pagan
knowledge; the destruction
of Alexandrian library;
Finish design of cathedral;
paint Christian symbols
that express what is best in
Christianity; sing
Gregorian chants in Latin
after studying translations;
do an art project
expressing the meaning of
the Catholic church
7.25 9.25 The rise of Islam; read the
Koran; early history of
Arabia to 7th century;
relationship of Islam to
Zoroastrianism, Judaism,
Christianity, and the
surrounding cultures; the
political vacuum in the
Middle East
Essay on why so many
Jews rejected Islam; essay
on why Islam was able to
grow and expand so
rapidly; essay on the
ethical contradictions
within Islam compared to
Judaism and Christianity
Islam as a closed system;
how Islam induces
fanaticism; its comparison
to Christianity; why
Christianity is more open
in spite of church
bureaucracy; Islam and
creativity; the reason for
Islam declining as
Christianity rose
Islamic abstract art; how
lack of representational art
diminishes creativity; draw
abstract designs in the
Islamic style; Islamic
mandalas; paint
representational art of
Islam; compare to Persian
and Mogul art forms
7.50 9.50 The great theologians, St.
Augustine, St. Gregory,
Averroes, Avicena,
Maimonides, St. Anselm,
Abelard; show their depth
and breadth of vision; the
weakness of having
orthodoxy to defend; the
Holy Roman Empire and
its relationship to Islam,
India, and China;
Charlemagne and his
Essays on the “proofs” of
the existence of God and
the ontological arguments;
essay on the humanizing
role of the Church while it
bureaucratically decayed;
essay on priestly celibacy
and its implications; write
your own ideas about God
The dominance of ideology
and bureaucracy over
ethics and truth, the
preservation and distortion
of the teachings of Jesus,
the fundamental power of
the teachings of Jesus in
spite of the negative
Compare Byzantine with
Western religious art and
paint a synthesis of the
two; paint a synthesis of
Christian, Chinese, Hindu,
and Muslim art of the
period; begin study of the
7.75 9.75 St. Thomas Aquinas and
the rise of the Holy Roman
Empire; the feedback
produced by the great
schism; the decline of
Byzantium relative to the
newly emerging West;
Roger Bacon and the rise
of science; the apparent
cultural superiority of
Islam, India, China, and
Write essay on the
theology of St. Thomas
Aquinas, indicating the
holes in his arguments;
essay on Thomistic ethics;
the schism analyzed in
theological and
bureaucratic terms, why
schism was so important to
Western progress
The relationship of rational
theology to mathematics;
the church as an arbiter of
power between barbarian
states; the moral authority
of the church in a world of
brute force; the cathedral
as the synthesis of Western
technology, art, and
Study and do detailed
drawings of major
cathedrals; plan to
implement construction of
cathedral design; begin
construction on scale
model in stone

