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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: trained dependency

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: trained dependency
Date: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 13:43:38 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1006 (Gnus v5.10.6) XEmacs/21.5 (chayote, linux)

>>>>> "Zenaan" == Zenaan Harkness <address@hidden> writes:

    Zenaan> On Thu, 2004-11-04 at 11:32, Frank Pohlmann wrote:

    >> But: does all this apply to the majority of us?

    Zenaan> The beginning of "Deschooling Society" says it like it
    Zenaan> needs to be said:

[bloody leftist wanking, all of it true, none of it relevant, snipped]

Zenaan, do you have anything of your own to say?  If not, aren't you
as guilty of deferring to authority as any of the well-schooled are?
Those are rhetorical questions---I know you do have something to say,
and I doubt you swallow everything Ilich or the other guy says without
thinking, and so does everybody else on g.a.u.  But look at your last
few posts.  OK, now tell me how you know that all those kids you worry
about aren't freethinkers cloaked in appropriate quotes, just like
you?  Then tell me how to get a computer to compute that?

The problem is not figuring out what's wrong.  We all know what the
results are, and we all agree they're despicable.  But what Ilich and
his ilk are doing is identical except for political slant to what the
Bible-thumpers and right-wingers, not to mention the American
Federation of Teachers, do.  There is no detectable science there,
simply identification of bad results, and then a jump crossing
light-years to "identification" of "causes".

Do you realize that the average US education undergraduate has test
scores and post-graduate indicies of achievement a full standard
deviation below the average US undergraduate, and that that gap widens
at the graduate level, and even wider at the PhD level?  I don't care
how smart Ilich and company are, there simply is still very little
reliable data, let alone interpretative research.

Here's a story to make you puke.  At my alma mater I once spent some
time drinking coffee with a very depressed Indian prince (who also
happened to be an Assistant Professor of Economics at Stanford).  He
had just got out of a PhD defense of an ed school student, who had
done a small survey, so small that he had fewer data points than
variables.  So he made up (by interpolation) a bunch of extra data
points and ran his statistics.  OK, fail him, and tell him "do it
right, next time"?  Nope; the chairman of the committee told my
professor that by education research standards that "technical point"
was too fine to be relevant to the pass/fail decision, and "anyway, we
do that all the time; small data sets are an inherent problem in our

Sure, you can point to that as further evidence of how bad the current
situation is; but that's as far as you can go, except to say "Down
With Everything; back to the Rousseauvian[1] State of Nature and let's
see if something good happens this time"!  These are the people who
are generating the data on cause and effect---some of it's surely
good, but how the hell can somebody without PhDs in stats, soc, _and_
ed know?

OTOH, if you want to see what a "modern" society without schooling
looks like, I recommend to you the Congo or (if you prefer one that's
better-policed) Nigeria or (if you prefer one that's moderately
stable) the Republic of South Africa---which is attempting to fix its
problems, somewhat successfully, by _more_ schooling, not _less_.  We
need to do better than that _the first time_; it is indeed possible to
get worse results than we do today.

Sure, as the Japanese saying goes, it would be nice if we could all
have a Chinese wife to cook, a Japanese wife in bed, and a Vietnamese
wife[2] to make the kids do their homework, but that ain't the way the
world is.  Simply nuking all the public schools, or merely abolishing
mandatory schooling, will not have the desired effect.

Me?  I keep a 2x4 by the blackboard, and on Friday whack any student
who has not publically contradicted me at least once that week.  In
graduate courses I require that the contradiction be "plausible".  ;-)
But I'm, uh, a rare bird.  That takes a lot of emotional effort, and
it takes up time in class that could be used more profitably by
lecturing ... if the students were accustomed enough to thinking, that
is.  :-(  But most professors measure "achievement" by the quantity of
received wisdom that the students can spit back on the tests.

Note that in any of the top 50 graduate departments in any field, or
in most undergrad honors programs, there's no reason _not_ to measure
things that way.  So it's a tough call where to "get out of the
students' way" and just measure results, and where you have to get
into the trenches and teach your ass off.


[1]  Optimistically.  More likely, "Hobbesian".

[2]  Yes, that's right.  According to a study mentioned by the
Economist a couple of years ago, Vietnamese-Americans and immigrants
had the highest scholastic achievement scores in the US, beating out
the perennial favorites Chinese-American and Jewish-American kids by a
statistically significant margin.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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