Monday, April 19, 2010

Mesofacts

Learned a new word today while reading this article - mesofacts.

Mesofacts are the facts that change neither too quickly nor too slowly, that lie in this difficult-to-comprehend middle, or meso-, scale. Often, we learn these in school when young and hold onto them, even after they change.

As an example, the author cites the count of the number of elements in the periodic table. As it turns out, it is up by ten since the 1970s. So if someone went to high school back then, they would have this fact wrong by now. That may not appear to be very significant specially for those who have no use for the periodic table in their day to day lives. The author explains why the knowledge of mesofacts is important specially in today's world :

Our schools are biased against mesofacts. The arc of our educational system is to be treated as little generalists when children, absorbing bits of knowledge about everything from biology to social studies to geology. But then, as we grow older, we are encouraged to specialize. This might have been useful in decades past, but in our increasingly fast-paced and interdisciplinary world, lacking an even approximate knowledge of our surroundings is unwise.

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