Friday, August 05, 2011

Rehumanized

This is the previously mentioned commentary on Mark Slouka’s article “Dehumanized: When math and science rule the school” Since the article is quite lengthy, I’ve added a brief summary.

Summary

In his article “Dehumanized,” Mark Slouka argues that the US education’s focus on math and science and the neglect of the humanities spell the demise of democracy. The American education’s “long running affair with math and science” is “obsessive, exclusionary” and “altogether unhealthy.” And that is because the ways of science are “often dramatically anti-democratic.” “There are many things,” Slouka writes “math and science do well, and some they don’t. And one of the things they don’t do well is democracy.”

Referring to a quote by Dennis Overbye that “Nobody was ever sent to prison for espousing the wrong value for the Hubble constant,” Slouka complains that “To maintain its “sustainable edge,” a democracy require its citizens to actually risk something, to test the limits of the acceptable… If the value you’re espousing is one that could never get anyone, anywhere, sent to prison, then strictly democratically speaking you’re useless.” Democratically useful are only humanists because “upsetting people is arguably the very purpose of the arts and perhaps of the humanities in general.” That is also the reason, Slouka explains, totalitarian societies are skimping the dangerously upsetting humanities: “Why would a repressive regime support a force superbly designed to resist it?”

The last thing his humanist colleagues should do, Slouka says, is to succumb to the capitalist’ demand of accountability and economic utility, and attempt to fit in by justifying their existence on the enemies’ terms. “In a visible world, the invisible does not compute… in a horizontal world of “information” readily convertible to product, the verticality of wisdom has no place.” And Slouka evidently thinks wisdom is in the domain of the humanities. The trend to math and science is “the victory of whatever can be quantified over everything that can’t” and clearly one that one should oppose.

Comments

Slouka sets out to make a case against neglect of the humanities in American education and ends up calling scientists the useless couch potatoes of democratic societies. But in his arguments he makes several leaps. Most importantly, he equates “the sciences” with “the scientists” and he mixes up the role of democracy in science and the role of science for democracy, two very different things.

The process of knowledge discovery in science is not democratic. It has never been, and I hope it never will be for it would be a disaster. It is useful to think of it from a system’s perspective. Scientific progress just doesn’t work by voting. I keep saying that it would be good if we had a better understanding of its working and what feedback mechanisms are beneficial, but we know that much. That scientific knowledge discovery doesn’t operate democratically however doesn’t mean scientists don’t understand democracy or its relevance. Science teaches you to look at the evidence, to search for causal relations, correlations, and to identify and fix problems. Scientists know about the limits of predictability and the inevitability of uncertainty. They know what that statistic means and how to read that figure. They know the value of checking the references and that of reasoned argumentation. (Well, we're all human ;-)) The evidence says women are safer drivers than men. Upsetting? Where would democracy be without scientists?

But yes, scientists aren’t the first to take it to the streets if the world doesn’t run as they think it should. The people you find in the streets, those who start a revolution and throw the stones, are in the majority young unemployed males. Something to do with hormones too I guess, I’m sure somebody somewhere wrote a paper about this. The people who like their jobs, they stay in the lab and crunch the numbers because, actually, the world never runs as they think it should, but isn’t it so damned pretty if you look at it through a microscope, telescope, or binocular HMD? So I guess what Slouka is saying then is that we need the humanities because people who don’t like their job are more likely to join that demonstration tomorrow?

Okay, I’m being unfair because I actually agree with Slouka that the trend towards measuring and quantifying everything including success and knowledge gain is unhealthy. The process of measurement itself disturbs the process it is supposed to help - a problem we have discussed several times on this blog. Though, according to Slouka, a scientist like me should be positive about this trend towards reliance on metrics. Considering how divided the scientific community is over the use of any such measure for scientific success, Slouka doesn’t seem to have bothered talking to his colleagues from the science departments.

