Gabriel Lanyi : Uscolia


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Education & Teaching, Parenting

For Readers Of

Thomas More, Vladimir Nabokov, Yuval Noah Harari

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Sycorax Books

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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.

Editorial Reviews

This book is actually a utopia - which is not surprising; its title pretty much says it. Just like "Utopia" is the "noplace" where all the social problems of 16th century England and Europe are solved, "Uscolia" is the"noschool" where all contemporary educational problems are solved. There are no schools in Uscolia. What replaces them are studios, institutions of a type that no human society to date has thought of establishing. Uscolian studios evolved historically from an art studio, but in time took on additional functions, including that of a dorm, where children can stay as long as they like, a concert hall, a zoo, a botanical garden, a data processing lab, and a community center. There are no teachers at the studio, and no classrooms, but all kinds of projects are being run that result in serious leaning in practically all areas of knowledge. Attendance at the studio is not mandatory and you show up if and when you feel like it. But why wouldn't you want to attend, and what could be more fun than playing with puzzles, weaving your own cloths, making batteries, composing music, building a garbage sorter, painting, producing plays, or creating a robotic dinosaur? If the implications of the many original ideas in this book are thought through to their logical end, its practical consequences could be enormous. This is without a doubt one of the most intriguing books I have read in the past years. (

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