I think on average the difference between a high school student from Russia and US is negligible. Either country doesn’t really require much to finish school and many kids just do the tests without understanding what is going on. What separates Soviet Union (and now Russian) system is the practice of selecting kids with interest in mathematics / physics into special classes or schools for gifted kids. This government program feeds the mathematics and physics departments in the universities and allows kids who go through this program to get a very early start in mathematics. This is very similar to government sponsored sports programs with talented kids getting help with summer camps, or even all year round training schools.
I went to high school in Russia and then moved to Australia. The difference was immense. It felt like i just dropped 2 year levels. Even the accelerated programs were hopelessly behind the regular curriculum for my age group in Russia. AU/US high school students can't possibly compete against RU or CN high school students. The gap only begins closing around year 11/12, sometimes not until tertiary education.
One of the major factors is this weird anti-intellectualism culture that just doesn't exist in Russia. Doing well at your subjects in Russia put you in the cool group. Doing well at your subjects in AU got you labelled as a nerd. This permeates western culture across the board, hence domestically popular tv shows like Big Bang Theory which have 0 audience in countries that value intellect. I hear the culture of marginalising smart kids is somewhat changing lately though.
The other factor is that westerners really love to coddle and infantalise their children. A 12 year old in Russia is basically treated as a small adult with the associated respect and responsibilities. A 12 year old here is treated (and behaves) like a large baby.
What really surprised me was the core principle at British unversities - "don't assume prior knowledge of anything". It basically meant that on a CS course, they teach you basic level maths, basic programming skills, you spend the entire 1st year of university learning what we learnt in school around age 15-16. A Polish university absolutely won't be teaching you basic algebra,statistics or core concepts of programing on a CS course - you are simply required to know these things, otherwise wtf are you doing on a CS course.
Also in general, I find the elective system of subjects in British schools to be.....poor. As in, I was(and am) surrounded by perfectly normal adults who are good in certain subjects(the ones they picked) and who have zero knowledge in others(the ones they didn't pick). I feel like my own Polish education has given me a very broad understanding of a lot of different subjects even if I wasn't personally interested in them. Like, even though I went to a school with a "maths and CS focus"(which just meant these two subjects had 2x the number of lessons each week), we still had lessons in history, physics, chemistry, biology, Polish literature.....all of it was mandatory, you couldn't just decide to skip it. At the time, I thought it was useless, but in hindsight I am very grateful for it because it has given me at least basic level of knowledge in many different subjects, whereas my British peers just can't even have a conversation about basic chemistry for instance, since they never took it as a subject.
The rationale is that you want to give 18 year olds the opportunity to pick a field of study that they're excited about now rather than forcing them to choose something based on what kind of education their parents thought proper for them six years ago. If a single "intro to programming" course and a slightly easier first math course can onboard smart students who otherwise would be hopelessly lost, and the only downside is that a couple of better-prepared students feel a bit bored, that's a small price to pay.
What I really remember was EE40 taking like a week to explain Ohm's Law. I thought, Ok, I think I've got this class. But then it just went exponential and then the prof just dumped a bunch of chapters on us at the end that he didn't cover and said that'll be on the final. EE40 covered about a third of 105. EE40 just had an insane amount of material and labs. FWIW, I think 16A+B covers better material than EE40 did although I have a soft spot in my heart for what was EE20.
BTW, Calculus 1A at Berkeley, if you didn't take AP Calculus in high school, was brutal. Pointlessly so, since most math in non-math courses was pretty straightforward.
But all the freshman courses at Berkeley were hard. You either got up to speed or you got out. Upper division was even harder, but you were prepared by then.
Given that second-hand experience, I found the excision of all of SICP's math from the curriculum to be quite a good choice, as adding advanced math as another prerequisite would have raised the barrier to entry even higher.
(Side note: your description of EE40 sounds like a professor who didn't schedule well, not intentional difficulty.)
There was an intent behind the work. All of the lower div classes are hard with a massive amount of content. But you can show up a Berkeley from a substandard high school on the wrong side of the tracks and blow it out of the water; a buddy of mine was like that and went to Columbia for his PhD. It's very simple. You just have to work. Immediately. Day one. I don't think Berkeley EECS rewards creativity. Indeed I think EECS punishes creativity. But EECS teaches its students to work their asses off, regardless of whether they came from Lick Wilmerding or Skyline.
