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Education Bookcast

Jan 13, 2020

This may be the most important episode on the podcast so far.

When I started out on this journey of coming to understand education, I had a lot of questions. As I started to interrogate my questions further, probing the more fundamental holes in my understanding that lay behind them, I realised that I was missing answers to the most basic questions you could think of: What is education? And what is learning?

I now feel that I have an answer to at least one of these questions. It's a very simple answer. So simple, in fact, that when I first encountered it I felt a mixture of bemusement at its simplicity, and annoyance or even rage at its apparent reductiveness. The definition is as follows:

Learning is additions to long-term memory.

It felt as though all the other aspects of learning that I had been thinking about - skill development, change in self-perception, the change in who a person is and who they say they are, and the experience itself - had been completely washed over and ignored. This made me mad at the "heartless scientists" (my feelings at the time) who were proposing such a definition.

Eventually I realised that this definition is reductive in a "good way". So much in discussions of education ends up bloated with wordiness - finally, this is something succinct. And rather than being reductive in the sense of denying the aspects I mentioned above, it actually incorporates them. It turns out that long-term memory is so much more important than I, or almost anyone else, had previously realised.

In this episode I discuss this idea and some of its implications. In the episodes that follow, I will go into this idea in great depth. There is a lot to say about it, and as I said, it may be the most important idea in education overall.

Enjoy the episode.