[ExI] To Will and all the young people in this post...

giovanni santost santostasigio at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 21 20:17:12 UTC 2008

Just reading how you express yourself and the content of your post, you seem a very intelligent young person. Probably you have more knowledge than the average American teenager. I 'm very skeptical, though, that what you learned at school is even comparable with what an average teenager needs to know to enter college in ANY country in the world.
This statement in particular applies to the average American teenager's knowledge of History (in particular world History), Geography, Science and Mathematics. Let's not talk about the ability of American high school students to express themselves in their native talk (and let's keep absolutely quiet about them even blabbering in a different tongue).
If you like I can send you to different websites to compare your knowledge with what is considered standard in every other country.
I'm sorry, make sure to understand this is not a personal attack but a statement based on my experience (and that of my colleagues) dealing with hundreds of college students. 
It is not your fault. But you, young people, should be outraged with the American education system that doesn't prepare you to be citizen of the world. You are the ones that need to demand, now, that you get what everybody else gets from school. 
And self-education is not the answer.
Specialized knowledge is not the answer.
That comes later when students have an appreciation for learning. 
Education is about being well rounded, to be able to appreciate the beauty of an equation, the immensity of the Cosmos, the simple symmetry of a Greek temple, feel in awe hearing Shakespeare's or Pablo Neruda's verses.
Without a guide, a real teacher, most students would not have a clue of the vast worlds of knowledge available to them. They  would never appreciate, and take pleasure (the highest form of pleasure of them all) in meaningful learning. 
I was fortunate enough to be educated in a country with high schools that cared to forge me as an intellectual, an educated person. I know what good teacher can do to your soul. I felt a sense of awakening when I was in high school. It was an amazing time. I thank every day my Professors (we call our high school teachers in that way) above all when I realize how ignorant American students are.
 The average American student, even a well prepared one, is  without passion, he is lacking self-awareness or awareness of what goes around them, he in not mature and for sure he has not idea of what it means to be a scholar, an intellectual, an educated man (AND NOT A KID !) . We have an exam in Italy, at the end of the last year of high school. A grinding, 3 days exam that, I bet, many MIT  freshmen students will not be able to pass. Not by chance we call the exam "The Maturity Exam".

--- On Fri, 12/19/08, Will Steinberg <asyluman at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Will Steinberg <asyluman at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [ExI] I don't understand students: help !
To: "ExI chat list" <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Date: Friday, December 19, 2008, 10:42 PM

As a 16 year old currently attending high school in America, I feel like I should stop lurking and contribute to this conversation and such.  I'm all for the speculation of adults, but I am totally immersed in this stuff all the time.  While it is true that there is a lesser standard placed on education by many kids, a good number of kids simply try as to not look bad or create problems at home--and by this mechanism alone they learn. Of course, this kids will simply become the preservers and handlers of society in menial or non-progressive fields of work, but people like I and others illustrate the fact that many schools, while not containing a large percentage of very intelligent children, still put in place measures to make sure that these children are able to reach their potential.  This is often not as true in poorer schools, but at least there's something, eh?

On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 11:03 PM, Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:

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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