Thursday, May 11, 2017

Get it?

Teachers know about memorizing.  What day of the year is the anniversary of Dwight David Eisenhower's birth?  President Ike was born on Oct. 14, in the year 1890.  But a student who only speaks Greek could learn to say "Oct. 14" without having the slightest idea of what he is saying or what it means to a typical American speaker of English.  

In a sense, memorization can be almost the opposite of genuine understanding.  Some school and knowledge traditions have over-emphasized the value of verbatim repetition of a fact or principle.  The verification of deeper understanding is difficult. What your mother and your daughter understand about "proper dress" might be quite different and it could possibly take a long conversation between the two to lay out what each understands and how they differ.

When I look up "understand", I get these meanings and synonyms:

perceive the intended meaning of (words, a language, or speaker).

"he didn't understand a word I said"

  • perceive the significance, explanation, or cause of (something).

  • "i'm not sure I understood much about the situation in the region"

  • synonyms:

  • comprehend, grasp, take in, see, apprehend, follow, make sense of, fathom; More

  • unravel, decipher, interpret;

  • Informal figure out, work out, make head(s) or tail(s) of, get one's head around, get the drift of, catch on to, get;

  • Informal twig

  • "he couldn't understand anything we said"

  • be sympathetically or knowledgeably aware of the character or nature of.

  • "Picasso understood color"

    • synonyms:

  • appreciate, recognize, realize, acknowledge, know, be aware of, be conscious of; More

  • Informal be wise to;

  • Formal be cognizant of

  • "she understood how hard he'd worked"

  • interpret or view (something) in a particular way.

  • "as the term is usually understood, legislation refers to regulations and directives"

  • 2.

    infer something from information received (often used as a polite formula in conversation).

    "I understand you're at art school"

    regard (a missing word, phrase, or idea) as present; supply mentally.

    ""present company excepted" is always understood when sweeping generalizations are being made"

    assume to be the case; take for granted.

    "he liked to play the field—that was understood"

    synonyms:believe, gather, take it, hear (tell), notice, see, learn;

    It is difficult to explore the understanding in another person's head.  The best way I know is to ask the person to explain their understanding, using several different sets of words to paraphrase a definition.  

    You can see the problem: I understand if I perceive the intended meaning.  Heck, much of the time, I don't know just what I intend to convey when I say something.  I have a general idea but when I hear what you say you think I mean, I have to call a halt and try again.  When I said, "Let's have lunch", I didn't mean you should prepare a meal and I didn't mean we should wine and dine at a fancy place.  I meant "Let's grab a burger."  Get it?

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