John David Garcia Curriculum III

Original Source

Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
6.00 8.00 The geometry of Euclid
using modern algebraic
notation, introduction to
algebra as it applies to
geometry, use of geometry
and vectors to sail against
the wind; give many
examples of the practical
applications of geometry in
many fields; the Atomic
Theory of matter of
Democritus; other Greek
theories of water, earth,
air, and fire
Use geometry to calculate
size of the earth, distance
to the sun, size of the sun;
use geometry to construct
and use a large catapult;
build a bridge by geometric
design; work with glass
making lenses and mirrors;
begin design of ship that
can sail against the wind;
practice sailing the ship
built last year
Internal anatomy of
vertebrates, fish, frog, rat,
and pig; the true role of
each organ and what
Aristotle and Galen
thought they were for;
Greek theories of evolution
compared to modern
theory; point out how
dangerous it is for
authorities to be wrong; the
value of doubt
Dissection of fish, frog,
rat, and pig; identification
of all major organs and
bones; practice in meat
processing, packaging, and
preservation without
refrigeration; continue
practice in caring for
young infants in first year
6.25 8.25 Continue the previous
work and continue with the
geometry and science of
Archimedes; use modern
algebraic notation and
point out how difficult the
work of Archimedes was
because of notation; theory
of pullies and parabolic
mirrors; show how abacus
gives answers to the
notational problem
Construct a system of
pulleys and a block and
tackle; construct parabolic
mirrors to collect solar
energy by heating water,
and work out schedule for
how mirrors should be
aligned as function of time
of year and day; finish
design of ship
Detailed survey of Greco-Roman medicine and the
modern versions of these
beliefs; the complete guide
to the use of herbs and
medicines for curing and
preventing illnesses;
taxonomy of herbs; review
Greco-Roman theories of
Plant a garden of medicinal
herbs, take field trips to
collect medicinal herbs,
prepare poultices and
medicines as have been
verified by time and
modern usage
6.50 8.50 The works of Archimedes
continued, the school of
Alexandria, and the
continuation of Greek
mathematics, science, and
technology; full
development of algebra
and trigonometry using
modern notation; solid
geometry and
trigonometry, applications
to navigation, the
construction of lenses
The design and
construction of water
pumps, the design and
construction of steam
turbines; practical lens
making continued; begin
modification of ship made
in fifth year to sail against
the wind; glass blowing
Study of preventive
medicine; germ theory of
infection and how hygiene
can prevent it (although
Greeks had lenses, no one
discovered germs for 2000
years), parasites and their
life cycles, the danger of
eating meat, the
importance of cooking and
Use lenses to study small
organisms, examine
parasites in intestines of
animals, show how
maggots hatch from fly’s
eggs; basic entomology
observed; use microscope
to study basic parasitology
6.75 8.75 Continuation of the study
of the science, technology,
and mathematics of the
School of Alexandria
Continuation of the above;
make crude telescope and
The study of microscopic
life; how lack of scientific
method inhibited medical
practice for 2000 years;
how to prevent the spread
of disease; viruses as
submicroscopic organisms
not to be discovered for
2000 years
Study of amoebas and
major human parasites;
animals as sources of
infection for humans; the
parasitic worms
Psychosocial Integration
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
6.00 8.00 Greek history from Thales
to the Roman conquest, the
Dialogues of Plato, a
survey of Aristotle, a
survey of the Greek plays
and the fables of Aesop,
the ethical teaching of
Socrates, the Macedonian
interlude and Alexander
Perform one play by
Sophocles and one by
Euripides; write a critique
of Greek culture and why it
failed; write a critique on
Socrates’ life and on
whether Socrates should
have drunk the hemlock;
write an epic poem on
Ethical analysis of the
teachings of Socrates,
Plato, and Aristotle; show
how the lack of love and
the will to power forced
Greece to destroy itself;
consider that the great
thinkers of Greece never
had power nor were they
free of tyrants except at
Write a play in the Greek
style on Greek themes,
critique one another’s
plays, finish sculpture in
the Greek style, do a group
art project on the meaning
of Greece
6.25 8.25 Greco-Roman history from
the start of Rome to the
time of Jesus; analysis of
the works of Lucretius;
what the Romans had of
their own and what they
learned from the Greeks;
Roman ethics and theories
of government; how
tyranny can always replace
a democracy by promising
to take from the rich and
give to the poor
Learn Greek and Latin
roots to English and
scientific and technical
terms, emphasis on nouns;
the Greek alphabet, brief
survey of Greek and
Roman grammar and its
complexity; show how
English grammar is
simpler, more practical;
show how as vocabulary
expands grammar can be
simplified; write essay
comparing Greek and
Roman culture
Sexual ethics and how the
Greeks and Romans
related to them; pleasure as
an end in itself; the
exploitation of women,
exclusion of women from
all important decision
making, women as sexual
objects, the absolute
authority of the father;
Roman law and
evolutionary ethics,
subservience to the state
and ethical principles
Design a domed and
vaulted building made of
wood and masonry,
calculate stresses, and
show the use of the arch
and dome; play Roman
music and practice sports,
do a group art project on
the meaning of Rome
under Augustus
6.50 8.50 The history of the Jews;
read all of the Old
Testament, the ethical
principles derivable from
the Old Testament, the
mixing of ethics,
techniques, and ritual; the
Jewish interaction with the
Aryans after the
Babylonian captivity, the
resistance to Hellenization,
the conquest by Rome, the
Jewish bureaucracy,
sampling of the Talmud
Essay analyzing Old
Testament as a historical
account and as a myth;
compare to Iliad and
Odyssey; Jewish laws are
analyzed in terms of their
ethical value and their
political implication; essay
on Judaism as an ethical
Ethical analysis of the Old
Testament, personal ethics,
health implications of
many of the Jewish laws;
show how the means
became the ends and how
ritual destroys ethics; the
destructiveness of
becoming specialized in
one’s own religion
Jewish abstract art in the
form of the Menorah and
the Star of David; paint an
art work using Jewish
symbols to express a
Jewish theme without
including the human form
or animals; Jewish music
and Passover songs
6.75 8.75 The New Testament and
the life of Jesus, the ethical
teaching of Jesus, Jesus as
a Jewish reformer and
rabbi, the deification of
Jesus, the teachings of
Jesus in relationship to the
Greco-Roman religion, St.
Paul and Christianity as a
synthesis of Judaism,
Jesus, and Greco-Roman
religion and philosophy
Write an essay on Jesus
and the meaning of his life
and death, essay on the
criticisms of Jesus against
traditions and the Jewish
bureaucracy, essay on
whether Jesus could have
studied in India and/or
Tibet, essay on Jesus’
teaching and the school of
Ethical analysis of the New
Testament, the high ethical
content in the teachings of
Jesus compared to their
corruption by St. Paul, the
mythification & deification
of Jesus in the Roman
tradition by those who did
not know him, analysis of
synoptic gospels showing
how they were all derived
from a simpler, common
Draw and paint art
showing the unification of
Judaism, the teachings of
Jesus, and the Greco-Roman religion
(Michelangelo’s Sistine
Chapel is best model);
write a poem expressing
this synthesis; do a group
art project expressing the
essence of Christianity

John David Garcia Curriculum Part II

For age 7 plus or minus as needed…

This curriculum was devised in the 1970s for use with highly intelligent and motivated children. Much of the early years Dangerous Child curriculum is drawn from these guides.

