Hatching New Programmers

WardCunningham's political planks include the statement, "The complexity of subjects and diversity of students renders any notion of uniform testing foolish."

A critic asked, "How are we supposed to measure mastery of the material without any form of testing?"

Ward busted on uniform testing. The kind that alienates exceptional people of all stripes.

We have the wherewithal to pay teachers as much as we do doctors and lawyers. When students are sufficiently challenged and coached, their test scores will be relevant to rate the teachers, and less relevant to gate the colleges. And intervention is always more cost-effective than a cure - before the doctors and lawyers become needed... -- PhlIp

From its very beginnings, the purpose of public education has been very consciously conceived as indoctrination. That remains its purpose now. People who complain about illiteracy and innumeracy do so naively, without understanding that schools exist to teach obedience, self-deprecation, marginalization, subservience, acquiescence to external judgement, hierarchy and competition. And schools teach these things extremely well.

The question isn't whether schools work, they work exceedingly well as agencies of totalitarian government which pays for them and controls them. The question is why parents consent to consign their children to these prisons. Naivete about the real purpose of schools only goes so far as an explanation. The real reasons why parents consent to mass schooling is because of the free babysitting, and the expense of any real alternatives. Crushing poverty and brutal working conditions (80+ hours per week per household) has made it impossible for most parents to afford anything else. This is confirmed by the fact that drudgework (aka "home"work) has encroached into family time.

Once the economic basis of the problem is identified, a solution to the underlying problems can be searched for. Economic solutions are possible though extremely difficult and liable to backsliding. Meaningful reforms tend to occur only when there are no alternatives and people have become desperate. A technical solution would be better, easier to implement and less vulnerable. So we are looking for technologies that would together, or separately, provide babysitting and intellectual maturation at cheap cut-down rates. Preferably an order of magnitude more cheaply than the government subsidized classroom teacher technology. This isn't a solution, but the definition of the problem. -- RichardKulisz

Historically, though, RK is very much correct. Google "Common School Journal", look up Henry Barnard and Horace Mann (widely acknowledged as the founders of American public education), or if you're lazy, try http://www.mackinac.org/archives/2001/s2001-01.pdf. From that document:

The fight to bring education under the control of government was essentially a fight over the schools? role in shaping the character of the American people. The goal, implicitly religious, was social integration through the inculcation of certain common beliefs selected for their ?uplifting? character.

Almost all other sources say the same thing, sometimes in harsher tones. RK's stance is about middle-of-the-road as far as historical interpretations go.

Your point about preventing a world of RK's is also well taken: while I believe public education could do a far better job than it currently does, I wouldn't want to see a system where everybody clings to the belief that they're better than everybody else and yet refuses to test that belief. One of ErikNaggumQuotes is apropos here:

The main purpose of higher education and making all the smartest kids from one school come together with all the smartest kids from other schools, recursively, is to show every smart kid everywhere that they are not the smartest kid around, that no matter how smart they are, they are not equally smart at everything even though they were just that to begin with, and there will therefore always be smarter kids, if nothing else, than at something other than they are smart at.


Much more concisely:

Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance. -- WillDurant? (1885-1981) U.S. author and historian.

-- JonathanTang

Which is fine in a non-competition context because it reinforces competition avoidance. Of course, that's not what schools are really about. Schools are all about competition and so their version of "you're not the smartest" is meant to convey "you will always be inferior".

As for religion and providing an "uplifting" character, religion has always provided a convenient smokescreen for the needs of government and business. If you look at it, mass schooling was invented precisely to support mass industrialization, and nowhere is this made more evident than the school bell being the same as the factory bell. Whether you couch these convenient "good worker" values (eg, obedience) in religious terms or not hardly means anything. It's like worrying about whether Mein Kampf is written in French or English. -- RK

Okay. RK's right, and Ward and me are wrong. We must increase rote testing, and lower teachers' salaries even farther below the poverty level, to increase the odds of HatchingNewProgrammers. -- PhlIp

Don't distort my position, it doesn't befit you. I'm not proposing or defending anything. What I'm doing is condemning the entire government school system, lock stock and barrel. I'm also suggesting that something completely different must be instituted though I don't have the faintest what that might be.

I'm hopeful such an alternative can be constructed because another great industrial age institution with the identical goal of mass indoctrination (the press) is being replaced by electronic media due to its two or three orders of magnitude better economics. I'm hopeful but while electronic media can aid intellectual maturation, I really don't see them helping babysitting. Though maybe mobile computers (cellphones and webcams) can. Physical and social contact can be most cheaply provided by urban living (as opposed to the current fad of suburban school SUV shuttling), so we don't actually need to worry about those in replacing schools.

I'm getting a vision of ubiquitous computing and video walls coupled to massive networking (both wired and wireless) letting a parent check in on their child through the equally ubiquitous cameras. One of the key technologies necessary to make this vision work is edible single-serve microwave meals. Admit it, you didn't see this one coming did you? But hey, kids need to eat! With RFID tags in the meals informing the microwave what settings to use, it will be even easier.

It's a truly small mind that thinks in narrow "you're either with us or against us" terms, fortunately you're only being sarcastic out of frustration .... And hey, I'm even leaving you the choice of interpreting the last sentence as sarcastic or sincere! -- RK

Cool! You've reinvented the Skinner Box, with some nice touches of A. Huxley thrown in. By the way, pre-fab meals of a given size may use the same microwave setting regardless of specific content. For example, when I'm in a hurry I am particularly fond of a variety of tasty box foods that all require 4 minutes, stir, and 2 minutes. The stirring can be performed mechanically, of course, with an appropriate cooling period before the food 'bot chucks out dinner and pumps it down little Jane or Jimmy's waiting gullet. Are there no teacher-babysitters in your brave new world?

You've got to be kidding. Why would anyone want to listen to some trumped up dictator lecture at them if they have any choice otherwise? The only teacher I've ever heard of to use the Socratic teaching method was Socrates himself, so I really think it's high time to do away with the entire profession. I'm not a fan of paid childcare either, liberal (ie, capitalist) propaganda notwithstanding. It seems better for children to interact with machines directly than to get the impression that human beings are automatons.

Actually, Richard, Costin, I think you both generally have valid points to make, and between you there might be some genuinely constructive discussion ... with others. Why don't you both take out the verbal vitriol and try to be positive. I know neither of you care much for anyone's respect or opinions, but if there's even one person here that you respect, maybe they will think better of you (pl) for attempting to be constructive. It's a New Year - maybe it's worth a try.

Good point. As for its being a new year, it sure is. And unless you live in South America, it's promising to be much worse than the previous one. Let's make some PredictionsForTwoThousandSix -- RK

[I took the liberty of editing your words. It's not normal or proper wiki behaviour but it beats being pissed over something you deny you meant. Besides, if I do it I'm just being unbearably rude whereas if you do it you're being shady and shifty so it's all around better this way. Good comeback btw, I LOL.]

Thanks for reducing your vitriol level. -- Doug

Speaking as someone who hangs around with South Americans who operate Child Care centers, I don't see the reduction... -- PhlIp

See also: WhyPromoteTech


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