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Education Is a System of Indoctrination of the Young (1989) [video] (youtube.com)
198 points by zainamro 42 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments



In a very similar vein is Bryan Caplan's book "the Case Against Education."

In an interview[1] he lays out his argument, roughly, as:

> Right. So, the first story is called human capital, and just says that people with more education earn more money because they have been trained effectively for the jobs they are going to do. So, school--you go to school, and it gives you more skills; you make more money. Nice simple story.

> The main story that I am pushing in the book is called signaling. This says that, yes, going to school does cause your earnings to go up; but, the reason isn't so much that you are learning useful skills as that you are getting certified. You are getting a stamp on your forehead saying, 'Great; hey, premium worker. Hire this person.'

> And then, the last story is called ability bias. This one just says that it's just coincidental that people who have more education make more money; and rather, what's going on is it's the kind of thing that wealthy people--the people who are going to be wealthy--rather do.

[1]: https://www.econtalk.org/bryan-caplan-on-the-case-against-ed...


> The main story that I am pushing in the book is called signaling

I saw this idea a lot in other various threads. As the average HN poster is probably well educated, I wonder if it’s a biais coming from software engineering where most of the skill set is learnt by experience.

Anyway, I have a long list of university degree, and I can tell there are indeed differences with autodidacts that learnt the same general fields. The fundamental difference is that university forces one to learn the unfunny parts. For computer science it means for example functional programming, database normal forms, language theory, anything with mathematics inside, etc. Of course, university classes alone are not enough and much like an autodidact much study have to be done alone, which might lead one to conclude that university is not required. But I don’t think it the case.


In the Netherlands, there's a difference between universities (which are a form of scientific education, and often set you up for an MSc), and what they call "universities of applied science" (which are more practical in nature, and set you up a for BSc).

Studying computer science to become a software engineer is probably wrong, or at least not the most efficient choice. The study of computer science primarily sets you up to become a _computer scientist_.

The "problems" people face with universities are probably more about incorrect expectations of the students rather than false promises by the universities.


> The fundamental difference is that university forces one to learn the unfunny parts. For computer science it means for example functional programming, database normal forms, language theory, anything with mathematics inside, etc.

Yeah, I agree totally, the difference is fundamental and really worrying. To think that the university managed to even convince you, that there are "unfunny" parts in programming! Pretty sad if you ask me...

> But I don’t think it the case.

Well, of course. You invested so much time and (if you're unlucky enough to be living in such places) money into it, it's obvious that you will defend it, consciously or not.

In reality, a university is just a place that provides a set of services to the populace. Like all such places, it comes with a set of rules. And that's it - if you can find a replacement for the services you need, then it really "is not required" to get them specifically from the university. It may be hard to replace the "signaling" part of it, but it doesn't seem impossible - there are at least many well-documented examples of it being possible - while almost all the other services are already cheaply available online and in hackerspaces. With the added bonus that in the latter you interact with people genuinely interested in the subject, not people who came to pay their way to a "good education", who find said subject... unfunny.


> I wonder if it’s a biais coming from software engineering where most of the skill set is learnt by experience

For the record, Bryan Caplan is an economist.


So a modern day shaman who does rain dances. You don't need much of an education to the type of bullshitting he does for a living either.


Yes, if anything it gives him even less credibility to speak about education. Wikipedia mentions that he is an "anarcho-capitalism", so he's basically trying to sell his main ideological framework without any regard to real consequence on people lives or society.


And he is a supported of free market labor policies. Can’t have open borders and state run big education without conflicts. At least he’s consistent in his thinking.


Your earnings go up as you acquire job skills that fewer and fewer people have. Supply & Demand.

I know skilled C++ programmers that pull in compensation packages of a million dollars a year. It's not because of signalling or certification. It's because a very competent programmer can save or make the employer a great deal of money.

For more conventional skills, you'll never make much money as an engineer if you skip the math classes. It's obvious which ones can't do the math on the job, and they're not going to get the kind of assignments that lead to promotions.


> Your earnings go up as you acquire job skills that fewer and fewer people have. Supply & Demand.

No, they don't. Very few people are able to juggle 8 pins, but my earnings will not go up if I acquire that skill.

Your earnings go up when you acquire a job skill that people are willing to pay a lot of money for.

> For more conventional skills, you'll never make much money as an engineer if you skip the math classes. I

Define 'much money'.

You can easily make 400K/year at FANG, without having the foggiest idea of how to do linear algebra, calculus, arithmetic, statistics, or really anything but interview O(N) analysis.


> Very few people are able to juggle 8 pins, but my earnings will not go up if I acquire that skill.

That's because it's not a JOB skill.


It is if you're a juggler, but even the best jugglers in the world don't get paid well.

Juggling and mathematics are both useful skills, but 95% of SWEs don't use any for their jobs, and aren't going to get paid more if they pick either one up.

The other 5% aren't always paid more.


Funnily enough, The Case Against Education made me more comfortable with my place in the education system, because it gave me a better idea of what I'm actually accomplishing as a student. Definitely cleared up a fair bit of angst and resentment for me. I wish I had read it in high school, but better late than never.


This is what i call the difference between getting an education and getting educated.


Well of course it is. How are you supposed to learn about how to integrate into society without, you know...learning about it?

I wish people would be more specific - it's not that education in of itself is bad, it's that the way it is currently implemented in this specific society has these specific flaws. I strongly dislike when a discussion disparages an entire concept when it's really just our implementation of that concept that is flawed. It rules out potential solutions simply because they are associated with ones that failed, when the differences between them could result in success.

Not saying that's what's in the video - I get the impression that they are in fact talking about specifically the implementation and not ripping on education itself, but I've seen and heard stuff like this used as the foundation not only of attacks on being educated but also on anything else where some implementations of an ideal failed and so the ideal and all possible solutions stemming from that ideal are dismissed as unworkable. And it bothers me a bit how that approach is popular among many sides of many arguments that I have seen. I would in fact suggest that it is in fact a marker of a failed education - using an example of a failed implementation to argue that the concept itself is inherently flawed is itself an example of a failure in critical thinking.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: the problem is always scale. The modern system of American education really was born out of idealism, in fact the same ideals that the comments here are using to attack it. It doesn't even matter what you start with. When you scale, you end up with mass education, i.e. a system tasked with the job of actively taking care of almost every American child for 40 hours a week, whether they want it or not. There is no way to have that without the inevitable accompanying problems.


> There is no way to have that without the inevitable accompanying problems.

What are these problems and why are they inevitable?

Mass education in the USA is public education, and if the USA had a good national curriculum and accompanying system of teaching why would it necessarily produce indoctrination?

If you're conflating the necessary standardisation of mass education with indoctrination well that's just wrong. Having a shared epistemic foundation is the basis for a free democratic society not the undermining of it. The English language is itself a shared epistemic foundation and yet mass literacy campaigns are obviously not a tool of indoctrination. They are tools of freedom and empowerment.


Indeed, and Leopold Kohr explained it clearly. Is is also related to velocity.

Modern education also enforces 'scale': "We have been educated in the worship of the bulk, of the large, of the universal, of the colossal, and have come away from the minuscule, the completeness and universality on the smallest scale ­ the individual, which is the protoplasm of all social life."


I just found that this OP and the other two HN articles I've stumbled on today are somehow related at a deeper level - they're all talking about the creativity and intelligence in general.

