On education

Don't Waste Absurd Resources in Ill-thought "Education"

There is still another sense in which I don't believe in Artificial Intelligence : I don't believe there can be much sense or progress in that forced substitution of the natural (innate) human intelligence, by that kind of artificial, standardized "intelligence" that the academic system is now and since so many decades, pretending to industrially produce and distribute into the brains of all its pupils and students.
Focusing on statistics, it would seem like providing a heavy formal education to the maximum of people is a top value for the good of the growing generation. However, when asking a student "How much of what you have learned or are currently learning at school is likely to be useful for you in your future life ?", it is commonplace to hear the answer is "only a small part". And usually they are right. Because statistics-based discourses of "how education is valuable to get a future job" and so one are one thing, while the reality of life is another. Yeah indeed there is a correlation because there are usually better chances for clever people who will succeed in life, to also have good marks when they are students, so that, therefore, good marks may happen to be a convenient indication that only takes 2 minutes to check, for employers trying to hire, no matter the ridiculous waste of "studying" years used to produce these certificates. But correlation does not imply the kind of causation that is usually assumed here, in a way that would genuinely justify the years of sacrifice behind in obedience to the system.

The idea of paying students to learn, was raised in at least 2 essays:

I see no sense there. It would be much, much too expensive for donors. Of course I agree that there is something deeply wrong with the current teaching system and the big debts it puts on students (that is what happens in US where I never was ; I live in Europe where education is paid by the states, which means by taxpayers, and I don't see it going so well either). So I see more future in MOOCs that would be potentially costless for everybody, even if it may not fit all students. Other options how to learn, are described in Don Limuti's essay, such as "The One to One training classes at the Apple Store". However I cannot see how such things can be officialized and measured in such ways that it can receive any public funding without any risk of abuse. If the quality of this solution is its freedom then it should not be spoiled by any kind of bureaucracy which public funding would require.
Because for an authority to pay for education, it has to control that it actually fits some specific standards or contents. But who defines the standards ? Who controls that they are satisfied ? Eugene Klingman wrote "Systems can be designed to minimize cheating". I don't think so. Any system to minimize cheating would be so heavy and rigid that it would be totally incompatible with any possibility for such an education process and assessment criteria to make any sense.
And how dare we assume that there is any sense assuming the possible existence of a universal, mesurable and relevant standard for education despite the diversity of minds to educate and the very definition of what needs to be nurtured : their originality ? See more comments here.

Teaching History of Science ?

