P.S. The Problem with Commonplace Books
"Nothing is easier than to accumulate facts, nothing is so hard as to use them."
Of all the ways students have taken notes, my favorite method is (of course) the commonplace book: a personal collection of quotations and notes drawn from one’s reading.
The commonplace book was a cornerstone of education in Europe during the Renaissance—but that doesn’t mean it was without controversy. The commonplace book had one significant pitfall: accumulating quotations was not—and still is not—the same thing as learning.
In this postscript, I’ll explore some of the historic debates surrounding commonplace books, and how teachers have handled the problems associated with commonplace books as learning tools.
Normally, my postscripts are shorter than the original post. This one’s an exception— because I’ve spent the past two decades of my life studying commonplace books, I have a lot to say. So, here is an especially deep dive.
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