Friday, March 26, 2010

Education is Freedom Too

"Don't let your schooling interfere with your education." -Mark Twain

When you learn for yourself it becomes part of you and it is something that cannot be taken from you.

Slashdot is pretty fun but it is often more noise then signal, but there are gems that make it worthwhile. They link to a story on PsychologyToday that references an old study done in 1929 New York. Where they were adding so much to the curriculum that they had to drop something to make room, and they chose math. The results were interesting, but not surprising, back in the Renaissance multiplication was a Ph.d level endeavor.

These gems help you end up in places like A Mathematician's Lament, his comparison of how it would look if painting were taught like math is, is priceless.

There is also Towards a Post-Scarcity New York State of Mind (through homeschooling) which is long but insightful.

And finally Why Educational Technology Has Failed Schools. If it isn't working, we must do more of it. Government in general has this problem. I used to think this was stupidity, I was wrong about that.

Technology is failing everywhere. I went to the store to pick up some fresh bananas and apples and stuff. It was only a couple of things so I decided to go through the self-serve lanes. I was reminded again why I avoid those things. The bananas have a bar code on the stickers so I scanned them and they rung up fine, then for the apples (which also have bar coded stickers and have had for some time) "Price Not Found" the computer announces. The lady with the vest and the PDA comes over and says, "it must have scanned on you by mistake" and punches in the number by hand. We can barely use a technology that has been around since the 80s, maybe in another 20 years we can get barcodes to work on apples and bananas at the same time.

 Dark Ages
A dark age is defined not as when we have forgotten how to do something, but have forgotten that we ever could do it. A 6th Century French farmer getting 3 bushels to the acre never for a moment dreamed that on the same land a Roman farmer had, not 300 years before, got yields of 12 bushels. A first grade teacher in the United States in 2009 congratulating herself that 80% of the children in her class are able to read "at first grade level" never dreams that in 1930 to 1940 96% of all children who got through 4th grade were able to read at any level you choose and the concept of "grade level" didn't apply anyway: 90% of all first graders left first grade with their reading vocabulary better than their speaking vocabulary and able to read "big words" like polymorphic that they might not understand but could certainly read and ask the meaning of.
I.E. we already live in an educational Dark Age, and it's getting worse, as we forget that we once could do things in schools that we now believe are impossible.
A really large solar flare would have a significant chance of bringing about a much more widespread Dark Age. What would serve as the equivalent of the monasteries that kept records of crop yields, and the libraries that kept copies of the Classics? If electronics became unavailable, what might revive civilization? Or would electronics make a quick comeback?
I wrote that some time ago, and was reminded of it today when it came up again in another conference. A solar flare could produce a dark age -- but we are already creating dark ages, this in the era when information is freely available.
We have an educational dark age, and I suspect others.