This idea that just passively receiving a body of knowledge as a dogma is not the only way and may not be the best way to get a generation of true free thinkers and researchers in new frontiers of science, is raised by the essay Back to the Future: Crowdsourcing Innovation by Refocusing Science Education by Travis Ty Norsen :
"if we want a future in which further liberating innovations are the norm, we must find a way to produce scientists and engineers who are comfortable with controversy and have sound judgment about which controversial issues and hypotheses are fruitful to engage with. A natural way to achieve this goal and to help science education better capture the true nature of science in the process is to refocus science education around historical scientific controversies and their eventual resolutions. "
However, while I sympathize with the ideal of letting into the picture some process of scientific discovery with its uncertainty and its trials and errors, I personally dislike the specific method suggested here. Maybe some students would enjoy such an historical teaching. I have nothing against them, however I want to point out that this is not the solution I would have fit with. So I want to explain here why, in order to call for letting other students another way than the one suggested there if they feel as I did.
I did not like school teaching. I felt better to learn maths and physics in my free time by my own research, and so I succeeded to understand General Relativity on my own when I was 16, not even fully following a book on the subject (but only gathering some clues from there). And the reason why I preferred my own research than what was taught to me at school, is NOT that my research was a draft of trials and errors while school teaching was presented as a dogma. Far from this. On the contrary, it is because I felt my own research to be a cleaner, shorter, more direct cut towards the ideal mathematics and physics as they should be, than the actually messy "dogmatic way" that was offered at school. Thus, the problem I felt with the dogmatically repeated established body of scientific knowledge, is not that it looked too clean, but that it did not look clean enough in my taste. Indeed I am a Platonist for maths and physics, and I don't like to waste any time with the errors of the past. And I consider that the specific dogmatic way in which things are currently taught, remains too much polluted by the errors of the past which do not let the pure beauty of the ideal maths and physics visible enough.
It was already quite painful to me to be coerced to endure the relatively wasteful historical draft of math and physics curricula as they happened to be fossilized in their current state by the passivity of teachers who just repeat the ways of other teachers without any serious effort to consider the possibility of a new cleaning. My pain would have been even harder, and, may I say, plain torture, if I had been coerced to endure the still dirtier drafts of previous generations in their lengthy and painful attempts, heavy of errors and hesitations, before they could reaching the understanding that came later. I like the truth, as it is one and pure. I dislike human errors and lengthy trial-and-error processes, as they are dirty accidents, just one possibility of try that happened to be followed by other people, while it could have turned out otherwise as well. I need to pass them by, to escape that pollution.
If you want to teach the errors of the past, then you are raising these errors into a new sort of dogma, as if these hesitations were more essential truths than the truths that they were attempting to discover. If you are in a state of ignorance not knowing in which direction the truth is, you have to manage with your thought to find a way that may be the solution. But I don't see the sense of forcing today's people into the particular states of errors that some people of the past happened to be in, and what their personal ways out of these problems turned out to be. Because any research path, any state of incomplete knowledge and attempt to go further, is accidental and personal. You cannot repeat them.
A guided visit into the precise way someone happened to go when he left the beaten paths, as if this guided visit was the solution to teach the people how to leave the beaten paths, is a contradiction in terms. If leaving the beaten path is not natural for somebody, I doubt it makes any sense trying to teach it at all. And it is a waste. The research path that led to modern science took the works of many scientists during centuries to process. It would be too lengthy to bother repeating that lengthy draft all over again in the life of each future scientist who has only one life to learn everything he needs and then bring his own further contribution.

Another trouble when trying to teach today's science in the shape of yesterday's controversies, is that, since you have not an infinite amount of time to teach everything anyway, you may let students miss the fact that today's established science is no more as speculative as it was yesterday, since huge lots of confirmations of discoveries came since then. By jailing them into the perspective that it looked like speculation, you may succeed to give the deluded feeling that it is still nothing more than speculation, and that they would be justified to question the conclusions by arguing, from that very historical perspective of ignorance that you care so well to provide, that today's conclusions should be seen as no more plausible than opposite conclusions, such as the Lorentz view of relativity (that the relativistic contraction of length would be a real mechanical contraction in an ether of absolute rest, and that the language and framework of absolute space and time and the resulting complication of the Lorentz transformation formulas would be the truth to understand, as some philosophy of science teachers and even some physics teachers are still teaching, in contrast with Minkowski's more mature approach of space-time as a geometrical whole).
The collateral damage resulting from this teaching path of historical perspective, is the encouragement for people to miss the modern understanding of physics, and therefore dedicate their life to the crackpot science of explaining how Relativity is wrong and the whole scientific community is in error because Einstein's proof of the Lorentz transformation formula had a little mistake or the arguments of his conclusion may be seen not satisfying enough, and another interpretation of the Michelson-Morley experiment remains possible.

So changes in scientific teaching and curricula are really needed, but a simple slogan such as "Let's teach history of science !" cannot be the miracle solution. Other slogans can be explored such as "Let Global Public Play with Science".
It takes a lot of work to put all the core knowledge in easier accessible formats. And not only for the superficial format but also for the content of the understanding, as I undertook in this site. That is, re-thinking all over again each needed concept to find out how to most elegantly explain it, and in which context of other concepts. Such a restructuring is a hard task, however it should not be so hard if many people undertook it seriously (and managed to do it in the right way, I'm not sure if many people really could if they tried, as I fail to find other people who properly did so and I still cannot figure out why), because each piece of explanation needs only to be invented once for the whole world, instead of the current way of stupidly repeating the same old ways thousands of times all over the world without progress.
But I'm not sure that even after doing that work to simplify and better explain things (and we can indeed still do much better than is usually done), any really big lot of people will come to understand much science. Just consider how ignorant are so many people about science, on topics which cannot be said "inaccessible" or "mysterious" for the way they are currently available to the public. There is a fundamental inequality of intelligences between humans. Some progress can be made in how many people understand a specific topic, but this inequality will remain.

