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Author Topic: Why Brilliant People Are A Minority ?  (Read 25504 times)

Offline thebrain13

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« Reply #25 on: 06/11/2007 02:15:01 »
Im not saying you dont need some form of education to formulate a good theory that can hold up to modern day theories. In fact I said, einstein didnt have a good grip on physics when he was sixteen, and his theories refected that. (he didnt write special relativity when he was 16)

Im saying if you dont question science when you are young and dont know what your talking about, you'll never know how, when you're older.

this is like saying tiger woods could never win majors untill he is at least twenty, so it is a waste of time for him to play golf untill then.

you become good at physics theory the same way you get good at everything else in the world, through repitition and effort. You can't just start once you're 26, and expect to know how to be any good at it. And just like in athletics, you have a prime, einstein didnt come up with relativity when he was 40.

Ill tell you exactly why your method of "learn everything question later" process doesnt work. Predicting the unknown is the skill we are trying to perfect. How does a teacher telling you all the unknown variables before you ever think about them for yourself help you become good at predicting the unknown?

In order to be good at predicting the unknown, you need to practice predicting the unknown. And if some teacher tells you the unknown, its not unknown anymore. How are you supposed to be able to figure out the hard stuff, if you've never tried to figure out the easy stuff?

I mean, I guess you could say, well the teacher could tell you what who and who said, and you could think about it yourself anyways. But that is just too hard, the power of suggestion is too great, knowing alternative answers would get in the way of formulating your own.

Or as einstein once said "the only thing that gets in the way of my learning, is my education"
 

Offline JimBob

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« Reply #26 on: 06/11/2007 03:51:24 »
I disagree one need the drive when young. I questioned nothing when young, but learned only after getting into college that there was such a thing as a "multiple working hypothesis" or the need to question the authority of traditional thinking. But once exposed to it, this way of thinking became second nature. I have used it well and have been very successful over the 30 years I have been practicing my science.

All a person needs is a flexible mind and the will to use it.

 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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« Reply #27 on: 06/11/2007 15:59:25 »
I questioned everything when I was at school and was labeled a trouble maker when I kept saying that does not make sense, could you explain it again only to say it does not make sense again, eventually being ordered to write it down whether I thought it made sense or not.

I set up an experiment at a local college to show the head of science how gravity lifts water inside a tree and inside a simple plastic tubular model. We both looked on as water was observed to flow up to the classroom window, which was way over the 10 metres written in the textbooks he was teaching from. A number of students also looked on and heard the head of science say. "I have no problem with this explanation for how trees lift water, it is now perfectly obvious. But, hey what can I do?  I have to keep teaching the National Curriculum and cannot deviate from it in the slightest”. This was unfortunately not by any means an isolated case. And when the experiments were presented to the Association of Science and Education, lots of empty promises were made and all of them broken.

A little ignorance of the many reasons why something won’t work according to the literature does little harm. In fact it is probably the reason research advances and existing paradigms are overturned and established views are eventually abandoned. Children may not benefit as much as you feel they might from being told everything is written in stone and nothing remains to be challenged. In fact, I remember someone on this forum saying real science is boring, it consists mostly of repetition, dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s and maybe refining existing models. I think this is horse-crap. How many times have we heard, “it is not fully understood” “we do not know how it works” “it is believed to be” “insufficient data” “Our best guess is”  “that thing will never get off the ground”  “it is thought to be” “not enough evidence to support it” and the best one of all, “Our predictions were wrong”

How many times do we hear a glass of wine is good for you and a week later even one glass of wine is bad for you? We have not investigated the ocean depths, yet we convince our students that we know everything about the universe?

Maybe if we were a little more honest in our schools about the real limitations to our understanding of science we might encourage a few more bright young people to advance science further than anyone thought possible, other than the bright young students of course.
 

lyner

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« Reply #28 on: 06/11/2007 16:52:55 »
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Faraday - who was totally self taught
Do you mean he invented everything out of thin air - or did he read a lot?
What you learn from books is no different from what you are 'told'.

This seems, suddenly turned into a 'beat up the educators' thread.
Education is essential.
Until it is given some status, in the UK,many potentially great teachers will stay away from it. Most complaints about 'the system' really stem from experiences of teachers who do not know enough or who cannot actually control disrespectful kids.
What alternative have all you complainants? (This has to be a mass - low budget service so don't expect the luxury of one-to-one teaching)  Suggest a formula which will deliver the same or better for all the kids in our Schools -using people of the ability of current teachers.
P.S.
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I set up an experiment at a local college to show the head of science how gravity lifts water inside a tree
With respect, you set up an experiment in which water was lifted. You didn't actually prove what was lifting it. I suspect that your explanation may have been little better than the dodgy one you had been given. Remember, ASE can make no promises about how Science must be taught - they can only recommend.

 

another_someone

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« Reply #29 on: 06/11/2007 17:46:17 »
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Faraday - who was totally self taught
Do you mean he invented everything out of thin air - or did he read a lot?
What you learn from books is no different from what you are 'told'.

Both from books, and from attending public lectures.

The main point is that he adapted his education to his needs, rather than having education prepackaged and thrust down his throat.

This seems, suddenly turned into a 'beat up the educators' thread.
Education is essential.
Until it is given some status, in the UK,many potentially great teachers will stay away from it. Most complaints about 'the system' really stem from experiences of teachers who do not know enough or who cannot actually control disrespectful kids.

