How to Learn About Everything

Dangerous Children need to understand the crucial basics for a large number of fields of science, technology, the trades, and much more. Here, MIT graduate, author, and technical theoretician Eric Drexler suggests ways for anyone to jump into science and technology research, and through steady and painless immersion learn to absorb the important details that will help you fit it all together — at least for the range of fields you are working on.

This “immersion approach” is how young children naturally learn. Each bit and stage of knowledge is used as a scaffolding from which one can reach the next level of knowledge. It is an approach that can be re-discovered by youth and adults for getting a grasp on new fields that may seem too difficult to comprehend at first glance. Here is what Eric recommends:

Tips from Polymath Eric Drexler on Broad-Based Learning

Note that the title above isn’t “how to learn everything”, but “how to learn about everything”. The distinction I have in mind is between knowing the inside of a topic in deep detail — many facts and problem-solving skills — and knowing the structure and context of a topic: essential facts, what problems can be solved by the skilled, and how the topic fits with others…

… Knowing about, in this sense, is crucial to understanding a new problem and what must be learned in more depth in order to solve it. The cross-disciplinary reach of nanotechnology almost demands this as a condition of competence.

Studying to learn about everything

  1. Read and skim journals and textbooks that (at the moment) you only half understand. Include Science and Nature.
  2. Don’t halt, dig a hole, and study a particular subject as if you had to pass a test on it.
  3. Don’t avoid a subject because it seems beyond you — instead, read other half-understandable journals and textbooks to absorb more vocabulary, perspective, and context, then circle back.
  4. Notice that concepts make more sense when you revisit a topic.
  5. Notice which topics link in all directions, and provide keys to many others. Consider taking a class.
  6. Continue until almost everything you encounter in Science and Nature makes sense as a contribution to a field you know something about.

You learned your native language by immersion, not by swallowing and regurgitating spoonfuls of grammar and vocabulary. With comprehension of words and the unstructured curriculum of life came what we call “common sense”.

The aim of what I’ve described is to learn an expanded language and to develop what amounts to common sense, but about an uncommonly broad slice of the world. Immersion and gradual comprehension work, and I don’t know of any other way. __ Eric Drexler in Metamodern

Also from Eric Drexler: How to Understand Everything

Drexler is the author of several books on nanotechnology, including the free online ebook, Engines of Creation (EOC). EOC is a comprehensible — and visionary — look at some of the future potential of molecular assemblers as applied to nanotechnological manufacture.

Immersion is An Important Form of “Self-Teaching”

As we have said before, self-teaching is a crucial component of The Dangerous Child Method, and an integral ingredient in The Robinson Curriculum and other homeschooling approaches. All effective forms of homeschooling and unschooling will involve some elements of coaching and apprenticeship by mentors and parents. But the child himself is the one who is always present. He is ultimately the responsible party when it comes to life outcomes.

Besides the great advantage of developing good study habits and thinking ability, self—teaching also has immediate practical advantages. Many children should be able, through Advanced Placement examinations, to skip over one or more years of college. The great saving in time and expense from this is self—evident. These and other comparable accomplishments await most children who learn to self—teach and then apply this skill to their home education.

Even children of lesser ability can, by means of self—teaching and good study habits, achieve far more than they otherwise would have accomplished by the more ordinary techniques. __ Teach Them to Teach Themselves

In learning to walk, talk, ride a bike, and participate socially in families and other groups, a child naturally uses observation from an immersed position. Self-teaching in more individual and formal types of learning should naturally follow, if the child is given good pointers at the right stages. By doing so, parents and mentors will liberate the child to shape his own paths to his own goals.

American High Schools are a Real Screwup

US High School Students Bomb on International Comparison Testing in Maths and Sciences

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/02/u-s-students-improving-slowly-in-math-and-science-but-still-lagging-internationally/
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/02/u-s-students-improving-slowly-in-math-and-science-but-still-lagging-internationally/

Some of The Scores Deficit Might be Correctible

American high schools are politically protected from meaningful reform by ideologues within the US Department of Education and by other ideologues in US university schools of education, thinktanks, and nonprofit foundations. But real-world market forces have brought about certain experiments in US secondary education which demonstrate that an American high school education need not be third-rate.

In 2015, six Basis charter schools met the criteria that permitted their students to take the PISA test. The Basis pupils scored higher than students in Shanghai, Korea, Germany or Singapore, not to mention U.S. private and public schools. In math, the average Basis student performs better than the top 10 percent of U.S. public schoolers.

Basis students also stand out when it comes to the one U.S. test that is more closely tethered to reality, the College Board’s challenging Advanced Placement exam, designed to measure whether students have so mastered a subject that colleges will give them academic credit for it.

__ http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-28/high-school-the-great-american-bubble

Basis charter schools were co-founded by Czech immigrant Olga Block, who was shocked at how abysmally bad many American high schools actually were. By designing Basic charter schools, Block and her co-founders meant to give American high school students “a basis” for competency within today’s STEM-oriented employment and business worlds.

Founded in Arizona almost two decades ago, this network of publicly financed charters has grown to number 21 in the U.S. Basis Schools admit students on a first-come, first-served basis or, when demand is high, by lottery, meaning that not all the kids are born top performers. __ Amity Schlaes

What does any of this have to do with Dangerous Child training? The fact is that not all parents can supervise a home “unschooling” for their high school aged children. The best learning is “self-taught” learning, but the skills of self-teaching can be taught very early, and should be actually mastered between the ages of 7 and 10 for most children.

