“Everything You Think You Know Just Ain’t So:” And That Ain’t the Half of It

Coffee Break's Over -- Back On Your Heads

Coffee Break’s Over — Back On Your Heads

The human brain attempts to impose order on the world it perceives. The brain “makes sense” of its observations by grouping them together in ways that seem to help predict the future and guide actions for best results.

Most of what the brain knows, it cannot tell. Knowledge is formed in the brain on multiple, semi-autonomous levels, most of which are not accessible to the conscious mind. From the earliest moments of brain function — inside the womb — “knowledge” is acquired implicitly, on a moment by moment basis. Most of this “knowledge” is never accessible to consciousness, and over time most of what was once accessible to the conscious mind eventually slips beneath its grip.

Tacit knowledge” is one form of unconscious knowledge that usually remains under the command of the conscious mind for nearly the full span of a person’s life. One example of tacit knowledge is the ability to ride a bicycle. Another is the ability to play a difficult musical instrument in a skillful way. Such knowledge is “robust,” and long lasting, although it must be practised to remain quite skillful.

Tacit knowledge is built on unconscious inputs, is assembled unconsciously, and remains unconscious until it is called upon by other parts of the mind — such as the conscious mind — to perform. Even then, the underlying mechanisms of tacit knowledge remain unconscious. Tacit knowledge is crucial in language, pattern recognition of all kinds, all kinds of motor function, and in all types of learning and concept formation.

Although humans are capable of accumulating large amounts of “explicit knowledge,” or facts and expressible algorithms, the most highly valued of “expert knowledge” takes the form of intuitive knowledge. Intuition functions somewhere in between the realms of the automatic operations of perception and the deliberate operations of reason.”

Intuition operates as something of an “overlay” of explicit knowledge on top of implicit knowledge. As such, intuition is neither one nor the other, but an amalgam of both.

The most important “formative years” of implicit learning and the compilation of tacit knowledge, are between conception and the age of seven years (plus or minus one). Another crucial period of unconscious learning takes place during adolescence, when brain development is once again kicked into high gear — partially under the influence of the sex hormonal cascade and its many downstream consequents.

By the time a child arrives at university and comes under the influence of professors and administrators who wish to change the world by changing the minds of youth, the brain has already settled into modes of thinking and interpretation that it is somewhat comfortable with.

But professors and other pseudo-intellectuals who aim to influence the minds of youth, have their own ideas about how and what young brains ought to be allowed to think. To that end, the youth must traverse the gauntlet of “The Threshold Concept,” the life-changing conversion from one thinking system or paradigm to another. More:

Transformative: Once understood, a threshold concept changes the way in which the student views the discipline. More …

Troublesome: Threshold concepts are likely to be troublesome for the student. Perkins has suggested that knowledge can be troublesome e.g. when it is counter-intuitive, alien or seemingly incoherent. More …

Irreversible: Given their transformative potential, threshold concepts are also likely to be irreversible, i.e. they are difficult to unlearn. More …

Integrative: Threshold concepts, once learned, are likely to bring together different aspects of the subject that previously did not appear, to the student, to be related. More …

Bounded: A threshold concept will probably delineate a particular conceptual space, serving a specific and limited purpose. More …

Discursive: Meyer and Land [10] suggest that the crossing of a threshold will incorporate an enhanced and extended use of language. More …

Reconstitutive: “Understanding a threshold concept may entail a shift in learner subjectivity, which is implied through the transformative and discursive aspects already noted. Such reconstitution is, perhaps, more likely to be recognised initially by others, and also to take place over time (Smith)”. More …

Liminality: Meyer and Land [13] have likened the crossing of the pedagogic threshold to a ‘rite of passage’ (drawing on the ethnographical studies of Gennep and Turner in which a transitional or liminal space has to be traversed; “in short, there is no simple passage in learning from ‘easy’ to ‘difficult’; mastery of a threshold concept often involves messy journeys back, forth and across conceptual terrain. (Cousin [7])”. More … http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/~mflanaga/thresholds.html#gen

In other words, educational theorists see university and professional education as a transformative process which literally changes the brain, so that it thinks in a qualitatively different way — a literal crossing of a threshold into a new universe.