It seems to me that it is you who is beating up the educators - my complaint was more about the system than the people.  I know lots of teachers who will say that they have as much problem with the system as the pupils do (I cannot say how much this is a peculiarity of State education, as State schools are essentially an arm of government, and has to operate pretty much as if it were part of the civil service).

As for disrespectful kids (and this is a problem with society at large, not only with education) - respect, in my view, is something one earns, and not something one merely expects and demands due to one's status.

The problem with teaching is not that it cannot attract good people, but it is very difficult to retain them after you have pushed them into a nervous breakdown.

I totally agree that education is necessary (and am certainly not suggesting I would have wished never to have been educated), but I am critical of the structure of the educational system (to be fair, no human endeavour can ever be without fault, but that is no reason to be sanguine about the faults it has).

What alternative have all you complainants? (This has to be a mass - low budget service so don't expect the luxury of one-to-one teaching)  Suggest a formula which will deliver the same or better for all the kids in our Schools -using people of the ability of current teachers.

Simply, try and do less, but do it better.  The notion that we should have 50% of our young people educated to degree level is only meaningful if you drag degrees down to the same problems we have with schools.  I would be happy to reduce the school leaving age (but improve adult education possibilities), so you educate people that want to be educated, rather than turning schools into prisons with forced education.
 

Offline JimBob

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« Reply #30 on: 06/11/2007 18:19:13 »
I agree it is beat up the educators. I am partial to educators as both my mother and my sister were educators. The persevered in spite of the challenges.

Had I not had a high school geometry teacher that taught me how to think, not just do Euclidean geometry, I would never have considered science. And despite all of the remarks to the contrary about being taught and the problems resulting, education was the most important factor in my choice of science as a career.

Einstein's mentor at 10 years of age was Max Talmud (or Talmey), a medical student). "The young Feynman was heavily influenced by his father, Melville, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking." (Wikipedia) 

"The young Michael Faraday, one of four children, having only the most basic of school educations, had to largely educate himself.[6] At fourteen he became apprenticed to a local bookbinder and bookseller George Riebau and, during his seven-year apprenticeship, he read many books, including Isaac Watts' The Improvement of the Mind, the principles and suggestions contained therein he enthusiastically implemented. He developed an interest in science and specifically in electricity. In particular, he was inspired by the book Conversations in Chemistry by Jane Marcet.[7]

At the age of twenty, in 1812, at the end of his apprenticeship, Faraday attended lectures by the eminent English chemist and physicist Humphry Davy of the Royal Institution and Royal Society, and John Tatum, founder of the City Philosophical Society. Many tickets for these lectures were given to Faraday by William Dance (one of the founders of the Royal Philharmonic Society)."
also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Faraday

As for Richard Feynmen: "The young Feynman was heavily influenced by his father, Melville, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking."

All this illustrates that these brilliant people were educated BASED ON THE BUILDING BLOCKS LAID DOWN PRIOR TO THEIR INVESTIGATIONS. They either had a mentor in the flesh, as in the cases of Einstein and Feymen or by the means of books as was one of the traditional forms of education in the early 18th century. 

Teachers do an amazing job. I have seen my mother come home crying because a student was having problems - There are still teachers out there like this. The system does its best.

The problem today is poor parenting - not poor education.

 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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« Reply #31 on: 06/11/2007 18:49:27 »
Neither of us is advocating that education is of little use. We are merely stating that in science education we should not state theories are facts just because the teachers before have done so. This is what is wrong with science education today. State that this is what is currently thought to happen and until further evidence is presented to the contrary. Leaving theories open ended stimulates interest in young potential scientists allowing them to enter into this fascinating field with an open mind and endless prospects, rather than stamping out any hopes of advancing the boundaries of science simply because we can't be humble enough to admit we don't have answers to many of the main problems that science struggles to explain in a coherent manner,

Brilliance is typically the act of an individual, but incredible stupidity can usually be traced to an organization.
-- Jon Bentley
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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« Reply #32 on: 06/11/2007 19:01:20 »
Self educating from books does not equate to indoctrination. It equates to a personal choice of reading and a personal choice as to whether the author is leaving a subject open for debate or closing it. The reader is invited to form an opinion, whereas the teacher has already formed an opinion and demands that the pupil accepts their opinion. Einstein read a lot of patents from lateral thinkers working in a Patent Office. He must have observed a number of brilliant patents and an even greater number of not so brilliant patents, but I suspect he became inspired by the minds of individuals who go against the grain and strive to present their individuality to the world. He must have admired this quality found in inventors.

I disagree with using self education from books as a comparison to general education.
 

Offline blue_cristal

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« Reply #33 on: 06/11/2007 21:31:23 »
I suspect from my personal experience ( though I have no scientific evidence for it ) that the majority of people long for certainties ( I wished that reality was different and I actually would gladly thank whoever prove me wrong ).

It seems that only a minority of people are not only non dependable of certainties but they like to challenge them and offer alternative views / solutions / theories.

Most of creative and deep thinking students certainly get frustrated with an educational system that teaches science ( and anything else ) in a dogmatic way. The system is tailored for the needs of the majority and frequently discourages independent and creative/lateral thinking.

Here is the problem. If the system was totally dedicated for critical and imaginative thinking and showed that there are a lot of unknowns, uncertainties, incompleteness and even confronting theories in science, it would probably frighten and confuse the majority.

Conversely, the system, as it is now, dogmatic, uncritical and with little space for creativity and lateral thinking disappoints and holds back bright students or even cause some of them to abandon school.