The Lesson to Unlearn - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21729619

Brain tunes itself to criticality, maximizing information processing - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21729211

I don't think all individuals should become a 100% creative/original person. That would make the society very unstable. So we need some (actually, a lot of) obedient people that makes the society keep going, in this regard that I think the current education is useful. On the other hand, there's always a rebel no matter how hard we try to cast people into a form. The question is that the society needs a good mixture of creative and boring people and I don't know how we can achieve that. My theory right now is the society is somehow auto-adjusting itself - like the brain auto-adjusting itself in the above article - to have its "critical" state, i.e. having the right mixture of people: not too boring but not too revolutionary. Of course, the society is much bigger and more complex than a single brain, so its adjustment is slow and inefficient. But it's interesting how it's still functioning while its education system is so broken.


> I don't think all individuals should become a 100% creative/original person. That would make the society very unstable. So we need some (actually, a lot of) obedient people that makes the society keep going

That seems very questionable at best, in particular the "unstable" part. An obedient population is extremely vulnerable to authority figures. The whole point of democracy is to create stability by removing that single point of failure, by involving so many people in everything that crazy or malicious individuals can not easily gain excessive power, and democracy is under no circumstances compatible with obedience: Either you think critically and vote in your own interest, or you are obedient and vote how the dictator tells you to. It's impossible to have a population that critically evaluates candidates and selects the best one and that also follows orders without regard to their own evaluation of that order.


There's a near opposite hypothesis to yours: Strauss–Howe generational theory. The idea is that instead of sitting at an 'optimal' point, we have cycles of general societal personality that last four generations, which dictate the flow of history. [0]

At such a zoomed-out level, one can make an argument for any grand theory, I guess -- they're too vague to pin down specifically. Still fun to occasionally think about, though. It's the "use sparingly" peak of the nutrition pyramid for thought.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss%E2%80%93Howe_generatio...


Fascinating stuff, although obviously bananas. Reminds me somewhat of Elliot Waves

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliott_wave_principle


One person can be creative in one task and uncreative in another. There are plenty of people who just "clock in, clock out" at work but have creative hobbies. Even if all people are creative in some way, society will work as long as there's an impetus (like money) to do the menial work.

It's a problem when some people think they have to always be creative, otherwise they're "boring."


Perhaps evolution has partially tuned the mixture of personality types that is optimal for us as a species. For example if there is a leadership gene then it should be ~10 times rarer than the follower gene. There could also be epigenomic (sp?) affects as well where one's leadership gene doesn't express itself unless there is a vacuum of leadership.


Whatever the cause of this, personality traits are not evenly distributed. I know it's not necessarily an accurate system, but the MBTI is a consistent way of classifying personalities. The distribution of types varies a lot: https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/my-mbti...

The biggest disparity seems to be between sensing and intuition, where sensing relies more on experience to make inferences, while intuition relies more on abstraction to make inferences.

Whether this is evolutionarily optimal or just a side effect of other forces I don't know.


Aren’t all inferences based on abstraction, and all abstractions based on experience? Would it not be more correct to say that the difference here is degree rather than kind, where the intuitive types just have brains that are more active in building abstractions to explain their experiences?


I remember reading the important difference was in the order of the process


> The question is that the society needs a good mixture of creative and boring people and I don't know how we can achieve that. My theory right now is the society is somehow auto-adjusting itself - like the brain auto-adjusting itself in the above article - to have its "critical" state, i.e. having the right mixture of people: not too boring but not too revolutionary.

True. But, our society optimizes for economic output, and writes off any anomalies as "stupid". Scientists are pushing us forward into more complex life and societies, but it seems we don't have a similarly sophisticated balancing discipline that ensures we can handle this pace of change.

Even worse, the consensus seems to be that we don't even need to think about such things, and any suggestion otherwise is interpreted as hostile.


I thought this was about Kuhn who claimed that all scientific education are indoctrination. Which sort of makes sense. As an undergrad we accept propositions and experimental results as true even if we don't fully understand them because you gotta do what you gotta do finish those problem sets.


1. A newbie follows the rules because he's told to.

2. A master follows the rules because he understands the rules.

3. A guru transcends the rules because he understands they don't apply.

You can't skip steps.


To amplify that a bit, I have a friend who writes poetry to his gf. I asked him how he acquired the skill.

1. He'd just copy poems he liked.

2. He started tweaking and customizing poems he liked.

3. He just started writing his own.

And it's the same way the Beatles evolved, and just about every other musician.


The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition might interest you if you're interested in these lines of thought.


What specific evidence implies that increased creativity would lead to instability?


Garbage.

You can look at countries without high levels or any education in existence today. They are far more Indoctrinated. They are far less free thinking.

Even in a strict religious school I would say every year of education makes a person less indoctrinated. The things you have to learn like science outweigh that years negatives whatever that maybe.

Could you improve the education system.... yes... we all know that. But are not sure how.

The idea about Japan not being scientific is however very interesting for 1989. The meme they are technologically advanced isn't really correct, it's almost a racist mythology.


I’d highly recommend Sceptical Essays(1928) by Bertrand Russell to anybody interested in the topic: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/144355.Sceptical_Essays



Over time, I've come to realise that the most important gift we can give our children is formal training in critical thinking. I think STEM and such can wait.

The ability to question narratives put forth by the industry, the government, media, political parties etc. is important not only to realise the truth at an abstract level, but also has practical implications on things such as successful investment strategies.


I'm becoming a broken record on HN about this, but the evidence is in and you can't divorce critical thinking from domain-specific knowledge.

> The ability to question narratives put forth by the industry, the government, media, political parties

You just can't do this properly without a shitload of core domain knowledge in philosophy, politics, media, history and also whatever specific domain knowledge pertinent.

You can't "question narratives" you see in the newspaper if you don't have a good theory of media like what's provided in Manufacturing Consent and even with that you can't "question [the] narrative" of some specific economics thought-piece in the Financial Times if you don't have the relevant domain knowledge in economics.

If you think of the people you'd regard as excellent critical thinkers, wouldn't these all be people with deep knowledge of their domain(s)? Chomsky was never formally schooled in "critical thinking". He just went through normal, rigorous education, reading stacks of books and newspapers along the way.

source: Why Knowledge Matters, by E.D Hirsch


I think it depends on the message being analyzed.

If someone says "Interest rates are negatively correlated to GDP growth" then sure, I guess you need some knowledge of economics to asses the validity of such claim.

On the other hand, if someone makes a moral assessment such as "every human being should dedicate 40% of their time to helping other people, otherwise they're a horrible person" I think you can assess its moral validity from first principles. You only need to live on earth and understand the language in which the claim is made. If you apply logic correctly and have some fundamental moral axioms (which can be inducted by experience and logic), you'll arrive at a conclusion that respects your axioms.

Narratives put forth by the media, government, etc. are usually of the second kind, i.e. moral ideas. If there are facts, they're important only to the extent that they support the moral idea at hand. I think this "moral" critical thinking is much more important than domain knowledge.


> I think you can assess its moral validity from first principles. You only need to live on earth and understand the language in which the claim is made.

The only reason I think you think this is true is because your particular example is something you already think is wrong, because you constructed it to be wrong. Arbitrary moral claims are not easy to assess. Philosophy is highly complicated and knowledge-rich.

People don't assess moral claims from "first principles" in their day to day. Basically every Sociologist, Psychologist, and Philosopher would disagree with that idea.

> If you apply logic correctly and have some fundamental moral axioms (which can be inducted by experience and logic), you'll arrive at a conclusion that respects your axioms.

Let's take this piece by piece:

> If you apply logic correctly

and doing this is something that doesn't require knowledge of logic? As we are taking about knowledge-requiring critical thinking vs non-knowledge-requiring critical thinking.

