How many times have I thought I knew something and when asked how it works or the basic concepts, was at a loss for the explanation? Unfortunately, too many times! Sometimes I feel I should know it and what I end up doing is explaining the same thing over again but with different words. It doesn't change the fact that I didn't know or only knew enough to discuss it shallowly.
I feel this was the case in "A Private Universe." I wonder if the fact that the first students interviewed were Harvard students was meant to shock viewers in some way. The reality is just because someone attended Harvard doesn't automatically grant them intellectual knowledge in all fields - any more than a child born in the 90's is automatically a genius with technology. Beyond that, it wasn't necessarily surprising that the Rindge and Latin students weren't able to "flesh" out seasonal shifts, the earth's rotation and moon phases correctly. My own particular bias is that I feel that when confronted by a "deficit," we are apt to fill it, especially if pressed for an answer.
If we're filling a deficit, how did we get the information? This is just pure speculation backed up by my own personal experience, with absolutely no empirical data... Now that I've issued that caveat, let's move on...
The Knowledge Building article discussed iterative idea improvement with the thought that students engaged in knowledge building will continue to explore and expand their thinking about topics over longer periods of time than just the span of a traditional unit. In a traditional class and school, however, students study topics over a set period of time and then move on to other topics. Many of the points made during those units that a student "learned" fall by the wayside but some remain, becoming vague over time. Discussions with others outside of class, perhaps at home with parents or siblings might add more detail. Books, even fictional ones, on that topic may add more information. None of these "sources" may be completely right or wrong but the information may be remembered, if somewhat altered. Is it possible that, years later, when asked about that particular topic, the student is able to pull all sorts of extraneous, half remembered facts together, piece it together, and present a viable theory? Chances are there will be a memory of studying something in class but the information that is now present may be the compilation of sources - spun with that individual's personal theory or bias.
The part that was startling in all of this was that the teacher was surprised. She seemed shocked at their theories and that they came in with incorrect knowledge. Considering the age of the student, it wasn't shocking at all. Once could be reasonably certain that the topic of the sun, the earth and the moon had come up in earlier grades.
Speculation like this makes it clear why I called this blog "Musings from Tis..."