Category Archives: Education

Data-Free Policies

Glenn notes an article about how the obesity wars have moved into the schools.

…like other misguided public health campaigns (remember “Just Say No”?), putting children on de facto diets at school just doesn’t work. In a 2003 experiment involving 41 schools, more than 1,700 children

A Lousy Investment

Malcolm Kline says that politicians’ efforts to steer even more money into the black hole of college education is misguided:

In a recent conference call on the plan, both lawmakers rebuffed three attempts to get them on record explaining why college and university administrators have nothing to do with the exploding cost of higher education. It

Yes, And So?

At this point, I’d like to think that teaching Marxism in an economics course is the academic equivalent of teaching Biblical literalist creationism in a biology class. But nutball academics don’t agree, of course:

Siddique plans on filing a complaint with the USG regarding an introductory economics course, because it ignores “Marxist economic viewpoints, privileging capitalist ones exclusively.”

Just a little blowback from the recent efforts to get a little balance into the college classrooms.

Something We All Really Knew

There is such a thing as a stupid question:

Saying that there are no stupid questions devalues the process of inquiry. Questions are the engines that power the growth of knowledge, and we cannot rely solely on a random interrogatory process. Although unstructured strategies such as brainstorming and free association have their uses, we need to balance them with a disciplined approach to questioning. Students must learn to expand on initial answers as they ask new questions.

I think that this subject relates to this one, at least remotely.

[Via Geek Press]

Is Our Children Learning?

This is an issue that I think deserves more attention than it’s getting:

A recent survey of eight-to 18-year-olds, she says, suggests they are spending 6.5 hours a day using electronic media, and multi-tasking (using different de-vices in parallel) is rocketing. Could this be having an impact on thinking and learning?

She begins by analysing the process of traditional book-reading, which involves following an author through a series of interconnected steps in a logical fashion. We read other narratives and compare them, and so “build up a conceptual framework that enables us to evaluate further journeys… One might argue that this is the basis of education … It is the building up of a personalised conceptual framework, where we can relate incoming information to what we know already. We can place an isolated fact in a context that gives it significance.” Traditional education, she says, enables us to “turn information into knowledge.”

Put like that, it is obvious where her worries lie. The flickering up and flashing away again of multimedia images do not allow those connections, and therefore the context, to build up. Instant yuk or wow factors take over. Memory, once built up in a verbal and reading culture, matters less when everything can be summoned at the touch of a button (or, soon, with voice recognition, by merely speaking). In a short attention-span world, fed with pictures, the habit of contemplation and the patient acquisition of knowledge are in retreat.

This is a plausible thesis, though a lot of research needs to be done to validate it. Certainly, judging by Usenet (and even the comments section here), rational argument may be becoming a lost art (though the implication of this article is that it’s a problem for the current generation of children, not necessarily, or at least as much, past ones). On the other hand, logical fallacies and inability to argue logically are hardly new, or they wouldn’t have been named and described for such a long time (going in fact back to ancient Greece). But that only means that it’s a quantitative issue–that it’s becoming more of a problem, particularly with more opportunities for discourse.

I don’t know whether not this is a serious problem, but it’s worth giving some thought to. I also don’t have any obvious easy solutions if it is, other than a retail one. Parents have to make sure that their kids learn to read and write, and spend a significant amount of time doing it, rather than just playing with electronic de-vices and icons.

Radicalized By College

Here’s an interesting interview by a student who became a conservative as a backlash against the pervasive miasma of leftist dogma at Brown University:

I was a junior by the time I finally decided to criticize particular segments of the campus. Again, I was a football player, and that took up a lot of my time. So rather than immediately join some leftist student-group, I was forced to be a spectator of campus activism at first. There was always a lot of controversy on Brown’s campus, and I spent a lot of time observing the behavior of my classmates. I had an immediate repulsion to them for a lot of reasons. It wasn’t that I was pro-life, and they were pro-choice. Or that I was against affirmative action, and they were in favor of it. Those weren’t even opinions that I had formed or cared about. My objection to liberal activism was more about my classmates’ zealotry, and the fact that I knew I was forbidden to disagree or disapprove of them. In other words, I had a negative reaction to the ethic and demeanor of liberals before I even disagreed with liberal thought. I found Brown’s leading liberal forces to be deviant, oppressive, and improper before I reached any other conclusions. Ironically, they were viciously labeling everyone but themselves as mean, dumb, and racist. But I saw it in reverse. In fact, Out of Ivy documents the campus left’s hypocrisy, and their readiness to lie, smear, stereotype, and discriminate–all accompanied by their assertion that they were the fluffy-hearted champions of tolerance and understanding.

More “Zero Tolerance” Insanity

Once again, “zero tolerance” equals “zero intelligence“:

Elliot Voge, 14, told Stoneybrook Middle School principal Jimmy Meadows he forgot that he had left the Swiss Army knife in his pocket after using it to whittle wood last month. The next day, just after he was dropped off at school by a classmate’s mother, he said he discovered the knife in his coat and immediately went to the office.

Nevertheless, Meadows suspended him and recommended expulsion.

I would have liked to hear the moronprincipal’s side of the story, but I suspect it’s the same old, mindless “rules are rules, and they must be enforced.”

And they wonder why people home school.

More “Zero Tolerance” Insanity

Once again, “zero tolerance” equals “zero intelligence“:

Elliot Voge, 14, told Stoneybrook Middle School principal Jimmy Meadows he forgot that he had left the Swiss Army knife in his pocket after using it to whittle wood last month. The next day, just after he was dropped off at school by a classmate’s mother, he said he discovered the knife in his coat and immediately went to the office.

Nevertheless, Meadows suspended him and recommended expulsion.

I would have liked to hear the moronprincipal’s side of the story, but I suspect it’s the same old, mindless “rules are rules, and they must be enforced.”

And they wonder why people home school.