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Bloggingheads
04-12-2008, 11:02 AM

Bloggin' Noggin
04-12-2008, 12:13 PM
Really great discussion, so far. Not finished yet, but I really wanted to emphasize this point (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/10137?in=00:43:50&out=44:22) of Gary's. Reasoning is clearly one of the things we do really poorly and it's clearly the main skill we need for being good citizens and for just getting through life. And we (as a culture, not individually) actually know a good deal about how to reason better. Why don't we focus on THAT throughout education?
On top of that attempt to acquire the skills of more effective reasoning, it would indeed be good to learn the humility Gary wants to instill. We'll reason even better if we know how likely we are to THINK we've reasoned well when we haven't.
On the other hand, I just read a news story that claimed that the seemingly mindless drilling in handwriting that students have to suffer through is actually essential for further learning -- so, who knows, maybe all those damn memorized dates are worthwhile too. I would myself argue for getting kids to memorize some poems, if not dates. And it would be nice if people had an idea whether Ben Franklin could have met Descartes or Sartre (as opposed to Hume and Voltaire).

Quickie quiz: could Descartes have met Shakespeare?

I'm disappointed to find that Gary's books are only available in dead tree editions. I'd have bought one by now if they were in Kindle editions.

Back to the diavlog...

[Later] I was a bit irritated at the time by the technical glitch in the middle of the diavlog, but now I see that in a discussion of kluges, it was actually very appropriate. If a glitch hadn't existed, BloggingHeads would have had to invent one.

bjkeefe
04-12-2008, 01:01 PM
BN:

I quite agree: great diavlog. Carl never fails to deliver. The people he interviews are always fascinating and his preparation for the conversation is always commendable.

... I just read a news story that claimed that the seemingly mindless drilling in handwriting that students have to suffer through is actually essential for further learning -- so, who knows, maybe all those damn memorized dates are worthwhile too.

I have an intuition that drillwork and memorization is good, too. This is not to say this should be the sum and substance of schooling by any means; I think Gary was quite right to say that we should be trying to teach kids more about how to think, how to be aware of what their limitations are, and how to work around them. But having a set of facts and basic skills burned into easily accessible memory seems to help in a lot of ways. It's easier to think about more complex things if you don't have to stop to reinvent the wheel every time. So, for example, knowing dates helps you organize an understanding of history. I always drew timelines when I was taking history classes, as big as I could make them, and I'd add details throughout the semester. Even if the specific dates get lost over time, a lot of the relations are preserved pretty much forever, so that you know B happened between A and C, and that D and E were (or were not) contemporaneous, and so on.

Knowing times tables cold makes taking the next steps in arithmetic easier. Knowing trig identities cold makes taking the next steps into calculus easier. Knowing a bunch of integrals cold makes taking the next steps into differential equations easier. Memorizing a bunch of proofs makes developing more complex proofs easier.

I think it might be something to do with patterns. We're very good at picking out patters (even, often, when they're not there!), and it seems to me that a bunch of memorized stuff gives you a larger database of patterns from which to draw when learning new things.

There's also something to the metaphor of the brain as a muscle. Somehow, it seems, drillwork has benefits for the brain the way calisthenics, aerobics, and weightlifting have for the body.

I'm rambling here, which always seems to happen after these great Science Saturday shows, so I'll close here. Oh, one more thing:

I'm disappointed to find that Gary's books are only available in dead tree editions. I'd have bought one by now if they were in Kindle editions.