> have some fundamental moral axioms (which can be inducted by experience and logic)

There's a lot going on here. One, it's disputable that moral axioms can be justified a posteriori by induction. Two, is "experience" here some thing that humans can gain without also gaining knowledge?

> Narratives put forth by the media, government, etc. are usually of the second kind, i.e. moral ideas.

I'd disagree with this unless you have some very wide definition of a "moral idea". Much of what comes out of the media and government is technocratic stuff, or entertainment, or gossip.


> People don't assess moral claims from "first principles" in their day to day. Basically every Sociologist, Psychologist, and Philosopher would disagree with that idea.

They do when they use critical thinking. But I also believe people don't use critical thinking in their day to day.

> and doing this is something that doesn't require knowledge of logic? As we are taking about knowledge-requiring critical thinking vs non-knowledge-requiring critical thinking.

I think logic is inducible from personal experience. The real discussion is about knowledge that one person can not (reasonably) discover by themselves (e.g. the fact that a hydrogen atom has one proton) vs knowledge that one person can discover by themselves (the fact that humans avoid pain and chase pleasure, the reason why killing other people is bad, etc).

> There's a lot going on here. One, it's disputable that moral axioms can be justified a posteriori by induction. Two, is "experience" here some thing that humans can gain without also gaining knowledge?

By experience I mean the fact of being a human being living on earth. Knowledge that we all have in common: how pain feels, how pleasure feels, etc. I said induction because that's how we create a mental model of reality, since we have no other starting point than our senses and our senses are not formal proofs of anything.

I'm sorry if my wording is not exactly the one a philosopher would use. I have no formal training in this, but I think a lot about it and hope that my point comes across.

> I'd disagree with this unless you have some very wide definition of a "moral idea". Much of what comes out of the media and government is technocratic stuff, or entertainment, or gossip.

Ok, I'll give some examples of the narratives I've seen being pushed by the media and some governments:

- People against open borders are inherently xenophobic.

- People from {list of countries} should not enter the country, because they have a higher chance of being terrorists.

- People should not have the freedom to send messages to each other without the state being able to snoop on them.

- The main cause of the pay gap between men and women is prejudice and misogyny, therefore, we should reduce the gap by any means possible.

I'm not necessarily saying that those true, false or anything, but I think they are "moral ideas" and these moral ideas will shape the world view of many people. I also think that an ignorant but insightful person can think critically about these claims and arrive at a conclusion that respects their axioms. Obviously, most of what comes of the media is not moral ideas, but moral ideas are so important that it's worth to think about them, because they are what gets presidents elected and laws passed.


As someone who has majored in English, I strongly disagree. You don’t need to understand the subject matter to make rudimentary assessments of validity. People who study the humanities learn to ask questions like, does the author seem to have a bias? Are some obvious questions not being raised by the text? Does the author contradict themselves?

You might not be able to definitively state that the author is being disingenuous, or is a shill, but you can learn to explicitly state where certain narratives are weakly supported. Most people can’t do this. They tend to accept all texts as authoritative.


As someone who has read a fair bit of "critical"ly read texts - I strongly disagree. English majors often don't understand enough to even be able to pick out contradictions properly, and all they end up doing is (quite ironically) act as spin doctors spinning webs for the ideological sugar daddies.


> You don’t need to understand the subject matter to make rudimentary assessments of validity.

Possibly for really rudimentary assessments, but do you have any evidence for this? The book source in my original comment is package with peer-reviewed research on this. One study in the book is about college-educated participants that aren't baseball fans scoring worse on a reading comprehension test than non-college educated labourers who were baseball fans when the subject matter is baseball.

Really, each of the questions you list all require knowledge to answer. The latter you could say just requires literacy but that is knowledge it's not some skill you can divorce from domain-specific concepts.

> Are some obvious questions not being raised by the text?

How could doing this be some generalisable ability divorced from knowledge about the content of the text and the domain(s) of concern in the text? Without even looking at the scientific research it seems pretty implausible that you could train a human being to pick out "obvious questions" of import to some text about the 2nd World War if you ensured to keep them ignorant of knowledge about France, Nazi Germany, Nationalism, War, etc. etc.


I agree that you can't reliably reveal things as false, contradictory, or misleading without knowledge of the domain - but I think you absolutely can 'question', doubt, and maintain a healthy scepticism.

To use the economics example, you can think things like 'well hang on, how did they measure that'; 'is that really related to or indicative of that'; 'this author has a lot of similar things to say on this topic, some other motive perhaps'.

Answering those questions may require more reading, acquiring some domain knowledge, but you don't need already to have domain knowledge on every subject that you want to read about thoughtfully.


Agreed. Epistemology in the abstract without concrete examples of how it has gone right/wrong is a dubiously useful tool.

I've found history to be hepful for better understanding what makes good and bad ways of knowing things.

Unfortunately our public school system wastes its history curriculum on spinning fairy tales. It took years of reading serious history books to deprogram myself. I see the same thing being done to my kid.


What are some things that you’ve deprogrammed yourself from and how did you find the stories that did so?


Not who you’re replying to, but two books that stood out to me in that regard, especially as an American, and left a lasting impression are:

(1) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, and (2) Sundown Towns by James Loewen


Dee Brown's book is fantastic. And I've instantly added Sundown Towns to my reading list. In that genre I'd highly recommend "Devil in the Grove" by Gilbert King.


You can question if you don’t have domain knowledge, you just look sort of stupid. Lyric Irving, an NBA basketball player, is known for this. His comments are what I imagine a world of critical, but uniformed people would look like.


I can't find a "Lyric Irving". Did you mean Kyrie Irving and it got auto-corrected?


Yep, Kyrie. :-)


> You just can't do this properly without a shitload of core domain knowledge in philosophy, politics, media, history and also whatever specific domain knowledge pertinent.

I don't think I'm disagreeing with you, but does epistemology not cover like 90% of it? We're told so many things, if people could learn to just say "oh, let's see the proof and then I'll decide", rather than the pure narrative nature of the news today, wouldn't that go a long way to freeing us from this quagmire?


> "oh, let's see the proof and then I'll decide"

Unless you know how to assess the "proof" then you'd just be stuck in a state of permanent but useless skepticism. Also, many times a "proof" is inappropriate or just fundamentally unproduceable, but we are still required to engage with the content and that content could still be valuable and 'true'.

I've studied epistemology in some undergraduate philosophy classes and I've generally found it much less useful than say the reasonably complete theory of media provided by Manufacturing Consent (though my study of epistemology likely helped me understand that book).

When I'm reading AI articles in newspapers, my background in software engineering is far far far far more useful in assessing the validity of the content that merely being able to ask "oh, let's see the proof and then I'll decide". If I wasn't knowledgeable about AI at all, what would I do with a "proof" if it was given to me?


> Unless you know how to assess the "proof" then you'd just be stuck in a state of permanent but useless skepticism.

Agreed, but I'd suggest that that state would (at least often) be better than the current state of affairs, where most people outsource the formation of opinions to various third parties. This is how we get things like the Iraq war, or anti-vaxxers.

> Also, many times a "proof" is inappropriate or just fundamentally unproduceable, but we are still required to engage with the content and that content could still be valuable and 'true'.

100% agree. And yet, look how many genuinely intelligent people on HN hold very strong conclusions on topics that are unprovable, with no sense of uncertainty.

> I've studied epistemology in some undergraduate philosophy classes and I've generally found it much less useful than say the reasonably complete theory of media provided by Manufacturing Consent (though my study of epistemology likely helped me understand that book).

Expressing ideas in narrative form is often an easier way to communicate as it's easier to conceptualize when it's put in relatable examples. One of the most useful ideas I think could improve the world is that there aren't only two two states of knowledge, True or False, but also (at least) one additional: Unknown. Of course, everyone will gladly admit this in a thread about philosophy, but move to a thread on politics, and watch that knowledge vanish.

