Myth One – Facts prevent understanding

This blog post summarises chapter 1 of my book Seven Myths about Education. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click hereYou can buy the book as an ebook via Amazon here.

In this chapter, I look at the educational theory of Rousseau, Dewey and Freire. All three were hostile to fact-learning, and all three set up a dichotomy between facts and true understanding. I then show how influential their theories have been by looking at the rhetoric of the current national curriculum, which is based on a similar understanding of an opposition between facts and understanding. Finally, I show why their opposition between fact-learning and true understanding is false. Facts are not opposed to understanding; they enable understanding. This is because of the way that our minds work. Our long-term memories are capable of storing a great deal of information whereas our working memories are limited. Therefore, it is very important that we do commit facts to long-term memory, as this allows us to ‘cheat’ the limitations of working memory. The facts we’ve committed to memory help us to understand the world and to solve problems.

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