Slouka’s main point was about the American education system, and he’d done better not to overgeneralize his argument. Having grown up in Germany, I can’t judge on the quality of the American education system. Clearly, you want to teach children how the society they live in works and that includes politics, history, economics as well as all aspects of human culture. Needless to say, many of these subjects are interrelated. The impression I got during my years in the USA is that many students there have little or no idea what democracy is or how it works, and even less so do they actually know what communism, socialism, and social democracy is – and what the differences. I talked to several people who actually thought consumerism is a form of democracy, and I vividly recall talking to one guy who thought Germany is socialistic. Such confusions explain a lot of nonsense I keep reading online and are certainly not helpful to informed decision making. I am not sure though how representative that impression is. Maybe the people who talk to me are just oddballs.

And isn’t it ironic Slouka is bemoaning the American educations’ failure to produce good citizens, since to some extend I own my school education’s focus on democratic values to the Americans of the last generation? The first time some US officer said to me “I’m just following orders,” I stood in shock, having be taught a million times since Kindergarten to never, ever, justify an action by referral to an order whose purpose I cannot explain and bring in line with my conscience. After several similar incidents, I thought that’s just me till somebody told me about their German friend who in reply to the same remark by an US officer uttered promptly “That’s what the Nazi’s said.” Which, even with German accent however, fell on deaf American ears. (And that hopefully explains why I give a shit about your so-called policies.)

The other day, I came across this article by Bruce Levine listing “8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance” which you might like or not like, but point 3 “Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy” is interesting in the context of Slouka’s article. Levine lets us know that “Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.””

Taken together, Slouka makes some bad points and some good points, but he makes both badly. Trying to make a case for the value of good writing, Slouka asks “Could clear writing have some relation to clear thinking?” In reply to which I want to quote Niels Bohr: “Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.”

35 comments:

Michael Gogins said...

Thanks for this post. It is so stimulating that I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts in response. I read your summary and I also quickly read through the original article.

To start with, both democracy and science have this in common, that they have destroyed institutions based on an objectified myth of ultimate truth (e.g.: the Roman Catholic church/Holy Roman Empire/European monarchies before humanism) and replaced them with institutions embodying a disciplined human process designed to approach this ultimate truth (which is still presumed to exist, somehow, somewhere, whether as Utopia in politics or the objectively real symmetries of Nature in science) in a provisional, iterative, correctable way.

Because these institutions -- democratic governments, universities, the bodies of scientific peers -- are, to speak metaphorically, "standing in front of the ultimate truth," they are fatiguing and discouraging to those of the typically human fanatical bent.

In times of trouble, particularly, this fatigue makes the institutions vulnerable to capture by those with a hankering for more objectified solutions. For myths.

So, I think Slouka is spot on with respect to our increasing distaste for risk.

But I think he is terribly wrong with respect to his understanding of science and scientific institutions. In particular I think he simply seems blind to how scientists actually feel and think. As far as I can tell, it is not quantification that scientists value -- quantification is simply an extremely valuable tool to get at what they really do value, which is understanding Nature.

To my mind, although I know many poets and scientists would not agree, the wish and act to more deeply understand Nature is just as much Wisdom and oriented in the vertical direction as any department of the humanities.

Insofar as quantification has a value of its own, that is mathematics, which is a science in its own right and a kind of Nature in itself. I think it's interesting that Slouka does not directly discuss mathematics (outside of its relationship with science and technology) at all.

So, I think Slouka obscures the difference between science and technology. I think a society formed according to Slouka's fears would idolize technology and kill science. And I do think the US has gone some distance in that direction. Nor do I think the other developed countries are immune to this idolization of the economic.

Regards,
Mike Gogins

Jason said...

Maybe no one has gone to jail for espousing the wrong value of Hubble's constant, but I do remember hearing a story about a guy named Galileo who got into trouble for supporting the 'wrong' astronomical theory.

He's wrong if he thinks there are not current day examples of the same. How about stem-cell research in the US as an example?

Plato said...