> If I wasn't knowledgeable about AI at all, what would I do with a "proof" if it was given to me?

Two (there are others) options are: outsource your opinion to a third party, or remain undecided. Which one is preferable depends on the situation.


I attended (and still hang around at, sometimes teaching a class at) a small college embedded in the University of California Santa Barbara called the College of Creative Studies (organizationally next to the College of Letters and Sciences and the College of Engineering, each of which have ten thousand students: CCS has less than 400).

People at times erroneously try to liken us to an "honors program", but that's very wrong: in an honors program, you are given special sections and harder challenges (maybe replacement assignments), but the structure is largely the same; with CCS, the structure is removed: you are given an advisor who works with you to figure out the extent to which you might just skip years of prerequisites you might not need (or can quickly learn yourself with a book). Sometimes, we are considered "a graduate program for undergraduates" (which is quite true of a lot of the paperwork structure and respect afforded students, but I think is a description that misses a lot of the fundamental differences between graduate and undergraduate education with respect to failure modes; that is, however, a digression).

This program was created at the very end of the 60s, and had only seven majors--Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Literature, Art, and Music Composition (later, Computer Science and some kind of BioChem major were added)--chosen to be majors where an undergraduate could "push the state of the art" by the time they left. Students are treated as "peers in the educational process", and were essentially encouraged to teach their own class in an area where they had become an expert by the time they graduated (at least this used to be the case; there were some unfortunate policy decisions that happened a decade ago that have never really been fixed, as it damaged a culture).

The person who created this institution--Marvin Mudrick--became the first Provost, and largely ran the major of Literature; notably, he was somewhat despised by the L&S English department (for occasionally quite good reason). My understanding (which might be wrong) is that he reveled in the idea that students might get to learn from people who had very different opinions, and was happy to have people teach classes with whom he disagreed strongly (though, probably not from L&S English ;P).

And now, the reason I provide this context for the point I want to make: students at CCS have to choose a major, and are expected to go super deep; you can't come in "undeclared", nor is the program really "interdisciplinary" (though we are so small we definitely have classes that sometimes make it feel that way, and sometimes people are so motivated that they double major). In fact, as part of the paperwork and prerequisite reduction mechanisms, a lot of the "general education" work that people are usually expected to take--structured work in various programs from lists of requirements--is just scrapped and replaced by a "breadth requirement" to take "eight courses, widely distributed, outside of your major, and another two that are different, but related".

Marvin Mudrick, who got to do all of this because he was a friend of the Chancellor at the time, had an idea for a different college called the College of General Studies, which would be the epitome of a "liberal arts" education, focussing on nothing and attempting to learn everything. It was never created. Now, I know it was also his idea, and it has been a long time since I read works by and about him, but I also remember something very key he described about the College of Creative Studies, and which might be what led him to decide to not continue to pursue his other idea.

In the book I had once read about Marvin Mudrick, a quote--which I am going to paraphrase and butcher from memory--that stood out the most to me was "it doesn't matter what someone learns, as long as they learn it deeply, as then the student can appreciate what it really means to know something and will never henceforth believe that they know something when they actually know almost nothing". I truly believe that, and I thereby not only agree that it seems almost impossible for someone to have "critical thinking skills" if they never really studied any topics to have any depth, but will say that you have to go further: we need to take each student (whether through a structure like college or just by working within society so people have the free time and public resources to study their own interests), help them find their passion and enable them to push the boundaries of their knowledge into a topic far enough to be forced to apply critical thinking deeply enough that they can appreciate the limits of their own, and thereby others', knowledge.


You probably could have left out all but the last paragraph and made your point haha... but thanks for that quote. It’s almost like you need to climb the Dunning-Kruger curve at least once in a specific domain before you can realize when you’re on the wrong side of the curve in any other domain.


The problem is that critical thinking is essentially a negative activity. It's a means of defending oneself against potentially harmful ideas or ideas that one simply doesn't like. It's also rather abstract. One can't learn to think critically until one has learnt to think. One can't learn to think at all until he has first learnt some ideas to think about.

To engage the human mind (and the human heart) one needs something positive to aim for. That's why I think that the best approach is not to pick and choose among ideas and then make certain subjects compulsory (as in a curriculum). Rather find something that interests a child and then figure out how to do more of it. But this is best pursued outside the school system.


>The problem is that critical thinking is essentially a negative activity. It's a means of defending oneself against potentially harmful ideas or ideas that one simply doesn't like. It's also rather abstract. One can't learn to think critically until one has learnt to think. One can't learn to think at all until he has first learnt some ideas to think about.

Agreed...


STEM is critical thinking. With the most ruthless judge there is - reality. If your airplane design won't fly, no amount of clever rhetoric will change that. You cannot design engineering marvels with mush for brains.


Not really. Many people I know who studied stem for example have strong tendency to take texts literally and at face value - for example biographies and historical texts. They don't seem to pick on inconsistencies, obvious self-promotion and such. Or have trouble to understand differences in interpretations of history and how they affect texts.

Another tendency is to insist on "either this or that" binary where in reality is a lot of complex nuance and middle ground.

And lastly, practically, I work as programmer and I swear to got that good mouth and confidence and right look takes you really far away with other programmers. It wont save someone completely incapable, but many people in tech confuse arrogance and confidence with being super skilled.


> many people in tech confuse arrogance and confidence with being super skilled.

They will initially, but they'll recognize the crap code after a while and won't trust them anymore. The converse is true, too. In my jobs, initially I was not trusted until I developed a track record of getting good results.

> have strong tendency to take texts literally and at face value

People "on the spectrum" tend to do that. Most STEM people are not on the spectrum.

However, a rhetorical device a lot of people use is to take what one writes excessively literally in order to refute it. They know perfectly well what they are doing, and I take it as a sign that they lost the point :-) I wouldn't confuse them with people on the spectrum.


> People "on the spectrum" tend to do that. Most STEM people are not on the spectrum.

Non spectrum STEM people do that too quite a lot. It is not just personality thing. The classes they teach in technical schools require exactly that. You don't learn to doubt math book or physics book nor encounter another physics book that says something contradictory. Nor you have to take into account writers bias or reconcile multiple contradictory trends. (That is not criticism of stem classes, they simply have different goal.)

Just because something is done by people on spectrum does not mean neurotypical cant do it.

> They will initially, but they'll recognize the crap code after a while and won't trust them anymore.

I did not said that the arrogance and confidence imply completely crap code. Again, there is false binary here.

It just mean that such person is seen as more capable then he is and that his takedowns of more calm people are taken at face value too. Meaning that arrogant and confident person wins discussion where he is wrong and does not know what is talked about and is capable to harm reputation of competitors. It manifests mostly in unclear situations with unpredictable outcome, complicated situations, strategic decisions etc. It systematically manifests when there are differences of opinions.


This will sound objectionable, but I do not believe most people value critical thinking. In fact, to many it can offend them. Objective analysis and the ability to question assumptions, groupthink, consensus offends people. And even if it didn't, it's nearly clear most people are not even capable of it. There's an Einstein quote about this:

>Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.


> Objective analysis and the ability to question assumptions, groupthink, consensus offends people.

I disagree. Assumptions, groupthink and consensus are more a consequence of a social hierarchy. Social offense is the feeling one experiences when that hierarchy is challenged. It's a feeling that probably evolved with our pack animal ancestors.