I think that creative people with a critical and independent mind should have a different educational system, tailored to their needs and talents.
 

paul.fr

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« Reply #34 on: 07/11/2007 07:38:58 »
Knock, Knock. Not being one of the brilliant minority, i wonder if i may add a few lines?

Firstly; it is all well and good knocking the education system, but how many of the contributers have first hand knowledge of the present education system? How many are involved in the education system? May i humbly note that as far as i know, only Andrew can answer yes to those two questions.

Secondly; Anyone who undertakes the profession should be treated with respect, so should we all. Respect should be automatic, not earned.

and lastly, Andrew, some of your arguments seem very much like those used by creationists to when arguing about evolution.

Thank you for your time.

 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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« Reply #35 on: 07/11/2007 14:32:26 »
Hi Paul. Definitely not a creationist, sorry to disappoint you. I struggle to see where you are coming from by saying this. A creationist believes he knows the answers because he was told so by other creationists. I don’t believe anything unless I have examined the logic myself and fail to find a connection with the idea that there is a god, unless of course god is the suns energy and earth is the mother of everything on Earth, I could live with these gods. I would indeed have a job of living without them for sure.

The problem as I see it is that the shakiest theories when talked about frequently enough become accepted as factual by the masses. All this serves is to subdue the advancement of science and guarantee academia jobs for those that perpetuate the shaky theories. As George said it is better to have science baring its chest and facing a continual barrage of assaults from challengers rather than defending it against all challengers. This would definitely sort out the wheat from the chaff and any established science that stood the test would indeed be less likely to be false science.

The idea oh having separate schooling for the few people that shine would not work either as money would inevitably make sure that their son or daughter was going to the advanced school, and not because of the way their children think but because of the way their parents think.

I have a better suggestion, move them up a year or two or three, this would not only keep the challenging minds occupied and interested but would inspire others to move forward too and at the same time inspire the students sitting next to a pupil 3 years younger than themselves and doing well, to increase the amount of effort they are putting into the lessons. This way the only students that move forward are those that can move forward under their own merit. I have experienced this scenario with my own sons who at the age of five and six could recite their times tables backwards including up to and beyond their 19x tables in reverse.

This was met with ferocity saying it was wrong to encourage ones children to learn at a far greater rate than students of the same age or higher. One would have thought they might have been interested in how the lads learned to do this using my own methods of recognising numbers in patterns. The end result was they told us not asked us that out children would have to be held back because they could not cope with the additional demand they needed from the staff. We argued and argued that they should be encouraged to move forward but alas they were indeed held back.
 

Offline blue_cristal

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« Reply #36 on: 07/11/2007 17:48:03 »
Hi Andrew

I agree with a lot of what you said but I have some criticism to address.

Quote
The idea oh having separate schooling for the few people that shine would not work either as money would inevitably make sure that their son or daughter was going to the advanced school, and not because of the way their children think but because of the way their parents think.

Not if such new system was genuinely and honestly based unmistakably and solely on MERIT.

If classism ( or privilegeism ), corruption and dishonesty is allowed then NO SYSTEM, no matter how rational, wise and scientifically sound is, will ever work satisfactorily ( or work at all ). Fairness and honesty are paramount for any efficient social system to work.

Quote
I have a better suggestion, move them up a year or two or three, this would not only keep the challenging minds occupied and interested but would inspire others to move forward too and at the same time inspire the students sitting next to a pupil 3 years younger than themselves and doing well, to increase the amount of effort they are putting into the lessons. This way the only students that move forward are those that can move forward under their own merit. I have experienced this scenario with my own sons who at the age of five and six could recite their times tables backwards including up to and beyond their 19x tables in reverse.

Sorry to disagree with this solution, Andrew, but this is rather a palliative than a true solution.

It is not just =more information= what creative and bright people are eager to obtain.

I think that you probably know that Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than information…"

I am not entirely familiar with the current UK or USA schools curriculum and educational methods but if they are similar to what I experienced in my youth then I would say this:

Actually if you shove excessive trivial ( or even irrelevant ) information in one person’s head he might become confused or distracted inside this chaotic informational “noise” and miss or lose a lot of core concepts and important functional relationships.

( I remember that I had to memorize mountains of useless rubbish when I was a student ).

It is information COUPLED with stimulating and wise guidance and challenging tasks that helps them to develop the sharp mental skills capable to observe and critically analyze facts and concepts, find relevant relations and conceptualize them synthetically; and find ingenious and original solutions to important and challenging problems.


 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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« Reply #37 on: 07/11/2007 18:45:21 »
Quote
RE: Actually if you shove excessive trivial ( or even irrelevant ) information in one person’s head he might become confused or distracted inside this chaotic informational “noise” and miss or lose a lot of core concepts and important functional relationships.

You are not wrong about this, thank you for reminding me about my school days. We walked into a classroom and was told to sit down and shut up. We were then instructed to write down everything on the blackboard, which usually contained a huge amount of text, then when we copied that side the blackboard was rotated and low and behold there was equally more text to copy with no explanation about the subject, time and time again this happened and if we became distracted, a board rubber was thrown at us and often connected with our heads.

This was not the same for all of our teachers, some were great at providing stimulating and thought provoking lessons, but sadly not many teachers shared this skill.