A perfect example of getting locked into one way of thinking. ;^)

Bloggin' Noggin
04-12-2008, 04:59 PM
A perfect example of getting locked into one way of thinking. ;^)


Not really -- if you mean on my part. It's just that you can buy a book in a second without even leaving your house on the Kindle. I have by now been to the library and picked up _Birth of the Mind_. A lost sale for Gary, and a free read for me.
Of course, had it been available in Kindle edition, I would have made an impulse purchase that a perfectly rational, non-kluge-y mind wouldn't have made.

graz
04-13-2008, 12:50 AM
This was fascinating, and led me to consider how easily I assume that my thinking is clear and arrived conclusions would satisfy logical examination. Methinks I ought to reconsider.
My instinct was to try to adapt Gary's theory about why "intelligent design" falls short of complete, to bolster my own sense of sureness in evolution (descent with modification). I guess this would be an example of convincing myself reflexively without doing the thought experiment. Is it an adaptive mode to believe without doing the logic problem that so many real time situations demand? And doesn't the memorization or foundational logic that Brendan refers to allow short-cutting?
I hope Gary would agree that having Wiki replace rote memorization is not neccesarily ideal. But I like Bloggin's idea of applying these principles to education. I think you have made this point before in one of your philosophy threads? And by extension, to our forum threads. Especially regarding some of these emotional positions, vis a vis the candidate of choice (Clinton vs. Obama.)
Example: Presenting a logical case for why one would choose Obama. Only to be counter-argued and left unresolved. How can one make a wholly logical decision. Or does it enter into the realm of intuition or faith, which combines irrational aspects?
Bottom line is - why would 45% of the electorate be inclined to automatically cast a vote for McCain?

thouartgob
04-13-2008, 12:21 PM
First of all Vista obviously wins hands down when it comes to evolutionary baggage and Kludges. Apple forces people to re-buy both hardware and software creating something of a clean slate every couple of years. I bet there is still some needed DOS code in Vista.

Reasoning is clearly one of the things we do really poorly and it's clearly the main skill we need for being good citizens and for just getting through life. And we (as a culture, not individually) actually know a good deal about how to reason better. Why don't we focus on THAT throughout education?

I can give you billions of reasons why reasoning is something we don't teach well enough in school. Those are the profit margins of thousands of companies that rely on people not paying attention and reflexively buying based on something other than need or well researched want ( people do need their toys). The profit margins of many religious institutions would also be affected ( I am not against prayer but I don't think you should have to pay for it to "work" ). Honestly if the terrorists want to win and bring down this economy all they need to do push logic 101 in early education and you would see a a truly efficient market and any REAL capitalist is against that.


I hope Gary would agree that having Wiki replace rote memorization is not neccesarily ideal. But I like Bloggin's idea of applying these principles to education. I think you have made this point before in one of your philosophy threads? And by extension, to our forum threads. Especially regarding some of these emotional positions, vis a vis the candidate of choice (Clinton vs. Obama.)
Example: Presenting a logical case for why one would choose Obama. Only to be counter-argued and left unresolved. How can one make a wholly logical decision. Or does it enter into the realm of intuition or faith, which combines irrational aspects?
Bottom line is - why would 45% of the electorate be inclined to automatically cast a vote for McCain?

The idea of wikis replacing memorizations is something that could actually be adaptive. Actually I would break it down to out memories being queries against huge linked databases ( basically google ) resulting in something rather like a perfect language, all SQL statements :-) Oddly enough there were processors devoted to running LISP code and had those things become popular my excessive use parenthesis wouldn't look so wicked bizzah.

Logic and issues have very little to do with choosing presidents and that won't change. Fear and Loathing is my guess as to why people would vote for McCain. Fear of terrorism and loathing of people other than themselves. But I haven't exactly logically weighed that guess too much just yet :-)

jh in sd
04-13-2008, 04:30 PM
thouartgob, Thank you for the fine example of a perfectly illogical rant. Could there be a simpler reason that schools are not teaching students the skills of logical analysis? Possibly, in post secondary education, could it be that too many professors are more interested in indoctrinating their student than challenging them to defend the views they do have? Or in the public school systems, could it be that mandated outcomes required by programs like No Child Left Behind make it easier to teach students how to memorize and regurgitate information to prove they are educated rather than to learn how to think analytically?

thouartgob
04-13-2008, 07:22 PM
thouartgob, Thank you for the fine example of a perfectly illogical rant.