And while social offense is something your brain invents like any other feeling, it's not something you can simply ignore; analogously, the feeling of cold is in your head, but ignoring it can lead to hypothermia. We're still social creatures, our careers and relationships are directly linked to our reputations. We can't simply ignore someone (potentially) assaulting our reputation because it has real world impacts.

To make critical thinking work requires social mechanisms that protect the reputation of the person who is found to be wrong. That's a large part of the reason for the scientific method, for the scholarly tone in academic journals, for professionalism in business, etc.


Unfortunately, we don't really know how to do this. Longitudinal studies of critical thinking skills across 4 years of college show a modest improvement but there are caveats [1]. For one, the usual courses you'd expect to improve critical thinking (logic, philosophy, statistics) don't do very well.

Going beyond what Scott discussed, I found this study [2] which seems to show that critical thinking skills are mostly correlated with verbal intelligence and trait openness. It's only one study though, so take it with a grain of salt.

[1] https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/11/30/college-and-critical-t...

[2] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/107319110426325...


I think the best way to foster critical thinking skills is to personally encounter hypocrisy practiced by those who speak from authority.


Some people don't respond that way. Instead, they just become cynical and think "never trust politicians from party X."


>Unfortunately, we don't really know how to do this.

Can't say I agree, Socrates figured it out thousands of years ago!

>Unfortunately, we don't really know how to do this. Longitudinal studies of critical thinking skills across 4 years of college show a modest improvement but there are caveats [1]. For one, the usual courses you'd expect to improve critical thinking (logic, philosophy, statistics) don't do very well.

I'd argue that these courses are, at best, tangentially related to critical thinking. We need to teach the Socratic Method of learning to children from day 1, in all areas of study. Teaching children how to think and how to be intellectually curious is ultimately far more effective than our current methods if your desired result is an informed and intellectually capable populace.


Teaching children how to think and how to be intellectually curious is ultimately far more effective than our current methods if your desired result is an informed and intellectually capable populace.

You're preaching to the choir here. I am studying pure mathematics and minoring in philosophy and astrophysics, with the eventual goal of becoming a teacher. I dream of teaching kids critical thinking and deep problem solving skills, not rote memorization.

In the intro to mathematics education course, which I took as part of my program, we focused exclusively on teaching mathematics in the Socratic style. It was fantastic teaching my fellow classmates and a ton of fun to boot.

Unfortunately, I have to add this again, in my experience volunteering as a tutor (2 hours a week for the past 4 years) for high school students, I've noticed them really struggle with critical thinking type problems. Show them any mathematical problem where the structure of the question is different from what they've learned in class and they can't do it.

They don't really understand what they're doing, they only know how to repeat the procedure they were taught with cookie-cutter problems.


>It was fantastic teaching my fellow classmates and a ton of fun to boot.

I think this is as important a point as any. Children are naturally curious. The Socratic Method of learning is all about building on that curiosity to constantly ask (and answer) questions. Learning in this way allows children to exploit their natural curiosity and find their intellectual niche in a fun and fruitful way, rather than boring them to death with rote instruction that is little more than a memorization lesson.


It is awesome, but then my classmates for that course are all students who got admitted to my school (which admits around 7% of applicants to math) so I would expect them to be more engaged and to have better critical thinking skills than the average high school student.

I think the other issue we have (speaking for teachers now) is that you don't get to teach students from K-12, you get them for one or two grades max. I think the reason kids of highly educated parents tend to be better off is because they get the benefit over their entire childhood, rather than teachers who vary a lot from year to year.


> Can't say I agree, Socrates figured it out thousands of years ago!

Now as an exercise, analyze this critically. What are the known historical sources for this claim, what biases and motivations they had? Did he really succeeded at consistently teaching people critical skills, or we just assume so cause we learned in school that he was cool and dont know more about him?


I suggest you familiarize yourself with the Socratic Method.


Historical Socrates and popular Socratic Method are different things. Studies whether it actually measurably teaches critical thinking are less optimistic.


> Unfortunately, we don't really know how to do this. Longitudinal studies of critical thinking skills across 4 years of college show a modest improvement but there are caveats [1]. For one, the usual courses you'd expect to improve critical thinking (logic, philosophy, statistics) don't do very well.

That's because low-level philosophy courses are taught as history courses. Memorize what each great thinker who died hundreds of years ago thought, regurgitate it in essay format.

Statistics is taught as an arithmetic course. You are given four numbers, figure out which formula you should use to transform them into an answer.

Unsurprisingly, neither of them develops critical thinking skills.


Memorize what each great thinker who died hundreds of years ago thought, regurgitate it in essay format

I've taken 3 undergrad philosophy courses so far, all at second year level, and none of them were as you described. If you did that on your essays, you'd get a very low grade.

All of the essays I've had to write were critical essays. Believe me, it is NOT EASY to come up with a new counter-argument to a famous philosophical position that's already been poked at for centuries.

Have I developed critical thinking skills from taking these courses? I don't know. I take the courses because they're fun and interesting. I love getting into intense discussions with my classmates.


Were your fellow classmates at the same level as you though? There's philosophy as it should be, and then there's philosophy as it is.


“ I think STEM and such can wait.”

This is so important. I couldn’t care less if my daughters learn about evolution of relativity in high school. What possible use do those have unless they become a biologist or physicist? (I’m the latter)

Even programming is an edge case. I’d much rather they learn logic, more mathematics (more depth and breath) and philosophy.


Programming is logic.


>Over time, I've come to realise that the most important gift we can give our children is formal training in critical thinking.

Assuming 'critical' thinking can be taught (I do not think so, though teachers/parents can be catalysts. There is an IQ barrier to contend with). What exactly do you propose for children of parents who themselves are not thinking 'critically' be taught? This constitutes the vast majority of deluded masses.

I have put 'critical' thinking in quotes, because if you ask a person who is not a critical thinker (in your opinion) if he/she is a critical thinker, you are most likely to get a response that he/she is indeed one.

I'm not saying that verifiable truths do not exist but people disagree on what the truth is while each vehemently believing that their version of the truth is the right one. Rarely will they progress to a point where there empirically verify if the view they hold is correct.


Critical thinking as in teaching children to recognize bullshit when somebody serves it up?


Yup. That's my definition.


> formal training in critical thinking

thats an oxymoron


I believe the most important thing we can teach kids is the ability to discern influences, at all time. Some are positive, and obviously some are negative. Everything exert an influence on us and it is crucial to be aware of it.

People should be able to see the world with their own eyes, instead of with the eyes of culture or other socially transmitted concepts.


Also important to teach children about biases. Some are healthy for quick decisions that yield positive returns. Some are established simply by cultural norms and are harmful to propagate further.


It most certainly is!

If you listen to kids they will tell you their take on the environment, consumption, worthy causes, etc. I’m quite sure they’re not thinking about these things themselves.

So yeah, teachers indoctrinate students with their biases. Some kids seek out their own information as they grow up, many don’t question it.

So we end up in places where nuclear power was bad, for example, or banning straws (when there are much bigger issues with plastics) and detrimental things like everyone is special and unique and the future is yours to conquer (and of course this leads to disappointment when due to outsourcing and shipping jobs overseas they end up working at dead end minimum wage jobs).


>> So we end up in places where nuclear power was bad, for example, or banning straws (when there are much bigger issues with plastics) and detrimental things like everyone is special and unique and the future is yours to conquer (and of course this leads to disappointment when due to outsourcing and shipping jobs overseas they end up working at dead end minimum wage jobs).

Some of these ideas are stupid, and I agree, but there is always going to be a lag time between primary/secondary education and the real world. Stuff that we know to be true now, that we teach kids and get into a curriculum, end up being false or not useful purely because the world has shifted beneath our feet.

