As I sit in business and board meetings, I notice that few people take notes.
I wonder if they have better memories than I do, but then, I realize that they have been trained, like most of our society, to let content wash gently over them and pass by un-noted, un-synthesized, un-digested.
One of the most powerful differentiators I’ve found in life, both in academic and professional settings is the skill and habit of taking clear notes.
If civilization is based on learning from and building upon the best thinking that’s gone before, then note taking must be one of the keys to building or at least fighting entropy in our civilization.
I do not agree that the best notes are taken on a PC. I may be old school, but I can write/draw/think much more quickly with pen and paper than I can with a computer. If some hand-written notes turn out to benefit from digitization later, I can quickly dictate them into text using my Android phone. Capture and synthesis the most difficult and valuable part of the process, digitization falls far down on my list of priorities.
The last point in the Atlantic article mentions note’s usefulness in court, but I find them useful in any setting where differences in recall or opinion might creep in. The power of the scribe is a well-known and very useful phenomena, essentially, the person who creates the written record (notes, legal agreements, historical interpretations, etc.) have a special power over the written record of the event. Harold Innis has an interesting perspective on the power of the scribe through history and in the refinement or entropy of our current civilization.
In my search for a meaningful path toward my own education, I’ve found the following thinkers and ideas useful. I started with Jefferson and Franklin, men I admired. I then looked to their favorite authors and educational methods. From there, my latticework continues to expand.
Autobiography of one of America’s greatest autodidacts. Full of fascinating perspectives and practices as well as great stories.
One of America’s most important thinkers and the author of The True Believer-lived for years as a Depression Era migratory worker. Self-taught, his appetite for knowledge-history, science, mankind-formed the basis of his insight to human nature. Working and Thinking on the Waterfront is a rare glimpse into not only Hoffer’s personal life but his thought process while postulating his great future works.
Interesting, useful ideas from an often overooked 18th-century autodidact from Naples who attempted to create a science of history, complete with the ability to predict what’s coming.
On the Study Methods of Our Times
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Self-Reliance of course, but also his essay History, which serves as the foundation for my approach to the subject.
In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work.
Steiner’s focus on the whole person, not just mind, but body and soul too inspires me to offer a richer, gentler form of teaching.
Piaget’s stages of human development interestingly expanded and explained by a psychologist.
Latticework reveals the thinking that has led Warren Bufftet and his partner Charlie Munger to make such excellent financial decisions.
Building a Bridge to the 18th Century by Neil Postman argues that the best thinking of Western Civilization was done in the 18th C. and that we’ve been riding their coattails ever since. If we want to find a workable path forward as a society, we need to return to the educational practices and the high quality of thinking of those amazing years.
In the essay, On The Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life, Nietzsche clarifies the possible affects (positive and negative) of history on humans who live in the here and now.
The essential book on learning the trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric.
Thomas Aquinas/A.G. Setillanges, O.P.
An practical, inspiring look at applying Scholastic methods to our own intellectual lives.
Imagine Aristotle leading discussions with his students as they wandered the grounds of the Lyceum in Athens.
Imagine Thomas Jefferson walking in the woods around Monticello late each afternoon after a long day of studying. He suggested his nephew, Peter Carr, take such walks.
Now, imagine your own child, mind filled with beautiful, challenging words and images, discussing them while walking through the woods near Battle Point park. We stop, read another passage, begin our discussion and continue talking as we walk over the bridge and up the hill. Hearts pumping, oxygenated blood flowing, minds racing to cement fresh connections.
What Aristotle and Jefferson knew from experience, modern science has proven.
Young people have bodies that need movement and brains in bodies in motion learn better.
So, my question is… why don’t more teachers teach moving children?
(per”u•pu•tet’ik), —adj. 1. walking or traveling about; itinerant. 2. (cap.) of or pertaining to Aristotle, who taught philosophy while walking in the Lyceum of ancient Athens. 3. (cap.) of or pertaining to the Aristotelian school of philosophy. —n. 1. a person who walks or travels about. 2. (cap.) a member of the Aristotelian school.
The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty. – Theodore Parker
Learning to read deeply requires patience and practice. Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren wrote the classic How to Read A Book to teach us how.
Students today seem to focus on speed as the ultimate reading skill. We all bathe in huge, cresting seas of information. But how much of it do we really process? How much of it makes us really think? How much is “deep freighted with truth and beauty?” Are we avoiding reading anything we think is over our heads?
Here’s what Mortimer Adler himself has to say about that:
If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insight you do not already possess. – Mortimer Adler
My goal is to help teach students the skills to elevate their minds with what’s over their heads.
First, we start by slowing down and looking closely at sentences, using the Grammar tools that make up Part One of the Trivium.
Once we figure out the meanings of the nouns, the relationships implied by the verbs, etcetera, we move on to looking at the logic of the thoughts in sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and entire works.
Finally, we analyze using Part Three of the Trivium, the Rhetoric. in search of elegance and persuasive power.
Waving iron near iron won’t sharpen it. We must bring our minds into close, friction-heated contact with greater minds to be sharpened. This work happens with greater ease and predictability when a tutor (that’s me) is close at hand making sure no one gets cut in the sharpening process.