Hi Bee,

Mathematical basis as cold and austere....as well as, beautiful...you just can't seem to let go?:)

Wow....interesting thought perspectives.

Never had a chance to look at your "this and that" articles....but definitely will try and follow your thought process. So reading.....article linked.

What we unconsciously acted out, in compressed, almost haiku-like form (A philosophy store?/I will have a stand/sell pieces of Auden at two bits a beat), was the essential drama of American education today. See: Dehumanized:
When math and science rule the school


Any prospective husband having stood in a position with, and recalls the opinions of the prospective in-laws as a vital link in the relationship building understands well what Mark Slouka is saying?:)

As funny as it sounds I got this image of a badge you produced in one your blog postings came to mind made me smile.:)

Do the laws change when science understands a perspective has been changed? Does society change with them, with such new affirmative style, that it indeed knows what it's talking about?

Best,

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

As a side note, I find the American voting system disturbing for a country which is allegedly considered the "most democratic country of the world". Here in Brazil, the absolute majority of votes elects the president and period, not a complicated system involving each state of the union.

"Following orders...", yeah, why that also reminds me the military dictatorship period in Brazil? We overcame that as well, and I guess an average Brazilian wouldn't like to hear that one, even though formal education is our most serious issue today.

Best,

Christine

Uncle Al said...

For the mathematically challenged,

http://usdebt.kleptocracy.us/
"$100,000,000 - Plenty to go around for everyone. Fits nicely on an ISO/Military standard sized pallet."

Artists, entertainers, and advocates are fantasies arising from surplus. For surplus to exist, managers secular and religious must not impress circles of Hell for mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. Politics is proof by contradiction.

Totalitarian societies define and enforce the humanities. "Let a million flowers bloom" "a thousand points of light" (sqrt of despotism?). Enforce Lysenko and everybody real world starves independent of the rights and aspirations of mankind.

GMP said...

The US system puts too much value on math and science? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Having a kid in the US system now (middle school) I can tell you I so far find it atrocious. We'll see if the higher grades are any better. There is way too little homework and what he does get is pretty dumb. I expected some math HW every day for practice; there is none.

But I can tell you there is a definite focus on all things American (geography and history) in the most ridiculous detail, while the world history or geography are decidedly on the back burner. For instance, my son will never have geography as a separate subject, WTF?

I was born and raised in Europe, and I do not like the idea of my son growing up to be what many Europeans refer to as the "st00pid American." I see how the process of making one works though and I am not sure what I can do about it, save for home-schooling him (which I am vehemently opposed to). But perhaps I should stop ranting now...

nick herbert said...

Alas, Bee, to its shame, even in "democratic" Germany, scientists are being caged in prisons for obtaining "the wrong result for Hubble's Constant". No need to cite Galileo. Just talk to Ernst Z√ľndel or Germar Rudolph.

Eric said...

http://usdebt.kleptocracy.us/

Al, as I said in another thread the way you seem to be looking at our debt is the same way Robert Reich's father looked at our debt after WWII. It looked scary big. You should quit looking at it in absolute terms, especially being the smart man that you are. You should look at in terms debt to GDP.

Right now we have exported pretty much all manufacturing jobs overseas. This was helped by creating a tax structure that encouraged this. If all we did was return all the manufacturing we now do overseas to this country via a new tax structure that severely penalized corporations for doing it we would increase our GDP enormously. And we would simultaneously close the loophole that now allows megacorporations to pay little or no taxes.

Like I said before, you should never, never, never have economic policies that contract an economy while you are already in recession. To me it seems like that is what you are advocating with your scare tactics. Expanding GDP in a contracting cycle should be the priority now, NOT reducing the debt.

Steven Colyer said...

"Having grown up in Germany, I can’t judge on the quality of the American education system."
... Bee

I have/am raising (2 years left) four children since 1994 in the RECENT "quality" of the American education "system" (well-named), so I can judge, and I will. And I also did attend the A.P.E.S. from 1960-1970, when my mother SAVED me but sending me to private high school. Thank you Mom, wherever you are.