I had the cane many times throughout school, even belted with a plank of wood for going in the gymnasium with shoes on. I was born in the BLACKCOUNTRY a heavy industrialised area near Birmingham, so industry required a lot of manual labour and skilled tradesmen. We were, I believe to this day, conditioned and indoctrinated into accepting that we had to work with our hands rather than our brains and ink on paper. Great emphasis was placed on using tools in metal work and carpentry, building go-carts out of petrol lawn mowers was definitely more interesting than a blackboard full of text to copy down so no guesses for where most of the male pupils excelled here. Even so, it did little to knock it out of a few friends and me, we were fascinated by chemistry biology and physics and made bombs, done crazy experiments, I had a microscope of my own and an impressive self collected chemistry set, courtesy of HN Hoggs in Birmingham where we used to spend all our pocket money after sneaking on a train and dodging the ticket inspector by hiding in the toilets, not recommended now though as the penalties are probably more severe than being made to get off at the wrong station and having to walk miles to get home. Our physics teacher was right obnoxious and aggressive woman from India who frequently refused to continue with the lessons due to some of the pupils being disruptive who had learned how to wind her up so she would blow a fuse and walk out calling us all the worst names you could think of only to reward the pupils for disrupting the class. This stupid immature behaviour often ended up with the cane for many of us. And on reflection the pupils were the losers failing exams and becoming cannon fodder for the local industry. And now we don't have an industry in the U.K. coutousy of the greatest environmentalist of all time who put an end to pollution and over use of non renewable energy sources like coal and oil by single handedly wiping out the entire manufacturing backbone of Great Britain. Her name of course was Margaret Thatcher.
 

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« Reply #38 on: 07/11/2007 19:20:40 »
Firstly; it is all well and good knocking the education system, but how many of the contributers have first hand knowledge of the present education system?

We are all conversant with the education we received, and the system as it existed at that time.

Certainly, if someone is willing to come along and say that the present education system is 150% better than that which we experienced in our youth, I would be interested to hear of it.  Many have tried to deny us the right to criticise, but no-one has indicated that out past experience is now obsolete, and that people leaving the education system today are so much better equipped by the system that they experienced than we were by our own experiences within the education system.

Certainly, the politicians seem consistently unhappy with the results of the system; while the teachers themselves seem to continually complain about the lack of an environment in which they can deliver the desired results; none of which leads ordinary members of the public to develop confidence about exactly how superior the present education system is to the one's of our youth, of which we have direct experience, and much to criticise.


Secondly; Anyone who undertakes the profession should be treated with respect, so should we all. Respect should be automatic, not earned.

I think we are talking about two different things here.

Clearly, every human being, whether they be Prime Minister, teacher, or tramp, deserves respect as a human being.  That is different from having respect for their competence and authority, which in my view must be earned, whether you be Prime Minister or teacher.

The problem ofcourse, and I don't give this as a justification, only as an explanation; is that when someone demands respect for their authority, but then fail to earn it, they risk having their respect as a human being being compromised in the eyes of the general public.  It is for this reason that many people will verbally attack politicians as people, when all they really deserve is to be attacked as politicians.
 

paul.fr

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« Reply #39 on: 08/11/2007 08:35:38 »
Sorry, but this reply is rather rushed as i am quite busy with other matters.

Andy, i was not attacking you when i said "some of your arguments seem very much like those used by creationists to when arguing about evolution." I was merely pointing out that, to me, your argument sounds rather like this:

Quote
Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

And as for your attack upon the great Mrs T, well shame on you.

George, you should respect both the person and the position held. By all means disagree with their actions, but the fact that they have that position does deserve respect.

I respect your position as a moderator and you as a person, yet i don't happen to agree with what you say. The respect is still there.

But you are making your judgement on a system that for both of us was a long time ago, things change. You say "Certainly, if someone is willing to come along and say that the present education system is 150% better than that which we experienced in our youth, I would be interested to hear of it."

well i don't think either of us did GCSE's, they were not around, but A levels were. Judge the pass rates for A levels from when we were at school to the present, you will see that the pass rate is much higher. This leads me to conclude that the teachers must be doing something right.
The only argument that the figures do not tell the whole story is that this is because the exams have got easier, this argument does a dis-service to our youth, and their teachers.

sorry have to go...

 

lyner

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« Reply #40 on: 08/11/2007 16:53:14 »
I keep reading phrases like "thrust down our throats" and "forced to", in this thread - relating to the education that was received by contributors.
Quite honestly, if you had been given the option at the age of, say 13, to sit in class or to be out playing, which would you have done? There are very very few teenagers who would volunteer for a week in School if they could choose an alternative. If they are not to be 'forced' to be there, how are we to get them educated?
Were you all so amazingly mature that you would have come into lessons just through a thirst for knowledge? My Sixth formers, who have actually chosen to study Physics and who find a lot of it interesting, still take every opportunity to avoid work, unless 'forced' to do it.  Many kids who would be quite capable of A level Physics, choose softer courses because they are aware that they can get grades easier and with less work by avoiding Physics, Chemistry and Maths. (This is a common fact, voiced in the media).
As far as presenting  'core Science' to 95% of kids goes - (no, > 99%)  there is little point in suggesting that they should doubt its content - it just unsettles them and, "if it may not be true, it's not worth knowing". In any case, what proportion of core Science is, actually, up for question, in as far as it can be used to predict pretty well all that happens to us in every day life? Is the only real complaint about the semantics of the word 'fact'? How much more 'factual' can you get than Newton's Laws of Motion or Snell's Law? Can you suggest a better way of describing those two  everyday phenomena? Those two 'laws' describe and predict just what happens - (what more can you ask for? ) - in pretty well every event that we involve ourselves in. THAT is Science, as it  hits most of the people most of the time. How can you complain about presenting kids with that?
I suspect that a lot of these posts are ranting against possibly unfortunate personal experiences and the inverse of rosy tinted spectacles.
I wonder how many modern-day Faradays and Einsteins are making similar comments, criticising their education.   It's always easy to blame the system  when things have gone wrong. Anyone under the age of 60 is welcome to roll up their sleeves and show us how to do it better - they are crying out for Science teachers.
I speak as one who put his money where his mouth is and who took up Science teaching for the final 15 years of employment. (I still do some supply, so I have not developed Rosy Tints, yet)

