Noam Chomsky on learning by doing

BARSAMIAN: Let’s talk about propaganda and indoctrination. As a teacher, how do you get
people to think for themselves? Can you impart tools that will enable that?
CHOMSKY: I think you learn by doing—I’m a Deweyite from way back. You learn by doing, and
you figure out how to do things by watching other people do them. That’s the way you learn to be a
good carpenter, for example, and the way you learn to be a good physicist. Nobody can train you
on how to do physics. You don’t teach methodology courses in the natural sciences. You may in
the social sciences. In any field that has significant intellectual content, you don’t teach
methodology. You just watch people doing it and participate with them in doing it. So a typical,
say, graduate seminar in a science course would be people working together, not all that different
from an artisan picking up a craft and working with someone who’s supposedly good at it. I don’t
try to persuade people, at least not consciously. The way you do it is by trying to do it yourself, and
in particular trying to show, although it’s not all that difficult, the chasm that separates standard
versions of what goes on in the world from what the evidence and people’s inquiries will show
them. A common response that I get, even on things like chat networks, is, I can’t believe anything
you’re saying. It’s totally in conflict with what I’ve learned and always believed and I don’t have
time to look up all those footnotes. How do I know what you’re saying is true? That’s a plausible
reaction. I tell people it’s the right reaction. You shouldn’t believe what I say is true. Nobody is
going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself.

BARSAMIAN: Let’s talk about propaganda and indoctrination. As a teacher, how do you get people to think for themselves? Can you impart tools that will enable that?

CHOMSKY: I think you learn by doing—I’m a Deweyite from way back. You learn by doing, and you figure out how to do things by watching other people do them. That’s the way you learn to be a good carpenter, for example, and the way you learn to be a good physicist. Nobody can train you on how to do physics. You don’t teach methodology courses in the natural sciences. You may in the social sciences. In any field that has significant intellectual content, you don’t teach methodology. You just watch people doing it and participate with them in doing it. So a typical, say, graduate seminar in a science course would be people working together, not all that different from an artisan picking up a craft and working with someone who’s supposedly good at it. I don’t try to persuade people, at least not consciously. The way you do it is by trying to do it yourself, and in particular trying to show, although it’s not all that difficult, the chasm that separates standard versions of what goes on in the world from what the evidence and people’s inquiries will show them. A common response that I get, even on things like chat networks, is, I can’t believe anything you’re saying. It’s totally in conflict with what I’ve learned and always believed and I don’t have time to look up all those footnotes. How do I know what you’re saying is true? That’s a plausible reaction. I tell people it’s the right reaction. You shouldn’t believe what I say is true. Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself.

Source:Liberating the mind from orthodoxies

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