Your Welcome. I get very few "thank you"s for my rants and I appreciate the pat on the back ;-)


Could there be a simpler reason that schools are not teaching students the skills of logical analysis?

Sure but I would hazard a guess that most business's REALLY don't want consumers of any age to think critically and that facilitating children in disregarding the thousands of commercials that are designed to wiz past the frontal lobes to some reflexively "primitive" part of the brain would actually be a real problem for this country.


Possibly, in post secondary education, could it be that too many professors are more interested in indoctrinating their student than challenging them to defend the views they do have? Or in the public school systems, could it be that mandated outcomes required by programs like No Child Left Behind make it easier to teach students how to memorize and regurgitate information to prove they are educated rather than to learn how to think analytically?

I will agree with everything said here save the fact that I don't know which "indoctrination" is bothering you. I think the most likely explanation is another money related item which is it is expensive to teach children to think analytically and people aren't interested in making that investment. I am making the assumption here that you believe that we just teach kids to pass certain mandated tests and find little interest in engaging them in a more well rounded educational experience. If so I agree again. Not only is supporting children's critical facilities expensive it can run counter to the deep held beliefs of their parents. We are still fighting to keep evolution in the schools in some places. While people complain about ignorance and a lack of common sense we have "good" reasons not spend resources on things that don't have a good quarterly returns and make us question why things are the way they are.

My rant was occasioned by my reading about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (http://www.naturalnews.com/022885.html) which is kinda cool if you think about and I am guessing that a lack of critical thinking helps such things occur.

graz
04-13-2008, 07:56 PM
[QUOTE=thouartgob;
Sure but I would hazard a guess that most business's REALLY don't want consumers of any age to think critically and that facilitating children in disregarding the thousands of commercials that are designed to wiz past the frontal lobes to some reflexively "primitive" part of the brain would actually be a real problem for this country.
[/QUOTE]

While your point is difficult to dispute, it is a much harder case to prove complicity on the part of "business." Which isn't to say that a concerted effort isn't plied with each and every advertising dollar.
But it smacks of a conspiracy minded spin which can approach reason without logic.
I think that it is more likely that business succeeds in spite of whatever critical thinking is applied. It's just that the natural inclination of mindless yielding to stronger forces (commercialism), let alone conscious disregard of better judgement (I really don't need that new BMW M3 - even though it is the first ever production V-8 in that series) wins.
I need it? I want it? I think I do... I just don't know what to think. But I know what I want, don't I?

That link about the garbage patch really made me reconsider my fantasy of sailing from CA to HI.

jh in sd
04-13-2008, 09:40 PM
thouartgob, I don't think it would necessarily be expensive to teach students to think critically. One good start would be to require students to do more reading and then writing in critical analysis of what they read, and to do this across the curriculum.

thouartgob
04-13-2008, 09:47 PM
While your point is difficult to dispute, it is a much harder case to prove complicity on the part of "business." Which isn't to say that a concerted effort isn't plied with each and every advertising dollar.
But it smacks of a conspiracy minded spin which can approach reason without logic.

I would say it smacks of deliciously conspiracy minded spin actually :-)


I think that it is more likely that business succeeds in spite of whatever critical thinking is applied. It's just that the natural inclination of mindless yielding to stronger forces (commercialism), let alone conscious disregard of better judgement (I really don't need that new BMW M3 - even though it is the first ever production V-8 in that series) wins.
I need it? I want it? I think I do... I just don't know what to think. But I know what I want, don't I?

That link about the garbage patch really made me reconsider my fantasy of sailing from CA to HI.

My rhetoric was sensational but in the service of brevity. As you point out you do not need to a clan of maniacal cabalists trying to control and influence the populace, you just need a mindset that wants and believes that what is wanted, no matter what getting that want met means to the world at large, is paramount and good.

