Thanks for the suggestion, Gunnar. I'm new here and still poking my nose around.
I made some additions to the post.
Great example. I need to do something similar when teaching children photosynthesis. It's helpful to start just by teaching a definition (when plants turn light into food). Do they need to learn about stomata and leaf anatomy? No, or at least not this year. That's in next year's textbook. If for now they can remember what is 'photosynthesis,' then their comprehension will be aided later.
I think what Yudkowsky is describing can be a problem sometimes when the point is thinking critically, not memorization of terms and definitions. Learning spanish is basically all about guessing the teacher's password. In literature class, when we want to know what the White Whale is a symbol for, we don't want a 'password' type response.
I think you did a good job of answering your question when you hit on the word 'coercion,' and I'll add another one to go with -- 'compulsion.' Are you being coerced by someone, or do you yourself feel compelled? This, in my opinion, is going to define how you apply yourself to the work and may have a bearing on the quality.
I enjoyed reading this. I also have a few thoughts about what it means to master something and what that journey looks like.
Is it possible to truly become a master of a field if you're not putting in a superhuman effort? I agree that pushing yourself to the point of burnout is not the answer; but on the other hand, as a teacher, I once was with a parent who allowed their child to take a break after writing just a few letters when the assignment was to write all twenty-seven. As long as the assignment gets done eventually, that's fine; however, we want to build up our endurance over time so that later we can also do more and achieve more. I'd agree that saying "No, write ALL twenty-seven now, no matter what!" is probably not a good solution... But maybe we could have said, "Okay, you want a break? How about we get to 10 letters and then you can have a short rest. Agreed?"
My point is: Maybe people don't need 'pain', but maybe they do need the 'push,' or at least some of them do. We do want to instill in our children a drive to succeed and to learn even when it's not easy... Because as a teacher I know that learning is NOT always easy and it's not always possible to make it fun. Sometimes you just need to learn it and get it over with.
This is probably exacerbated in China where there are a LOT of people willing to push themselves too far, so if you're not one of them, you'll fall behind fast. This is not a healthy learning environment either, because people will become jaded and fall out of love with the thing they love to do.
Maybe the language we grew up using is rooted deeper in our psychology. Children's stories, fables, songs, & the music of our native language connect our young brains to the world and, when we remember those things, we get that feeling we might call 'nostalgia.' Nostalgia is something, I think, that only comes after many years... Maybe one day when you are older you might hear English words, stories, music that give you this feeling.