Re: EDUCATION: Genius Schools

Anders Sandberg (
Sat, 4 Jan 1997 16:56:52 +0100 (MET)

On Sat, 4 Jan 1997, Eugene Leitl wrote:

> On Fri, 3 Jan 1997, Anders Sandberg wrote:
> > finishing an introductory psychology course, is that personality is very
> > flexible long past adolescence. There are of course some basic traits
> Thanks for pointing this out, I did not knew. I have no training in this
> area whatsoever.

Me neither, but after finishing the course I can pretend :-)

> > such as introversion/extroversion or novelty seeking, but these traits
> > may be expressed and re-evaluated in a multitude of ways as personality
> > develops. In the first grade, much of the mind of the child is still
> > under development.
> Of course, but how does one direct this developments, in an environment
> not entirely under our control? Which should be our means, since we can't
> do experimentation because of ethical constraints and time scales involved?

Well, we can't do experiments, but we can try observing the results of
various kinds of schooling and parenting styles on personality. Still
hard, but at least possible (the trouble is that many schools of
psychology pretend they already know and don't take lightly to anybody
questioning them).

I'm personally a fan of cognitive schemes, since they have worked
excellent for me: if you understand why you behave in a certain way, it
becomes easier to change or re-evaluate it to suit your ideals. But it
might not work for everyone, and requires either that the child thinks
for itself about these things (can be done in many cases with the right
stimulance; very fascinating) or together with an adult.

> > By finding out why the avoider avoids learning (lack of interest, social
> > pressure, resistance to authority, the use of wrong sensory modalities in
> > teaching etc.) and circumventing or removing the hinder. The most
> Yes, but what if it is a personality trait. Insulin shocks? Neurosurgery?
> Giving up?

Giving up is by definition not a winning strategy.

If you are introverted and don't like studying because you have to deal
with a lot of people, get singled out by teacher questions etc., then the
right solution probably isn't changing the introversion trait (prozac?)
but how you deal with it.

One solution would be a less demanding form of teaching, say one teacher
that gives problems you can solve on your own while still remaining
present to help (might be hard to come by/expensive, but would probably be
very good if handled well). Another way would be to help you learn how to
deal with other people; are they really that intrusive?

In short, even if personality may have partial biological origins, it is
quite possible to do something useful with it. What we may need is better
methods and ways to measure their results, but the beginnings already exist.

> > important thing is to learn what triggers the enthusiasm of the student -
> > whatever that may be - and then link it to learning.
> Current systems can't achieve this. This would need a personalized
> programme for every child, a couple of hard-to-fool agents benchmarking
> the development of the child/concocting its future programme. Even with a
> child:teacher ratio approaching unity this would be difficult to do, and
> a computer system? in an notoriously conservative/finance-cut
> environment, while the rest of the IT technology flashes past development
> stages, rate of acceleration itself increasing? Difficult. We don't have
> even emate300 approval yet, and it is a puny machine, compared to what
> infrastructure is actually needed.

Exactly! So, how do we get from here to there-abouts?

I am working on a position paper for Aleph about education, and
here are some of my ideas:

The current idea of a limited period of education at the start of life
(starting after a period of idealized childhood, ending around the end of
adolescence) giving enough knowledge and skills to successfully live one's
life is plain useless, and industrial-age. Things change faster and
faster, and that makes skills consumables. What is needed (and this is
given lip service in much of the debate) is continual learning throughout

What we really need is something like this: First a period of education
that may co-exist with childhood (there is nothing wrong with teaching
young children things which they can understand and use); it does not have
to be in any traditional classroom setting, but may ideally be integrated
in other activities. It could turn more formal as the children grow up.
This basic education would teach people mainly how to learn and grow.

The second part of education would extend throughout life, and be as
integrated as possible with everyday activities (state dependent learning:
you can apply what you learn in school at school problems, but not
reality). For this we need an education culture, where learning is seen as
positive and natural and where there exists an useful infrastructure for
it. There is still room for universities (after all, some people *should*
be locked up in ivory towers :-) and other forms of organized education,
but there exists a great variety of ways of getting learning
(Libertarians: start chanting 'education markets' now! :-). Since there
exists education in many forms, it is more likely that at least some
variants will fit the learning styles of a certain person, and the
education culture is self-reinforcing once it has begun to flourish.

Can this be done? I actually think so, in the past we have seen that
groups (such as the study movements here in Sweden) have managed to create
things like this (although they tend to become static parts of the system
after a while). We have a much larger and more complex world to deal with,
but also better media. The Web could be an ideal medium to create huge
libraries of basic tutorials about many subjects, making it easy to learn
the basic concepts and then find a teacher or other way to train them etc.

Note also that we do not necessarily need government support; the study
movements worked fine on their own (it was when they got involved with the
emerging "people's home" they became static), much of the resources can be
created by amateurs or businessmen. The main problem is to sell this
vision to people, to convince them that it is possible and desirable. Once
the infrastructure and interest are in place, it will become much more
natural to change the basic education system since it will be obvious that
learning the rivers of Halland (the Swedish equivalent to learning the
great lakes) is not as important as learning how to get the right
information from the Net.


> That was the thing I was trying to convey. To change current paedagogical
> system is not just curing a case of (resisting) imbecility, but to quest
> against the current state of the world itself. Somewhat difficult.

Yes, but as somebody's .sig file said: "Nothing is too ambitious for
extropians!" :-)

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y