Saturday, October 14, 2006

Underlining: Introducing another bad habit......

There was another method introduced to students at school, so they could avoid all that copying and outlining; it was called underlining. Of course, this was only practical for textbooks that one owned, but Dick and Jane owned their high school textbooks back then.

Picture a typical day in senior year of history. The teacher would wade through several pages of text each period and tell the class what to underline in the book because it would be important to know for the exams. Dick and Jane would use ball-point pen and a ruler to make sure the lines were neat and straight. And to give the underlined text some semblance of an outline, the teacher would suggest that Dick and Jane number sequences of underlined sentences by circling a number above the beginning of each sentence. By the end of a class period these pages would be covered with ballpoint ink underlining (no highlighters back then).

But the curious thing was that little of the text would ever be left bare. After a semester of this exercise, the book would be virtually useless for re-sale to others, as the ink would eventually bleed through the pages. But some students did buy these books, no doubt thinking, “Hey, the works all done for me!”

This exercise also left Dick and Jane with notes that were harder to study than if the text pages had been left alone in the first place. Transferring the underlined information into outlines in a notebook would help a little, but not much because they hadn't learned how to outline properly.

These techniques, outlining and underlining, eventually resulted in automaton behaviour, a robotic exercise without much recognition of what was actually being underlined or copied.

With the advent of highlighters in the '70s, one would think the process would be improved; at least then, the book could become as uniquely psychedelic as the student chose. But students would use the highlighter in exactly the same manner as underlining; used as a study tool in this manner, it had similar limitations to outlining and underlining.

Dick and Jane probably learned something from these methods of note-making, and some memory retention would be achieved, at least long enough to get through a 2 or 3 hour exam. Compound this situation by multiplying the effort by 8-10, to account for every course taken during a semester, and it should not be difficult to understand why most information was quickly forgotten.


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