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How People Learn - Chapter 3

Why do they teach students reading, writing, and mathematics before they teach them how to eat? Think about that as I go through a review of this chapter to lead to my point. Learning in schools involves the core concept of abstracting knowledge to make it transferrable to other scenarios, mainly, as the chapter concludes, to everyday life. Transfer is the process through which you learn something bigger than mathematics or something bigger than that physics problem. Some would argue it is the overall increase in understanding. In order to achieve this transfer, one must have the passion and desire to do these things. This is where we should start most of teaching, in motivation. The study and understanding of how to create motivation in students is particularly, what, to me, makes a great lecture. Learning requires an in depth understanding of the representation of knowledge in the human brain. This understanding will allow you to make better connections with your students, and to relate the knowledge to their everyday life. However, it is obvious that these connections and the idea of transfer is inherently not visible and incredibly difficult to test. These studies require long term studies of the development of a student’s knowledge and where his inherent understanding of the world comes from. As the chapter illustrates, it is not a binary decision, of teaching and then testing for transfer, it is the inherent process of understanding and the creation of the connections in our brain over time that allows for this fabled transfer to occur. This led me to think of first encounters with knowledge, and the age-old question of nature vs nurture. I thought, if knowledge is related on previous knowledge, then what is the first piece of knowledge we get, are we born with it, and if not, is it significant to our development? I stepped back from those thoughts and decided it wasn’t worth it. On Page 56 it is stated that chess masters require up to 100,000 hours of practice to become an expert. There must be something wrong with their sourcing because that is an order of magnitude off, as it would require approximately 11 years nonstop, or 22 years, if you were playing chess 12 hours a day. However, if we stick to the notion of the 10,000 rule to become an expert, something interesting is illustrated. If I eat 2 hours a day, by the time everyone hits puberty their approaching their PhD in ‘gobble gobble’, and yet, we don’t have a clue what we swallow. The cottage cheese problem in Box 3.10 taught me how to calculate portions, but should I really be eating 3/4ths of 2/3rd of a cup of just cottage cheese? That stated, let me get back to the first thought that I put on your mind as you began reading this.

Obesity is a known problem in the United States. More specifically, Georgia has incredibly high childhood obesity rates, ranking at approximately 40% of 3rd graders being overweight and obese (Georgia Department of Public Health, 2010). Campaigns such as Strong4Life (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, 2011) tackle obesity with graphic and blunt advertisements in attempts to shock their audience to acknowledge the problem. They often fail by belittling children who are obese, and simply hurting other people’s feelings. Obesity isn’t an issue because we should blame on the fast food industry alone, but rather on the fact that we never think before we eat because we were never taught how to do so. If my body had to read three times a day, I would go through books like crazy, but I’d probably only look at the pictures. The text inside it would be, like hmm, all the preservatives they put in a fast food meal. If you don’t teach me about it, don't blame me for not knowing how to do it. Now, as I walked back to my laboratory to write this, I ran into a couple, of which I knew the guy. I talked to both of them about what was on my mind, to which they responded with an interesting thought, ‘I got taught nutrition in Middle School’. A little glimmer of hope rang inside me, but quickly faded away as I thought, that’s, on average, a little over a decade after children have started eating. Everyone eats. Before I need to read and write, and learn complex algorithms in my research laboratory, I eat. I’ve done it every day of my life, and I do not plan on stopping. The point of abstract knowledge is taken a little too far when it comes to nutrition. When a student takes health, or nutrition, the facts they learn are facts. Schools need to teach eating as if it was an apprenticeship. Every lunch break. Let’s take a field trip to the grocery store, and show you which foods contain things that are good for you. When people criticize obesity, many stances are taken. Some people are on the soft side and side with letting the obese be, because they are happy. Others go straight to labeling it a disease that needs to be treated. My point of view stands nowhere in between. I personally abide by the motto, ‘Live and let live’, everyone should have the right to do whatever they want, but they deserve the right to be educated to make these decisions with knowledge, and not with hunger. However, the education system seems to be focused on tangible statistics and exam passing, and eating habits are found in the small excerpt of your childhood when they made you record what you ate for that one week in Health and then gave you an A for completion, when you deserved an F for eating before thinking.

To conclude, telling someone they’re incompetent won’t help them learn, in the same way that telling someone they are obese won’t help them lose weight. Teach them how to do better and they will make the informed decision, and spread the word.

Works Cited

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. (2011). Stop Childhood Obesity. Retrieved 1 26, 2012, from Strong For Life:

Georgia Department of Public Health. (2010). Obesity in Children and Youth. Retrieved 1 25, 2012, from


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