Finally , paul.fr.
I should say that there have been a lot of improvements in Science education BUT, the changes in attitude of parents and the state to the education system have not helped at all.  There is an age, below which, humans are not capable of mature choice. In some matters, that age is beyond the late teens, even. Society seems to have forgotten this and produced an education system that assumes an unrealistic level of self discipline  for school kids .
That idea of 'respect' for a system which may be locally flawed but is, basically, sound  seems to have  died. This is a pity because young people  need a bit of 'blind allegiance'  to  a few core values to help them through a confusing period in their lives.
« Last Edit: 08/11/2007 17:06:10 by sophiecentaur »
 

paul.fr

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« Reply #41 on: 08/11/2007 18:02:34 »
Well said Andrew (sophie)
 

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« Reply #42 on: 08/11/2007 18:47:20 »
I keep reading phrases like "thrust down our throats" and "forced to", in this thread - relating to the education that was received by contributors.
Quite honestly, if you had been given the option at the age of, say 13, to sit in class or to be out playing, which would you have done? There are very very few teenagers who would volunteer for a week in School if they could choose an alternative. If they are not to be 'forced' to be there, how are we to get them educated?

Quite honestly, my only recollection of school playgrounds was being bullied in them - not a place I ever considered I wished to be in if I did not have top be.  I was far happier reading science books than being in the playground.

May be some years later, I think it was when I was doing A levels, I remember during lunchtime, sneaking into an empty classroom, and (having not so long ago been taught to integrate an area) sitting down and working out from first principle how to integrate a line (far preferable to have intellectual games than physical games).  Some weeks later we went over the same thing in class, but I was quite chuffed with myself that I had got there first from first principles.

Around the same time, during some of my free periods, I would go to the school library (by no means was this true of all my free periods - there were times when I would walk out of the school gates and walk the street - but I would not stay in the playground).  Alas, the school library did not have much in terms of interesting (from my perspective) books, but they did have one general law book, and it was the beginning of my rekindling of interest in history (something I was interested in before I started secondary school, but lost interest in because I found the way it was taught to be so boring, and the attitude of the teachers often more interesting in teaching conformity than in teaching knowledge).

Maybe not at age 13, but certainly in the last year before I started school I remember very much looking forward to starting school, to be going to a place of learning.  It did not take long for that enthusiasm to be knocked out of me, and it certainly was not there at age 13.

Were you all so amazingly mature that you would have come into lessons just through a thirst for knowledge?

Mature - no.  I would play up in class as much as anybody else (mostly because I felt class was not actually a very efficient place to learn).

My Sixth formers, who have actually chosen to study Physics and who find a lot of it interesting, still take every opportunity to avoid work, unless 'forced' to do it.

Oh yes, I would avoid work - what I saw (whether rightly or wrongly) as pointless work - but I certainly would not shy away from learning.  This was what I always felt was an unresolved conflict between myself and school - I saw school as a place of learning, and if I could demonstrate that I had learned, then I saw no reason for school to enforce systems that in no way contributed to that education.  The message I was receiving from school was that other students who were more conformist, but only half as capable of learning the subjects, were considered superior pupils, and education and learning was only a secondary objective for the school (whereas it had always been my own personal primary objective).

Many kids who would be quite capable of A level Physics, choose softer courses because they are aware that they can get grades easier and with less work by avoiding Physics, Chemistry and Maths. (This is a common fact, voiced in the media).

This may well be the perception of many - it was not my own view in my time (at least from a personal perspective).

My own personal view was that maths and sciences were the softer option, because the answers were objectively right or objectively wrong, and the personal subjectivity that existed in most other subjects simply had no place in science.

As far as presenting  'core Science' to 95% of kids goes - (no, > 99%)  there is little point in suggesting that they should doubt its content - it just unsettles them and, "if it may not be true, it's not worth knowing".

Nothing like as frustrating as when you are taught something as being absolutely right, when either you are already aware that the theory is an oversimplification; or if you are not yet aware, yet two years later you are going to be told to forget what you were taught two years prior, and the right theory is something else. You quickly learn to doubt whether anything you are told is the right theory.  I would not mind if people are honest, and say that this is an approximate theory, and that you will be taught a better approximation in the future - but to claim that this is an absolute truth, and then to be told it is wrong, is to be dishonest, and makes the teachers untrustworthy (at least, that was by black and white view as a child/teenager - now maybe I do see more shades of grey in human nature, but that was no use to me in my teens).

In any case, what proportion of core Science is, actually, up for question, in as far as it can be used to predict pretty well all that happens to us in every day life? Is the only real complaint about the semantics of the word 'fact'? How much more 'factual' can you get than Newton's Laws of Motion or Snell's Law? Can you suggest a better way of describing those two  everyday phenomena?