Physical Biological
Physical Theory Physical Practice Biological Theory Biological Practice
5.00 7.00 The smelting of iron and
simple steels, forging iron
and blacksmithing; simple
astronomy and navigation,
advanced sailing ships that
might have crossed the
Atlantic; the iron forging
necessary for controlling a
horse in battle; pre-Greek
geometry and arithmetic
using Arabic numbers,
advanced theory of the
Babylonian abacus
Smelt ore, forge from iron
a complete set of tack for a
horse, plus horseshoes;
forge and make iron sword
and spear; make large clay
jars for storing grain, oils,
and wine; begin one-year
sailing ship construction
project for group; show
how geometry and
arithmetic help in the
above projects, build a
Babylonian abacus
Advanced study of
equestrianship for war,
shooting a compound bow
while riding horseback, the
use of the lance and the
sword from horseback;
mammalian reproduction
in detail, nursing and care
of young mammals;
processing milk into cheese
and yogurt
Horse handling, training,
and riding; grooming and
care of horses, shodding
and equipping the horse,
the use of different bits,
saddles, and stirrups;
mammalian reproduction
and breeding; comparisons
of dogs, cats, sheep, goats,
cows, and horses; cheese
and yogurt from cow’s
milk; extract oil from fruits
and nuts; make and store
wine; optimal physical
training of the human body
5.25 7.25 Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
Continue with projects
begun previous quarter
5.50 7.50 Advanced metallurgy,
casting bronze sculptures
through lost wax process;
making of hard steel
alloys, nails, bolts, and
screws; making advanced
presses and catapults;
fractions and decimals,
empirical basis of
Pythagorean Theorem,
right triangles, circles,
spheres, and
Continue work on sailing
ship, do precision bronze
castings; make knives
using hard steel alloys;
make nails, bolts, screws,
presses, and catapults;
show applications of
mathematics and geometry
to the above
Human reproduction,
comparative male and
female anatomy, hormonal
cycles, fertility cycles,
puberty and emotions,
lactation and nursing, care
of infants, normal patterns
of growth for young boys
and girls
Advanced breeding of
animals and plants,
extraction of fats and oils
from vegetables, fruits, and
seeds; extract animal fats
from carcasses and meat;
work in nursery caring for
small children 1-2 years
5.75 7.75 The geometry and
mathematics of
Pythagoras, several proofs
of his theorem, the
Pythagorean solids, the
harmonics of vibrating
strings and the physical
basis of music; geometry
applied to navigation,
astronomy, building and
surveying; the technology
of glass, glass blowing
Construct the Pythagorean
solids, use several
approaches to making
dodecahedron and
icosahedron; construct
navigational computer,
advanced abacus; construct
glass bottles, mirrors,
parabolic mirror; finish
sailing ship
Human health and the
Greek medical tradition,
Aesculapius and
Hippocrates; a healthy
mind in a healthy body;
physical culture and
optimal health; diet,
exercise, and health
Gardening and preparation
of food for optimal health,
an exercise plan for
lifetime health, strength,
and energy; construction of
a glass still; care of young
Psychosocial Integration
Psychosocial Theory Pyschosocial Practice Integrative Theory Integrative Practice
5.00 7.00 The story of Zarathustra;
how he changed the
Persian people and how
they went on to create the
world’s greatest empire
until conquered by
Alexander; the Zoroastrian
religion and myths in detail
Analysis of ancient Persian
history and religion; write
a story of how Persian
history might have been
different if the religion had
been different
Ethical analysis of
Zoroastrian religion and
ethical system, strengths
and weaknesses, and how
it was doomed to failure
Ancient Persian art,
architecture, music;
analyze and reproduce
style according to your
own feeling about this
culture; do a group project
expressing ancient Persian
5.25 7.25 The story of Confucius and
his teachings and how they
changed China; the books
of Confucius are read,
discussed, and compared to
the philosophy of Lao Tse;
the interaction of Taoism
and Confucianism in
Chinese history is
Written analysis of each of
the books of Confucius and
stories about Confucius; an
analysis about Lao Tse;
writing of imaginative
stories about life in China;
essay on how you
personally feel about
Confucius and Lao Tse
Ethical analysis of
Confucianism and Taoism
as ethical systems, as ways
to knowledge, and the
civilization they produced;
what was right and what
was wrong and predictions
Ancient Chinese art to
Tang dynasty, analyze and
reproduce style in
sculpture, painting, and
music; use Chinese style to
express your feelings about
classical Chinese culture in
group art project
5.50 7.50 The story of Buddha and
his teachings and how they
changed India and the
East; emphasize the basic
ethical nature of Buddhism
and its tolerant compassion
toward others; show how
Buddhists became
psychosocial specialists
and stopped innovating in
the natural world; compare
to Hinduism
Write essays on the
meaning of Hinduism and
Buddhism and how they
relate to you; how
Buddhism and Hinduism
relate to each other, how
you would feel and act if
you were suddenly put into
a Buddhist or Hindu
society; give evidence for
and against reincarnation,
what impact these societies
have on the world,
Hinduism and Buddhism in
light of the evolutionary
ethic and the eight Ethical
Principles; the historical
impact and consequences
of those religions; the
ethics of the caste system;
why Buddhism is more
successful as an export;
common Aryan origins of
Hinduism, Buddhism and
Experience directly
Buddhist and Hindu
meditation and its
comparison to autopoiesis;
Buddhist and Hindu art;
draw mandalas of your
own, sculpt in Buddhist
and Hindu style, make up
mandalas, learn to play
Buddhist and Hindu music;
perform dances, do art
works expressing how you
feel about Buddhism
and/or Hinduism
5.75 7.75 Early Greek history to
Thales; the Iliad and the
Odyssey; the story of
Thales and Pythagoras and
how they laid part of the
foundations of Western
civilization; the rational
and mystical as reflected in
those two men; Thales and
ethics; Pythagoras and
Write an essay on the
ethics of the characters in
the Iliad and Odyssey, the
ethics of the mythical
characters and gods, the
attitudes toward women
and their role in Greece;
make up a Greek-style
myth of your own
The warlike Aryan
tradition and how it led to
Greek culture, the
obsession with domination
and personal freedom, the
oppressiveness of a slave-based culture, the extreme
military specialization of
Sparta; why a love of truth
and intelligence is not
enough if there is no love
for others
Geometric art using
Pythagorean and Greek
principles, composition of
music using Pythagorean
theory of harmonic scales;
begin a sculpture project in
the Greek style; Greek
music and dances including
those of Sparta

Original Source

A Residential Trade School in Pennsylvania that Works

The following article is adapted from an earlier posting at Al Fin Next Level

Residential schools can offer a level of immersion learning that is not possible in the hustle and bustle world of omnipresent distractions such as we see in the conventional day schooling environment. When the residential school culture was applied to trade school learning in Pennsylvania, something very interesting emerged.

