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Do you believe the United State's Public School systems are good for the future of America?
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Posted: 24 August 2007 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Well, forget for a second that the main evidence that charter and private schools are better fails to correct for the fact that their students tend to be wealthier and whiter and are likelier to have educated parents. Just compare Stuyvesant or Bronx Science to Eton. Eton has higher inputs, but its output’s no better.

And no, parents aren’t accountable to their kids. They won’t lose their jobs or their community standing if their children underperform. They might get some social encouragement if their kids do particularly well, but it’s equally likely they’ll be ignored.

In addition, the way parental inputs impact education is inscrutable - for example, I’ve seen a study that says that praise and flattery can produce better results, but only if they’re directed at effort rather than intelligence, and are very specific to the child’s strengths and weaknesses (“you have such a great ability to concentrate on one thing rather than get distracted”); praising intelligence only encourages sloth, and the child will see general praise (“you work so hard”) as dishonest.

That inscrutability causes two things. First, it makes it hard to gauge who’s a good parent and who’s a bad one. With teachers or schools or principals you can look at test scores because of the law of large numbers; with parents, you can’t. This means it’s impossible to make parents really accountable. And second, it means that to be effective a parent needs to do an incredible amount of research, most of which can’t be found in parenting handbooks. Nobody has the time to be that thorough. My conjecture here is that parents would rather believe this research is worthless than use the time they do have to be at least partly informed, because if they become partly informed, they’ll have to face the fact that they’re not doing the best they could possibly do.

Also: I forgot to name another group, the it’s-all-about-the-parents people, led by Daniel Moynihan. Their contention is that student success has everything to do with parental support and very little to do with funding or curriculum. So for example they say that minority and low-income students underperform because their parents aren’t concerned with their education, unlike Jewish students, who overachieved even a hundred years ago, when Jews were poorer than gentiles in the US. There is a bit of truth to it, but in fact eyeballing test scores at some New York high schools, some of which are fairly diverse, I see no significant difference in results across race or ethnicity in any subject.

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Posted: 24 August 2007 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Well, I do agree that the contribution parents make to their child’s ultimate success, in whatever venue, is less than most think. The older I get, the more towards the “nature” side of the old debate I move. With hard work we can damage our kids, and a certain basic level of love, material and psychological support, and access to opportunities is necessary for optimal development, but beyond that we have less influence, especially after school starts, than we think.

Still, I think you have a wierd notion of accountability in parenting. For most people, nothing is more important than their children’s well-being, and I think most people make great efforts to figure out and do what’s best. Sure, industry sells them a lot of crap based on questionable single studies, but the very fact they buy it represents effort and concern. I’d much rather lose my job or “community standing” than fail my child, and that’s a more potent form of accountability than you credit.

As for the school comparison data, some of it does take socioeconomic factors into account, and ultimately I think reliable conclusions are hard to draw.

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Posted: 24 August 2007 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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i admit, i bought a couple baby einstein videos when my daughter was first born.

but this morning we watched some of Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Origins…

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Posted: 24 August 2007 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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mckenzievmd - 24 August 2007 11:41 AM

Still, I think you have a wierd notion of accountability in parenting. For most people, nothing is more important than their children’s well-being, and I think most people make great efforts to figure out and do what’s best. Sure, industry sells them a lot of crap based on questionable single studies, but the very fact they buy it represents effort and concern. I’d much rather lose my job or “community standing” than fail my child, and that’s a more potent form of accountability than you credit.

That applies to everyone. Politicians don’t want to fail their people, teachers don’t want to fail their students, cops don’t want to fail their neighborhoods… the personal will to succeed doesn’t produce accountability. Lenin managed to starve 5 million Russians to death despite trying to do what’s best for the Soviet Union and its people. There was no one who could penalize him for engineering mass starvation, or force him to measure success by good criteria, or tell him he was delusional.

With children, it’s even worse, because of delayed feedback. You can’t know if your child’s education was successful until many years after the fact. In dictatorships, famines have a 2- or 3-year delay, which is already enough to leave millions dead. With education, by the time you can gauge whether your first child succeeded or not, your last is already well past the point where you can no longer fix what you’ve done wrong.