Yes, some of it is down to semantics (and certainly, Newton's laws of motion are qualified by relativity and QED - but that really is not the main issue, since no doubt relativity and QED will be qualified by something else).

The point is to recognise that Newton's laws are two things - they are observations (which anybody can make, and is the core of all science), and modelling.  It is to demonstrate that models are merely a way of linking together observations, and making predictions (which are then testable) from that.  None of this is about 'fact' in any absolute sense, but it is about a functioning mathematical model (which is only considered a close approximation of fact, and its closeness of approximation depends totally on how well the predictions agree with observed fact - but only the observations can be regarded as actual fact).  This allows the notion that if a better model comes along, it does not make the previous model 'wrong', or untrue, or not worth knowing, and it certainly does not make the proponents of those models out to be liars.  It also demonstrates to pupils both how models are created, as well as their limitations.  It demonstrates that the best you have is merely the leading edge of knowledge, and not any right or wrong; and it gives them an idea of how they can push forward that leading edge of knowledge.

It's always easy to blame the system  when things have gone wrong.

If not the system, then what, or who?  If you can point to one person, I might seek to blame them; but there are so many people involved that one cannot blame them all, so one must find the fault with the system itself.

Ofcourse, I suppose you can seek to blame the pupil (and I often find that this seems to be the option that the system itself chooses).  This might be more reasonable if the pupil was given more freedom in the choices they may exercise, but you cannot blame a prisoner (and, yes, when you start sending parents to prison for the absence of their child, then I do regard school as a prison) who has been denied their freedom of action for less than enthusiastically embracing that over which they have been given no ownership.

I should say that there have been a lot of improvements in Science education BUT, the changes in attitude of parents and the state to the education system have not helped at all.

Since the State is a core part of the education system (being the both employer, and the agent that sets the objectives for the system), thus this fact alone reasonably supports the argument that the system is seriously flawed, and flawed in a way that is beyond the control of any single teacher (which was my argument from the start).

As for the role of the parents, this has been a long standing issue, in that parents are perpetually being blamed for everything, but being provided with no support at all in anything (exactly how much of the education system itself - moving away from science - is geared towards making good parents).  Aside from that, there is a perpetual tug og power between the parents, the schools, and the State - so it is no surprise if maybe their is not as much good will as their ought to be between the three groups (this was, maybe to a lesser extent than today, something my mother used to complain about when I was at school).  Schools seem to believe that parents should be doing as the schools demand of them, while parents believe that schools should be answerable to them as parents rather than the other way around.

Maybe one reason why the private sector remains more effective in education than the State sector is because the schools are paid by the parents, rather than the State, thus making them aware that the ultimately remain answerable to the parents rather than the State, thus defusing the power struggle between parent and school.

That idea of 'respect' for a system which may be locally flawed but is, basically, sound  seems to have  died. This is a pity because young people  need a bit of 'blind allegiance'  to  a few core values to help them through a confusing period in their lives.

Indeed - the Hitler Youth, and Young Communists, both believed as you do - and took good advantage of it (even the Jesuits were fully aware that if you can indoctrinate them when they are young, you have the power to change society, even to undermine the family values their parents may be trying to teach them).
« Last Edit: 08/11/2007 18:52:09 by another_someone »
 

another_someone

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« Reply #43 on: 08/11/2007 19:10:20 »
George, you should respect both the person and the position held. By all means disagree with their actions, but the fact that they have that position does deserve respect.

I respect your position as a moderator and you as a person, yet i don't happen to agree with what you say. The respect is still there.

I have no problem with your disagreeing with me - I don't demand agreement, merely demand to be heard, as I would give a hearing to others of a different opinion.

I certainly would never demand respect as a moderator, and I would like to think that any respect I have in that regard is merely that which I have earned.  If it becomes apparent that respect shown to me in that position is not being earned by me, then I would very genuinely feel I would be obliged to resign that position.  I could not in all conscience retain any position, whether professional or voluntary, if I ever felt that I could not honestly earn respect in that position.  I would not (could not) demand, expect, or desire, respect (excepting that to be expected by all human beings) that I felt was not earned by me.  Clearly, I do not expect that I am perfect in anything, so in earning that respect, I would not expect to be beyond criticism, but I would nonetheless hope that any respect accorded is earned rather than merely automatically given.

If it is your genuine contention that your respect for me as a moderator as in unearned respect, then I would have to take that into account (I am hoping that it is merely an academic position you are holding with regard to this, rather than a true declaration of your position).
« Last Edit: 08/11/2007 19:16:35 by another_someone »
 

lyner

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« Reply #44 on: 08/11/2007 23:53:30 »
Quote
The point is to recognise that Newton's laws are two things - they are observations (which anybody can make, and is the core of all science), and modelling.  It is to demonstrate that models are merely a way of linking together observations, and making predictions (which are then testable) from that.  None of this is about 'fact' in any absolute sense, but it is about a functioning mathematical model (which is only considered a close approximation of fact, and its closeness of approximation depends totally on how well the predictions agree with observed fact - but only the observations can be regarded as actual fact).  This allows the notion that if a better model comes along, it does not make the previous model 'wrong', or untrue, or not worth knowing, and it certainly does not make the proponents of those models out to be liars.  It also demonstrates to pupils both how models are created, as well as their limitations.  It demonstrates that the best you have is merely the leading edge of knowledge, and not any right or wrong; and it gives them an idea of how they can push forward that leading edge of knowledge.
And just how many kids in your average school would really make sense of that particular (very reasonable, well written) paragraph?
One problem is that people who complain about the way they were taught are viewing what they experienced, and sometimes resented at the time, in the light of many years' experience and with a more mature mind. Post hoc rationalisation is understandable. It is easy to delude oneself that one provided all one's own motivation against overwhelming odds.
It is very lucky and rare to be the sort of person who is that self motivated at such an early age. I know many who are not.

