Discovery Leaarning’s poison

Date:   25 April, 14

By:       Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.

For:     Whom it may concern, esp. SQE

Re:       “Discovery” learning


GA, SQEers.


As the old German said, “Too soon oldt und too late schmart”.


I will share with you my belief that Discovery Learning, or Constructivism, or Experiential Learning, etc. has poisoned more parts of society than just Education.


Scenario 1:


My dear late brother (PhD Ed.) and I (B.Sc., Eng.) graduated within a couple of years of each other in the 50s from U of A. My brother wrote Canada’s first book on Ed. Admin. I wrote the first (known to me) book bringing mathematical modeling into the black art of Production Planning and Control in the notoriously difficult-to-plan heavy electrical manufacturing environment.


Many years later, we were discussing my book.  In a tone of utter horror, my brother asked, “But you’re not telling them how to do it, are you?”


Discovery learning applied in industry!

I remember being so flummoxed by the question that I hardly knew what to say. “Well – uh – that’s sort of the point of the book. I wouldn’t have bothered to write it, and no industrial person would bother to read it, if it didn’t give direct help.”


Scenario 2:


My wife Fern has been astoundingly successful in personal counseling and has always reported that becoming personally involved with a client, sharing life secrets and advice, sometimes providing a shoulder to weep on, etc. is her m.o. On her 90th birthday March 17, the hundreds of E.C.E.s in the agency that employs her partied her lovingly and left her with a 90-page book of cards and letters, the consistent message in all of them being, “You changed my life. I love you.”


But: The accepted wisdom in the profession of personal and family counseling is that the counselor is to remain entirely impersonal and detached, using non-directive interviewing and merely leading the client to her own development of a solution to her problem. I much doubt that many counselors have a book like Fern’s.  (Dr. Eric Berne, developer of Games People Play and the Transactional Analysis m.o. that Fern uses), once tauntingly asked a large audience of other psychiatrists, “Come now, Doctors, how many patients have you actually cured?They use Learning by Discovery in their social work.


Scenario #3


In the popular “permissive” parenting mode, children are not directly forbidden to do anything nor directly told not to do anything. They are “given choices” and allowed to argue whether they should comply. Only one of several bad results of a permissive upbringing is relative morality, e.g., “If it feels good, do it”, or “One religion (or no religion) is as good as another (Satanism included, presumably)”, and “I want it all, and I want it now.” Discovery learning applied to parenting.


If you’ve come with me this far, thanks. I had to get it off my chest. “Discovery Learning” is an insidious social, economic, and moral menace in a lot of places in addition to Education.






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