A Quick Education
Benjamin Franklin said, "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."
You don't want to waste your valuable time. We know this, and we have designed our website to help you learn quickly, so it will be a useful self-education resource for you.
in this page?
Two Levels of Education: Introduction and Exploration
A "Cliffs Notes" Approach with a Condensation of Important Ideas
The Fascinating Drama of Ideas (in debates & sharing) and Stop-and-Go Reading
plus an appendix about The Website Structure and a closer look at Two Levels of Education.
Two Levels of Learning — Quick Education and Deep Education
For each topic a LINKS-PAGE will help you learn on both levels, quick and deep:
1. INTRODUCTION: First, we'll provide a coherent overview of important ideas and their relationships, so you can quickly learn the ideas and see the big picture.
2. EXPLORATION: Then, to help you explore more deeply, we'll link to pages that examine the ideas and relationships in more depth.
Throughout the range of levels, from introduction through exploration, we'll help you learn quickly and well, by carefully selecting high-quality pages with clear explanations of ideas. But our selectivity is not censorship, and we'll adopt a "multiple views" approach by accurately describing the views of people with different perspectives, so you can be well informed while you develop your own perspectives.
A deeper exploration of this section is in an appendix that follows A Cliffs Notes Approach and The Drama of Ideas.
A “Cliffs Notes” Approach — in a condensed “executive summary” of Important Ideas
This section explains how, in three decisions and a library, I (the editor of Whole-Person Education, a diverse website developed for the American Scientific Affiliation, ASA) recognized the similarity between CliffsNotes and the introductory level of this website.
The first two decisions were easy. Yes, I would watch the movies. No, I would not read the books. In either form, in movies or books, Lord of the Rings is a classic. But even though I would enjoy reading the trilogy by Tolkien, time is the stuff life is made of, and I decided that reading three large books would not be a good use of my time. But reading one small book would be quick and useful, so I decided to read the summary/analysis written by Gene Hardy for CliffsNotes. And having an introductory overview of "the big picture" — provided by Hardy's brief summary of the three books — helped me understand and enjoy the three movies.
In the two weeks between seeing the first movie (on DVD) and second movie (in theater) I attended a "Following Christ" conference. It was organized by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and included a temporary library of books by InterVarsity Press. While browsing the tables filled with high-quality books, reading the back covers, table of contents, and occasional pages, I thought about the many fascinating ideas I would miss because I wouldn't be able to invest the time needed to read these books. I was also thinking about Lord of the Rings and the practical educational value of reading one small book instead of three large books, and I made a connection between booktable and website. In the same way it would be useful for me to have a condensation of important ideas from books on the table (as in CliffsNotes or an executive summary), I want to be useful by giving you a condensation of important ideas, and that is the purpose of the link-pages in this website.
some comments about executive summaries and CliffsNotes: "An executive summary is an overview. The purpose is to summarize the key points of a document for its readers, saving them time and preparing them for the upcoming content. Think of the executive summary as an advance organizer for the reader. (from about.com)" This type of summary is useful for all busy people. For some people, executive summary has a more positive connotation than CliffsNotes, but both serve a similar function. Some teachers (and literary purists) criticize CliffsNotes — even though they applaud the basic goals of summary-with-analysis — because having this option makes it easier for students to avoid reading whole books. Although I understand the concerns of critics, supplements that summarize (or summarize, analyze, and evaluate) can be educationally useful IF they are wisely used, not lazily abused.
Stop-and-Go Reading and A Reason to Read
Most link-pages, and some introductory content-pages, are written by me. As a writer, one of my main goals is to give you a high ratio for "what you learn / the time you invest" so here are two tips for reading what I write, based on the principle that you'll want to read a web-page if it's useful and/or fun:
Is it useful? — If you want to make my pages more useful for learning, an effective strategy is stop-and-go reading: read for awhile, stop and think, then read more, stop and think,... This can be a good way to read anything, but especially when it's packed with ideas. What I write is usually a "condensation of important ideas" so there isn't much to read, but there is a lot to think about. The overall result of stop-and-go reading is that you can learn a lot, quickly and well, and this will be useful for you.
Is it fun? — Are my pages fun? If you think fun requires humor, probably not. But if you are motivated to learn because you're excited by ideas, and you enjoy learning and thinking, you'll probably think my pages are fun because they help you explore the drama of ideas, and you will enjoy this exploration and your opportunity for learning. / And sometimes you have an escape route: If you don't like what I write, you can read the introductory content-pages by other authors. :<)
APPENDIX (re: structure & levels)
Accuracy — For the introductory aspects of each links-page,
my goal as editor — in what I write, and in the introductory content-pages I choose for links — is to briefly summarize ideas in a way that is clear and simple, yet without oversimplifying and losing
the inherent richness of the ideas and their relationships. Although
complex ideas are often simplified in an overview, this should be done
in a way that is accurate (although incomplete) and is
consistent with the best available scholarship. This accuracy
will allow a smooth transition to an exploratory phase, since you won't
have to "unlearn what you already learned" when you continue to learn
more. You can retain the accurate-yet-incomplete ideas from the
introductions, and fill in the details as you learn more, as the balance-of-writing shifts from the virtue of brevity to the contrasting virtue of completeness. But accuracy is a virtue throughout the range from introduction through exploration.
* Selectivity is important but this takes time, and currently many parts of the website are underdeveloped. If you want to help improve the website — especially if you know a lot about a particular area (or if you think it's interesting and you want to become more expert by studying it) and you want to be part of our network of colleagues — we can use your help, as explained in Developing and Improving the ASA Science Education Website. / And here is an I.O.U. that will require help from those who are more artistically gifted than me. In the future, we (in ASA) will do more to "spice up" the whole website, to make it more fun for you, with an increase of illustrative stories plus content-relevant cartoons and other graphics, with "read me first" pages and FAQs.
In the links-table below, you can explore the grand Drama of Ideas by
the HomePage or Site Map (which describes "what's in each of the areas")
or any of the areas or sub-areas, whatever looks interesting.