A long time ago my brother, Kevin, was explaining one of his beliefs to my mother’s friend, Lisa. Lisa found Kevin’s view of the world amusing and asked him to repeat it. Kevin did so with some hesitation and Lisa was once again amused. I watched as Lisa then gathered a few people and asked Kevin to repeat his view of the world, so that the others might hear. It was at this time that my brother, frustrated that he had to repeat himself again, told his audience, “This lady need’s help. Either she’s dumb, or she can’t hear”.
I am a deep believer in Piaget’s idea that children are not incomplete people, but are instead viewing the world through the mental models they’ve created. Sure Kevin’s mental model of the world may have seemed foreign and amusing, but it was not because he was incapable of understanding the “right” model. After all, he was able to create the model indicating that either Lisa was either incapable of understanding or deaf after being with her for only a short time.
However, to say that all of Piaget’s ideas are infallible would be a mistake. Sure we can develop a mental model for almost anything we come in contact with based what we know. Still, this does not guarantee that our model will be accurate. The is much to gain by actually being in the situation we model. The mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were designed based on what we knew about Mar’s surface. Even with ideal conditions the rover was not expected to last longer than the time it took to complete the 90 day mission. Yet, for some reason, both rovers work to this day and still send signals back to earth. Obviously we cannot rely simply on generalized models that internalize.
This is not to say that we should ignore our priori models. Rushing into a situation without considering what we know would be unwise. Knowing that tigers eat people, and generalizing the model so that you can assume a tiger would eat you, is probably a model you want to keep. In fact this model would probably prevent you from dying in what would other wise be a very educational experience.
So in short, Piaget is dead but his ideas are not. It is with little hesitation that I say Piaget’s ideas will probably consume the minds of many scholars for years to come. BRAIIIINS!!!!111!!