Schnee (schnee) wrote,

Lying to students

The concept of lies-to-children, referring to a simplified explanation of a complex topic that the explainer knows isn't strictly true but intends to augment later on, i. e. an intentional untruth intended to help with the learning process, is often said to have coined by the Science of Discworld authors – Wikipedia certainly makes this claim, writing that "[t]he "lie-to-children" concept was first discussed by scientist Jack Cohen and mathematician Ian Stewart in the 1994 book 'The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World'", but unsurprisingly it's actually a lot older than that. Here's an earlier example I came across, from Donald Knuth's TeXbook:

Another somewhat unique characteristic of this manual is that it doesn't always tell the truth. When informally introducing certain TeX concepts, general rules will be stated, but later you will find that they aren't strictly true. The author feels that this technique of deliberate lying will actually make it easier for you to learn the concepts; once you learn a simple but false rule, it will not be hard to supplement that rule with its exceptions.

Definitely agree with Knuth there, and on a side note this serves as a good reminder that you cannot trust that Wikipedia will provide accurate, unbiased information. (Unbiased as in not biased towards, among many other things, the present, anglophone nations, and things that nerds are into.)

Tags: books, learning, quotes, teaching, tex

Recent Posts from This Journal

  • Icelandic is cool

    Just spotted this over on OCremix: I think that should be " veiðigyðja fjallanna" instead — Icelandic doesn't work like…

  • How democracy should work

    From Allan J. Lichtman, Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House (2020 Edition), p. viii–ix: A properly functioning…

  • Blade Runner: San Francisco

    It's exactly what it says on the tin: Impressive — just wish it was longer. (H/t to canisrufus_uk BTW.)

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded