[ExI] big rip in education

spike at rainier66.com spike at rainier66.com
Fri Mar 1 15:21:43 UTC 2019



From: extropy-chat <extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org> On Behalf Of John Clark


On Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 4:10 PM Dylan Distasio <interzone at gmail.com <mailto:interzone at gmail.com> > wrote:


 > > I'm not interested in equality of outcome at the expense of all else. 


>… it might lead to a more peaceful civilization if the wealth gap were to stop growing or at least stop accelerating?...John K Clark



I recently set up a Ted Talk on what could be titled the Big Rip in Education, but after thinking it through, decided to decline the opportunity.  I realized the intended audience already knew (better than I do) the problems and challenges.  I only talking about embracing the problem, but wasn’t offering any solutions.


John talks a lot about the coming big rip in economic status, a model which holds some merit one might suppose.  The span of wealth ownership is increasing.  I differ from John in that the big resentment I see isn’t on the part of those at the bottom, but rather on the part of those in the middle: millionehhhs hate billionehhhs.  Shrugs.  I don’t have anything against them.


My aborted TED talk was about how we are seeing a big rip in education as more and better online materials come available.  There is an ever widening gulf between the students who use it effectively vs those who do not.  Before I expand further on that, I will comment that we are seeing the same thing in other areas in which I am involved: Boy Scouts, Science Olympiad and American Math Competition.  All of these areas are experiencing big rips, which I may expound upon at a some future date.  It is astonishing to watch it unfold.


In the education area, I have been watching closely for the past 8 years, since my son has been a consumer.  In that time, I have witnessed the local public schools really get with it, supplying a computer to every student and sufficient bandwidth to drive all of the machines simultaneously.  They have adopted an experimental curriculum called PLP, developed by Summit Learning.  That might be a step in the right direction, but it is very limited and mainstream-ey.  Plenty of the students have discovered better online material such as Khan Academy.


The result of these developments is an ever-accelerating big rip in academic achievement.  A yawning gap is forming between those who use the online resources effectively and those who do not.  This is not to say there are fewer students in between, for there are plenty there too.  But the extremes are getting more extreme with time.  We see it happening, but I have no particular insights on how to deal with it.  I don’t see any particular resentment against those who are super-achievers on the part of those who are not.


At the same time, I recognize that the job of the teacher is getting harder with time, at least in some ways.  In other ways, it has gotten much easier, particularly in curriculum planning (that is done for them) and the grading process.  The software package takes into account the online achievements and automatically generates the grades.  (!)  The report card isn’t what you and I brought home, but rather several pages of stuff, including text, much or most of which is generated by the software.  (!)  The teacher can add commentary if (s)he wishes, and it uses speech to text, making that aspect of teaching easier.  


A new twist I hadn’t seen before was rolled out this year.  Instead of the usual parent-teacher conferences, the students now make up a set of PowerPoint charts and present these to a parent, in a big room with about a dozen other students simultaneously pitching their accomplishments to their parents, while the teacher is present in the room but not interacting directly with any of the students.  (!)


In all this, we are seeing an astonishing divergence in accomplishments of the top end vs the bottom end students.  The big rip in education is already ripping wildly.


In some ways this makes the job of teaching harder, for while there are plenty of students still plodding along the old-fashioned way, with plenty of parents insisting on the old educational models, it becomes very difficult to even keep up with the best students, while they are still in the middle and even lower grades, such as… seventh.  I can show you examples of students who already have zoomed past their teachers at least in some areas, particularly math and software development.  Cool!  (…If your own offspring happens to be way out there on the right end of the bell curve and accelerating to the right… (otherwise, not so cool.))









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