I read a great quote from journalist Murray Sayle, who said there were only three kinds of pieces:
• “Arrow points to defective part”
• “Herein we name the guilty person”
• “Everything you know about subject X is wrong”
The first two kinds of journalism are as self-evident as farts, but in the last 25 years, we’ve had an onslaught of the third kind. As biological, medical and psychological testing gets more sophisticated, we’re finding out that human beings were incorrect about pretty much every assumption from 1858 to 2009.
People faced with that kind of wrongheadedness do one of two things: they either double-down on idiocy, or else they breathe the fresh clean air of truth. Being wrong would be liberating if it weren’t so humiliating. I confess there’s plenty of things I’d like to go on believing despite scientific consensus to the contrary (like Pluto still being a planet – poor little guy).
I have droned ENDLESSLY on here about how much I loathed school, and how much of it hinged on The Man’s insistence on turning teenagers into sleep-deprived zombies. Still, despite story after story showing how teens’ test scores skyrocket with later school start times, administrations don’t do anything because, well, they’d have to alter the calendar they Xeroxed in 1972.
Then, just last week, the NYTimes published an article actually called Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits. We were all trained the same: in order to learn, you need to have a permanent, quiet study space with no distractions. It should be regularly scheduled, and no dicking around. Apparently, that’s total crap.
Several different studies showed that mixing up subjects during a session, as well as moving your study area around, and taking seemingly-unrelated breaks… gave students huge leaps in cognitive understanding and test scores. When we switch things up, the uniquely different ambient environments and background noise imprints on us while we learn, allowing us to digest information that sticks. Remember this entry from two years ago? It’s how all of us remember what theater we were in when we saw all those movies.
In all, it means shoving another case study into the Shit I Suffered in School For No Apparent Reason file, although that particular dossier is now so fucking full I’m wondering if anything I did in middle and high school made sense. All those study halls, all that sitting in a wooden desk trying to memorize bullshit while wearing a tie, the unending hours of trying to cram trigonometry concepts into my brain, it was like shoving a gallon of Jell-o through a shower head.
How’s about this: if there is something about school that is making kids miserable, why not see if it’s actually working? I know it’s a revolutionary concept, but if you’ve got a room full of 16-year-olds barely able to stay awake, confined to their desks like baby cows in their veal pens, failing their tests and not caring… maybe the system could afford some tweaks?
In some ways, I feel vindicated by this research. I was not such an ADD-addled freak doing poorly in school, I was just being human. If the structure makes you sorrowful and wretched, you’re probably doing the structure no good. There’s only one thing in life that works great when it feels wrong, and it’s called golf.