Then we must adjust the curriculum, which takes way too long due to bureaucratic nonsense / indoctrination in the previous generation, and then we teach that (which is another form of lag), and etc, etc.

When education is bureaucratically controlled from the national perspective (and to a lesser extent, at the state level), the lag time gets worse and worse.


In my father's later years he was head of the business dept at a college. He taught classes in business and finance.

He'd often have students come up to him and say they had no idea there was even a case for free markets. All they'd ever heard in school was how awful they were. They'd thank him for opening their eyes.

At one time, the other staff (all socialists) invited him to participate in a debate about free markets in front of the students, and warned my father that they were going to take him apart. He happily agreed.

They wound up rather sorry they'd done that. My father was an experienced debater, and had an encyclopedic knowledge of economics and history. He shredded them :-) and some had the class to come up later and thank him for opening their eyes as well, as they hadn't believed there was a case for free markets either.


My father was an experienced debater

That would actually support the case that "education is a system of indoctrination", academic inquiry and critical appraisal of research is very much a different thing from competitive debating.


An expert debater could win either side of the argument. But in this case my father chose the side he believed in.


About 15 years ago, when there was a big push to get creationism into textbooks, academics at universities were warned not to publically debate creationists. No matter what their background was, they would lose against a trained debater and then feel extremely ashamed after. There is no reason to think that creationists do not believe in creationism.

What I'm saying is, we can't accept positions that are based on nothing more than heartfelt belief, and debate is not the way to find out what the correct path forward is. Socrates powerfully demonstrated both statements.


This says nothing about being on the 'right' side of the argument.


You can flip the instances of socialism and free marketeerism mutatis mutandis and this comment means exactly as much as it currently does.

Was that your intent? To point out that whether it's Your Father's U or U of Chicago the importance of hearing the dissenting opinion remains the same?


Flipping it reverses the situation from reflecting reality to reflecting a hypothetical: https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-disa...


My intent was straightforward. There is a case for the free market, but the current school system does not expose the students to it. My father's students had never heard it, and I'd never heard it from the schools I went to, either.

It's a little sad, being as we live in a free market system.


> but the current school system does not expose the students to it

That's not at all my experience, where the case for it is the core of both high school and introductory college economics, as well as frequently being touched on in the history and civics curricula.

> It's a little sad, being as we live in a free market system.

No, we don't.


"we live in a free market system."

That's debatable.


And then everybody clapped.


Sure is gonna be embarrassing if the Efficient Market Hypothesis ends up being false, huh?

Your story, juxtaposed against the grandparent complaint, suggests that your father was somehow challenging an ambient air of socialist ideology amongst academics. However, your father was head of the department, making the point somewhat incoherent. He just as easily could have been policing his juniors to try to suppress any views which he did not approve, and embarrassing them in front of their students as a power play.


You could be right, but I'll point out that the college treated him well, and the business/finance department thrived under his management (as in it grew and attracted a lot more students). If he was a tyrant, I'd expect the college would try to get rid of him and students would avoid his department.


What kind of free markets are we talking about? Free as in corporations get to run amok, or free as in no corporations because the state doesn't have the authority to grant incorporation papers?


Carroll Quigley wrote frequently on how the modern concept of a corporation is one of an "immortal"--unlimited in both lifetime and scope of operations--and that bestowing such power on a group of individuals can only end badly.

Of course, tell that to people who mostly work at and/or invest in corporations, and points will be burned.

Thank you for your service.


No worries. Points don't matter; getting more doesn't make my johnson bigger, nor does losing them diminish me. I still have six inches either way, and that's enough.


The US formalism and legal system around public education specifically calls out its purpose for creating nationally aligned citizenship.

For example a few years ago Colorado proposed to educate High Schoolers using a textbook that highlights morally questionable aspects of American history from the perspective of "The Left" (Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States"), it was rejected by the courts on the grounds it would not accomplish the required purpose of creating nationally aligned citizens, crucially NOT because it wasn't a good textbook for teaching history.


I've often felt that despite going to a high school that championed critical thinking, that certain topics were closer to indoctrination.

I've noticed, with much of the public, if democracy is criticized the response is usually akin to "it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…" more often in the form of "well what do you think is better" followed by the bad sides of that system. It doesnt actually address the argument.

That single catch phrase became a way to shut down critical thinking before it began. "Nope I have the ultimate rebuttal, I wont even entertain other premises, even hypothetically." People were taught that, despite its flaws, its best, and dont question that it might not be the best.

To question democracy itself, as not superior to everything else, is painful and frightening to many, as it fractures their worldview and lenses theyve built with which they understand the world. Defense of democracy feels more like fanaticism, the way people choose a sports team and then never question it. (Lions fans may question their allegiance, but thats a different story.)

It becomes a bit recursive, as democracy is powered by and predicated on an educated electorate.


> To question democracy itself, as not superior to everything else, is painful and frightening to many, as it fractures their worldview and lenses theyve built with which they understand the world.

What's truly frightening are the conclusions that follow this realization: most people do not think about their beliefs and straight up hate you if you question them; it's useless to debate those people since that brings only suffering and persecution; better to somehow seize power and impose one's world view on them.


>better to somehow seize power and impose one's world view on them.

That's sort of what politicians do. Over half the population doesnt vote for them, and the majority of what they said to get votes was platitudes and lies anyway. Trump and Hillary got less than half the vote each, from 61.5 percent of the population. Trump played a well crafted and complicated game, one where he got less votes than his competitor, to take charge with only 28.3% of the voting age population picking him. He did so despite the entire party he ran in wanting "anybody but him." He is like a parasite that took over its host, and in a way it was very interesting to watch someone hijack a party against the partys will.

Campaigns are basically reduced to who can lie the loudest and most convincingly. Who can say the right things, even if those things have nothing to do with what they do when they get into office. (Any republican even whispering the words small government lately.) Even a candidate like Bernie's platform, is largely the job of the house and senate. If he didnt also get both, theres no way hed be anything more than a bully pulpit president. Saying what he wants, not getting it, unable to do anything about it. Maybe making compromise to get a shell of what he wants passed.

I have to think a bunch of Trump's support was just that finally someone kept going after a recording or scandal came out. Instead of letting the "we caught you, now youre unelectable" committee of the fifth estate disqualify everyone they didnt like, someone running finally said "i dont care, im not quitting, youre not in charge of who the people get to vote for."

Basically where im going with this incredibly off topic and unfocused rant is that i would call; hijacking a party that doesnt want you (GOP establishment), getting less than 30% of people to vote for you, and doing so by shouting what amounts to nonsense; either seizing power (or maybe just the electorate saying "we are done with all these other "approved" people you keep trying to force down our throats, we give up. Nonsense is better than your narrative.)


If you are going to posit such questions then you should be able to answer their question with your opinion/thoughts. It's your responsibility as the person asking the question in 99% of the situations that it would come up. If you have a good firm grounding for meritocracy, fascism, technocracy, etc then you should have a sound argument to present it. At that point you can look down upon them for defaulting to democracy.


The conversation cant happen. People can be unwilling to entertain a conversation because of an axom in their beliefs, that they cant let go of, even hypothetically.

>If you have a good firm grounding for meritocracy, fascism, technocracy, etc then you should have a sound argument to present it.

This is almost the same thing. Youre saying "if its not democracy it must be one of these other ones that has already been thought up and that the case must be made for another to make the case against valid" as if a new new, different form of rule, ever unthought up before cant exist.

