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The "can you learn from computer games" gotcha!


Fri Jul 29 2005


David's comments got me thinking.

There is an emerging argument with which I disagree that goes something like:


"Some of you are saying that computer games teach.

If you say computer games teach, aren't computer games teaching violence?"

My argument back is saying:

  • Chess teaches you some general strategy.

  • Chess does not teach you how to kill kings.

We all must increasingly look at content through the lenses of linear, systems, and interface/cyclical. The reason is not just that we should think of teaching that type of content, but that we are teaching that type of content. This gets to the whole school issue as well.



Every day, in every class, students learn interface/cyclical skills. Again, these are the highly precise skills they learn through constant repetition. Here are some examples of the types of cyclical content that our K-12 experiences have taught, and we refine in corporate classes:

  • How to be called by the teacher when you know the answer;

  • How not to be called by the teacher when you do not know the answer;

  • How to be the first to answer all of the easy questions;

  • How and when to ask for extra help to feign interest;

  • When to make eye contact when listening to a teacher;

  • How to draw in notebook when pretending to take notes;

  • How to obtain very good snacks/lunch; and

  • How and when to observe classmates without getting caught.

Classes also inadvertently teach students a tremendous amount about the system in which they are. This is where I would like to also quote John Taylor Gatto:

  • The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong."

  • The second lesson I teach is for students to turn on and off like a light switch with every new topic.

  • The third lesson I teach students is to surrender their will to a predestined chain of command.

  • The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum the students will study.

  • In lesson five I teach that a student's self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of his or her worth.

  • In lesson six I teach is that every student is being watched.

Until we get a handle on these different content types, we will teach mostly the wrong stuff, even/especially if people test well.

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