Compulsory schooling: Injury and Healing

In my reading aloud morning reading session today was this sentence: „A remarkable working definition of memory might be the accumulated totality of all a person’s knowledge of the world.” From the book „Comprehension and Learning” by Frank Smith.

I paused. I read it again. Then I was relating it to myself and to what I already know. The term „memory” always – kinda – had a bitter connotation to me: „Stuff that is forced or required to be remembered, and I am – somewhat – able to reproduce as requested or needed.” I noticed that there’s not only bitterness, but also resentment in there. However, resentment is not a desirable feeling, even less so a feature of character. „Grateful, yes, but nobody wants to teach their children to be resentful”, Professor Peterson said in the podcast I listened to yesterday (The Psychology of the Psychedelics | Roland Griffiths – Jordan B Peterson Podcast – S4 E20). He was talking about Cain and Abel and how Cain became resentful over all his work that went unappreciated.

„Memory is the accumulated totality of all a person’s knowledge of the world.” I like that. Soothing. Yes. Why all that resentment?

The paragraph I read then was equally life-changing. I quote again from the book „Comprehension and Learning” by Frank Smith, „I would like to conclude with a word of guidance to the reader: read to comprehend, not to memorize. As long as you understand, read on, and where you meet difficulty try to go forward rather than backward. If I were asked to summarize the message of this book in one sentence, it would be that the effort to learn is an effort to comprehend. The principal implication for teachers, therefore, is that the effort to teach must be an effort to make comprehensible. My aim has been to interest rather than teach.” 

Finally a professor who values comprehension over memorization. What will the far future of education hold in stock for us in terms of values? Proficiency? Elegance, enjoyment, and ease? After my final graduation from my country’s schooling system it took a good two decades for the nightmares to disappear. But I’ve just realised that the absence of nightmares is not the end of the healing process.

Oh, and one more thing: when I study the movement sequences of Moshé Feldenkrais sometimes there’s movement instructions I can’t quite comprehend at first. In such cases I don’t know what he wants or what he’s talking about – since the audio recordings and transcripts are missing the live aspects of his classes. But afterwards, through my comprehension of the lesson in total, these instructions that were unclear at first will come together nicely. That’s a process I re-modelled for my videos. Sometimes I re-create these ambiguous moments of confusion by asking open-ended movement-based questions, or by not showing a movement, or by giving movement instructions first and moving myself later. Feldenkrais Sudoku.