Some of this jargon is justified, at least when it applies to the transformation from novice to expert in useful and productive fields of study and work. When it is applied to the political and ideological indoctrination that is often carried out in the name of education in university, however, the idea goes badly wrong. Rather than facilitating the autonomous formation of new knowledge in youth, too often the application of “threshold theory” results in the creation of “false knowledge,” or second- and third-hand knowledge from someone else’s experience — artificially implanted in pre-formed components into the rapidly fermenting mind of youth. This expensive and ongoing institutional mass production of false knowledge is reminiscent of Karen Horney’s concept of the false self, which prevents the person from interacting with the real world on an honest level.

When we say: “everything you think you know, just ain’t so,” we are not merely referring to explicit facts and beliefs which you may hold and declare. Rather, we are referring to all “false knowledge” both explicit and implicit, which you could not help but pick up along the way.

It is a legacy of being human. If you are a bushman in the Kalahari, or a tribesman in the Amazon, other than a few religious quirks and white lies, your survival depends upon an relatively honest relationship with your real world environment.

The modern world is more complex. Prominent institutions and industries are dedicated to preventing children and youth from developing an honest relationship with reality. From popular media to academia to government to advertising to religious cults to activist cults to mass movements of apocalyptic prediction for profit, it is important to the powers that be, that most children and youth never learn to learn and think for themselves.

If you are a politician, a journalist, a climate professor at Oxford, a policeman in Chicago, or a personal injury lawyer in Beverly Hills, you can commit long streams of egregious errors against reality without suffering materially. In fact, your prosperity may well depend upon committing sins against reality, if you belong to one of these or many other parasitic classes. These transgressions against reality tend to have a cumulative effect, over time, in the inflation of “the false self” at the expense of something less insulated and shielded from reality.

For those who are not in on the joke, one definition of hell is “a place where nothing makes any sense and nothing you do makes any difference for the better.” But even if “everything you think you know, just ain’t so,” as long as things seem to make some kind of sense — perhaps with the help of strong delusions, or alcohol, diazepam, or other chemical substances — hell can be escaped or pushed back temporarily.

Here at the Al Fin Dangerous Child Institute, we always attempt to maintain strong connections between “beliefs” and consistent, demonstrable reality. A “belief” is merely incomplete knowledge that influences our actions. Beliefs should be reassessed periodically, as warranted, and should not be mistaken for “proven knowledge.”

Life is hard, and then you die. But if parents, caregivers, and educators make the effort to give the child the gift of autonomy in learning and knowing, the child should have more choices in the many turnings he takes in the course of his life. It is rare to find such generous unselfishness. Most adults who take an interest, seem to want the child to grow up to think and act like the parent, caregiver, or educator in question.

This is why lasting revolutions ideally begin at the beginning, and must be patient and unselfish enough to allow the evolving entity to grow, root, branch, and fruit.

It has always been a long shot, but in the age of accelerating idiocracy the stakes are becoming clearer.

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2 Responses to “Everything You Think You Know Just Ain’t So:” And That Ain’t the Half of It

  1. jabowery says:

    The thing is, “false knowledge” is being inculcated from an early age via motion pictures, so higher “education” is less and less “transformative”. Moreover, not all “false knowledge” is biologically toxic — as exemplified by the higher total fertility rates of some religions. However since the false knowledge of media and academia not only is biologically toxic, but is deliberately so, any attempts at true knowledge that is also biologically healthy are opposed as the secular equivalent of Satanism.

  2. alfin2101 says:

    Right. The dominant order — being based upon blatantly false knowledge — is unstable because it must constantly assert itself at every stage of every generation, without fail. Even then the real world asserts itself in surprising and unexpected ways.

    The way of the Dangerous Child merely needs to teach the children and youth to teach themselves and help them achieve broad competence along with the self-confidence that comes with competency. The rest — including the formation of networks of R&D communities — is essentially autopoietic (self-organising and self-maintaining)

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