Pedagocial ideologies vs. practice

As a concrete illustration of the above remarks, a little report of how some popular good-looking, well-intended ideas of reforms can fail in practice: Found in the facebook group "Changing Math Attitudes"
I'm sad. In two separate conversations today, people complained to me about the maths program at a local highschool. Both conversations began around the fact that students are flunking this class/classes, and are ill prepared for college and so are taking summer courses at my community college.
This "bad" maths program was described to me in varying detail and what I'm taking away is:
This high school is being very progressive in its math education, and is doing many things Jo Boaler and others recommend. Now, I'm not a teacher, myself, so I have been loving Boaler's ideas so much, with no direct experience of how they play out in classrooms. Of the things students mentioned: grading by group, rather than individual grades, focus on the student "discovering" concepts, rather than memorize-rule-and-apply, lengthy write-ups to justify "simple" mathematical ideas/equations/operations.
Granted, I am seeing only students for whom these approaches very much did not work, but both are clever interested students, who I would otherwise have guessed would show mathematical aptitude. AND these are maths education ideas that sound perfectly excellent to me!
I'm quite disheartened that someone nearby is trying to institute a much better approach to teaching/learning mathematics and that that approach, which sounds so good, is failing its students.
I'm not a teacher, or administrator, so I am not really asking for fixes, but I do want to share that I'm troubled by this, and see if others know of, or have had similar, or other, experiences in using more modern ideas toward teaching math?
Is it possible that some of it is the normal reaction to "new" math techniques (virulently negative regardless of benefit), or that this particular school just can't pull it off because they are still constrained by rigid state standards of testing etc. ? Thoughts?

Some presuppositions that may be too hard to question

When things don't work, people may dream about reforms, however they may fail to reach any progress because, sometimes, what would be really needed just escapes the range of "conceivable" reforms altogether, because it would require to abandon some presuppositions which so many people just cannot consider to give up.

One of these presupposition, is that, well, currently existing math teachers deserve to keep their job. They must remain indispensable in the same geometric configuration of one teacher leading in one classroom the group of the few dozen students of a given age which happen to be together in that geographic location for independent reasons. So, if what one student (and therefore all of them) really needs is to watch a faithful copy of the perfect course on a given topic then it must be that teacher's role to repeat it identically to all students ; while if it is to explore something his own way instead of being ordered what to think and repeat without question, then anyway the same teacher must still be needed to direct all of them together into their respective independent individual explorations. Just like libertarians cannot stop assuming that God ought to have designed the physics of the atmosphere in such a way as to keep making libertarians the good guys whose free market tools must remain right and optimal for all purposes (we just have to wait and see how it will turn out), educators cannot stop assuming that God ought to have designed the psychology of discovery/initiation to science in youngsters in such a way as to anyway make useful some help that the existing community of teachers can offer, therefore justifying full time jobs for them all, just if they are called to apply the right method, the only question being to specify which method would be the right one to request them all to apply.
A related presupposition, is that this right method which any math teacher currently in place should be requested to apply, should be the same for all pupils. Why ? Well just as a matter of simplicity, because there will always be 1 teacher for 1 class itself made of all students who happen to be at that place, and because if the right method was not the same for everybody then it would question the usefulness of gathering to 1 class with 1 teacher doing 1 thing for all, all the students that would happen to be at that place, a consideration that would be way too frightening to think about. ... See some more aspects of how the very presupposition of trying to express the science education problem in terms of having an education system to be directed by some educational policy whatsoever may be a fundamental mistake with necessary disastrous consequences, explained in my long video Why learn physics by yourself.

