Mental Models and High School English

A mental model is the way we think about the world. They are beliefs, values, thoughts and feelings that we have about the world that have come from our society, our culture, our family and our friends. They are things that we don’t question because they have become part of who we are. This isn’t a bad thing. It is part of being human, however it is important to understand our mental models so that we can choose which models are the best for us. For example, I am Australian so I am very flexible about time. I am currently living in Japan which has a very rigid perspective on time. Since I am living in Japan I have found it essential to change my mental model knowing that if I don’t I will upset the people around me.

An amazing part of travelling is that you get a chance to question those mental models. When we visit another country we see a country with a different set of mental models. Some are similar to ours but there will always be differences. When we come into contact with another culture we can reflect on our own and learn more about ourselves and how we think about the world.

Not all of us can travel though, but we can still learn a language. A language is a form of mental model. It holds the way a group of people see and think about the world. In learning a language we can learn about different ways of seeing the world. In doing so we can understand our own life and upbringing. In this we can come to better understand our culture. We can appreciate the cultural ways of thinking that bring us a happier life and we can shed the ways of thinking that haven’t.

One of the interesting things about learning English is that it holds a wider range of perspectives than usual languages since it is truly a global language. Every nation with English as its national language has its own unique culture that changes the way English is used. Australians, people from the US, Canadians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Singaporeans to name a few all have their own mental models. You don’t just learn about one culture or one way of thinking. When you add that to the number of countries that learn English as a second language then you really gain a sense of just how many cultures are contributing to the mental modes available in English.

This brings me to the second part of this article’s title, high school English. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to observe the way English is taught in high schools in Japan. One of the things I noticed is that English language despite being a different way of seeing the world is being taught as a way of reinforcing Japanese perspectives. To repeat that, the subject English in Japan is used to teach Japanese moral education. I would not be surprised to find that that our countries treat language education the same way.  This means that a major benefit to learning a language, the chance to reflect on our own society and our own ways of thinking, has been removed.

To conclude, when you teach a language you should include the way that native users of that language think and why they speak the way they do. In doing so we can work towards creating a better way of living in which we combine the mental models of the world’s cultures.


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Value for money when buying food

So my wife and I are by no means rich, although i wouldn’t call us poor. We are comfortable. One value that we both agree on is good food is better value. My wife in particular gets depressed when she feels she wasted money on a meal she could have cooked better at home. So that’s what this blog is about. Value for money when buying food.

When it comes to smart phones and computers people don’t mind paying extra for good quality. That’s why I-phones are so popular. You may pay an extra two hundred for it but you feel like you have bought something that will last and is better than the competition. Likewise with apple computers. In this department I’m happy to go for a cheaper computer that meets my needs. Food is a different matter though.

Take two restaurants. One restaurant costs an extra five dollars. Both restaurants serve the same type of food but the cheaper one is lower quality. In my experience many people will go to the cheaper restaurant and comment about how much better the restaurant is than the other one because it’s cheaper. From my perspective though the cheaper restaurant is in fact more expensive. We will often lament the waste of money and wish we’d gone to the slightly more expensive restaurant. Why? It is a better meal which makes it better value. It’s a meal we couldn’t have just cooked up at home. We go home happy we had the meal and are even happier to have some leftovers for the next night. After all that is the point of eating out. To get something that you can’t just cook and enjoy good food.

What I Learnt Not to do From My Parents About Parenting part 1

Needless conflict

When I was a little boy I liked the colour pink and I wanted to have long hair.  My mum fought valiantly against this.  Every chance she had she tried to convince me that pink wasn’t a good colour to like and that long hair didn’t look good on boys.  As you can guess this was a major point of contention between us.  From my mum’s perspective I was being decidedly unmanly.  She wouldn’t have put it in those words though because she is university professor in gender studies and would balk at realising that she had been engaging in gender construction.  My liking of pink didn’t really have any consequences.  I had no interest in clothes shopping and if I was given money it would go towards buying lego but the length of my hair was a monthly argument.

As a sidebar as a child I never based my actions, likes or dislikes on gender.  For me I was a boy therefore everything I did was what boys did.  It was a perfect bit of logic which led to many moments of frustration at other people’s gender obsession.

Onto the hair fight; From as far back as I can remember I wanted long hair. The reason was simple.  I thought short hair looked stupid.  It was purely a style thing.  I hated the way I looked with short hair and loved the way I looked with long hair.  For my mum it was the other way round.   Looking back on the whole situation it seems unreasonably stupid.  Simply because it was an unnecessary conflict made all the more unnecessary because it wasn’t backed with any kind of logic. Both of our positions were purely subjective and thus we were unable to convince each other of our position.

What can be taken away from this?  As mentioned this is a case of unnecessary conflict.  There was no reason to have this conflict and all it did was create bad blood.  If you are having a conflict with your child ask yourself what is the conflict about?  Why is it important to me and why is it important to my child?   The last question is in fact the most important.  Children are logical thinking beings.  There position on things is just as logical and reasonable as yours.  Their logic may be childish and a little foolish but they have still thought it out.  If you are going into direct conflict with something they believe you should give them a good reason.  You should back it up with logic.  If your logic is based purely on your own subjective experience then it probably is going to be a prolonged and ultimately useless conflict.  Since it is just a matter of opinion.  Any conflict where your logic is “because i think it looks dumb.” Will not go well.

As a parent I won’t tell my children that they need to do something without giving my reasons why.  If mum had asked those questions I had written above she’d probably have stopped arguing.  Her answers would have been “It’s about the length of my son’s hair.  It’s important to me because long hair doesn’t suit him.  It’s important to him because he thinks short hair doesn’t suit him.”  I say she would have stopped arguing because neither side is right or wrong.  We had opposing perspectives that were part of who we were.   Which is the crux of this lesson.  If you sit down, think about the conflict and try to get to the core of it you may realise that your position is just as childishly illogical as your child’s.