ALS Topic 6 -
Why do people stop learning? (... Do they?)
Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime
Seminar, 29 April 2018
questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You
really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do
be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence! Note: clearly
not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but
they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while
making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who
come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.
1. 9, 19 or 109 years old - When & Why do
people stop wanting to learn new stuff?
2. What do you think
is worth learning? something for a diploma, something for a career
edge, something out of sheer curiosity ...?
3. There are 24
hours in a day. How much do you put aside for socializing, how much
for being a spectator, how much for finding out about new stuff?
4. What are some things you have decided not to try to learn
more about in this life? Why?
5. What are the most effective
ways you know for learning complex skills or knowledge?
you think learning another language is similar or different from
learning other things? Why/why not?
7. Average literacy and
numeracy ability worldwide actually declines after 14 years of age -
i.e. for most, not all people. (Working for a mass circulation
tabloid newspaper in 1966 - 1 million copies daily in Sydney - I was
told that the reading age our customers was around 11 y.o.). Why do
you think this is so? What are the social consequences of this
8. From your formal education, how much of the
information from the courses have you retained in memory? How fast
did you forget stuff? Why did you forget it? Is there any fix for
this kind of loss?
9. Large numbers of adults (and a
proportion of teenagers) are completely incurious about anything
unfamiliar. Why do you think this is so? Must it be this way, or is
there some kind of cure?
10. 'Confirmation bias' is the
tendency we all have to only notice or take in those ideas which
confirm what we already believe. This effects even professional
researchers. It is endemic in social media. What do you think is the
best way to minimize confirmation bias?
11. Mass education
has emerged as a vast industry in the last 150 years. It has greatly
changed most cultures, but for many students the process is very,
very inefficient. Can you suggest of a better way to go about
teaching and learning?
Here are 9 extra
education related questions thought up by Jenny and David in the
1. Why do people ever think they know enough?
2. What keeps people in their knowledge comfort zone?
How do people (try to) keep their circumstances within their
4. Do people ever stop learning?
5.Does the education system encourage individual thinking?
How does the media influence opinion?
7. Does political
correctness stifle thinking?
8. What can be done to encourage
thinking in children?
9. Does the government want citizens to
think for themselves? If not, why not?
Comment by Thor:
For my own use, I have a fairly succinct idea of the most
hopeful purpose of education, and how to realize it (extracted from
my 2014 article on the purpose of education, in comments above):
a) The skill and habit of ingenious questioning. The answers we
get in life depend upon the questions we ask.
b) The technical
and social skills needed to search out the answers, or tentative
answers, to smart questions.
c) The developed ability to
synthesize the answers from cascading questions into fresh insights.
d) The understanding that a system without error has no
intelligence, and that efficient learning as well as innovation
e) The skill to coolly evaluate risk with known
unknowns, and the knack of finding good rules of thumb to deal with
f) The initiative and persistence to actualize
fresh insights for practical effects on the world we live in.
May, Thor (2014) "The Purpose of Education
- a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy?". Thor's Unwise Ideas online @
May, Thor "Corruption and Other Distortions as Variables in
Language Education". TESOL Law Journal, Vol.2 March 2008; also
Daniel (2017) "When you stop learning your brain starts to die".
Brodwin, Erin & Skye Gould (2017) "The age your brain peaks
at everything". Business Insider @
Costandi, Mo (2014) "Am I too old to learn a new language?"
The Guardian @
Drogen, Leigh (2012) "Is the world too complicated for
people?" Leigh Drogen website @
Giang, Vivian (2015) "What it takes to change your brain's
patterns after age 25". Fast Company blog @
Harris, John (2016) "The lesson of Trump and Brexit - A
society too complex for its people risks everything". The Guardian @
Koziol, Michael (29 April 2018) "Malcolm Turnbull backs
Gonski 2.0 'blueprint' for radical overhaul of Australian
curriculum". Brisbane Times @
Lieberman, Matthew (2012) "Why we stop learning: the paradox
of expertise - How to keep learning when other people think you know
it all". Pschology Today @
Moore, Anthony (2017) "The day you stop learning is the day
you stop growing". The Mission blog @
Paul, Annie (2011) "Ten ways you get smarter as you get
older". Oprah blog @
Ritchie, Natalie (2018) "What ages do kids learn best?"
Child blog @
Simmons, Michael (5 April 2018) "People Who Have “Too Many
Interests” Are More Likely To Be Successful According To Research",
or blog @ http://t.co/T32xDLUBLJ
1. articles at
legacy site: http://thormay.net