I was at a greek festival a couple of years ago and while draining shots of ouzo and trying to dance that circle dance ( Baiduska ?) I realized just how much we in this country rely on a brand name infrastructure to have fun. For most of human history all you really needed was friends and a healthy appetite ( for booze, sex, yak liver whatever ) that could be sated to have a good time and it didn't cost you nearly as much as the toys we are accustomed to. Don't get me wrong I like my gadgets just fine and obviously I would sell a good chunk of soul for a V-8 M3 ( thank god for german obsessiveness ) but I am not going to have a measurably better time sniping someone in HALO 3 as opposed to hoofing across a dance floor ( as long as no one records that event for posterity).

thouartgob
04-13-2008, 10:02 PM
thouartgob, I don't think it would necessarily be expensive to teach students to think critically. One good start would be to require students to do more reading and then writing in critical analysis of what they read, and to do this across the curriculum.

I would think that machine readable standardized tests would end up being cheaper that hiring more teachers and or graders to parse the results of essay type questions. I am speaking in generalities here of course but it seems to me that reading,writing, analysis then re-writing takes time and time is money. I sense that it would also necessitate a more hands on approach and that is labor and that means money as well. I could very well be making some simplistic assumptions here but I ain't getting graded either :-)

jh in sd
04-13-2008, 11:14 PM
thouart gob, Just because it costs more doesn't mean it will be too expensive. Evidently, you are not aware of how little many teacher earn.

thouartgob
04-14-2008, 11:03 AM
thouart gob, Just because it costs more doesn't mean it will be too expensive. Evidently, you are not aware of how little many teacher earn.

Oh yeah I know a few and they don't make what they are worth. The question is not whether it is worth it from a cost/benefit analysis (it is), but rather what are people willing to pay. Everybody says they want better education but there isn't as much local interest in paying for it. A quick link that showed up in my RSS feed : http://www3.whdh.com/news/articles/local/MI3410/

The status quo wins.

jh in sd
04-14-2008, 04:02 PM
thouartgob, I agree that most people are reluctant to invest in education by taxation. Another part of the problem for teacher salaries lies in supply and demand-many times there is a surplus.

thouartgob
04-15-2008, 05:09 PM
If this has been posted in the forums somewhere else please forgive the repeat

"In a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience, researchers using brain scanners could predict people's decisions seven seconds before the test subjects were even aware of making them."

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2008/04/mind_decision?showAllComments=true

Now I am sure there will be other studies that place different "skew" times between when we make decisions and we realize that we make decisions but there does seem to be a difference. So if rote memorization is something that might be done 7 or so seconds before I am aware of it, can I just be kept out of the loop, I get bored :-) ( higher level thinking might not have the same lag time though )

bjkeefe
04-15-2008, 06:23 PM
thouartgob:

I've seen the reports of this study, and reports on others like it that tend to show the same thing. I think these results are fascinating.

I wonder much rote memorization, drillwork, and other things that enhance familiarity with the task at hand affect the lead time. It'd be interesting if it could be shown that there's a correlation between "rehearsal," so to speak, and how much in advance the brain lights up with the decision to carry out the task. My gut feeling is there ought to be something there.

Bloggin' Noggin
04-16-2008, 03:09 PM
First line of the piece you link to:
You may think you decided to read this story -- but in fact, your brain made the decision long before you knew about it.

So, I'm not my brain -- just a little atom of consciousness hovering around the pineal gland? It's funny how much the "ghost in the machine" still infects science writing -- and even scientists themselves. (Libet took his experiment as disproof of free will, but this only makes sense on a number of assumptions, including the ghost in the machine or the "movie theater in the brain" image.)

I'm glad at least that the author notes that the kind of "decision" we're talking about is not representative of the kind of decision we actually need consciousness to make -- essentially, you're telling some part of yourself to randomize and get back to you (at least if this experiment is like Libet's). That's not to say it isn't interesting, but the experiment only achieves grand philosophical conclusions by unconsciously assuming Cartesianism.