The APES can best be summed up in TWO words:

It SUCKS !!!

It's all about Civics, and worship of The State over Individuals. Where have we heard that before? I believe it involved a nation whose flag had a sickle and a hammer.

I don't know where this guy says Math and Science is pushed. He must hate them, so eff him. In high school, Math and Science IS pushed, but it's too late for many,no, most. They kill the love of math here in the 4th grade, particularly. More on that later, but essentially we teach our children from pre-school to 2nd grade very very well, but starting in third grade we test them to death and essentially kill off any love of learning, for the majority, from there on out, save the exceptional and passionate.

The math-haters won. "Too hard", even though we all know it's based on logic. America has a serious problem teaching its 8-12 year olds, and by then they reach puberty, and it's too late.

Have a nice day. ;-)

Uncle Al said...

@Eric, "you should never, never, never have economic policies that contract an economy while you are already in recession."

Google says 43 million/305 million Americans on food stamps, 56 million on Medicaid, 50 million on Welfare. At least $1.8 trillion/year in free eats, average $18,700/year stolen from each worker for a living.

Imagine your life given $1560/month (€1090/month) more in pocket money. How can you not detect a fundamental national economic flaw there? Germany has fewer people than America has remoras. Did Frank Ghery design the US economy?

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Bernanke-Models-Prove-Faulty-bloomberg-1898689993.html
"Policy makers’ confidence in those forecasts may be tempered as the course of the expansion has confounded their expectations."

Lying corrupt bastards.

Eric said...

Steven,
"[ the A.P.E.S. ] is all about Civics, and worship of The State over Individuals."

Well, you are right to some extent. But if you step back and look at the big picture all biological entities, (cells, proteins etc) form entangled systems which interact with each other non-locally. That just seems to be the way the universe works. It is quantum interaction on large scales. It cannot be stopped.

Governments purpose is to channel the energy of those interactions so they meet constructive rather destructive ends. If you didn't like what you were taught in school it might be because they were teaching crap. Governments will form at all levels in human interactions and you can't wish it away. But you can make it better and make it less
intrusive for the largest group of people. So it is well worth studying. We are all part of a larger system and it can't be helped. All we can do is try to make it work better for all of us. That means education about it - good education.

Bee said...

Hi Michael,

Sorry, your comment got stuck in the spam filter, not sure why. Yes, the question of institutional organization is of course central. Not only in this regard. I'd argue global politics is suffering from our lacking understanding in this point as well. Though there's actually been quite some research done on that, but I doubt much of it actually made it into reality.

In any case, I share your impression that Slouka doesn't seem to have spent much time with scientists. I am also vary of people who go around and just claim 'you can't measure this' or that. Fact is, in most cases you can measure it, and the cases where a system does indeed have observables that are not measureable I don't think are relevant here. What is usually the case is that you can measure 'it' whatever it is, once you have defined it, but it's pointless or even makes matters worse. Thing is that Slouka actually doesn't have anything to come up with why the success of humanist education can't be measured. What he says is that it's a long-term effect and one that doesn't directly impact the GDP, ie it's difficult to measure and not with currently used procedures. Which is arguably true, and I think the shortcomings of the GDP are now very well known. But of course he couldn't say it that way because it doesn't fit with his philosophy of the unmeasureable value. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Plato,

Well, there's laws for the procedures and laws for the values. I'd argue that science has something to say about the procedures, but not about the values. What I mean is that you can for example scientifically study and test how well different voting schemes or institutional organizations work towards fulfilling their purpose. Yet what that purpose is science can't tell you, neither does it fill in what's currently considered morally good or ethically allowed. Either way, democracy is an organizational process and not, as Slouka argues, a value. Just that there are many values that a democracy lives up to better than all other (known) forms of government. Best,

B.

Zephir said...

