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Can learning make you smarter? UGM investigates

woah alt text, wooaaahWhen it comes to intelligence improvement programmes, I’ve tried them all. Deep brain stimulation, knowledge enemas, watching question time with the sound off. Even listening to Baby Mozart to smarten-up my inner child. So you could imagine that I was more than a little sceptical when I heard about a programme that claimed it could make me smarter without any apps, without any colonic injections, all for free. And get this – it’s run by the government! I knew I had to check it out.

The scheme I enrolled in is called “Education”. The lack of involvement from Dr Kawashima or even a tangential reference to ‘brain training’ left me naturally suspicious. However, I was reassured after a quick google told me that it is a totally organic learning method handed down from the Ancients, like Reiki or the caveman diet.

I showed up at what appeared to be some sort of abandoned youth centre at around 7pm. The structure of the programme seemed to have been designed to be as incomprehensible as possible. The different rituals given terse code names like “ECON101”, “GNVQ” and “Grade III Cello”. Very futuristic. I was ushered into a room where one of the ‘learning gurus’ (my own term) spoke to us at length about some seemingly arbitrary and arcane subject like fifteenth century France.

The experience was somewhat surreal. At the front of the room was a huge black oblong that that no one would take their eyes off of, as if it cast my fellow participants in a kind of meditative trance. Bells rang at seemingly random intervals. People would occasionally allude to some mysterious all-knowing entity referred to as ‘the head’.

I began to wonder if this programme might be too esoteric even for me. However, when I repeatedly tried to ask whether I should be taking acai berries or goji berries while on the program, I received no answer and was eventually told to leave the room. I couldn’t help but conclude that our ignorant instructor had not even considered which superfruit might best accompany the course.

Afterwards, I spoke to others taking part in the scheme. Some of them claimed to have been on the “Education” program for ten or more years. I asked them how many IQ points they’d gained in that time – 20? 50? They all said they didn’t know. Many claimed to have been given paper certificates, seemingly produced by the same organization running the scheme. I was shocked: where were the scientific studies promoting fast gains in IQ from the programme? Why was there no associated smartphone app? Clearly this was nothing but some kind of faddish scam.

As I left, I noticed a group photograph of what appeared to be some sort of ritualistic ceremony, hanging on the wall. All the participants were dressed in identical black robes with strange black hats atop their heads holding rolls of paper. As I walked through the car-park I considered how lucky I was to possess the scruples to avoid becoming suckered in to such a blatant and perhaps even dangerous scam. I got in my car, turned on my whale song CD, and drove away towards a better tomorrow.

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