[ExI] I don't understand students: help !

Mike Dougherty msd001 at gmail.com
Sat Dec 20 04:03:03 UTC 2008

On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 8:46 PM, Anna Taylor <femmechakra at yahoo.ca> wrote:

> >>I think Dagon wasn't advocated ending educating people. Rather, I read
> >>him as saying that the institution of school needs to be thrown out,
> >>replaced with automated self-directed learning that kids could do from
> >>home, at their own pace, etc etc. So the public could feasibly become
> >>more educated than ever, just we wouldn't be using internment camps to
> >>achieve it.
> Really?  What happens to the social aspect of it?  Students today as I see
> them are not very sociable and you want to make computers more unclosed in a
> 4 wall room?  Doesn't that make it more secluded?  How are are people
> supposed to learn if not surrounded by different people?

I started to reply earlier in this thread but discarded the draft because I
didn't feel one more opinion on the subject would really add anything
useful.  Thanks for asking a general/semi-rhetorical(?) enough question that
I could throw my two cents in. :)

We (on this list) think of education as a means of proceeding from ignorance
to greater understanding.  I admit that I am unaware of education outside
the US public system.  What I understand of the myriad forces that maintain
the status-quo is that education is about indoctrination into the
consumerist way of life.  Most of the interaction among peers is to
reinforce the herd mentality.  The minimum required effort is lowered even
as our collective mental muscle atrophies.  I'm sure there are dozens of
examples of exceptional individuals being produced in American schools, but
these students would likely be "exceptional" given an opportunity in any
school.  Perhaps it is because I am an adult returning to college education
that I feel the work is easier than it was in the early 1990's, or perhaps
the business of accepting ever-larger tuition from an increasingly
lackluster crop of high school graduates has forced the expectation down?
"No child left behind" seems to have leveled the field so much there is no
mountain to overcome so achievement is a matter of having simply been a
participant in a nearly passive process.  Giovanni started this thread in
dismay over  the fact that his students resent being asked to work for their
grade, or that the boundaries were not labeled clearly enough.  I believe
there was once a time that grades were given for how far a student exceeded
the minimum and that competition drove the definition of "A" work.
Apparently today we can't allow competition to season the mush that is
served as education.  Why should students be accountable for academic
fitness if they are to enter a business world that is also so unfit that it
is being 'bailed out' by government funny-money?

The children who are my peers would claim to be very sociable; the "social
networks" are buzzing with activity.  That the content is mostly inane and
meaningless is of secondary importance.  What is relevant is that each human
node of humanity's collective graph is establishing connections and
submitting themselves to the group.  It simply doesn't make sense that
"plagiarism" is wrong: If any  answer exists that google can cough up, then
Giovanni should be happy his student has collected those works into a single
result.  If that result does not answer the question, then adjust the
question - to one which better appreciates the answer.  I believe this group
delusion is a coping mechanism for the fact that the majority is simply
unable to keep up with the pace of change.

Anna asked, "How are people supposed to learn if not surrounded by different
people?"  I suggest that the group is learning, but the individuals are
losing their identity to the group.  This thread about education has
focussed on how to make the individual more productive.  Who are the
individuals currently driving the world today?  What would be their interest
in educating the masses?  It is more profitable to manage the herd as a
statistical model with low variance from the mean than to address a
population of reasoning thinkers.  Those few exceptions which rise to the
top of the current system can be extracted and carefully polished to provide
the next generation of leaders (aka herd managers).

Education to set people free is a serious threat to established society.
Whether there are literal humans drivers of society or there are forces
balanced about social equilibrium, there is a great deal of inertia to
overcome if you/we seek to take humanity to the next local maxima.
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