“With its old-timey rituals, rigorous scheduling, and immersive culture, Williamson has a military-school feel.” But according to the students she interviewed, the prospect of a good-paying career makes the strict rules more than worth it. __ Source

“Full Employment” and Tuition is Affordable

When they graduate they begin working at jobs with starting pay as high as $75,000 to $105,000 per year. Tuition for all three years is affordable and often free, with most students coming from impoverished and troubled families. Each applicant must take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), and the school accepts only one out of three applicants.

Williamson College of the Trades is a three year residential institution. Students must “dress up” every day in coat and tie, assemble in chapel, and pledge allegiance to the flag.

It’s a residential institution where 19- to 22-year-old kids from hard-up families line up in ties and jackets every morning to be inspected before going to chapel and pledging allegiance to the American flag, and where anyone who violates the no-drugs-and-alcohol policy is immediately out on his ear, no exceptions. And some might laugh at the notion of promising trade-school graduates starting with pay as high as $75,000, and maybe even $105,000, a year debt-free—a future that many Ivy League grads would envy. __

A tough “no drugs and alcohol” policy goes a long way to keeping a young person focused on present tasks and future goals.

Don’t laugh at the idea of trade school. These are jobs that cannot be outsourced to China or Bangladesh. Understand that these days regular university has been dumbed down so far that at least 25% of “four year college” graduates are doomed to a life of minimum wage jobs, and will never pay back their student loans. Trade school graduates with jobs paying between $50,000 a year and $100,000 a year will have a chance for a better life than a huge number of conventional college-goers who either drop out or end up deeply in debt.

Seventy-four per cent of students graduate in three years. More than 30% of these kids go on to get higher degrees. More valuable than any degree is the sense of pride and competence they get from learning the skills that will allow them to get a job almost anywhere.

… real craftsmanship is itself a source of deep satisfaction and communal respect. “I never ceased to take pleasure in the moment, at the end of a job, when I would flip the switch. ‘And there was light,’ ” Matthew Crawford writes about his early career as an electrician. “It was an experience of agency and competence. The effects of my work were visible for all to see, so my competence was real for others as well; it had a social currency.” __

Video podcast look at Williamson College of the Trades

Williamson challenges conventional wisdom among liberals and in the education establishment about the dearth of opportunity for kids who don’t go to a traditional four-year college and the toxins of traditional masculinity. And partly because of that, Williamson changes lives. __

Williamson offers programs in Carpentry, Masonry, Horticulture, Machine Tool Technology, Painting/Coating Technology, and Power Plant Technology.

Boarding school culture for boys at Williamson is quite different from the free and easy coed culture at most “four year university” campuses. At most universities, college is a place where kids go to binge, fornicate, experiment with drugs, receive a world class indoctrination, and devise clever ways to have fun using “other people’s money” while accruing a debt that will burden them over much of their lifetimes.

Williamson is a 130 year old trade school that continues to do its best to present an alternative approach to preparing youth for a productive future. And if a skilled tradesman later decides to go on to a higher degree and profession, who is going to stop him?

Note that there are other trade schools that can train students for jobs that often provide higher rates of pay. The Utica Shale Academy is a high school that trains students in high paying college-level job skills for the oil & gas trades. This Mississippi high school trains young students in advanced welding and fabrication skills — trades that are in high demand these days across the US.

Dangerous Children © must master at least three skill sets that would allow them to support themselves financially — by the age of 18. But that is another topic. Ordinary youth would likewise profit from the satisfaction of possessing practical skills that make it easier to either start a family, or to go on to higher educational pursuits without the ruinous levels of debt that have become so common among college students.

Immersion level learning is a powerful tool. There was a time in the US when residential trade schools were more common, as were apprentice-style learning situations. Although Williamson College is a post-secondary school, it is time to consider bringing back secondary school level residential training for the teaching of practical skills and trades.

Discoveries in Learning and Forgetting

UCLA’s Robert Bjork is a leader in applying cognitive scientific discoveries to actual learning practises. Parents and coaches who help to shape the landscape of a Dangerous Child’s learning environment will benefit from a better understanding of the mental mechanisms of learning, as research moves forward.

Here are some excerpts from Robert Bjork’s research, with some links included for further research:

Applying Cognitive Psychology to Enhance Educational Practice

Testing effect

Taking a test often does more than assess knowledge; tests can also provide opportunities for learning. When information is successfully retrieved from memory, its representation in memory is changed such that it becomes more recallable in the future (e.g., R. A. Bjork, 1975); and this improvement is often greater than the benefit resulting from additional study (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).

Most of us are familiar with the “pre-test / post-test” approach to continuing education. The pre-test functions as an “alerting mechanism” to salient information that will appear in the coming lecture or other learning exposure. The post-test then puts a cap on what was learned — but it also acts as a “prime” for further learning.

