RE: flexibility in schools (was: Ethics in a void)

From: denis bider (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 17:25:11 MST

Samantha Atkins writes:

> > Overall, I think the preprogrammed nature of the school
> > system as we have it (the concept is the same over there
> > as it is here) is a problem in itself. The basic premise
> > of education is that adults determine what kids should
> > learn, and then these facts are rammed down children's
> > throats. And kids who
> Huh? If that is what education is then it would be a pretty
> wrong-headed enterprise.

Perhaps I was wrong to assume that US has it the same as we do over here.
Speaking for our country, the system is such that from age 7 to 19, you sit
in a classroom with 30 other kids 6-8 hours a day and endure the Chinese
torture that is listening or pretending to listen to the teacher. This can
be fun and exciting if the teacher is good and can motivate you, but too
many teachers (most of them) aren't good enough to be able to do that.
Hence, if your luck with teachers is bad enough, 13 years of boredom.

After that, university is somewhat better, because you have more freedom in
choosing what you want to learn, and professors are a good deal better. But
even that is just my experience (physics, mathematics) - other faculties
(like economy) seem to be worse.

> Education is about learning to think and learning information
> gathered by those who went before you, at least enough to
> continue learning on your own as needed and desired. It is
> not about "cramming information" down anyone's throat.

Agree. That is what education should be about.

> Kids don't know what they want to learn nor which basic
> skills will enable them to learn it straight out of the womb.
> While I agree that it is important to teach the joy of learning
> and the practicalities of what are fundamental tools, I don't
> think the average tyke is in a position to organize ver own
> education.

I'm not sure. I think kids should at least be able to choose what they want
to learn at a specific time. According to my experience, learning is much
more effective if one learns a subject at the time when one is interested in
that subject. Conversely, when you try to force someone with geography when
they would be more interested in science experiments, they have a hard time
focusing, and they gain little from the session.

I agree small kids aren't in a position to organize their education. But I
think they are in a position to choose what subjects to learn at what
times - with an adult supplying the options to choose from. I think this
applies at all times, not just after high school.

> > I think your assertion - "such flexibility would lead..." -
> > is largely irrelevant, because what is taught in schools is
> > probably not what is "right", it is what the majority wants
> > kids to be taught. As in most human conflicts, the decisive
> > arguments here are arguments of force, not arguments of reason.
> I utterly and totally disagree. Teaching creation science
> and foregoing the teaching of evolution is not undecidable
> on the basis of relative merit. It is not just a matter of
> who exercises or can exercise the most force.

Perhaps I should clarify this. My point was this: if creationists were in
charge of the country (mine or yours), schools would be teaching their
theories. But since 'we' (people like us) are currently in charge, schools
are teaching our theories.

I am in no way inclined to teach kids creationist theories as an equivalent
alternative to what we learned from science. I assume people like me and you
feel similarly. As long as people like that are in charge, schools won't be
teaching creationist theories. I find that comforting - I wouldn't want to
live in a society that endorses creationist theories.

> If the purpose of education is to teach what has been
> learned before then leaving evolution out of biology or
> considering it optional makes science education an utter sham.

Yes, it does. [That's not what some blokes think though.]

> If all that makes something right is MIGHT then it is a damn
> sorry world we live in. Do you really want to make this claim?

I'm just saying that the fact of who is in power is the fact that influences
most of everything else that happens. That's the way it is. Five centuries
ago, the Church was in power, and they did all sorts of stuff you and I find
disguisting. But that's the way it is. Fortunately for us, people who are
now in power share our point of view, to an extent.

> Are all myths and scientific facts and theories
> equally valid in your opinion?

No, not by far.

> Clearly they cannnot all simultaneously be true
> in regard to the same aspects of what they purport to explain.

Yes, I agree.

> Why not simply teach the best of science in science
> classes and teach these other things in classes examining comparative
> creation myths? In that class don't just teach the fundamentalist
> Christian version but cover the entire spectrum of such.

Hear, hear.

> In the US I believe we have a fundamental clash brewing
> between fundamentalism (more deeply, anti-intellectualism/
> anti-reason) and science/reason. It is not brewing only
> here but its consequences will be the most far reaching
> in the US pressure cooker. If we can't manage to act most
> often on what can be verified by science/reason in this
> highly educated and prosperous country then how will we
> ever reach the relatively undeveloped countries struggling
> between ancient culture and modern knowledge and abilities?
> If there is no basis but the size of one's club for deciding
> questions then what hope of enough peace and plenty to
> transcend our current massive limitations is there? If reason
> cannot/does not prevail here then where will it? If the US
> becomes the world's biggest theocracy then what would that
> do to the world and all of our fondest dreams?

True. I couldn't add anything to that.

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