We can all have a good moan about the state, education and parents but the people who are ultimately responsible for the government in power - which, in turn, is responsible for the system of education- are the parents.  These parents have, if they choose, much more time than the 1000 hours a year during which kids are in School in which to have some influence. They also have the power to vote for a political / educational system they want. Apathy seems to rule in both respects.

On the subject of 'respect', I think the attitude in the services says it all - you are saluting the rank and not, necessarily, the man.
It is the responsibility of society to produce an environment where this 'blind allegiance' is morally well founded. It would be foolish to expect the young people to respect the path of 'good' automatically and without help. How much 'help' is permissible  before it is looked on as'indoctrination'?
BTW, I have seen no volunteers to get stuck into the system, yet. How about it guys?
 

another_someone

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« Reply #45 on: 09/11/2007 03:41:18 »
Quote
The point is to recognise that Newton's laws are two things - they are observations (which anybody can make, and is the core of all science), and modelling.  It is to demonstrate that models are merely a way of linking together observations, and making predictions (which are then testable) from that.  None of this is about 'fact' in any absolute sense, but it is about a functioning mathematical model (which is only considered a close approximation of fact, and its closeness of approximation depends totally on how well the predictions agree with observed fact - but only the observations can be regarded as actual fact).  This allows the notion that if a better model comes along, it does not make the previous model 'wrong', or untrue, or not worth knowing, and it certainly does not make the proponents of those models out to be liars.  It also demonstrates to pupils both how models are created, as well as their limitations.  It demonstrates that the best you have is merely the leading edge of knowledge, and not any right or wrong; and it gives them an idea of how they can push forward that leading edge of knowledge.
And just how many kids in your average school would really make sense of that particular (very reasonable, well written) paragraph?

How many people have tried - or is this merely starting from a presumption of defeat before you even make the attempt?

People complain that the young people of today don't understand science - but if the do not understand the above, then how can they possibly understand what lies at the core of science?

If you do not teach the above, then you are not teaching true science, but are teaching science in the same way that the Jesuits taught Christianity.  OK, maybe you might argue that the Jesuits knew a thing or two about teaching, so in that respect you are following a well proven formula, but it is not science.

One problem is that people who complain about the way they were taught are viewing what they experienced, and sometimes resented at the time, in the light of many years' experience and with a more mature mind. Post hoc rationalisation is understandable. It is easy to delude oneself that one provided all one's own motivation against overwhelming odds.
It is very lucky and rare to be the sort of person who is that self motivated at such an early age. I know many who are not.

I would both agree and disagree.

Firstly, my view is that all children are inherently self motivated - but self motivated at what is the question.  No adult can motivate a child, they can only try and find constructive ways of channelling their innate motivation.  Too often, the education system (again, like the prison system, but to follow your other analogy, also like the army) seems to desire to first break the child so as to be able to reconstruct the child in the way it desires.

No, I really don't believe that my own motivation did withstand the overwhelming odds.  It did not break my desire to learn, but it did leave me feeling isolated, and certainly disincentivised me from striving to do better for myself.  It failed to channel who I was, and tried to turn me into someone I was not, with the result that it did almost as much harm as good.

Ofcourse, all recollections are subjective, even recent recollections are subjective (which is what makes witness statements inherently unreliable); yet if one dismisses one's recollections of one's own childhood as worthless, then how is one supposed to have empathy for the children of today - merely by reading about them in textbooks written by eminent child psychologists?

We can all have a good moan about the state, education and parents but the people who are ultimately responsible for the government in power - which, in turn, is responsible for the system of education- are the parents.

This is grossly simplistic and inaccurate.

Firstly, even if one naively assumed that giving people the right to choose which party forms the next government really gives them much direct power at all, it assumes that the electorate equates to the parents of the land, ignoring the significant proportion of the population who are not parents.

But, as I said, even that assumes that the power of the vote really makes that much difference, much less that such a crude instrument of power (even if it were effective) could really make such fine detailed changes in the structures of government as to influence the structures of the education system.  What influence did the electorate make regarding the UK entering the Iraqi war (an event that is likely to constrain UK government action, in terms of foreign policy, law and order, social policy (particularly race relations policy, freedom of speech, and religious tollerance), and economic constraints - wars are expensive) for many years to come.  It is yet to be determined if the UK electorate will have any say in whether the UK government will sign up to the revisions to the terms of our involvement in the EU.  So amidst all this, you think the electorate really has the power to influence education policy (let alone that the fraction of the electorate that are parents, and so are most influenced by the education policy, would have an exclusive control over it)?

These parents have, if they choose, much more time than the 1000 hours a year during which kids are in School in which to have some influence.