Im not even making an argument against democracy, I am saying one day I realized that through all my schooling I never actually questioned the tenant that it might not be the default right answer. It was a scary and intriguing experience to suddenly realize "I just assumed this was the best answer because I was told it was and the argument sounded good at the time and I based my opinion of everything else on that assumption, I never really questioned that belief, maybe I shouldnt do that. Maybe there were ulterior motives for teaching me it was the default correct answer (Democracy sustaining itself?) If education was able to get me to belief this thing without questioning it, what other biases did I absorb that I am unaware of and should also be questioning?"

Democracy very well might be the best right answer, but its better for me to be able to question that belief, its origin, its purpose, and its validity, than for me not to be able to question at all. For me its better to not have faith that it is correct, but instead judge it from a leveled objective playing field. It's better for my critical thinking skills to not take "the worst form of Government except for all those others" as the gospel of a dogma.


The public high schools in my locale use that textbook.


Nice video! I'd like to know when and where Chomsky made these remarks. In fact, I'd like to watch the entire presentation. Strange that the captions are often incorrect -- did Chomsky review and approve them?


The video is an excerpt from a speech he made in 1989. Here's the full speech: https://youtu.be/G2dJ0iBhTcA?t=79.


> Strange that the captions are often incorrect

The captions are GoogleYoutube automatic captioning of a 30 years old low-fi, badly clipped, slightly mumbled recording. Frequent errors are to be expected. You can turn them off by clicking the little "CC" button on the bottom right of the player because the captions are not actually part of the video. Safe to say Chomsky isn't reviewing or approving any of it.


I think we can't really expect the opposite to happen. There's not an educational system out there that would actively try to delegitimize itself or the power structures it exists in.

That being said, Chomsky's works -- especially, Understanding Power and Manufacturing Consent -- are extremely helpful to understanding our current world. Even if the examples are out-dated, you can see the same things play out today as they did in the 80's. I would recommend them even if you don't align personally with his politics.


It is intended to be, but in reality it’s just a system that trains students to pass tests. For the most part, such system leaves students highly skeptical towards everything - which is a good thing.


> in reality it’s just a system that trains students to pass tests

Tests have correct answers. It's simple to ask a question about any controversial subject and mark the answer supported by the current narrative as correct. This forces students to not only consider the issue but also to answer "correctly".

I've had to answer many such questions and the intent behind them was clear. It's usually disguised as a "human rights" question and is nothing but a mechanism to get students to agree with some left-leaning ideas.


> it’s just a system that trains students to pass tests

There's more than one "system" out there. Millions of children attend schools where they prioritize dimensions other than simplistic mass testing (eg extra-curricular activities, sport, artistic, community service, compassion, spirituality).


> it’s just a system that trains students to pass tests

How do you verify that the students learned anything without some sort of tests?


The problem is, what are you actually verifying? Mostly memorization and test taking strategies. Wasn’t there just a thread complaining that whiteboard coding interviews are nonsense? It’s the same thing.

“Some sort” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Some kind of assessment - yes, of course. But for example, consider a portfolio of work & a written evaluation vs a multiple choice exam. The latter is definitely easier, faster, and gives you a metric to print, but which is more valuable for the student? Which better demonstrates what you’ve learned?

NB: obviously this is to an extent domain specific. I’m not talking about med school, and I don’t care about your evolving perspective on whether 2+2 equals 4, I just need to know whether you can add.


> The problem is, what are you actually verifying? Mostly memorization and test taking strategies.

If memorization is so useless, explain to me how one studies history without memorizing thousands of facts. Or a foreign language without memorizing thousands of words. Or math without hundreds of rules and conventions.

Yes, you do want to progress further and learn the way those different things you memorized work together, but you can't put things together in your mind if they are not in your mind to put together.

Education is fundamentally voluntary and a student can memorize all this stuff just to pass a test, and not care about it later. If you want to argue this is why we shouldn't mandate school, fine.

But as long as we're mandating students go to school, we may as well check that their schools provided the opportunity to learn something.


> Mostly memorization and test taking strategies.

Most people memorize the times tables. I discovered that there was a rule to them, which was much less work to learn.

At Caltech, tests were open book and open note. Memorizing facts and strategies would do you no good at all.

I didn't see any point to those methods, anyway, as I went to college to learn the material, and when I learned it, I did well on the tests.


Like I mentioned, it’s domain specific to an extent. Tests may be more effective in fields like engineering where there are specific correct answers and methods. But we’re talking about k-12, and nothing you did at caltech is relevant to hs standardized testing.


I remember taking all those standardized tests all through grade school and high school. There was quite an obvious and consistent correlation between those who learned the material and did well on the test, and those who didn't and did poorly.

This remained true whether the test was multiple choice, fill in the blank, or open ended.


Frankly you don’t remember, the sheer amount of testing and degree of standardization has increased tremendously since NCLB. ESSA walked back the testing somewhat, but it’s still very different than when you were in school.

The question is what “learned the material” actually means, and if designing the class around a definition that can be accurately captured on a test is a worthwhile goal. Again though, I want to make it clear that I’m not arguing against assessing what and how students are learning, but specifically against standardized testing.

We can’t spend decades hurfing and blurfing over “failing schools” and then refuse to consider change when what we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working.


> specifically against standardized testing.

Without standardized testing, the techniques of teaching cannot evolve beyond "Phil said this works for him."


Get to know the student personally. Work with them on a daily basis. Mentor them over the long term. Their growth should be evident.

Of course, this is not conducive to mass education programs with many tens if not hundreds of students per classroom.


Why does it matter?


How would you react to the pilot on your next flight never took any flying tests? Would you accept his assurances that "he knows how to fly"?


Does K-12 education include civil aviation training now? It didn't when I was doing time, but that was in the 80s and 90s when we still did "duck and cover" drills as a placebo for the fear of nuclear holocaust rather than "active shooter" drills.

Furthermore, testing for pilots isn't just filling out a form; there's a practical test as well as a knowledge test.


Pilot training doesn't include teaching math. If you never learned math, you'll wash out of flight school. If you cannot calculate how much fuel you'll need, what your wind drift is, how to distribute the weight, etc., you aren't going to be a pilot.

> Furthermore, testing for pilots isn't just filling out a form; there's a practical test as well as a knowledge test.

You'll never get to the hands on flying part of the test unless you pass ground school tests first. Flying safely and competently is highly technical and nothing like jumping in a car and turning the key. Nobody is going to let you in a cockpit with an excuse like "I don't test well" or "I learn in an alternative fashion" or "I really do know how to fly, the tests are faulty" or the worst of all "I can't handle the stress of a test."


As a citizen, I have a civic obligation to hold the government accountable for the use of my tax dollars.


In that case, you have more pressing concerns than the public schools, such as the military-industrial-congressional complex, corporate welfare, and a tax code that privileges rent-seeking over labor.


Nonsense, besides the fact that I can look at more than one budget item at a time, education is one of the biggest[1], being between 20% and 40% of every state's budget.

> ... and a tax code that privileges rent-seeking over labor.

Education also has multiple lobbies that beside their own rent-seeking are indoctrinating young voters and more and more educators are engaging in partisan politics in the classroom.

[1]: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/how-much-of-each-states-b...


Nice propaganda. LOL


Standardized tests do this?


According to one my neighbors, they just make it harder for her to do her job (as she understands it).

In my case, I score in the 95th percentile or better on just about any standardized test you cared to put in front of me, but when I finally got free of K-12 schooling I only really had three useful skills:

1. How to take a punch. 2. How to dodge a punch. 3. How to throw a punch.


Lot of closed caption is not even close to what Chomsky is saying.


I thought some of the incorrect captions were quite poignant!