New Theory of Disuse

Sometimes people cannot access information that was well learned earlier (e.g., the address of the house where they grew up). And students find that although they can recall information over and over again the day before a test, they cannot always recall it at the time of examination. Finally, sometimes people cannot recall information at one point in time, but can recall it later. In looking at these situations, it seems that our memories work in strange and unpredictable ways. The function of our memories, however, may be predictable. The New Theory of Disuse (R. A. Bjork & E. L. Bjork, 1992) posits that there are two indices of memory strength: storage strength (SS) and retrieval strength (RS). Storage strength is how well learned something is; retrieval strength is how accessible (or retrievable) something is. To illustrate, imagine four possible situations. If something is well learned (e.g., the address where you have lived for several years), it has both high SS and high RS: You know it well and can retrieve it readily. The address of a friend that you visited for the first time this afternoon, however, may only have high RS (and low SS) because the address, although practiced recently, was not well learned. Thus, although you know the address now, you will be unlikely to be able to recall it in a few days because RS will decrease over time, especially for information with low SS. Sometimes information has high SS (due to it having been well learned), but cannot be retrieved (e.g., the address where you lived as a child). If you were provided with this address again, however, you would have the feeling that that information was somewhere in the recesses of your memory, and in fact, you would be likely to relearn it very quickly. Finally, information can have both low RS and low SS. This information would include things that you heard in class earlier today, but did not learn well and cannot recall now.

We are often told that the brain retains everything that was ever learned. The challenge is in the act of recalling what we have learned. Most of the applications discussed by Bjork have to do with a more refined training of recall.

Introduction to Desirable Difficulties

Imagine a scenario in which a teacher has students practice different examples of a single type of math problem for an hour in class. By the end of the hour, it may seem—both to the teacher and to the students—that this type of math problem has been mastered. On a test two weeks later, however, the benefit may not be evident. In fact, much to the dismay of the teacher and the students, performance during training is not always representative of long-term learning.

In contrast to the story told above, in which an easy training method was followed by poor performance later, imagine that the teacher had interleaved many different types of problems during in-class training drills. Recent research reveals that difficult training of this type produces higher scores on the test than the easier version described above (Rohrer & Taylor, 2007), and this is the kind of training that the Bjork Learning and Forgetting Lab believes enhances long-term learning.

There are, in fact, certain training conditions that are difficult and appear to impede performance during training but that yield greater long-term benefits than their easier training counterparts.

Dr. Bjork explains that it is beneficial to create study conditions in which learning is slowed down to allow for better memory for the information in the long-term. This creates an unfortunate conflict between the desire to see quick improvements on the side of the learner and the instructional goals of the instructor.

An interesting real world example of “desirable difficulties” in learning was the method that the father of golf champion Tiger Woods used to train young Tiger in overcoming distractions. The father and coach would stand close to Tiger while the boy was trying to achieve a difficult putt, and shout in his ear. Using such distractions and other created difficulties, young Tiger was taught to focus intensely and to ignore the extraneous.


It is common sense that when we want to learn information, we study that information multiple times. The schedules by which we space repetitions can make a huge difference, however, in how well we learn and retain information we study. The spacing effect is the finding that information that is presented repeatedly over spaced intervals is learned much better than information that is repeated without intervals (i.e., massed presentation). This effect is one of the most robust results in all of cognitive psychology and has been shown to be effective over a large range of stimuli and retention intervals from nonsense syllables (Ebbinghaus, 1885) to foreign language learning across many months (Bahrick, Bahrick, Bahrick & Bahrick, 1993).

One of many approaches to spaced practise


One robust and longstanding finding is that generating words, rather than simply reading them, makes them more memorable (Slamecka & Graf, 1978). As an example, this effect is often achieved for single words through the use of a letter-stem cue (ex. “fl____” for “flower”) or by unscrambling an anagram (ex. “rolwfe” for “flower”). The effects of generation on memory are being investigated from many different angles in the lab, from its basic role as a memory modifier (see Desirable Difficulties), to people’s awareness of this role and subsequent use of generation as a strategy (see Metacognition), to the extended effects of generation on related material (see Retrieval-Induced Forgetting).

This approach is a giant step beyond the multiple choice approach, toward a more genuine fluency in knowledge and problem solving. Multiple choice testing and learning provides good introductions and intermediate learning experiences, while “generation” approaches allow for a closer approach to mastery.


Spacing is one of the most robust, effective ways of improving learning. However, spacing calls for intervals of time in between repetitions, and this may not be the most efficient use of time. Imagine you have three final exams to study for. If you were to space out study of three whole courses, you might as well start your course review before the quarter even begins! Particularly when one has several different things to learn, an effective strategy is to interleave one’s study: Study a little bit of history, then a little bit of psychology followed by a chapter of statistics and go back again to history. Repeat (best if in a blocked-randomized order).

The benefit of interleaving is found over a diverse set of stimuli ranging from word pairs (Battig, 1979) to motor movements (Shea & Morgan, 1979) to mathematics problems (Rohrer & Taylor, 2007) and word translations (Richland, R. A. Bjork, & Finley, 2004). Interleaving benefits not only memory for what is studied, but also leads to benefits in the transfer of learned skills (e.g. Carson & Wiegand, 1979). The theory is that interleaving requires learners to constantly “reload” motor programs (in the case of motor skills) or retrieve strategies/information (in the case of cognitive skills) and allows learners to extract more general rules that aid transfer.

Interleaving forces the learning mind out of restricted cubby-holes so that it can make connections and distinctions between concepts and actions. It represents a more dynamic approach to learning which is analogous on a smaller scale to the concept of inter-disciplinary learning and working on a larger scale.

