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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We're All Education Experts

Well, perhaps not experts at education, but if you're reading this, you're at minimum fairly experienced at learning.  If nothing else, you learned a language and how to read that language.  You've probably learned the meaning of tens of thousands of words in that language so that, all by itself, is some pretty impressive learning.

Along the way, many people assisted (or attempted to assist) that learning.  Some of them may have had positive effect, others may have had negative effect, but I'd bet that most had limited effect.  Yet nearly all of those that were "officially" involved in your education are likely to believe they were absolutely critical to your success in being able to learn a language and read.

I find it very unlikely that most educators make much of a difference at all since nearly everyone who has normal brain function learns a language and learns to read whether or not they have good teachers, bad teachers, multiple teachers, or no teachers (e.g. home-schooled).  They learn to read whether or not the school they go to is well funded or poorly funded.  They learn to read whether they dream of becoming a writer or whether they're content to play video games for the rest of their lives.

Learning is an innate human behavior.

No doubt you'll take exception with at least a little bit of what I've written above.  You've likely had a teacher or two that you thought were great.  Perhaps they were inspirational, perhaps they really did make it easier for you to learn something, or perhaps they just made learning fun.  I'm not claiming none of that is possible, only that you probably would've at least learned things like language and reading even if you never had those teachers.

I studied education and learning at one point and even have a chapter in a book about education.  What I've concluded after studying, observing, and thinking about learning for years, is that with one critically important exception, almost nothing makes much of a difference in how much a child learns.  After accounting for that exception (which is very difficult), intelligence, IQ, teachers, education funding, government policy, teaching methods, etc. all have relatively minuscule effect, at least for fundamental skills such as basic language and reading.

The things that matters, indeed the only thing that really matters from my observations, is the parents' attitude and familial attitude towards learning.

I don't just mean that Pops say, "you'll do me proud if you learn real good."  It's rather that the parents are into learning themselves.  As a result, they read to their children all the time starting at a young age.  They play counting games like counting the number of lights in a tunnel while driving.  They'll talk about the world and the universe and gravity and the planets and engines and heat and leaders and history and on and on and on.  They show curiosity and instill that curiosity in their children.

Then their children are good at learning.  Nothing else much matters.

I read an instapundit post that the French were banning homework with great bemusement this morning:
As Education Minister Vincent Peillon told Le Monde, the state needs to “support all students in their personal work, rather than abandon them to their private resources, including financial, as is too often the case today.” The problem, in other words, isn’t with homework per se. It’s that some homes are more conducive to homework than others.
But this is exactly right in an upside-down sort of way.  The children with parents who don't much care about learning have an overwhelming disadvantage in doing homework.  Of course they also have an overwhelming disadvantage in all things educational.

So ultimately, we'll have to follow Swift's Lilliput and take all children from their parents at birth in order to ensure that "No Child Gets Ahead".

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Voting Recommendation

I know you've been waiting for this monumental moment - the moment when I give my recommendation as to which candidate you should vote for to be the next president of the United States.

What's that?  You weren't waiting for this moment?  That this moment might come hadn't even crossed your mind?


Well, in that case I won't give an explicit recommendation, just some ideas to consider.

First and foremost: RELAX!!!!!

Regardless of who wins, the economy is NOT going to suddenly rocket forward, the oceans are NOT going to stop rising, the planet will NOT begin to heal, and the problems of the world will NOT suddenly be resolved.  The president has very little real influence on any of these things as they are far bigger and more complex than anyone can understand, much less control in any sort of predictable fashion.

Second, be careful what you wish for.  For those of you who are sure that the world will end if your candidate doesn't win, what happens if he does win and the economy continues to suck and the world continues to fall apart for the next four years?  Then what?  Won't the brand of your preferred candidate's party be badly or even irreparably damaged?  I think there is some serious downside for the winning party - more so than in any other election in my lifetime.

Third, if you live in a State where the result is already known (like California that will go to Obama no matter what and Kansas that will go to Romney no matter what), why not consider a 3rd party candidate?  It's true that the 3rd party candidates are usually pretty lame but you're not really voting for the candidate, you're showing interest in alternatives to the main parties.  And sometimes the candidates are almost plausible.  For example, Gary Johnson, this election's libertarian candidate, was a State governor (New Mexico) and could almost be an okay President.

Fourth: RELAX!!!!  Oh, did I say that already?