Re: Reforming Education

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 06 Oct 1999 19:26:56 -0500

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
> > "Who cares," you might ask, "so long as the student passes the test(s)?"
> > The trouble with THIS attitude is that it promotes cramming, as students
> > do no work during the year, cram to pass the test, and then forget the
> > material. Providing incentives to work throughout the year is a valuable
> > part of the educational process.
> I don't buy that argument at all: first, nothing prevents teachers from
> doing any kind of testing or evaluation they want at any time. The fact
> that such tests "don't count" should make them more honest evaluations
> because the student feels no economic pressure to cheat on them. Having
> the credentialing authority be separate prevents even the teacher from
> knowing exactly what will be tested, and therefore /discourages/ cramming
> because it would be useless. It also discourages teachers with "pet"
> theories that they stress and test for at the expense of the broader
> field of study itself. Teachers themselves are not evaluated at all in
> this model--they just acquire reputation based on how well their classes
> perform with the credentialing authorities.

And as I pointed out in my original proposal for Institutes of Verification - not currently on the Web, I'm afraid - such Institutes, being specialized, could devote far more effort to verification than is currently spent. They would almost certainly use better methods of examination than multiple-choice exams. A single Institute for granting, say, doctorates in computer science might serve an entire state or region, administering a two-week battery of tests including writing a program in real time, defending a thesis, submitting sample code, and engaging in discussion of a new idea with a major name in the field. How do you cram for that, pray tell?

I'm pleased to say that various professional certification bodies in the computing industry seem to be approaching this ideal, although far too many assume some particular course as a prerequisite.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way