Dr. Judith M. Newman



Keeping It Complex

[ Journal Entry ]

What caught my attention in the Duckworth piece was her insistance that we must keep the learning situation complex. That argument flys in the face of all traditional views about instruction—where an enormous amount of effort goes into making things simple.

Duckworth's contention resonated with what I'd come to understand about language learning—a child learns oral language from the complexity of what goes on. In fact, a lot about oral language can't be learned except from the complexity. Take for example the pronouns "I/me" and "you". The only way a child can make sense of that is to figure it out for him or herself—nobody can ever refer to anybody else as "I/me" and must always refer to someone else as "you". The child must discover how to reverse these ideas. So I say: "I will help you." And the child must understand that from his position "I" means the other person and "you" means him or herself. I actually have a tape of a child in the process of learning this. His mother says to him "I'll help you " and he replies "You no need any." meaning "I don't need help." He refers to himself in this instance as "you".

Duckworth is contending it's the same is true for all learning—that real understanding comes from sorting out the complexity.