Knowing How To Find Out

Why do we praise people for using a dictionary, and condemn them for using a calculator?

Is using a telescope cheating? What about a times-table?

Which is more important - to know, or to know how to find out?

Just wondering.


balletgirl said...

dictionary, calculator, telescope, times-table?...............


knee-jerk reaction: it is FAR more important - especially with the amount of knowledge available in today's world - to know HOW to find the answer.

let's look at your options, as above:
- one accesses a dictionary to find meaning.
- one accessses a calculator to generate an answer/a solution to a number question.
- one accesses a telescope to be able to see something which the naked eye cannot - no suggestion of 'cheating' there!
- one accesses a times-table to generate an answer to a number problem, or to shorten the calculation process.

isn't it merely a question about WHERE we draw the line, between the basic skills which are necessary to ask the next set of questions...... and 'knowing' or having learnt and remembered the answers to the 'next set' of questions?

in other words: we decide, in our 'western' societies, that people need to be able to draw and read letters and numbers, in order to be able to interpret them and the information they convey?

if people DON'T learn those basic heiroglyphs - whether because they 'can't' or they 'won't'..... or didn't get an appropriate opportunity to - then, they are incapable of formulating or espressing the question (any communicable question).

So, 'we'/'the powers that be' in the western world, have decided that being able to read and write (letters and numbers) is the essential building-block/basic skill for participation in our societies. Quite reasonably, in my view.

We have NOT decided that, for argument's sake, adults must be able to recognise and interpret SMELLS up to a certain level of capability.....or even to recognise and interpret and handle EMOTIONS up to a certain minimum standard of capability....... in order to function adequately in our societies.

but there is a significant difference between using, on the one hand, a dictionary - or even a times-table - and using a calculator.

a telescope,or a magnifying glass, or a spectron photometer (whatever that might be), is a whole other 'kettle of fish'.

were you just trying to confuse us?

Chris Jackson said...

We teach them when it is appropriate to use both. I certainly teach people to use a calculator, but dissuade them in a mental arithmetic exam. It would probably be inappropriate to use a calculator in a shop to check change, but I took a calculator with me when I last negotiated a loan with a bank manager. There are probably more times when it is appropriate to use a dictionary, but probably not when writing a message at the end of a shift at work, for instance.

Wendell said...

Once I knew a man who had his daughter do his grocery shopping because, unable to add larger numbers well, he was afraid of arriving at the checkout without enough money.

I worked him through the steps of using a calculator. Then, when he told me he was ready, we went to the grocery store. He shopped, using his calculator. It was a complete success.

From that point on, he did his own shopping.