In practice, some see the fact many tech employers give coding tests to people with CS degrees as a sign the standards at the end aren't as consistently high as one might hope.
I think a lot of interviewing style is fashion driven.
Also computer science isn’t necessarily about actually coding anyway. It’s mostly about algorithms and structure and complexity. Similarly, anyone who knows anything about university mathematics courses does not expect fresh graduates to be particularly good at arithmetic
Initial programming courses were electives, where you could choose between more basic or more advanced "intro to programming" course. Basic had python, while advanced had c and c++.
Similarly logic classes were in basic and advanced groups and it was easy to choose the group you want and switch groups during course.
In fact, I was the guy who came for CS degree after never doing great at math or CS in high school and it reaaaaaally helped me to get up to speed with the others.
What I imagine really smart person would do is: go to people giving the course for additional work or talk with them to show where they are at. Skip classes, read something else while in a class. Take advantage of knowledge to not care about the course curriculum and do his own research.
But that is my idea and maybe people who think their time is wasted could be a bit more humble and learn to work with other people.
>If those people who do not waste time are so smart why they have to be hold by the hand and given curriculum?
There's a culture of "rules apply to everyone" and people are not used to asking for special treatment. So if you don't make it super obvious, people will assume they can't ask for adjustments. Also, no tuition so weaker incentive to get your money's worth.
People who think they are exceptional are mostly just casual. (wink wink instagram)
Always seems to be the solution. It doesn't scale, even if you know how to make a PCB or a cupboard (for example), it doesn't take 0 time. That extra work would be extra time spent, which is nonsense if the goal is to demonstrate competency and reduce wasting time.
Plus, the extra work is still about the same course material - instead of one hello world you write two. It's not hard, it becomes depressing and demoralizing.
In many countries, these kids would probably not get into college in the first place due to failing preparatory tests. In the US there are many financial incentives to pull in as many kids as possible and that may cause a lowering of barriers.
An observation in the maths, many countries in Asia cover calculus at the middle school level and continue into high school, in the US I noticed many public schools categorize calculus as an advanced (sometimes elective) high school subject.
That said, if after your undergraduate degree you are unsatisfied by the amount of stuff you've learned thus far, there's an easy solution: continue on and pursue a master's degree.
A Russian university would absolutely hammer you with technical knowledge (including in many irrelevant subjects), but when it comes to actually doing an independent research project plagiarism is rampant. As a student, you are belittled at every step. You are unlikely to get involved in any independent research, initiative is discouraged, you learn a lot of things that are not useful.
However, I agree with other posters that British universities bizarrely seem to often reward/celebrate athletics more than academic achievements. Somehow, the top of the social hierarchy are the kids that are good at team sports. In a Russian university, how you do at sports is for the most part irrelevant and if you are not involved in the sport yourself, you will likely never hear about someone's sporting achievements. That makes for a healthier social environment, I think.
I'm not sure how you get that impression.
American universities do this, but (with a couple of famous exceptions, like the traditional boat race between Oxford and Cambridge) British universities don't care about sport.
The social hierarchy was just separate, and had no bearing on anything academic. I didn't care for a second what the rugby team were doing (generally drinking themselves into a stupor), and they didn't care about me. That's just a reflection on British culture in general.
And social life in colleges is (sadly) dominated by drinking at the college bar, drinking in clubs, and dinners in the dining hall, where everyone seems to sit according to some unofficial hierarchy (with being in the top sports team in a popular sport seemingly correlated with being near the top of that hierarchy). Inter-college and Oxford vs Cambridge competitions in all kinds of sports (but primarily rowing) are a massive part of college life. The university rewards athletes with awards of blues and half-blues, drawings on college walls celebrating sports victories, prominent mentions in college publications etc. Academics, on the other hand, are not given nearly as much attention - you would almost never know how good someone is doing in their studies, especially since they are probably studying a completely different subject to you.
It would be common to go and support your college sports team in, say, rowing; whereas nobody really cared so much about academic competition between colleges. Those academic victories were never really mentioned or celebrated.
When I was brought up, the image of what a successful student was, was a very well rounded one. The perfect student was a diligent worker in all courses and always an athlete. Athletics was very very tied to the image of being a proper student because basically athletics = team and team = learning to work with others to overcome challenges and work towards a goal + being physically fit.
This is the gist of it, it's a bit hard to explain without living it. Also there is a religious aspect thrown in because America.