The point is, the math is not necessary for understanding of reality. On the contrary, I'm facing many situations in contemporary physics, when physicists apparently cannot realize, what their stuff is all about just because they're adhering on their blind formal approach, which is merely a numeric regression of reality. The fact, we can extrapolate some experimental points with mathematical curve doesn't mean, we understand its true nature.

Fu*ng magnets, how do they work?

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Taken together, Slouka makes some bad points and some good points, but he makes both badly. Trying to make a case for the value of good writing, Slouka asks “Could clear writing have some relation to clear thinking?” In reply to which I want to quote Niels Bohr: “Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.”

I find this conclusion of yours to sum up the flaw in Slouka’s piece quite well, which flies in the face of his hypothesis finding scientists/mathematicians as having no interest in the humanities or an understanding of them. To the contrary, I think if Slouka would have looked into this properly he would have discovered more often than not the better the scientist the more they consider such aspects of our nature; only as able to do it more critically having as you say the necessary tools to augment their feelings, rather than give them reason for ignoring them. I do agree with him more generally that scientists of today don’t take an active enough role in the actual mechanics of society and if anything deserves further scrutiny it would be this.

“Remember your humanity, and forget the rest”

-Albert Einstein & Bertrand Russell, “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto” (July 9, 1955)


Best,

Phil

Zephir said...

Freeman Dyson, Missed Opportunities, 1972: "I am acutely aware of the fact that the marriage between mathematics and physics, which was so enormously fruitful in past centuries, has recently ended in divorce."

In AWT it corresponds the perspective of the interaction of the bubble sitting at the water surface with its neighborhood via surface ripples. For small or large ripples the water surface is behaving like system of infinitely many particles, which is relatively easy to formalize with formal math, because the dispersive effects of the (hidden dimensions of) underwater can be neglected (relativity) or considered dominant (quantum theory).

But with increasing distance from the dimensional scale of the bubble the chaotic character of underwater will manifest again and the formal models will become useless because of their complexity. IMO this perspective basically corresponds the current stage of physics in its attempt for formal description of the Universe.

Plato said...

Hi Bee,

I guess so as to give a level field here as to terminology it would be good to define Humanism

So in staying true to the article you are referencing, are you saying that regardless of the elementary derivative and recognition of let's say a algorithmic base, as if in mathematics, any association through humanistic valuation such similarities show evidence as to the nature of the qualitative value but does not recognize the moral value of this method in both assertions as to a value in democracy and as a value to a humanist? That, that hidden moral value cannot be discerned? Can be compared to uncertainty?

Have I summarized your response to me correctly?

I know some scientists are uncomfortable with the notion of paradigm changes and I know you are familiar with Thomas Kuhn.

About revolutionary changes?

Best,

Plato said...

In some sense the decline of the state can be "such an religious affiliation" not notice before as contributory sign of the decline of that state?

Now, I am referring back to Michael's comment and the understanding of an humanist approach toward looking at politics, democracy, and this possible relation?

In some sense even without classification as to being a humanist, such decline could have also be assign toward one not steep in the humanist search for meaning of reason to prevail, but a scientists too.

So are all humanist scientists?

This over arching umbrella you might say then is a perspective that has to be understood based on what one might be saying of math and science and is not speaking to the article in written but as to the basis of argument and correlations you might perceive as a humanist?

Would this not be an approach?


Best,

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

What I find more disturbing is actually that it's fapp a two party system. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Andrew,

Indeed, central planning may work. But it's extremely unlikely. A system that can adapt has larger chances of success. That isn't to say it will be successful. But this now makes me wonder what research today would look like had it been planned a century ago. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Yes, the role of scientists in the society is an important point, though not actually what Slouka aimed to address. It is a difficult topic. It also seems to me that it is very difficult to know what that role is today for one never really knows who and what information informed which decision. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

You’re right of course that Slouka central point was not meant so much as to say that scientists are inferior today, as not being versed in the humanities, yet education in general being so as a result and to further implicate its cause as being a wilful conspiracy of commerce promoted through its leadership. However, when one seriously looks to the captions of industry today we find at the top those such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who stand to exemplify the spirit of the humanities in action, as opposed to what they represent as to being theoretically.

