Category Archives: Education

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.

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.

Westward Ho

I haven’t commented on the Cornel West circus much, leaving it to Instantman and others. But they had a piece on NPR this morning about it. Of course, the tone of the piece took it pretty much as a given that this was a major blow to Harvard. There was no questioning of the value of his work or performance. The closest they came was to find one guy who basically said that West made a fool of himself by feigning victimhood and making accusations of covert racism on Summers’ part, when the criticisms were legitimate, and had nothing to do with race.

They interviewed several Harvard students, some of whom were proclaiming doom. The closest they could come to the other side was one student who said it was a loss, but that Harvard would survive.

They didn’t bother to look for anyone, apparently (at least I assume that’s the reason, because I can’t believe that they don’t exist), who would say (as I would have), “Our gain is Princeton’s loss. Hope the doorknob doesn’t make a dent in his butt on the way out.”

[9:43 AM PDT Update]

John McWhorter has a piece in today’s Journal on the subject (link for paid subscribers only):

…he has implied that a CD and support for Mr. Sharpton are legitimate substitutes for academic work–a “visionary” paradigm of inquiry. Here is a coded wink to black people that Mr. Summers’ failure to understand this is racism.

I see a different subtext here: that serious academic work is optional for black intellectuals, and that to require it of a black scholar beyond a certain point is a racist insult. But can Prof. West not see that this only reinforces the stereotype of black mental dimness that feeds the very racism he is so quick to sniff out? Visionary or not, rap is not scholarship. Nor is putting one’s arm around a hustler like the Rev. Sharpton “speaking truth to power.”

Now They’ve Gone Too Far

According to Iowahawk, the academic fraud epidemic is approaching critical mass.

Consider:

…the ongoing feud between Harvard President Lawrence O’Neill and star African-American Studies professor Cornell West. Last year West threatened to lead an exodus of Harvard’s black faculty to Princeton after O’Neill obliquely criticized West’s recording of a hip hop album.

According to sources, O’Neill accused West of being a “punkass newjack sucka MC,” having “whack flow” and “not representin.'”

West angrily defended his rapping skills, retorting that “Tha C-dog be rollin’ hard and gots his shizit on point” and that he was a “Ninja on the mic.” He accused O’Neill of jealousy and sexual impotence, noting that “old punk fool can’t get no fly hos like the C-dog.”

The bitterness over the incident has subsided, but tempers flared briefly when West, O’Neill and their posses crossed paths in Harvard Square after a faculty hydraulic car-bouncing competition.

and

“Unlike that old adage about doers-versus-teachers, I have marketable skills outside academics,” says Agee.

“If worst comes to worst,” he explains, “there’s always journalism.”