Knowledge Series Part 7: In Conclusion

Changing My Mind

It is hard to change your mind. Very hard.

When presented with information that disagrees with your point of view, it is easy to feel attacked. I recognize that process in myself, when I receive feedback on, well, anything. Initially defensive and resentful, I often need to let the ideas cook before I’m willing to acknowledge I’m not perfect.

Studies completed in the 1970s at Stanford first exposed how unreasonable people could be. Once a particular view was formed, it was very resistant to change, even when the evidence that originally formed the view was shown to be false.

This is partly physiological, as the two sources linked above show. When we are faced with information that supports our point of view, we get a surge of dopamine, a rush of pleasure. When we are faced with information that contradicts our point of view, the same part of our brain responsible for pain is activated.

Being faced with information that contradicts our views also creates cognitive dissonance: the discomfort that arises from holding contradictory thoughts.

My process, in changing my mind, followed a similar trajectory as John Kenney and James Theobald. Fresh out of teachers’ college, where I generally received one perspective on education, I slowly found my views changing, both from my experience in the classroom and from the books I read. Today, I still feel like I am in a state of flux in some ways, but in others I am confident in the position I have taken.

One edublogger I follow, who was instrumental in changing my views, has also publicly change his own, and is willing to admit when he is wrong. It is not a character flaw for someone to change their mind, if they do it for the right reasons. While I don’t always agree with David Didau, I respect him for this.

So, if you started reading this series disagreeing with me, I cannot realistically expect you to agree with me now, however strong I feel the argument I’ve put forward is. You cannot realistically expect to change my view, but, please, leave comments. I’ve changed my mind before. And, maybe, I can change yours.

Selected Bibliography

I stand on the shoulders of some pretty awesome giants. The ideas of Daniel Willingham, E.D. Hirsh, David Didau, Michael Fordham and others were formative in shaping my ideas on the importance of knowledge in schools. Here are some blogs, books and articles that say everything I just did, but better.

Books

Trivium 21C – Martin Robinson

It is difficult to recommend Robinson’s book because, while his explanation of the trivium now underpins my own teaching philosophy, I didn’t actually enjoy the book. It tours educational philosophy, from the days of Ancient Greece to now. However, for its synthesis of “traditional” and “progressive” pedagogy and the role it finds for knowledge in schools, I do recommend it.

Why Don’t Students Like School – Daniel Willingham

I cannot recommend Daniel Willingham enough. After reading almost every single one of the his articles in American Educator, and then his book, I am startled how cognitive science was not a component in my teacher education. Willingham makes the science accessible to novices and applicable to classroom teaching.

Blogs

Filling the Pail – Greg Ashman

While I do not link to Ashman’s blog even once during this series, he was one of the first bloggers I found when I started digging into different perspectives on education and one of the catalysts for changing my views. Occasionally sarcastic, always strong in his beliefs.

Learning Spy – David Didau

Didau does not shy away from controversy. His posts leave plenty of food for thought.

Teaching It Real – Mark Enser

Do you teach Geography? Do you teach secondary? Do you teach? Well, now you read this blog.

Clio et cetera – Michael Fordham

When I started reading Fordham’s blog, I felt a bit overwhelmed. His writing is dense with ideas, but now I appreciate his posts for their insights into education.

Trivium21c – Martin Robinson

Robinson’s blog continues the conversation started by his book. I particularly recommend his curriculum series.

Articles

Domain Specificity of Creativity: Theory, Research, and Practice – The Creativity Post – John Baer

I found the work of John Baer while researching the section on creativity. This article does a good job of explaining both how creativity is researched and what the research says.

Building Knowledge – American Educator – E.D. Hirsch

Hirsch’s explanation of how knowledge is important for reading comprehension, and how we can build knowledge through the English Language Arts curriculum.

‘You Can Always Look It Up’…Or Can You? – American Educator – E.D. Hirsch

Unconvinced by my arguments against using the internet as a substitute for knowledge? Give this article a try.

What Every American Should Know – The Atlantic – Eric Liu

A good explanation of E.D. Hirsch’s ideas, argument for the ongoing importance of cultural literacy, and discussion of how to update Hirsch’s controversial list.

Critical Thinking – American Educator – Daniel Willingham

Yes, Willingham again, this one on the role of knowledge in critical thinking.

How Knowledge Helps – American Educator – Daniel Willingham

One more from Willingham. This article covers all his major points about the importance of knowledge, from its role in reading comprehension, working memory capacity, and problem-solving.

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