This was the image of the perfect young adult given to me by Boy Scouts and the image my private school friends were given by their schools. At my public school though everything was a bit watered down as we got far less development attention than private school kids would get.
For non-Americans reading: private school = good, public school = bad, in terms of education in the US(usually). I know this is flipped in some places.
I think this idea is dead, or close to it. Almost all the people I knew in college were there for a simple reason: to get a piece of paper that says they can now participate in the work force. Being educated was more of a side effect.
Plenty of people complain about gen eds or other requirements for degrees that are not explicitly related to the major.
> For non-Americans reading: private school = good, public school = bad,
This really depends on the university, the professors there, and the field. My school (USC, no, the other one) is #1 for international business, etc.
Athletics is extremely emphasized, though. I understand that colleges have to discriminate somehow to give people scholarships, and that sports make an insane amount of money for colleges, but it always struck me as odd that getting a full ride for being excellent at a sport is even a thing.
To me, that seems like an odd culture for universities to encourage/perpetuate, given that most top professors at top universities are unlikely to be particularly athletic, and the word "intellectual" is often used as almost an antonym of "athlete".
And in many ways, e.g. when it comes to drinking and partying, I would guess the culture in other British universities is even worse. In a top Russian university you simply would not have the time, and they would not hesitate to kick you out; graduating from university can be more difficult than getting into one.
I went to Imperial College. "Work hard, play hard" was some kind of motto. Most people followed the first part, the second part was optional. There was more "play" at weekends, and less during the week, compared with my friends at other universities. Mostly, it meant focussing on work during the week to leave time at the weekend.
I remember two mentions of sport: when a friend turned out to be on the hockey C team, and when the student newspaper announced that we'd lost some traditional cup . You can see just how little attention was given to the game by the number of spectators .
(It would help the UK if the drinking age for beer and wine were reduced to 16. People can then get too drunk and do silly stuff with some oversight from their parents, and be a bit more mature about it at university. See Denmark for a similar Northern European country with this.)
The minimum purchasing/public drinking age is 18 (other than a single pint with a meal), but there's no practical restriction on parents letting their kids drink in private. My parents encouraged me once I was around 16 to join in with the adults whilst they had drinks. This led to me getting silly drunk a couple of times but with proper supervision. Same thing with going to some college house parties with 6th form friends - their parents knew that at the end of the night all the kids we're being picked up by their family.
The problem is if parents don't consider this and just ban drinking for kids up until they leave the house and aren't under their control any more. That's what causes people to go out of control at Uni since it might be literally their first experience with alcohol, or at least more than "1 glass with a meal" etc.
At Imperial, when the Google London office was new, the feedback from staff for why so few students hung around at their recruitment event was the lack of alcohol. Overturning this HQ-imposed very American policy apparently took significant effort.
Are you sure? I studied math in MSU in early 00's. Most of my coursemates drank a lot. I took some silly pride in drinking a lot and still learning enough to get good grades, but a lot of us just weren't bothered by getting worse grades. You had to be exceptionally and repeatedly bad at the exams to be kicked out.
"The prevailing attitude at Oxford at that time was very anti-work. You were supposed to be brilliant without effort, or to accept your limitations and get a fourth-class degree. I took this as an invitation to do very little. I’m not proud of this, I’m just describing my attitude at the time, shared by most of my fellow students."
I think it is a good thing. There is a big difference between doing well on a test and understanding the subject. You may think you know basic algebra because you can find the correct value for x, but chances are that you don't really know what you are doing. So having a refresher course telling you what you are actually doing when solving an equation, and how it fits in the big picture is valuable.
The thing is: when you relearn these basic subjects, you do it with a wider field of view. For example, when I first learned derivatives, I knew it had was about rate of change, and I knew the formulas, but I didn't quite get the relationship between slopes and derivatives. It came back later, as I was more familiar with things like linear interpolation and how to manipulate curves in general.
Maths in high school focuses more on applying methods (taking a derivative etc.); maths at university (even on a CS course) is more about constructing mathematical models and arguments.
It can almost feel like a completely different subject.
At one point I met a guy who was working on ways for computers to solve math problems. He told me that early college level problems are actually easier to solve than high school problems for his algorithms. The reason is that while college problems have more steps, and are therefore harder for students, you essentially just need to string theorems together. High school level problems are simpler (less steps) but require significantly more intuition.
