The Voice of Cold, Hard Truth to All Would-Be Educators
By Bryan Caplan
Tyler often insists that, appearances notwithstanding, he’s constantly popularizing free-market ideas. People just have to read him carefully and in the proper frame of mind.
I habitually insist that this isn’t good enough. Either you popularize your point bluntly and clearly, or you fail to popularize.
After rehashing this argument this morning, I ran back to his office and declaimed the following paragraph from educational psychologist Douglas Detterman, quoted in Robert Haskell’s Transfer of Learning. When Detterman began teaching…
I thought it was important to make things as hard as possible for students so they would discover the principles for themselves. I thought the discovery of principles was a fundamental skill that students needed to learn and transfer to new situations. Now I view education, even graduate education, as the learning of information. I try to make it as easy for students as possible. Where before I was ambiguous about what a good paper was, I now provide examples of the best papers from past classes. Before, I expected students to infer the general conclusion from specific examples. Now I provide the general conclusion and support it with specific examples. In general, I subscribe to the principle that you should teach people exactly what you want them to learn in a situation as close as possible to the one in which the learning will be applied. I don’t count on transfer and I don’t try to promote it except by explicitly pointing out where taught skills may be applied.
Emphasis added for self-referential reasons.