About the Book
About the Author
We are all dealt by birthright one coupon for a free lunch: our native language. It is the
one body of knowledge we all acquire without fail. It also gives us insight
into how our brains work. One of the most important of these is that we all
learn our mother tongues without teaching proper, by exposure, observation, and
imitation. Our brains are self-learning pattern-recognition and rule-building
machines. What we generally refer to as teaching (teacher conveying knowledge
to student, then testing its transfer) is an illusion. All learning is
internal, beginning and ending inside the brain. Teachers convey not knowledge
but metadata, information about knowledge; all understanding is created
internally, by the brain collecting statistics on stimuli to which it is
exposed. We are fooled into thinking that schools can teach at all by the fact
that they are not complete failures, because in the midst of all the wasted
instruction, they willy-nilly also provide some exposure to the students, which
their brains then turn into learning. Probing how the brain collects statistics
to help us acquire native fluency in our mother tongues reveals how our brain
changes in the process, and how we can change it further by acquiring native
fluency in other areas, for example music.
The author tells the extraordinary story of a
traveler to the island of Uscolia, where there are no schools and no teachers,
and all children acquire native fluency in more than one language, as well as
in other areas of their interest in free-flowing facilities called studios.
Although the word studio is related to study, and a great deal of
learning is taking place there, make no mistake about it: there is no teaching
of any sort. It is unlikely that Uscolian studios will be popping up in our
neighborhoods anytime soon, but the author describes his hands-on experience in
applying, within the confines of an ordinary family home, some of the
principles that guide Uscolians in raising their children.
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