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Re: would appreciate a rejoinder

Posted By: Alistair Chew on August 22, 2015
Dear Dr McMurtry,

I'm an educator who believes that, yes, human learning is indeed about individual brains (as much as the brain can be said to be the main superstructure of an individual's neural network) acquiring and processing information (as far as we can agree that information is data somehow placed in a context that aforesaid brain can 'make sense of'). Twenty-five years of cognitive neuroscience have persuaded me that every behaviour of the student can be mapped as biochemical or physiological activity of a fairly specific sort. Hence, any response to stimuli can be statistically predicted and learning (as far as adaptation of aforesaid neural network to changes in the environment) is indeed all about brains blah blah blah information.

That said, all the peering down the deterministic or stochastic trails to see if we can educate by inducing learning (aha, see, I don't think education and learning are the same thing, quite) won't help a student learn much more beyond very general practices. It is cliche to say that each student is an individual, but it doesn't make it less true—each one is like an individual grain of sand on the seashore, and yes you can move the seashore en bloc, but you can never itemise by difference each grain therein without too much effort and the loss of the sand to such effort.

Those damn brains, they follow you a very short distance down the determinism path and then get sidetracked by real life in every possible way. Which means that my argument is valid but short and useless, and you win.

Sigh, it appears that all along I have been agreeing with you in one sense: human learning is about individual brains acquiring and processing information if you define each term very narrowly and therefore uselessly. Real life is messier, and education is all about dealing with that messiness to produce beautiful and effective outcomes.

yours very sincerely,
Dr Chew
(where, contrary to popular belief, they do not always believe in rote learning and mechanistic approaches and the fruits of cognitive neuroscience as the bulk of an educational salad)
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 would appreciate a rejoinder by Angus Mcmurtry on August 18, 2015
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