Therefore what I think is truly happening here being more scientists and greater numbers of these so called capitalists are more versed today in incorporating the scientific method, not to only be able to recognize the challenges and opportunities we face in the world, yet have a bases from which to attempt to have them addressed. So I would have this turned around to propose to Slouka that its time that the humanities be contextualized as be able to better relate to science, as to once again have them to become relevant respectful of our increased and ever increasing level of understanding.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Sorry, that should have read Captains rather than Captions of industry, although as both being at the top having them arguably as interchangeable :-)

Best,

Phil

Phil

gs said...

America's "long running affair with math and science"...

as GMP said...
"The US system puts too much value on math and science? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA"

- I really have to agree. It is laughable.

I grew up in the United States and found myself transferring school to school because there was no decent math or science education. I was forced to re-learn place values every year until the age of 15. High schools in my area didn't even teach calculus- and this is in the shadow of a city, often considered by other parts of the US a "highly educated area" (which is a nice complement, to be sure, but far from the truth). It wasn't until reaching university that I was able to peruse science and math and get my degree in physics.

I now live and teach in South Korea and I have 11 and 12 year olds (still in primary school) who are learning basic calculus.

Additionally, many areas in the US(particularly more rural) ax or inhibit such education (math and science) altogether because it interferes with religious beliefs. This has been a large source of debate in many states. <- If anything this should be an argument in support of schools teaching compliance rather than free thinking which may perhaps encourage democracy.

As to the teaching of democracy and government in schools. We were taught very little about anything. We were taught about monarchies and taught to fear "tyrants," and to some extent (all though in my years - rather recent- this dwindled) to hate communism as though it were Satan's offspring and successor.
We were never truly taught anything about democracy. We weren't even taught that there could be more than two choices or two parties with opposing opinions! (Something I even rarely heard of in University). In terms of democracy, in schools I distinctly remember being taught (figuratively and quite directly) "We have democracy. We are the best country. Our democracy is the best. We must spread our democracy." - The democracy with little more than two parties and little compromises.

I believe the correlation between science, math, and democracy as suggested by Mark Slouka, cannot be an accurate depiction of the reason american's don't do democracy well.

Plato said...

Phil:However, when one seriously looks to the captains of industry today we find at the top those such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who stand to exemplify the spirit of the humanities in action, as opposed to what they represent as to being theoretically.

I think one would have to agree on the basis of a "principle of humanities in action, as maybe more a personal policy, instead of classifying it as a corporate one?

Goodness, from the heart? Are there "strings" attached? A gift?

In the context of your statement, I thought of Lazaridis and the development of the PI Institute?

While there were many intricacies on developing the rode toward education, direction of research, in an ideal environment and setting, this has "no corporate and no humanitarian strategy?":)At least by definition education is free from such intonations?

At least as I read it, Howard Burton had a free reign here?

If you are to concur that the strategy was indeed a corporate one, then the design and structure of this school and it students are a direct result of of a humanitarian effort? The definition of humanitarian is confusing here for me.

The Chicago school of Economics?

For some reason I see "First Principles" as providing a lot of discussion around this question.
Was the idea of contribution to education "cold and calculating?" Let's look at the math? Hence, such an institution an example of what is espoused as theoretical.

Would this example provide for such a discussion?

Best,

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

after reading your experience with the US, I came to the conclusion, that the schools in the US are not that good. This doesn't mean, that there is too much teaching math, and other sciences in US schools, right ?

best, Kay

artikcat said...

Martha Nussbaum has thought and published plenty about democracy, humanities, science and more. (eg: Not for profit)

Steven Colyer said...

There have been 7 Nobel prize winners from the Bronx (high) School of Science, alone, including Hugh David Politzer. We have some excellent schools, most of them private.