I am still wondering if someone had a hand in that.


switch to english (auto generated)


I don’t agree with this. Because of the education I received at K-12 and undergrad studies, I was able to get a job. Without that I would not have been able to support my family. Also the K-12 educational systems across the world have lifted several billions out of poverty. Without educational system most people would be mired in ignorance and believing in myths.


> K-12 educational systems across the world have lifted several billions out of poverty.

You can just as easily say "countries spend more on education as they become richer". The correlation goes both ways (and thats all it is, a correlation. Beware those who assume causation!).

I think its a little absurd to think that teaching geometry and Shakespeare to kids somehow will magically lift them all out of poverty.


> Without educational system most people would be mired in ignorance and believing in myths.

Most people are mired in ignorance and believing in myths, despite having educational systems.


They are not against education, but against the educational system.

> Also the K-12 educational systems across the world have lifted several billions out of poverty.

No, that was education. Also, yes, maybe at some point school was useful, however a lot has changed since then however school really hasn't kept up.


There are endless debates about curriculum and yet there is one lessen that is never up for debate, and it is thought throughout every day and in every lessen: Sit down, be quiet, do as you're told.

I wonder what a society would look like, where each of us had not been exposed to over a decade of this in our most impressionable years.


This is so true, and makes me so sad to think about. I regard formal education as a form of emotional abuse for this very reason.


It's quite eye opening to learn about the origins of the modern education system. The how and the why of the modern school system. Especially the people who brought the public school system from europe to america. They certainly weren't interested in creating a population of critical thinkers. It's why public "education" is supported by such disparate countries like america to nazi germany to the soviet union to communist china. One thing all countries and politicians and elites love is public "education".


Also school plants into children some biases that later used by authorities for divide-and-conquer.

E.g. the school told me that I belong to some ethnicity and that there are other ethnicities I should know about. As a child I couldn't care less. Why would they tell me this if ethnicity doesn't even matter for future job?

Another example is socio-economic system classification: capitalist vs socialist vs fascist vs monarchy etc. Why does it have to be so clean-cut categories? Like if you're not in one camp then you have to be in another. Just another divisive tool.

So they do want to create the work force but they also want to prevent any sort of revolt and thus plant psychological leverages in peoples' heads. It is a science of social engineering that they don't teach in schools.


> E.g. the school told me that I belong to some ethnicity and that there are other ethnicities I should know about. As a child I couldn't care less. Why would they tell me this if ethnicity doesn't even matter for future job?

I don't think you could have even a basic understanding of history without understanding what ethnicities are and some details about the historical experiences of at least a few of these groups.

But let's buy in to the premise, for a second, that schools should only teach you things you need to get a job (which ignores how important a well educated population is to democracy). Historical discrimination and the current disadvantage of several ethnic groups directly informs the hiring policies of many major companies (in the US). So ethnic groups may directly impact you getting a job.


What a coincidence, I posted this just yesterday at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21730116 :

My post reads:

In my view schools/universities are institutions for mass indoctrination. Noam Chomsky has said something along similar lines. I borrowed the words from him.

A bunch of my other observations:

https://realminority.wordpress.com/observations-of-the-world


Not necessarily a coincidence, I've often gone down a rabbit hole of reading triggered by an interesting HN comment; sometimes that comes back to HN in the form of a submission of something in the rabbit hole that I found particularly interesting.


Now that I think of it, it's probably not a co-incidence. The author 'zainamro' who posted the parent post, probably read my post (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21730116) and then did a google search to come up with the video that he then posted.


I actually hadn’t seen your comment — I read PG’s essay and was similarly reminded of Chomsky’s view on education and specifically this video. So it was a coincidence in a sense but less so because of PG’s essay.


People should go to school to learn, not to be indoctrinated. They should learn critical thinking to for their own ideas and opinions based on facts and logic.


This is a joke right ?

Historiography (like most of "humanities") is almost entirely based upon ideology to write a story around certain "facts". The practitioners might call that it is a "science" to satisfy their Physics envy, but the intent in these fields is more about molding the world more than it is about modeling it.

You can never be proven wrong by writing the future. Orwell was right. Chomsky has no alternative other than pushing another imperial narrative, like his liberal counterparts during the British Empire.


Chomsky's talk titled "Corporate Attack on Education" held at St. Philip's Church, Harlem on March 16, 2012: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbMP-cy1INA

> I think the university should tolerate a large diversity of opinion, which it does not. I think there is a severe failure - the failure is one of honesty, in my opinion. That is, I don't believe that scholarship within the university attempts to come to grips with the real structure of the society. I think it is under such narrow ideological controls that it avoids any concern or investigation of central issues in our society.

-- Noam Chomsky, interview in Business Today (May, 1973) https://chomsky.info/197305__/


It never ceases to amaze me how this pseudo-intellectual hack is taken seriously at all. But I suppose it must be by people who have not really been exposed to any serious thinking before.

Leaving aside how unoriginal and trite the things he is saying actually are (I imagine it's what Trump would sound like if he had a wider vocabulary), just consider his smear of Bloom and his book. It's amazing. Here's a very serious book that tries to address the problems he just presented, and all he's got is something worse than a straw man. Suggesting that the classics have a place in the curriculum is 'a couple of smart guys deciding what the great thoughts are' and paramount to imposing authority and trashing everything else. He even manages to sandwich it into 'turning the schools into marine corps'. I think only two conclusions are possible - either he had not read the book in question, or he is willfully lying about it (and not very convincingly).


pseudointellectual n. A person who claims proficiency in scholarly or artistic activities while lacking in-depth knowledge or critical understanding.

As someone who disagrees a lot with the views of Noam Chomsky, I must say that you can never call him pseudointellectual.

Chomsky is an intellectual in the truest sense of the word. Academically he has contributed into linguistics and theoretical computer science. As a political thinker he forms his toughs and arguments irritatingly well.


>Academically he has contributed into linguistics and theoretical computer science

This is true, but

>As a political thinker he forms his toughs and arguments irritatingly well.

is something people keep saying, but which I have never seen substantiated. I've read many of his pieces and wasted hours listening to his blabbing. None of it is profound, and a lot of it is quite the opposite (the video linked being one of the most egregious examples). Perhaps he can be admired for being a good con man, though - somehow his rhetoric manages to fool a lot of people.


> This is true, but

Oh so you'd retract saying "pseudo-intellectual hack" then?

Your couple of comments here have made me very wary of taking you seriously, but as a big fan of Chomsky I'd like to not dismiss your vitriol and instead ask for some alternative books and talks to look at.

Who do you recommend in the areas of education, politics, and civics?


>Oh so you'd retract saying "pseudo-intellectual hack" then?

Definitely not. One can be an expert in one area, and still be completely incompetent while claiming otherwise in another one. Chomsky is just as well known for his politics and social commentary as for his hard science, and proficiency in the latter does not exonerate him from deficiency in the former.

>but as a big fan of Chomsky I'd like to not (sic, I presume) dismiss your vitriol

That's good - you've now dismissed the vitriol of at least two persons. But to be fair, I do know that I'm not being overly civil, and I do appreciate your effort to not be as close-minded as Chomsky himself.

>Who do you recommend in the areas of education, politics, and civics?

A good starter is the book which Chomsky slandered in this video. Camille Paglia has also written a lot on topics related to the ones touched upon in the video, but with much greater clarity and originality. I haven't read as much about education as I should have, so I can't give any more recommendations than that. The other two subjects are much too broad for recommendations to be meaningful, unless you are looking for something specific (refuting Chomsky is also too broad, I think) or just want to place me ideologically.


Perhaps a change of perspective has the potential to reduce your level of amazement?


I'm sure. What do you have in mind?




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