And that's what I think happened with my grades: I was never good at math, but I had good intuition. And the switch from using intuition to using actual rigorous mathematical thinking killed me. It was like a completely different subject, and it took me years to catch up.
I wouldn't say if was it was different when it comes to applying methods vs constructing models.
A major difference for me was the approach to grading. In Poland, you might attempt to pass an exam until you do pass it. In Britain, you take an exam and you either pass or not. You can even pass the year if you fail an entire subject. Universities specifically want a certain % of people passing so they do doctor the numbers.
The most important thing is the end result. And here, I believe, the UK universities are better: they actually give you way more practical skills, while Polish unis give you more knowledge. If you want to be a scientist you might prefer #2, but for having a good job #1 is way better.
Also it teaches you that if you don't cheat the system on the subjects that doesn't matter to you - you will have worse grades than people who have the common sense to focus on a few subjects and cheat on everything else.
I guess it instills some healthy scepticism and antisystem attitude, but it can't be good for society if everybody first instinct is "is that rule for real, or bullshit like most of them?"
American 4 year degrees require you getting a reasonably well rounded education.
I have a 4 year degree in comp sci but I was required to learn state history, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Art, Communications, and probably some other things off the top of my head that I've forgotten.
My issue with the US system is that the universities in general are pretty good, but before university the education is garbage. All of these "well rounded" things I just mentioned they could have easily taught me in high school instead of wasting so much time on random things or reteaching the same things over and over.
Essentially because of the cost of US uni they wasted my money making me have to pay for my well rounded education and now upon writing this I just realized that despite the downgrade so to speak I would prefer a British degree as I think theyre shorter and if I'm to pay I just want to get what I came for which is CS skills.
I believe British kids(non-Scottish ones) have to pay some amount for Uni right? Do you pay in Poland? This could be part of the reason for the difference.
But one effect the Polish education system has is rampant cheating. It was expected (if officialy discouraged) that kids good at "hard sciences" will cheat on "humanities". Kids who were good at biology and wanted to become doctors were supposed to care about math and language less, etc. But they still had to have good average grades, so they were cheating on everything that wasn't on the entrance exams for medical schools (nowadays there's final exam at school instead of entrance exams at universities, but it changes nothing - there's still a few subjects you have to be good at and everything else you just have to have good grades in).
In effect adults are saying "this you should really know if you want to be X, and everything else you should somehow have good grades in, I don't care how".
So kids cheated on the subjects they weren't considering important for their future. I had wide interests and treated most subjects seriously but still I cheated on some geography tests because they were absurd - teacher expected us to remember top 5 exporters and importers of each of like 30 different resources and foods. And to remember how many tons of X each produced...
It was literally remembering tables of hundreds of numbers for 1 test and then forgetting them immediately. And that test was the same every year (data was from like 10 years ago :) ), and we had the test and the answers from the previous year. I'm sure the teacher knew it, but making a new one was too much hassle. It was basically an exerise in cheating the system and showing kids how absurd it is and how dumb you have to be to follow the rules.
And then there were subjects that were unimportant for everybody (no entrance exams depended on them), so even teachers teaching them expected everybody to cheat. And that was like 30% of all the subjects in high school - stuff like economy, plastic art, music, philosophy, religion, ethics, defense training, politics and society knowledge, even computer science (because computer science entrance exams were all about math, and computer science in high school was mostly microsoft office tutorial and playing games while teacher pretends to teach).
It was definitely a thing where I went to college. The humanities classes were very easy compared to the engineering/science/math classes. The school required them to try and round people out. But the humanities teachers were lazy or unskilled enough that it became exceedingly easy for people to cheat.
The canonical example is the humanities teacher who gives the exact same tests every time he/she teaches the class for 20 years. After a couple years every fraternity & sorority had a file in their study room that had every assignment & test problem that professor ever gave. So you'd have one student from the fraternity/sorority who was low on the totem pole go to class to collect the homework/requirements. Everyone else would just look at the test files to get the answers and then show up for the tests. Generally everyone would get an A, including the students who never went to class except on test days.
This was partly evil, but it was also partly students prioritizing their work hours on the vastly harder courses they were taking in their fields of study, namely the courses that were important to doing well in their field.
I graduated with a 3.7, I didn't really cheat like this, but I did put lower priority on getting top marks in the humanities class. If I got a B in a humanities class in order to allow myself to spend more time on a Computer Science class so that I could get an A in the CS class instead of a B or C that was fine with me.
