Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Changes, Self-Education, and History

It occurred to me that, although I'm talking a lot about the Sapience Knowledge Base, I didn't have a link to it. I thought I did, but it might have been on one of my posts which is now buried in the archives. It has also occurred to me that I might do well to link the blog to other blogs, and reserve reference links for the web site. I have also begun to add labels for specific topics that I discuss. So, I have completely revised and reorganized the links section.

Although the title of this blog would lead one to expect that there is something about self-directed education here, I've posted precious little on that specific topic. One of the reasons is that I consider self-directed education to be a part of education. More specifically, it has a lot in common with research, which I take to be a part of education. Without that connection to other areas of education or even other subjects, I feel like I'm discussing in a vacuum, as a meaningless abstract generality. Give it a context and a connection to something else, give it parts, and I can then say something meaningful about it. With today's developments, I have an application: specifically history, so I can now say something meaningful about education in general and self education in particular.

When I first began considering how to structure the topic of education in this knowledge base, and what its parts and processes were, I decided that the foundation of education is the discovery of new knowledge, which generally involves a research process. One cannot teach what one has not first learned. Then comes teaching, and then comes the organization of the process, and finally, schools. Since I'm working outside the school system, I decided that I needed to pay attention to the roots of the subject, but because I had structured my studies from a "top down" approach, I had trouble getting to that particular area. Now I have a connection.

I've noticed for some time the complaint that "history is boring", at least, as it's often taught in school. I'm not sure that I have a better answer for that than anyone else, but I might just observe not that a child's knowledge and memory start at the self and the immediate environment, and go outward. A child is far less likely to be interested in the history of the world, than in the history of his own local neighborhood, and less interested in what happened long ago and far away than what happened yesterday or last month, unless there is something in that tale of long ago and far away that makes a connection to right now. Another has to do with the approach taken by professional historians in the past century or so. In their attempts to be scientific, factually correct, and manageable the amount of source material they have to work with, they have tended to become highly specialized, and technically dry. Many works of professional historians are unreadable to the nonspecialist. While historians have been accused of concentrating too much on the "his" in history, many have forgotten the "story" part.
But enough rant on that subject. In general terms, a self-directed student might wish to focus on research, on learning from someone else, on organizing a learning project, or pay for a pre-compiled package (complete with certification) from a recognized school.

I hadn't expected to add any new links from the history main page for a while yet, but one to Democratic (national) governments appeared. I got a lot further in checking links than I had expected, and in the process rewrote the section on how education applies to history. Since that's been an area I wanted to get around to for some time, I was very pleased to finally see it appear. I was expecting a fair amount of demand for prehistory, and there was, but it came mostly in the form of checking already existing links, rather than creating new one. Antiquity has a new link to hunting and gathering societies, and Classical and Medieval history a new link to Judaism. No new links from Modern history main page: I'm doing a lot of checking links to particular countries and cities of Western civilization. The 18th century, though, ahas a new link to Southeast Asia, the 19th century to pagan religion, the early 19th to institutions, the late 20th century to social structure and change, and the current quarter of 2007 a link to institutions.
I have nothing new for the main page in sociology. For peoples and nations I'm examining virtual links to communities, and for communities, virtual links to nations, and for social structure and change, I've wrapped up history for the time being and am about to start checking real links to nations. (A virtual link is one that exists only on my development guide, for the purpose of helping assure that I don't develop low-level topics before having considering them at a higher level.) I am actually looking at pages to nations and cities, but mostly these include already-developed links to history, so it's checking, not any new development.
For the main institutions page, I'm also checking links to nations, so there's no news there. But, for the individual sections, things are starting to move. For particular religions of the world, I now have a link to this year's news. I can connect pagan religion to the major peoples. Abrahamic religion to this decade. I gave Government connections to the 19th century, and government activities back to prehistory. Economics is linked to the 19th century, economic activities to modern history, and industries to history in general. I also added a new page, for building and construction industries. I also have links to the history of teaching and the history of research. I especially wanted to get to these the first real, tangible development of these subjects.
As a bonus that I wasn't expecting to get to today, I have culture linked to the current quarter and month, so that now when the catalog of recent events lists sports and the like, I have some place to discuss them. (Personally, I don't think I could care about them less than I do, but since they are highly visible part of society, I almost have to give them some attention to them.) The area of applied science now connects to antiquity, at least better than it did.

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