Draft of another page I wanted to write

(sorry I did not finish)

MBTI types and education

(For an introduction to MBTI personality types, see elsewhere on the web. ; I wrote some other notes and collection of quotes there)
I also wrote another page with remarks on the same subject of bias of the educational system between types there.

I was inspired to write this page (initially in French) by this list of psychological types, where one of these types, the ENFJ, was named "teacher". Checking elsewhere correlations between psychological types and professions, it appears that the teaching jobs are dominated by the four types **FJ. Of course, this is not all : I have also found the INTP type associated with the job "university professor." Nevertheless.

So I asked myself the following question: if the teaching profession is associated with certain psychological types, can we, on the other hand, describe the profile of the Good Pupil as a psychological type ?
The answer is clear : there is mainly one psychological type for the Good Pupil, which is the ISTJ. Indeed, we know very well that Einstein, who was INTP, was not a Good Pupil. Problem: as this class of ISTJ is just 15% of the population, how would you expect to get 80% high school graduates with that?

So much propaganda about this story of equality of opportunities, that the School of the Republic is supposed to ensure. Yes, but equal opportunities vis-à-vis what ? They say, vis-à-vis social origin. So we lock all teenagers in middle and high schools that resemble prisons, to protect them from any possible influence of their parents (their "social rank", their culture they might otherwise communicate to their children) to ensure that none is a priori favored "unfairly" compared to others. But this system which jails, judges and selects, is actually a strong discriminating constraint, in which only the people of a specific psychological type, the ISTJ (and secondarily those of similar type) are much more likely than others, first to feel good, then to succeed. Success or failure at school, is ultimately little more than the success or failure to be a good ISTJ.
Wonder why the social elevator is broken?
If the psychological type is at least partly hereditary, like intelligence, it is not surprising that success or failure in school is hereditary too, and that "social mobility" is down. But the fundamental question is not whether or not it is hereditary, but to remember that first the psychological type varies from person to person and I did not hear much about the possibility to change it by education ; on the other hand, remember that psychological type is not a quality or a failure in itself, but corresponds to different professional vocations, and there is no reason in itself to force to all an environment that only fits some.