Certainly, mothers can, if they elect (and can financially afford) stay at home to concentrate on bringing up their children.  It is a policy that is actively discouraged by modern society (both by government policy itself, which seeks to bring mothers as quickly as possible back into the work place, and thus as active contributors to the tax base; but also by society at large, that regards being a wife and mother as a primary occupation as being demeaning to women, and that women can only seek public respect through their careers outside of the home; and finally, it is scarcely a financially affordable option for most couples in the present economic climate).

Certainly, my mother did greatly contribute to my interest in science and maths; but equally, was unable to stimulate my interest in history (which is why that interest was on the wane during the period when I was totally reliant upon my school for stimulating my natural curiosity in the matter).  Then again, there are many who might regard that a parent becoming too involved in their child's education may undermine the role of the school, since it will probably mean that the child will become more bored being taught alongside children who are not as effectively supported by their parents, and it may undermine the particular curriculum that the teacher might wish to teach in class.

On the subject of 'respect', I think the attitude in the services says it all - you are saluting the rank and not, necessarily, the man.

You mean the kind of 'respect' where you salute an officer to his face, and stick to fingers up at him when his back is turned.  Is that really 'respect', in any meaningful way - or just going through the motions.

In any case, in many ways the loss of that attitude is part of what is seen as a breakdown of the remnants of the feudal order, where people were expected to 'know their place in society', in a society where rank mattered more than personal merit.  Even the military eventually learned (as long ago as the aftermath of the Crimean war) that placing social position above personal competence does not make for the best results.

It is the responsibility of society to produce an environment where this 'blind allegiance' is morally well founded.

Is that not a contradiction.  If allegiance is to be truly blind, then how can anyone judge whether it is morally well founded or not?

Yes, I realise you are suggesting that we should teach children to accept blind allegiance, and are somehow expecting that as adults they will suddenly learn to be more critical of this allegiance, but it will not happen - as they are taught as children, so they will take into adulthood (that after all is what the premise of education is about - it is to teach people how to become functioning adults).

BTW, I have seen no volunteers to get stuck into the system, yet. How about it guys?

I really do not see myself as having anything like the formal qualifications to do any such thing (and am less than 9 years away from my 60th birthday).

In any event, I have met far too many teachers who have been turned into nervous wrecks by the system, that I really am not sure I am that masochistic.
« Last Edit: 09/11/2007 03:50:48 by another_someone »
 

Offline Carolyn

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« Reply #46 on: 09/11/2007 04:20:12 »
Just a quick question for you guys.  Is homeschooling allowed in the UK?
 

another_someone

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« Reply #47 on: 09/11/2007 05:33:31 »
Just a quick question for you guys.  Is homeschooling allowed in the UK?

Technically, yes, although it causes a lot of controversy.  Not least, the police often assume the school age pupils on the streets during school hours are playing truant, and will pick them up (this was not the case when I was a child, but I have heard of it happening more recently), which makes it very difficult for parents who are home schooling, and don't lock their kids up at home throughout the school day.  There is a lot of pressure also from many councils who do not like home schooling because they feel that applying quality control on how it is done is very difficult.
 

lyner

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« Reply #48 on: 09/11/2007 21:07:38 »
Quote
Firstly, my view is that all children are inherently self motivated - but self motivated at what is the question.  No adult can motivate a child, they can only try and find constructive ways of channelling their innate motivation.
Do you have a lot of personal experience  / evidence of this or is that comment based on your own childhood?
 

lyner

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« Reply #49 on: 09/11/2007 21:47:07 »
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Certainly, mothers can, if they elect (and can financially afford) stay at home to concentrate on bringing up their children.
One doesn't have to stay at home in order to clock up well in excess of 1000 hours of contact time with your children.
You have to bear in mind, also, that  of the 1000 total hours of School time, an individual teacher will not be likely to see a student for more than about 80 hours in a year. The potential for parents to influence a child is a lot more than this, you must agree.

Is there no age limit for my 'blind allegiance' idea to apply? Are infants expected to come to their own conclusions and make suitable choices for life? My comment was supposed to apply to kids who actually need guidance and a formal , imposed, structure. The question is "what age child".
The values which are most important, of course, are the family values which parents should be providing long before School starts.
My use of the word 'fact' is, of course shorthand for 'established knowledge and models which work in a huge number of situations etc. etc'. How much time do you think your average kid has to find all that out for him / herself from scratch and in an academically rigorous way?  Do you  not acknowledge that it is easy to confuse a young mind  when every bit of information is over-qualified with  caveats and warnings? Listen to how the talk to each other. That is the way they take in information best; concrete assertions with the very occasional opinion. The 'fact' they heard about Science on the TV, the previous night is swallowed hook line and sinker. If I had £1 for every time I had to help with some mis-conception that had been pedaled in a popular Science program I would not be needing my pension. I have certainly done my share of suggesting that they should be selective and 'questioning' of the information they hear. Should I not be 'putting them right'?
I think you are under-valuing the grounding that you surely received, at least at Primary School, if not in your early Secondary education. You cannot reasonably take all the credit for all your present level of competence. Might I suggest that someone during your schooling might have got a few things right?
I cannot understand why you seem so angry about this.

Quote
it gives them an idea of how they can push forward that leading edge of knowledge.
How many students out of the 350 in each year of my School would you be expecting to be planning on doing that? I have to teach them ALL, not just the potential Hawkings.

btw, 51 is not too late to start a PGCE course - you could expect a good 15 years of productive teaching.
I was not much younger than that when I started.  Equal ops for older people is the thing nowadays.
« Last Edit: 09/11/2007 21:48:47 by sophiecentaur »
 

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