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Posted: 24 August 2007 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Alon - 24 August 2007 12:30 PM

Lenin managed to starve 5 million Russians to death despite trying to do what’s best for the Soviet Union and its people. There was no one who could penalize him for engineering mass starvation, or force him to measure success by good criteria, or tell him he was delusional.

where do you come up with this stuff? who in the world are you using for Russian history?

Lenin was “trying to do what’s best for the Soviet Union and its people”?

Shit, even Animal Farm shows that to be nonsense.

“There was no one who could penalize him for engineering mass starvation, or force him to measure success by good criteria, or tell him he was delusional” because he suppressed - rather violently - all the successes of the first two revolutions. Which is hardly evidence of him “trying to do what’s best for the Soviet Union and its people.”

What do you think the Kronstadt uprising was about, or why Nestor Makhno and others fled, or what disenchanted Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman once they were deported to Russia?

sorry to technically get off topic, but between the overly-broad generalizations about certain things (ie Carl Sagan and Bertrand Russell; parenting; Latin America; media; etc) , you seem to constantly make comments like the one above that are just so ridiculous that I cant seem to keep my mouth shut.

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Posted: 27 August 2007 11:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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You can’t know if your child’s education was successful until many years after the fact

Nonsense. Children are assessed and evaluated in formal ways continuously, and informally in terms of their applied knowledge and skills all the time. If there is a problem or something is not working, you don’t need to wait until they graduate college to notice. As for the road to hell being paved with good intentions, that may sometimes be true, but your cynicsm doesn’t constitute proof that parents aren’t accountable in meaningful ways.
Anyway, you still haven’t bothered to come up with any productive or useful suggestions. This sweeping denunciation of everyone and evrything without adding anything productive or taking any risks yourself is getting old.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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No, I haven’t come up with productive suggestions. That’s because I don’t have any. The only idea I have is really a hunch, which is that schooling is taking years longer than it should.

You know, I wouldn’t know how to run a disaster management agency, either. I don’t have the skills for that. But I can still recognize that Michael Brown was incompetent.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Alon - 31 August 2007 11:51 AM

No, I haven’t come up with productive suggestions. That’s because I don’t have any. The only idea I have is really a hunch, which is that schooling is taking years longer than it should.

My theory is that the purpose of “education” is not really education.

The purpose of this so called education is psychological conditioning.

It takes longer and it actually makes people stupid.  That was one of the weird things I noticed when I started reading sci-fi books in grammar school.  I would learn more things in a week about really interesting stuff as a result of researching what I found in one SF book than I would learn in two months of school.  I can’t imagine how I would have gotten thru grammar school without them.  They were boring me to death.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Well, as little fun as I remeber school being, I have to say I use a fair bit of the body of knowledge all the time. So I think we’re all a bit spoiled claiming that our system is so useless, smothers our individual genius, etc. The basic idea that everyone can and should have a basic education has been a pretty liberating one for much of the world’s population. We can qvetch about how our system is flawed and could be better, but I think we may be getting a little carried away by the notion we’d all be better off without formal education.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 10:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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psikeyhackr - 31 August 2007 09:02 PM

It takes longer and it actually makes people stupid.  That was one of the weird things I noticed when I started reading sci-fi books in grammar school.  I would learn more things in a week about really interesting stuff as a result of researching what I found in one SF book than I would learn in two months of school.  I can’t imagine how I would have gotten thru grammar school without them.  They were boring me to death.

Really? When I read Asimov, it set back my education for a year. A few months back I tried reading Gene Wolfe, who Neil Gaiman has proclaimed the best living English-language writer. I got through the first half of his flagship series, yawning. Fantasy and SF just aren’t good for thinking about things… well, hard SF might be good for some hard science, but for social science, I’d stay away from that kind of fiction.

What has helped me quite a lot is good books. Most of those I’ve only read in the last two years, but even before then, I found authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Max Frisch amazing.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Ah, Alon, you must have a terribly hard time finding hats! grin

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Posted: 31 August 2007 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Alon - 31 August 2007 10:33 PM

Really? When I read Asimov, it set back my education for a year

Would you care to explain that?  ‘Cause I don’t believe it.  Maybe you had brain damage to begin with.