The entire education system is programmed to give ISTJ the best success, and to bring pain and failure to others as more harshly as their type is different from ISTJ. Which success, anyway? This type ISTJ is also named "inspector" or "administrator". Let us check the list of professions to which ISTJ are preferentially oriented : among their top 10 jobs are:
What great big officials and bureaucrats. So these are the same Good Pupils who, after being the favored by the school system in their youth (having felt at school like at home, and promised to better academic success), then return as "Inspectors", including direct schools. On their neighbor type are the so-called "supervisors" ESTJ "managers" or "organizers", which also can be principals. I guess between ISTJ and ESTJ is much of academic inspectors who ensure that the generation of teachers who will accompany ensures the renewal thereof on the next generation conditions superiority ease of life and social advancement of the people of their species. Another similar type is INTJ, "organizer." It may be noted that all these types, the teacher (except INTP university lecturer) an officer, have in common the letter J (= judgment), that of bureaucratic rigidity and conformism. For all of them, otherwise the letter P (= Perception) flexibility, spontaneity, relaxation, non-conformism and the carelessness of the schedule, which is primarily an educational disadvantage, easily passes for a tare trying to treat and eradicate. That is why they are constantly wanting to continue a rhythm of constraints, rules and instructions of the next generation time, looking this way implicitly want to turn everyone in J as a clear educational mission to perpetuate. Why am I telling all this: These cases seem fairly enlighten my situation and conflict vis-à-vis the academic system, explaining a little please I have not held up as a teacher in college while I'm INTP : the teaching profession will be appropriate only people ENFJ type, even if other factors are also teachers INTP? reminder of my journey: I loved mathematics since childhood, and more generally science I wanted to do my job. research . But I HATE the school system I hated evil comrades, and the invalidity and (formal and useless for my future repetitive) uninteresting character of many course. hated getting up early in the morning to go to school, meet all these time constraints, these calendars, these controls exercises and exams, which were to me absurd. But I also had a passion for then try to look around me share my ideas and discoveries. Except that there was nobody around me able to hear them. Thought courses in mathematics and physics, subjects that interested me, were very poorly designed. I could not bear to see it. I was shocked, I thought these unbearable institutions. I had a poignant desire that everything changes, course content to the organization of all these people. This boiling in me. was told: If you want to research and share your knowledge, you must be a teacher-researcher. This is what I tried to do: prepare - 5/2 - magisterium to ulm - DEA - thesis - a few years of rest and travel - long shutdown for depression (in fact, because of my environment I almost always depressed) - - a lecturer depressed intern year professional with sequelae of psychotropic (yet taken once one) for life. Anyway, what little I tried to teach, I realized that I did not feel well, it was not my thing. Even in the abstract and unreal assumption that I would have initially escaped the system in my teens and my studies to finally land costs and flourished trying to teach at the university, it still would not have worked. The academic context is anyway far from leaving the area of freedom it would have taken me to do the kind of changes that I was dreaming. And without these changes, I would have anyway very difficult to feel my way to teach. My psychological type is INTP (like many other INTP have said, it is usually wary of labels but it is remarkable that this one describes well)!. Which (according to the table of the most common occupations for each type) actually best fits my first mission: scientific research. And also, according to the wikipedia article contains many illustrious scientists (though of course, the INTP constituting between 1 and 5% (depending on the source) of the population are not all great.) This n ' common is that half and half opposite the ISTJ type Good Student. Though many other lecturers are INTP, they seem to have largely given up their soul to INTP in their teaching. Indeed their flexibility remains inexorably crushed in one hand sandwitch between bureaucrats which frame the other hand the mass of Good Students who fulfill their amphitheatres, who can not admit that we can require them what whatsoever other than to continue to be good students, which teachers must always know address. This happens between the mass entry of Good Students ISTJ first year of university, and the final output PhD the only INTP is finally comparable to the arrival of a train at full speed on a succession of obstacles completed by a high wall, where each obstacle is designed and installed by a different actor who allowed the responsibility of shock that his own obstacle will have caused the train. This is a slow but inexorable failure of most of the Warrants Students that lies between the different academic years, each teacher takes a piece, but where it is pushed by the various pressures to assume the smallest possible share of this failure, and therefore return the largest remaining ponpon teachers who reap their amphitheaters this student population the following year. Are we dreaming. Imagine a world where a team of scientists INTP tasted and the chance to engage freely in full structural self-management, to communicate their knowledge to students as INTP, in the absence of this double bind of Good Students and bureaucrats troublemakers around in circles. What would it look like? According to this text , "where friendship develops rapidly, almost instantly, is when INTP meets another INTP or similar type communication between such individuals can become. extremely intense, leaving others puzzled. " Thus, if allowed INTP teachers to communicate with students of the INTP INTP freely without external constraints, they could easily be friends and virtually transmit knowledge directly from brain brain. Schedules and calendars would be very soft and light, and there would be no formal examination and noted (not so famous of these diplomas are finally interested bureaucrats). Only when necessary exercises to support both a form of self-assessment, and allow the teacher to find out what has not been understood, in order to better explain again later. consist Each teacher's courses writing, slides or videos at their own pace, regardless of time or person. He put on the internet to be viewed by both its own students by the world. Each student would study at their own pace, with little regard either schedule or timetable. Firstly his home following bibliographies and references indicative that could interfere courses composed by professors in this university than any other author. Occasionally, meetings would be held with entraides between students Questions and teachers. Teachers are attentive to their students to realize where they are, what has not been understood. This is simply a world of intelligence freedom. course The results are not uniformly best for all students. They might be best to only some, worse for others.
But why does it always punish those who thrive best in a free environment, thereby placing them on the pretext that this bureaucracy would be good for others?

See also: University of INTPia - why do you like science - Douance et vocation scientifique

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