Interesting article: Rote learning, skills based education and death of liberal education

An interesting article ( link ) regarding the prolific copying and plagiarising that takes place in China with particular point that jumped out at me which was interesting:

Perhaps the language is a reason why: you cannot learn Chinese unless you spend years memorizing thousands of characters needed to achieve literacy, unless you copy, single-mindedly, unquestioningly. Some linguists and cultural historians believe so much mental energy and brain space is taken up by rote learning of the language, that little is left over for innovative thinking.

Raises some interesting issues, although, I think a good part of the problem is the education system itself which has geared itself towards rote learning – memorisation with little in the way of critically analysing existing ideas and whether one can make them better or challenging the fundamental assumptions on which they’ve been developed. I bring this up particularly when we look at the current state of education within the west where education has gone from providing a broad liberal education with analytical skills to become a contributing citizen to now where education has become little more than a place to acquire practical skills (much like an apprenticeship – reading, writing, addition – basically the difference between ‘applied mathematics’ and ‘mainstream mathematics’ with ‘applied mathematics’ becoming the mainstream rather than the exception to the rule) but without the necessary analytical skills or knowledge foundations to participate in what one would hope as a functioning democracy (a democracy being reliant on having an informed and educated population who can weigh up issues by looking at both sides of the debate and deciding based on the evidence rather than knee jerk emotion such as in the US with elections pivoting on the ‘Three G’s’). One only needs to look recently with the whipping up of Chinese nationalism by the Chinese Communist Party over some rocks in the ocean over yonder as a good distraction from the worst level of pollution in decades – “yeah, there is pollution BUT LOOK OVER THERE!” seems to be the message.

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