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After some number of repetitions, Ebbinghaus would attempt to recall the items on the list. It turned out that his ability to recall the items improved as the number of repetitions went up, rapidly at first and then more slowly, until finally the list was mastered.
This was the world’s first learning curve.
The effect of over learning is to make the information more resistant to disruption or loss.
For example, the forgetting curve for over learned material is shallower, requiring more time to forget a given amount of the material.
I relate to this and having taken many exams in my life it is useful at last to have some terms to refer to it all. The only exam I have ever had to resit should have been the easiest, not the finals of a BA (Hons) as an Oxford Undergraduate (or the entrance exam which was tough enough), but a Level II Teaching Swimming Multi-choice paper that took an hour. I simply hadn’t put in the time, say six hours over as many days, repeating by writing it out and testing myself.
Whilst in an exam the student may forget, there are exams where you want them to retain the information: junior doctors, health & safety in a nuclear power plant, or one I was involved with ‘the packing and storage of uranium trioxide‘.
Savings is the most sensitive test of memory, as it will indicate some residual effect of previous learning even when recall and recognition do not.
Which is what I just did, three weeks after the event.
If I go to the website where I stored the original mind–maps and lists I know that I could quickly re–engage with the material. Like riding a bike, windsurfing or skiing? Though not recalling the lines of Mercutio from Romeo & Juliette which I performed in my late teens. I can however recite some Macbeth, but only because I have repeatedly tested myself on the lines since my mid–teens).
Hit by Roman Polanski’s film. Hit by the realisation in my early teens that the film was shot only a few miles north of our holiday home on the North East Coast of England. Wind swept. Sodden Dank. Cold. I found I could smell Macbeth, see Macbeth, be Macbeth. I could look up at Holy Island, recite Shakespeare, shout Shakespeare into the wind while standing ankle deep in a cake of sand and mud.
Whether I had or had not been Macbeth was my ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, what one path promised .. and the other lost. Had I been Macbeth at Sedbergh how different might I have been? Had my ‘Robin Williams’ of an English Teacher convinced me to stay, to be his Macbeth – what then?
My hero was a senior boy. Anyone who wanted to act looked up to him. James Wilby.w
Something about the importance of ‘touching’ put me off. Robin Williams in ‘Dead Poets Society’ Was straight, right? Tell me of a male teacher who can have that much passion around young men/boys and be anything other than gay? Hey. Before you get at me. I’m cool about the way anyone swings. I celebrate choice, comfort, being yourself. But school teachers should not be inviting you to give them a cuddle. He put me off. I auditioned. He loved it. Then he put me off. The idea of ‘touching more’ is the kind of line I used in my mid-teens to ‘get a feel’ from a girl. Am I right to think that this teacher in an all male boarding school, in his first year, was already looking for impressionable boys who fancied a cuddle? MIght ‘Macbeth’ come with conditions?
My Macbeth would have diced him with a knife.
‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’
My designs on how to stage Macbeth helped me into Oxford. They wanted young people, with passion. I was going to give them Macbeth.
I was sucked through three Shakespeare plays, in a chapel, in the gardens, on stage … but never Macbeth. I toyed with a production, all female. Now I’d do it simple role reversal. Should we? Should I? I’ll be Lady Macbeth. She is an investment banker living on the Upper East Side. We conquer companies. I’m a dealer, a snide, nasty bitch of a man who has an even better sense than she does of the base desires of greedy men and women.
I drift, I drift.
I had to learn great long parts. I cannot remember a word of any of them. I never performed Macbeth, yet I can run of a defining speech:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our years have lighted fools the way to dusty death
Out, out breath candle
Life is but a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more’.
If I have more to say than ‘Fuck, you’ve done it now’ (said three times at exactly that moment when I thought I’d pushed my desire to ski down increasingly insane slopes too far) … then I shall say these lines.
I must first be worthy of them. What do you suggest? Who can I eat up? Where can I go? What can I achieve?
Off hand I have a growing desire to join the Republicans and ensure that Elizabeth II is the last monarch. I don’t want her to hang around for another thirty years (possible). I want her to abdicate this summer. Take her reign out, before it is wiped out for her.
Then, Britain takes its place under the skirts of the USA. We ditch the pound and Euro take the Dollar.
Our link to the US is profound. Look at my ancestors. There are more Vernons in North America than in England.