CH1 L52: Education – part II (Thinkers or Followers)

  1. To pick up where we left off, parents and teachers should avoid feeding kids with concepts before they create them by themselves [1]. One of the reasons that this mistake takes place is that we don’t make a distinction between a concept and its symbol.
  2. In the 12th post, we studied how the brain could create concepts by grouping several things based on at least one similarity [2]. Since the process is very important, let’s practice it again.
  1. When you see the thing [3] above, your brain creates its sign and saves it in the memory [4]. Then you see the next thing.
  1. After creating the sign of the second thing, your brain starts to compare them to create a meaningful relationship. To draw away similarities, you should ignore their different colors and other nuances. Then you can put them in one group which is called a concept. Let’s jump to its symbol which we inevitably need to communicate. It’s the concept of horses.
  2. Concepts are abstract or imaginary. As we studied in the 13th post [5], they look like the invisible man, so they need the clothes of language to be perceived [6]. Language is a system of signs which communicate meanings including concepts [7]. Now, imagine how you could think about the concept of a horse. Either your brain would recall the image of a horse which is an iconic sign, or you think about the word horse (pronounced or written) which is a symbolic sign, you’re using a language to understand it [8].
  3. Here comes the distinction between the word horse and the concept of a horse. You see that I can’t even talk about the concept of a horse without using the word horse, that’s why the distinction between them isn’t easy. However, the word horse is just a symbol (a part of the convention between English speakers) to signify the concept of a horse [9]. To give you a clear-cut example, say the word horse to someone who doesn’t know English and it would be meaningless to them.
  4. So, we can see that the word horse is just a symbol that signifies the concept of a horse to those who know English. This distinction has another significance. Symbols don’t have any intrinsic meanings. Contexts make them meaningful. [10]
  5. Symbols are part of social constructs to communicate. Therefore, kids must learn them as they are; otherwise, they won’t be understood. Thus when we teach symbols to kids, we expect their full accommodation [11] or I may even say submission. In case they use a word incorrectly or their sentence is jumbled up, we correct them and we repeat it till they learn the correct way.
  6. Education prepares people for life, personally and socially. The social aspect necessitates obtaining the minimum skill to communicate. So, as long as, you’re following the rules and being understood, you’re safe and that’s what societies expect from their members. It’s admirable to articulate your meanings but it’s not a must.
  7. Now we can discuss that one of the reasons parents or teachers prematurely teach concepts is they use the same strategy that we teach symbols: introduce the symbol of concepts to kids, repeat them and let them practice the symbols and correct the kids if they use them wrongly.
  8. The important drawback of this system is kids don’t learn to assimilate concepts and as Piaget mentioned it if accommodation outgrows assimilation, kids will tend to imitate. Thus we raise followers, not thinkers.
  9. In the next post, we continue why it’s not easy to facilitate kids to become thinkers.


[1] Link to the previous post.

[2] Link to the 12th post

[3] In the 2nd post [Link] we discussed that before creating concepts, everything is a thing and concepts specify them.

[4] There’s no special unit of memory for the sign of a horse. Professor Sapolsky [Link] in one of his lectures on behavioral biology said that our brain stores shapes and lines at different places and you remember your grandmother’s face combining the correct details. I can add to that, that’s why a stickman can trigger the image of a person with minimum details.

[5] Link to the 13th post

[6] On a personal note, I felt extremely proud when I found that Beckett [Link] also had the same point of view about concepts and language. “Words are the clothes thoughts wear.”

[7] We discussed the concepts of language in several posts, but one that is particularly related to this topic, is the 19th posts about signs. [Link]

[8] I also stated that thinking can be considered as self-communication. That’s why we can’t think without a language. If fire burnt your finger, you wouldn’t need any language to feel it, but to think about the experience, you need a language. Even if you don’t use words and recall the experience, your brain is using the iconic language. [Link]

[9] Again you can refer to the 19th post to find the categories of signs: icons, indexes, and symbols. [Link]

[10] In my opinion, it’s very important to think that the world is meaningless but we make it meaningful. If you’re defining yourself as a man or a woman, a young or an old, etc., you’re using concepts to make yourself meaningful.

Things aren’t ugly or beautiful, pungent or aromatic, useful or harmful per se, our judgment gives those meanings to them.

[11] We discussed the concepts of assimilation and accommodation in three posts, starting from the 22nd one. These terms are defined by Piaget [Link], a famous Swiss psychologist to explain the development of intelligence in kids. He said that our brain uses two complementary agents to adapt to the environment. Assimilation is the power that we change our environment, whereas accommodation is we change ourselves to fit into the environment. This idea can be used physically and mentally. I recommend you to read about its mechanism in the 22nd post [Link]. Piaget stated that the balanced growth of assimilation and accommodation results in functioning intelligence. If assimilation outgrows accommodation, kids will tend to play games; otherwise, they will rather imitate. [Link]

The featured image is taken from the following link



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