More from UCLA’s Bjorklab

Robert Bjork videos on long-term learning

More videos

Forgetting as a friend of learning — a Harvard talk by Robert Bjork:

A Few of the Many Reasons Society Needs to Value its Boys

Modern societies in the west tend to value girls much more highly than boys. This preferential treatment is reflected in government policies and spending, as well as much content bias in the media. All of that is in spite of the fact the prosperity and relative ease of living in modern societies are largely the result of of male invention, exploration, industry, discovery, and risk-taking.

Nobel Prizes: Male vs. Female
Nobel Prizes: Male vs. Female

It’s been well established that men perform better than women when it comes to specific spatial tasks. But how much of that is linked to sex hormones versus cultural conditioning and other factors? __ SD

Testosterone Helps One to Quickly Find His Way

Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology compared the route finding abilities of men vs. women on a 3D maze skills test. The men were faster and solved 50% more of the tasks set out for them. Men used their hippocampi more, while women used their prefrontal cortices. __ Source

Overall, men in the test group had significantly better senses of direction than the women in the test group.

The scientists went on to compare two different groups of women on “wayfinding tasks.” One group received a drop of testosterone solution under the tongue. The other group received placebo. Not surprisingly, the women who received testosterone performed better than the women who received placebo. Interestingly, the women who received testosterone also utilised their hippocampi more than the placebo women. __ Source

What About Testosterone and Male-Female Differences in Language Skills?

When women (undergoing sex change) are given high doses of testosterone, the parts of their brain most used in language tasks are altered.

The researchers, from Vienna and Amsterdam, worked with 18
female-to-male subjects (27.6 ± 6.4 years), before and during testosterone treatment. The subjects underwent MRI brain scans before and after 4 weeks of the testosterone administration. The results showed that with testosterone treatment the volume of grey matter decreased in two specific regions of the brain, the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, which are mainly responsible for language processing. At the same time, the neuronal pathway (white matter) connecting these two regions via the extreme capsule got stronger. __

So, when women are given a single dose of sublingual testosterone, their spatial abilities are temporarily improved — although not to the point of equaling spatial abilities in males. And when females are given even larger doses of testosterone over time, the parts of their brain used in language processing lose grey matter volume.

Testosterone and Behaviour

Testosterone appears to influence the typical superiority of males in spatial processing and math, and the superiority of females in language processing and emotional empathy.

Most of the published literature agrees on the fact that testosterone is anxiolytic, anti-depressant and improves spatial abilities. But this picture is oversimplified.

… More systematic research using the whole spectrum of available tools and looking at the various physiological aspects is needed. __

There are too many factors involved in the production, utilisation, and metabolism / excretion of testosterone to recommend testosterone supplementation for persons with normal levels. But for persons with distinctly low testosterone levels — men or women — there are some good indications for testosterone supplementation.

Why are there More Male Geniuses?

Male vs Female IQ Distributions
Male vs Female IQ Distributions

… at a super-elite University such as Oxford, where we are looking at a tiny proportion of the brightest students, we would expect there to be more males achieving 1st class degrees. It is not fair but it is also not a mystery. It is a consequence of the male genome (particularly the short Y chromosome), which causes greater genetic variations in men, leading to both good and bad extremes of male behaviour.

… we see more male geniuses and more male dunces in the real world. Try this simple thought experiment. Name 10 female geniuses from any period in history. This is not easy.

There are more male geniuses and more male morons. Presumably this is somehow a consequence of the male genome vis a vis the female genome. And presumably it also has something to do with testosterone.

More On Testosterone

We started off with about 500 of these babies, that’s the cohort, where their testosterone levels are known [from amniocentesis], and we’ve been following them and they’re now about 12 years old. So it’s a story that’s been unfolding whilst we’ve been able to measure the behavior as they grow, and see whether it has anything to do with their testosterone prenatally.

At their first birthday, we looked at eye contact. And I was particularly interested in this, because my main area of research is autism, and children with autism make very little eye contact. Their eye contact is at the extreme, showing very little interest in faces. But we’d already heard from that newborn baby study that there seems to be, on average, a sex difference in how interested people are in faces, and making eye contact, with girls being, on average, more interested in faces than boys, but there’s a whole spectrum of individual differences. And what we found was that the higher the baby’s prenatal testosterone, the less eye contact they made at their first birthday. That was simply measured by inviting the toddler into our lab, videotaping them and then later coding those videotapes for how many times the baby looked up at their mother’s face. That was at the first birthday.

At the second birthday we looked at language development. We got parents to fill in a checklist of how many words does your child know, and how many words can your child produce. We were looking at the size of children’s vocabularies. What we found, which was quite striking to us, was that by two years old, there were some children who had very small vocabularies, only about ten or 20 words, they were kind of at the low edge of normal development; and there were some kids who were really chatty and had 600 words. So the size of the differences in vocabulary was immense. And then we could look back at their testosterone levels.And once again, we found a significant correlation: that the higher the child’s prenatal testosterone, the smaller their vocabulary at two years old. So this same hormone seemed to be related not only to patterns of social interest, whether you look at faces, but also to communication, how talkative you are and your rate of language development.

I don’t want to go through all the steps, but we’ve also looked, when they were four years old, at empathy, finding that prenatal testosterone is negatively correlated with empathy. So again, it’s the same pattern we were just hearing about: that if you were higher in testosterone during the pregnancy, it meant that you were slower to develop empathy as a four year old. And again, there are different ways that you can measure that. You can ask parents to fill in questionnaires about their child’s empathy. You can actually get the child to take various empathy tests, or you can also get information about how easily the child mixes in school with other children. But the hormone, once again, was showing relationships with social behavior at school age.

