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Schools and License Plates

The other day our daughter came home from school with a new assignment: memorize the names of the counties in Austria and their two letter abbreviations on car license plates. There are 99! The assignment is typical of Austria - and very different from our previous experience in the USA where skills rather than encyclopedic knowledge were taught. Why feed students with often useless knowledge which they need to be able to reproduce on demand? In times of Google and Wikipedia? The schooling philosophy behind Austrian teaching is probably 250 years old. It favors dictated over self directed learning, dependent thinking over independent judgment, and authoritarian over democratic structures. God bless Austria!


debi said…
I'm a little confused. Are you advocating skills training or memorization? I don't know if "God bless Austria" is sarcastic or that you feel US training is inadequate - sorry. I'm all American and all about skills based training (requiring a solid vocabulary as a foundation or it is useless).
I look forward to clarification! debi
Thanks Debi. If I have to choose between skills and encyclopedic knowledge I'll go for the skills. Teach a child how to find and interpret data and she'll make her way. Feed her on facts and she'll be lost later, in college, in the workplace. Good schools teach both, with a stronger focus on memorizing in some subjects (foreign languages) and on skills in others (sciences).

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