Fantasy and SF just aren’t good for thinking about things… well, hard SF might be good for some hard science, but for social science, I’d stay away from that kind of fiction.

Fantasy and SF are two different things.  And some stuff that people call SF isn’t really, like Star Wars.

For social science I think Asimov’s Foundation series is pretty good.  Help prepare people for the stupid manipulation that the social scientists try.  LOL  The Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl is even better.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 11:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I read the Robot novels, and loved them. I was stricken by how rational the characters were… which blinded me to the facts that Asimov’s a) a shitty writer, and b) a shitty social scientist.

I also know enough about Heinlein’s social science to corroborate this. You can use SF to frame your political ideas, but it’s incredibly hard to do it without coming off as a hack. Huxley and Orwell did it well, but Brave New World and 1984 are written as warnings rather than as arguments for some political system. Vonnegut, Atwood, and Gibson did it somewhat worse, but again, none of them ever disguised a polemical essay in fiction. Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov did it horribly. They all come off as elitists who would rather the world be ruled by omnipotent technocrats, and who are too clueless to have any historical awareness of how mandarinism worked in the past. Hell, even my own novel used to be infected with that, though I progressively corrected another part of it with every rewrite, and the sequel is exactly the opposite.

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Posted: 01 September 2007 02:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Anyway… what I learned a lot from was just interacting with different kinds of people, and reading literature about many more. I still have no people skills, but I did learn to think in many different modes: bureaucrat, someone trying to get through the day, academic, politician, pundit…

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Posted: 01 September 2007 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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I read the Robot novels, and loved them. I was stricken by how rational the characters were… which blinded me to the facts that Asimov’s a) a shitty writer, and b) a shitty social scientist.

I also know enough about Heinlein’s social science to corroborate this. You can use SF to frame your political ideas, but it’s incredibly hard to do it without coming off as a hack.

Part of the problem is distinguishing between writers and storytellers.  Just because someone can write well doesn’t mean they can come up with a decent story and someone who can come up with a great story may not be a great writer.  In my rarely humble opinion the story is far more important than the writing.

Of the SF writers that I like I think Mack Reynolds is about the worst writer.  But I would rather read one of Reynolds’ stories again than Neuromancer again.  Gibson came up with the term ‘cyberspace’ and used ‘matrix’ in reference to that but I don’t recall anything worth thinking about from the story.

One of the things that was pointed out about society in science fiction that I noticed in many books is the variations in intelligence among the people in society.  This is something that is impolite to mention but it is an unavoidable part of the social tension.  The story that made this most obvious that I recall, though I don’t remember the title, was about a married couple that had worked on the moon for a number of years because it payed very well and were returning to Earth because they had saved up enough money.  Everyone told them that they would be coming back to the moon.  So they get back to Earth and get really aggravated by all of the stupid people they have to deal with so they return to the moon.  The point being dumb people were not useful on the moon.  Too much stupidity could get a lot of people killed.  I think thi is a large part of why I enjoyed college at the engineering school I attended. 

A well written novel without an sufficiently sophisticated story is like a highly polished piece of granite.  An uncut diamond is worth a lot more.  Why should a good storyteller waste his time improving the writing?  It makes far more sense to write another good story.

But now we have a computerized society that is rather different from anything in any sci-fi book I have read, though I haven’t read as much in recent years.  We can all spread ideas globally just to see what fallout results.

Don’t you find it curious how our economists never talk about the depreciation of all of the automobiles?  It has to be around 300 BILLION DOLLARS a year.  LOL

Heinlein went into economics the most of the BIG THREE but I don’t recall him bringing that up.  I don’t think SF is about learning a subject as about stimulating thought about many subjects.  Good writing alone won’t do that.

http://discussions.pbs.org/viewtopic.pbs?t=28529

Of course an economics professor at the University of Calgary called me a loony not a hack.  LOL

psik

PS - I think really intelligent writers might have trouble writing characters that aren’t so smart.  But writers that aren’t exceptionally bright will certainly have trouble portraying brilliant characters.  One of the things I find funny about watching interviews of actors that play sci-fi characters on TV is that they often don’t come across as intelligent as their characters.

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