We were also interested in that concept of systemizing, how strong a child’s interest was in systems of different kinds. Was this a child who liked to collect things, to have the complete set, for example, that makes up a system? Was this a child who loved to take things apart and put them back together again? So, very much interested in construction and assembly and figuring out how things work? Was this a child who spotted the small differences between different makes of cars, or little toy cars, and could tell you the differences between different varieties of system? Again, what we found, but this time the correlation was flipped over, was a positive correlation with prenatal testosterone. The higher the child’s prenatal testosterone the more interested they were in systems of one kind or another.

When they were about eight years old, we figured it was time to invite these kids into the MRI scanner, so that we could look directly at the question of whether testosterone is actually changing the way the brain is developing. Up until now we’d only done what’s called behavioral studies, where we could find relationships between testosterone and behavior. But by eight years old a child is old enough to stay still, which is essential in a brain scan, because if the child squirms and moves around too much, then you can’t interpret the results. These children, by eight, were able to tolerate having an MRI scan and we were able to look at the structure of the brain and see if it had any relationship to prenatal testosterone. And in fact, there are lots of interesting relationships.

As I mentioned, one region of the brain that differs between males and females is that region called the planum temporale, a language area, and that’s related to prenatal testosterone. The hormone is having an effect on the way the brain is growing, just looking at the volume of different regions in the brain. __ Simon Baron-Cohen

So you see that brain differences between males and females are at least partially mediated by testosterone levels — but particularly testosterone levels during the fetal period, when the brain is being most actively shaped.

The radical feminists who rule over modern universities, much of modern media, and much of mid-level bureaucratic organisations such as governments, foundations, government lobbies, inter-governmental and non-governmental bodies, etc., will deny that testosterone levels during pre-natal periods, early childhood, or adolescence, have anything to do with male-female differences in genius, IQ distribution, spatial / math abilities, or anything else.

And yet, these same feminists — when they start to wither and age — are among the first to clamour for testosterone treatments. And testosterone is very popular among the middle aged and older female set: : A scientific manifesto in favour of testosterone therapy for women : A popular manifesto boosting testosterone for women

These treatments can be helpful for the middle-aged and elderly of either sex. But such therapies for women cannot erase the male-female achievement gaps across a broad range of disciplines — from physicists to neurosurgeons to inventors to ace pilots to world class athletes, and more.

Perhaps if testosterone were administered at strategic points in fetal development, early childhood, and in adolescence, such gaps might be partially narrowed. But that would not be wise.

I suggest that we should let girls be girls, boys be boys, and give them both the best chances we can to grow up strong, independent, and competent.

Decline of Russian Testosterone and Sperm Count is Devastating

Both the quantity and quality of Russian men seem to be on a downward turn. Plummeting sperm counts and testosterone levels with falling levels of academic attainment are reducing the Soviet hero of old into an ever more effete and infertile figure, who now can’t even drink properly.

In fact, the Russian man is dying out. Only the UK flounder, North Sea cod and Florida cane toad are losing males faster, and the unhappy conclusions of scientists show that falling numbers of males in these species has led to irreversible cuts in the population.

… The Russian man is subsequently withering before our eyes. He has worse health than women and his educational attainment is worse. Worldwide, suicide rates peak in men in old age. In Russia it peaks twice, in the mid-life crisis years of 45-55 years and the second for the long-lived, at 70-80. __ Importance of Testosterone to National Survival

Decline in male Russian testosterone levels parallels Russia’s overall decline in international strength and vitality.

…in the countries of the former Soviet Union… [they] are experiencing a huge deficit of single, decent, non-drinking, not abusive, marriage minded, family oriented men. There is a large number of Russian women who have absolutely no chance of ever getting married and having a family of their own unless they significantly lower their standards… __ quoted in “Few Good Men Left in Dying Russia


The same mechanisms that are bedeviling Russian males are also at work in much of the rest of the world’s male populations. Guard your testosterone levels and sperm quality carefully. You never know when you will need them.

The above article is adapted from a previously published article on Al Fin, the Next Level (WordPress)

A Few Reasons for Being Tough and Resilient

North America is becoming something of a challenge to navigation. Mexico is becoming a total blood bath. Likewise many US inner city precincts — such as are found in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans, … have become no-go zones for most legal, productive activity. Even placid Canada — as it grows more multi-cultural — has particular cities and areas that are taking on the aspects of third world war zones.

That is why wherever you go in North America — and increasingly in much of Europe and the rest of the world — you had best take steps to make yourselves tough, but resilient. Making the world safer for the best of humanity — and more dangerous for the worst of humanity — is becoming just another necessary function for responsible citizens.

What you will read here is politically incorrect. But in today’s world, many of the things that will keep you and your loved ones alive and prosperous are frowned upon by the political elite — who consider themselves “your betters.”

Punks and Ammo Do They Feel Lucky?
Punks and Ammo
Do You Feel Lucky?

Buy Ammo Till It Hurts . . . Then Buy Some More

I have never, ever had anyone tell me that he had too much ammunition. Not in a combat zone, not in a civil disaster, not even in peacetime. Never. Nor have I lived through a time where our governing class was so deeply corrupt, so utterly foolish, and so dangerously focused on the perpetuation of its own power that it risked bringing down everything we have built not merely in the United States but in the entire West.

Right now, if you are watching the news, you have questions about the future. And the answer to all of them is to buy ammo.

