a handout for my lovely learners…

March 21, 2016

I have a following kinda  handout that I distribute to the adorable high-school boys and girls (sometimes college students), who want to make the utterly disastrous mistake of becoming my hapless pupils; normally, the handing over happens during our second session…


I believe…

that you are a smart cookie.

For that matter, any and every individual is very smart, there is no exception whatsoever to this rule… of course, I am not being factitious here!

One may be bored or tired or lazy or whatever, but the fact is that every one of us is smart & super intelligent…

Why do I believe so? Why should WE believe so??

Remember? In the first session we talked a little bit about the various parts of the brain, and the fact that all of have, more or less, the same amount of brain cells and that all of us at sometime or the other use about 100% of our brain capacity (as opposed to the funny urban legends about most of us using only 5% of the brain and that Einstein used much more than the average) etc etc.

but we focused on a part of our fore-brain called Cerebrum.

  • This is the seat of our consciousness.

  • It is the centre of our mental activity.

  • It receives messages from the sense organs and enables us to observe our environment through them.

  • The information gained through the sense organs is stored in memory / cerebral cells (we all have the same number of them) – and are used when necessary; we commonly refer to it as the ‘memory power.’

The most important aspect of this cerebrum is that, it is the seat of:

  • Intelligence – all of us have the same amount – irrespective of what urban legends say.

  • Emotions – all of us are capable emoting normally, with a few genetically wired exceptions.

  • Reasoning power – we all have oodles of it!

  • Imagination – ah, this is where some of us lack depth – but we can learn to imagine!

  • Will power – and yeah, some of us may not be persistent cookies – but we can always train ourselves to enhance our will power.

So, it is the lack of the last two – the imagination and the will power – that largely makes us & moulds us into mediocrity and poor performance – whereas all of us can be great models of excellence in our chosen fields…

In other words, there are no ‘born geniuses’ – the genius in us is always, without exception –  brought out by the continuous application of our imagination and will power.

First things first…

There are some quotes in this section – for us to reflect on and internalize


“Everyone has a right to be heard & listened to, perhaps – but nobody has the right to be taken seriously

Robert Hanlon (‘Hanlon’s Razor)

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

Ricki Riscorla (The principle of 7Ps)

Proper prior planning & preparation prevents poor performance.”

[Ricki was a much decorated US marine and a great leader, doer & and a humanitarian – he believed in planning and training and leaving nothing to chance]

Richard Feynman (on knowing and problem solving)

“… you do not know anything until you have practised.”

“… You have to keep a dozen of your favourite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”

[Dick was one of the finest scientists that graced the earth – and an incredibly multifaceted one at that; besides being a Nobel laureate, he was a code decipherer, drummer, saxophonist, lock-picker, juggler and what not]

Yo-Yo Ma (on how to learn – coupez la difficulte en quatre)

When the problem is complex, you become tense, but when it is broken down into basic components, you can approach each element without stress.”

“… then, when you put them all together, you do something that seems externally complex, but you don’t feel it that way… you know it from several different angles.”

[Yo-Yo is a great Brit cellist and a fantastic meta-learner]

Laura Ingalls Wilder (on perseverance and cheerfulness)

Things that have to be done, must be done cheerfully.”

[Laura was a famous American author of ‘Pioneer’ books – especially the series called ‘Little House on the Prairie’]

Ralph Waldo Emerson (on Self-reliance)

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards… it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. “

[Of course you may already know of him! He was an American author and had many other interesting facets]

Robert A Heinlein (on the capacity of the human potential)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

[He was an American popular science fiction author and a great engineer among many other things]


“Be the change, you wish to see…”

… …

Perhaps you can use the Internet to research and know more about these folks and much else.


The idea of this series of sessions (a few times a week) is to get an overall bearing on the basic building blocks of science & math in general – but with a particular reference to a superset of social ‘sciences,’ cultural & historical contexts and the things around us.

…To put it differently – we would discuss the history of ideas. Ideas and more ideas!

Again, to put it in another way, the idea is to make you think. reflect, analyze, synthesize and act – act tangibly and constructively, get it??

The examples for the basic ideas / thoughts will mostly be from the sciences – but they are mappable to the rest of the knowledge realms.

We would be more interested in mapping content across contexts and forming connections.


If you are signing up for my sessions, the following are the Rules of the game: (these are applicable to me too!)

  1. In every session a few basic ideas will be discussed – and some examples will be given.

  2. Ignorance and inattentiveness and ‘not making mistakes’ kind of attitude-sets cannot be worn as a virtue on our sleeves. On the contrary, committing of mistakes and moving on with some ‘lessons learned’ is the only way to go forward, to gainfully progress, in any engagement. Feel free to commit mistakes, but remember to learn from them.

  3. A deep, innate or cultivated sense of humour is important during the sessions (and outside of them too). I do not gladly suffer over-sensitive & pretentious fools who take umbrage at each and everything.

  4. There would be some ‘home’work (not too much at all!) based on the ideas – post every session – that you will work on over the next couple of days. – these will be in terms of thinking, visiting our libraries, engaging with resources, doing stories, write-ups, some Do-It-Myself kind of projects. The submission/turning-in of the homework is your feedback on what’s happening and this is important. Please give it the attention that it deserves. Non submissions will have definite consequences.

  5. Punctuality is an important attribute of life; lack of this will very definitely have its consequences – one cannot be a part of my sessions if he/she does not respect / value time.

  6. There would be simple but unannounced tests – and so regularity and rhythm in ‘studying’ and reflecting on sessions, will help a lot.

  7. Negative feedback in respect of 4,5 and 6 will indicate your non-interest and we would need to discuss this to take some appropriate action. I am fine with you dropping out – but there would be no second chance, unless you demonstrate your rekindled interest in a significantly tangible, stellar, extra-ordinary way. However, there are no guarantees for readmission.

  8. Look, nobody’s forcing you to ‘learn’ – and of course, nobody’s forcing me to ‘teach’ either – you and I are here, only because we want to be in this arrangement, voluntarily – so that the net happiness in our universe increases. If you feel that this not true, let us discuss.

  9. Believe me, learning (in terms of being curious, constantly questioning and re-validating our assumptions, unlearning, relearning, and thinking) is fun, if we are able to focus.

The idea of giving you these quick reference notes is to give some pointers – you may have to take your own notes to help yourself; as you see, these ref notes are not even grammatically complete! :-)

Now… on to the rest of the notes, and to life and learning, please!


I am endlessly proud of my young learners, really!  Many of them are and will be great meta-learners!

At the same time, I know that a teaching adult, cannot afford to go overboard and be full of uncalled-for hubris, like yours truly, for example. One cannot overestimate one’s capacity. Here’s where Gibbon comes to the rescue:

“The power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.”

— Edward Gibbon / The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Vol 1 / 1776

Perish, ye self-doubts! :-(

I am sure all my children will eventually become well-informed, diligent, brilliant and responsible citizens who will walk their own gloriously trailblazing paths – in spite of myself and my relentless efforts to the contrary.

Oh, the hope.

 roughcut ideas, opinions & notes on education

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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