For parents of Dangerous Children who send their children to public or conventional private schools, such schooling often serves as “day care” supervision rather than as a meaningful education. The parent still has to make sure the child learns — but in a more compressed after-school and evening time framework. If the child has learned “self-teaching” from parents, he should be able to compensate for the flakiness and ideological bias of most public and private education.

But wouldn’t it be better if the schools themselves actually served to prepare students to face at least some of the challenges the youth will face in the future? Truly, as long as the child will be spending time there anyway, why not make that time profitable at least in part?

The US public educational system has been dumbed down and corrupted over several decades for many reasons, most of them of a political nature. It is good to know that at least some of the decline can be “rolled back” for at least a small percentage of students.

But on the Whole, the Best Approach for Dangerous Children is Home Self-Taught Learning

The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) A 2015 study found Black homeschool students to be scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015).

Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
__ NHERI

Among homeschooling methods, The Robinson Curriculum is one of the shining stars.

The Robinson Curriculum is specially designed to prepare students for the SAT – a standardized nationwide test administered by the College Board (not to be mistaken with the SAT Achievement test which does not give you any credit). The Saxon Math and the RC Vocabulary section do an excellent job for SAT prep. For further credit they can take the Adanced Placement Exams for the college they are attending in order to test out of credit courses. This reduces the time and money required to get their degree. 3 of the Robinson children have done all this with great results. They only need a GED if they are going into something that does not require college but does need a “High School” diploma. A transcript generally does you no good. It is the SAT scores that matter. Any other paper is not important except in unusual cases.

__ http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/view/rc/s31p50.htm

Anecdotal report

Self-teaching is an integral part of the Robinson Curriculum. In fact, teaching the child to teach himself — from the earliest ages — is a key part to overall life success. This is true whether you are raising a Dangerous Child or a more conventional superior child.

Dangerous Child training is about far more than success in conventional schooling or conventional careers, of course. But when so many cultural institutions — including schools — are so terribly misguided and mismanaged, conventional success can seem a great victory to most of us.

The fact that there is so much more to be mastered and attained should be a powerful impetus for grander achievement and success. Dangerous Child training is about packing that “will to mastery” inside the child from his earliest moments of consciousness — and before. It is that “internal driving force” that will propel the Dangerous Child to embark on a lifetime of mastery and discovery.

Author Mark Twain suggested that people should not let their schooling get in the way of their education. That distinction between “schooling” and “education” is crucial for lifelong success. Schooling is only a small part of a person’s education. Still, whatever time is to be spent on schooling, should be spent profitably.

Who Will Educate the Dangerous Child?

The answer to the question, “Who will educate the Dangerous Child?” contains one of the reasons why the Dangerous Child is so dangerous: The Dangerous Child will educate himself.

Until the child becomes interested — becomes motivated — there is little likelihood that he will ever grow to become a Dangerous Child. And in the typical government school classroom environment which primarily utilises the teacher : student relationship as the pathway to learning, there is little likelihood that the student will grow motivated in the self-directed manner necessary for Dangerous Child development.

In a traditional teacher : student classroom, a dependency relationship between the student and the teacher tends to develop — and is in fact encouraged to develop. The student is expected to approach learning via the teacher, and is encouraged to comply with the teacher’s preferences in a wide variety of ways — both explicit and implicit. This pathway leads to a greater dependency which makes the development of motivation and self-direction more difficult, the longer it goes on.

This implies that those who wish to raise a Dangerous Child need to find ways to fire the flame of motivation and self direction in the child from an early age. This is not generally difficult, given the normal hunger for learning exhibited by the typical child from infancy onward. In fact, it is often the artificial approach to learning and teaching forced onto young children which tends to destroy that natural early flame of motivation and self-directedness.

The field of Adult Education has developed quite differently from the field of childhood education, and understandably seeks to place more control over the student’s learning in the hands of the student himself (PDF). More (PDF)

Most adults would not tolerate the dictatorial environment of the traditional classroom, nor the relatively low quality of education typically provided in K12 through university. They would particularly object to the indoctrinating nature of much of what passes for “education” in modern classrooms.

But many younger children and adolescents would also be more self-directed, motivated, and particular about the nature and quality of education, if they were given a choice. And suddenly, it seems that a number of choices are springing up.

A rapidly blooming area of learning at this time is online learning, which is coming to take on some of the self-directed and self-paced characteristics of adult learning.

Characteristics of Adult Learners with Implications of Online Learning Design (PDF)

Traditional educators are beginning to perceive a threat to their livelihood in the growing number of alternatives to traditional teacher : student dependency learning. And yet it is clear that the traditional pathways to education are leading modern societies to a dangerous impasse, where the quality of graduates has declined alarmingly. This leaves societies without the type of strong, independent, and objective sort of problem solvers which they so crucially require.

The way beyond this impasse is to grow ever larger crops of Dangerous Children, because independence and self-directedness, as well as problem-solving ability, are some of the key characteristics of the Dangerous Child.

It is not particularly helpful to directly import the techniques of Adult Learning wholesale into infant and early childhood learning. Rather, it is crucial for parents and those responsible for the child’s education to aid in the development of the child’s particular tendencies and competencies which grow the child’s competencies and motivation to the point that he can pick up the self-directed learning methods developed in the field of Adult Learning on his own.

Make no mistake: The conflict between the advances in Adult Education and the regressive traditions of so-called “progressive childhood education” forms a deadly pivotal battleground which may determine the futures of several modern societies. The covert war is not so much between the political right/libertarian and the political left/socialist. Rather the war is between persons with a more expansive and dynamic view of the future, and those with a more static and “imposed” view of the future.

It is not my purpose here to convince readers of anything. My only purpose is to suggest that things might be done differently, should the reader see a need for that to happen.