Buying ammo is a no-lose proposition. Look, the worst thing that happens if you buy more ammo is that you have more ammo. Plus, much of our consumer ammo is made by hardworking Americans, and many of those ammo makers are located in red states where the right to keep and bear arms is celebrated and respected. So you’re helping fellow conservative Americans, which is good. And you’re infuriating people like that sanctimonious, Second Amendment-hating incompetent infesting the White House, which is great.

Of course, buying ammo presumes you have already fulfilled your duty as a law-abiding, able-bodied American citizen and obtained sufficient firearms for the defense of yourself, your family, your community, and your Constitution. I can’t tell you how many people in the last year have confessed to me that they have finally decided to visit their local gun seller to do what they had put off for far too long and transition from sheep to sheepdog.

A handgun and a long weapon per adult is merely the minimum. We call that “a good start.” Now, while you can really efficiently carry only two weapons at once, when all hell breaks loose you’re going to have friends who were the grasshopper to your ant and did not prepare for winter. You may wish to share the contents of your armory with them when the time comes; keep in mind that the only thing in a gunfight that’s better than having a black combat rifle is having your buddy there to provide supporting fire with a black combat rifle.

Or a shotgun – diversity is a good thing.

Don’t forget training. Malpractice with a weapon is a bad thing, particularly when the foolishness of our leaders has led to the kind of chaos where hospitals are deserted and antibiotics are hard to come by. I oversaw the weapons training of at least 20,000 troops over my career (Sergeants actually do the training; officers oversee the planning, resourcing, and big picture range operations, then find their sharpest sergeant to run them through some refresher drills so they can shoot “Expert” when they hit the firing line and qualify in front of everyone). I am a big fan of weapons training. You need to learn safety, and you also need to learn how to hit what you are shooting at. Don’t be like the gangbanging, side-shooting nimrods in Democrat inner cities who can’t hit the other scumbags they’re shooting at and instead take out nice ladies walking home from church. Having lots of ammo on hand facilitates training.

Now, many of our urban liberal friends will not understand why we insist on ensuring that we have plenty of guns and ammo. They are, not coincidentally, the same urban liberals who don’t understand how creating economic and political chaos by screwing up the economy, coddling crooks, allowing unrestricted immigration, refusing to defeat our enemies, and frittering away the rule of law all act to undermine this wonderful island of relative peace and stability we call the United States. The über-beta editor of a well-known liberal website once chided me on Twitter for pointing out the fact that civilization walks on a tightrope over a chasm of chaos, telling me I was essentially nuts for thinking this could all fall apart much faster and much more violently than any of us imagine. But I was not nuts. I was remembering. I was remembering Los Angeles on fire during the Rodney King riots. I spent three weeks on the streets with the Army during that little life lesson based out of an armory south of I-10 and east of the 405. Let’s just say that it was a looty, shooty area. So I don’t need chaos lessons from some tweedy femboy, nor do you. It may not be apocalypse now, but it could very well be apocalypse soon.

Do you think our elite is going to protect you during the next “uprising?” Remember, it’s a “riot” only if elite liberals are at risk like they were when Beverly Hills got threatened; it’s an “uprising” if only you are. Remember that “stand down” order in Baltimore?

Do you think the Iranians and our other enemies haven’t been watching Team Feckless in inaction and thought about popping off a hot rock or two a hundred miles above Kansas City to fry all our wonderful electronic gizmos with EMP? A couple days after our logistics networks go down those urban hipsters are going to learn what really constitutes a “food desert.”

Do you think a country this politically divided can’t devolve into violence? People in Kosovo were pretty sure everything was hunky dory while Tito was alive. People resolved their differences through the institutions. And then Tito died, and the game changed. In just a few years, it became very bad.

Right now we have a president who thinks he can ignore or modify the law unilaterally, justifying it with the baffling argument that he shouldn’t have to ask Congress because Congress will just say “No” – which I always thought was kind of the point of checks and balances. So what happens when President Clinton, who identified you and me and the 50% of Americans who aren’t her supporters as her enemies, decides she gets to make her own laws because, well, she knows better and feels like it? Nothing good.

But deterrence is a wonderful thing. An armed, trained populace is not only prepared for when things go bad, but the fact that it is armed and trained makes it much less likely that things will go bad in the first place. Last year, Americans voted for liberty by buying well over 15 million new guns. That’s roughly 40,000 a day, every day. That’s enough to arm three infantry divisions.

Every. Single. Day.

Just don’t forget to buy ammo. __ Kurt Schlichter

More on Kurt Schlichter

Time to Start Growing them Tough, Smart, and Resilient from Tiny Babes to Adulthood

We talk a lot about Dangerous Children here at Al Fin. If the human world has any chance of creating an abundant and expansive future for itself, that chance rests in the quality of children that we can conceive, raise, and train to the point of independence and self-directed education and development.

There is not a culture in the world that prepares today’s children for the future that they will face.

You may have thought about the type of society you would want to create, for your children and grandchildren to live, prosper, and thrive. A lot of people have given thought to such ideas. But very few people have thought things through in a clear and comprehensive manner.

For that reason, too many people still believe that institutions such as churches, schools, governments, etc. are more a part of the solution, than of the problem. All cultural institutions could be worse than they are, certainly. For now, it is worth the time to support the movements, initiatives, and enterprises that hold back the chaos and corruption for as long as possible.

But one would be negligent not to plan for some difficult times — for you, your children, and beyond.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.

The above article was adapted from an article published earlier on Al Fin Next Level