Here in the northeast USA, where NASCAR is non-existent, the public schools are generally good. They don't beat you over the head with Jesus, and there is NO debate re "Creationism." I can't remember having a bad or even mediocre Science or Math teacher, and I went to 8-1/2 years of public "education" followed by 4 years of Catolic high school.

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

It doesn't seem to me like the issue is actually with the schools, but with the curriculum. In public schools, teachers cannot freely decide what they teach. I don't know how it is with private schools. In fact, the teachers are often the first to complain about everything that's cut and dropped. Slouka's article also doesn't seem to be aimed at the educators themselves, most of who I guess are very sympathetic to his attitude, but he's complaining about the (business oriented) governance of the educational system.

The schools themselves can rarely make it much better, but they can certainly make it much worse. I for example never had geography in school either (since somebody mentioned it above) because no teacher was available when it was supposed to start, and then it was somehow forgotten. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

Generally I think to attempt to draw lines between functions, works or creations of human kind to deem any as not being aspects of humanity is illogical, naive and yet worst of all arrogant. That is all such things reveal truths about our natures related to actions respective of potential. So as far as I’m concerned it comes down to being as simple as what Socrates held as to be true, being of first importance is to “know thyself” as “the unexamined life is not worth living”.

So whether this being through the study of art, writing, philosophy, mathematics, science, politics, economics or commerce, all have an undeniable commonality as being aspects of human endeavour, both as exploring and expressing our natures respective of our potential. The only thing we can’t be certain of is with ever having finally understood ourselves respective of potential will reveal us having the ability to choose to suppress any we find not to like to have nurtured those that we do.

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

In Brazil the educational public system is horrible, with very, very few exceptions. There are some excellent, expensive, private schools, though. I studied in one of those from 5 years old to 16 years old (high school), luckly, my mother was able to get a grant for me, otherwise she wouldn't be able to pay it for me. We had geography as a separate discipline since elementary school, the same with my son, who also studies in a private school. Math, science, physics, biology, etc, all included in the curriculum. Funny because many people here have problems with Portuguese, a difficult discipline... :) Recently, philosophy has been included in the curriculum, my 12 yo son is learning about Socrates, Plato, etc, something I didn't.

Medium class people in Brazil do not put their kids in public schools, they do all sacrifice to pay for private schools. This is unfortunate, as we pay high taxes that should convert in excellent public schools. This is not the case (yet?)...

Best

Christine

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

this idea, that the business orientation in US schools is an important factor sounds true to me. That one cannot run a country only with business oriented people should be clear, so I am wondering about that no-one noticed or is noticing that there.

Best, Kay

Plato said...

Hi Phil,

Thanks for responding. I was thinking of the classifications people give their schools, and I agree it is arrogant of people to assign any definition to the higher purpose of education other then to expect students can be given tools and information with which will help our youth/ourselves to make the decisions about life, their life. What the student wants to do.

The comparison of Slouka to me was about the "coldness of math" in relation to what a humanist is(devoid of those things and what they stand for,) is as much "an opinion about life" as it is about the classification one may try to assign the way the educational system should be according to Slouka.

As a philanthropist, "a gift" is a great thing one can extend from oneself. But there are no further strings attached to that education.

Yet there are indeed technical schools schools that are specific to education. Those, are not what I am talking about in relation to what I see Slouka as saying.

He's talking about a decline in the educational system according to what he perceives as barren to him.

Does the aspiration of the student change, of course not. They are there to learn. Do we change when information is made available?

It is making viable all those disparate pieces of information and a hopeful ignition of a potential. Any of us can find this happening within ourselves.

Our world changes then.

Knowing ourselves is always a work in process, and understanding "why" we can sometimes react the way we do.

Best,

Anonymous Snowboarder said...

I have a hard time with the underlying premise that math and science are somehow overweight in US schools. Most kids take, at least thru grade 10, one math class and one science class. After that things can split between college/noncollege tracks. But that does leave at least 4 or 5 other classes plus gym for 'humanities'