At the high school level in the US everything is bifurcated into a two tier system.. one tier for the serious students who want to do well and go to college. Another tier that is state sponsored baby sitting for the students who don't want to do well and whose parents don't care.
I went to a state university in the US, my science classes were pretty rigorous, with professors saying "you have 1 week to know everything up to Chapter 6, if you didn't get this in high school, tough".
In STEM curriculums, you have to choose an interdisciplinary science track, I chose Biology and Ecology because I thought it would be easier than Chemisty. It was much more complex than anything I was ever exposed to in High School and then spent 0 time on catching anyone up.
I don't regret it.
Some universities don't require maths and so will teach it to everyone who's applied. Some don't require it but force you to take a year of it if you haven't done it. and others require it and reject you if you haven't done it.
For GCSE, "minor" subjects can be abandoned -- I stopped studying art, "technology" (design/engineering) and German (since I continued with French). At A level, the majority of students focus on closely related subjects (e.g. maths and science), which I think is the weakness of this system.
Harry Potter has essentially the same system (GCSEs = OWLs, A levels = NEWTs), this isn't something J K Rowling invented.
It's unfortunate your sister couldn't study more subjects. Parents who knew the system might have been able to push the school to allow her to study more, but I can't find anything online where parents/students are grumbling about this. (Again, Harry Potter has the same situation -- Prof. Snape says he only takes the best students into his NEWT class.)
Similarly in the uk mathematics curriculum there are a bunch of “applied” modules and schools choose which to teach. Some students would have only done mechanics and some only statistics, for example, so the corresponding university courses would have to start at what might be already known for some students.
Probably this depends on the university, what they look for in students, and more generally the strength of the students they do get. There are a lot of university students in the uk but obviously some will be stronger than others and the distribution varies by university.
They will start with math you already know, but only in the first semester, so from October until Christmas, from then on everything is mostly new. But... to be eligible to study you kind of have to have had math on that level at school. with no exceptions.
But for anything programming related? In the late 90s/early 00s there was ZERO mandatory programming in school, and if you were really, really lucky if there was any graded course. We had some elective courses but they were not really awesome and only there because one teacher wanted to do them.
So, I'm also against rehashing stuff you should know, but if you can't know it from school, why wouldn't they start at the beginning?
My experience was that even if all of the students prior to university studied maths A-Levels, we all studied different topics. Before those two year A-Levels, we all studied different topics in GCSEs. There is so much time wasted giving everyone the same knowledge because of how our system is set up with different exam boards.
I don't know if this is the case in other countries.
There are multiple implementations of that standard, in the form of exams that meet the standards. The government checks the exams satisfy their standards.
For example, an exam on history might by on the 20th century Britain, and a different one might use 19th century Europe.
The advanced maths selective school will hammer you with more complicated geometry problems, and some contents of the first few uni courses.
For history, the government requires that they:
• develop and extend their knowledge and understanding of specified key events, periods and societies in local, British, and wider world history; and of the wide diversity of human experience
• engage in historical enquiry to develop as independent learners and as critical and reflective thinkers
• develop the ability to ask relevant questions about the past, to investigate issues critically and to make valid historical claims by using a range of sources in their historical context
• develop an awareness of why people, events and developments have been accorded historical significance and how and why different interpretations have been constructed about them
• organise and communicate their historical knowledge and understanding in different ways and reach substantiated conclusions
The topics should be:
• from three eras: Medieval (500-1500), Early Modern (1450-1750) and Modern (1700-present day)
• on three time scales: short (depth study), medium (period study) and long (thematic study)
• on three geographical contexts: a locality (the historic environment); British; and European and / or wider world settings
and "British history must form a minimum of 40% of the assessed content over the full course."
Beyond that, it's up to the people making the exams.
I think this is great -- everyone should learn the techniques ("to investigate issues critically" etc) but the school, teacher and student have some flexibility in their learning. At university or in life, it hardly matters whether I focussed on Roman Britain or European WWII history to achieve this.
In other countries, all students get the exact same exam.
I think if you feel time is wasted for something like history, geography etc that people have uneven knowledge of, that's because they've failed to learn the techniques or fundamentals, and can only apply what they've learned to a single topic. There's little difference to everyone having to study WWII at GCSE, then only knowing what (not why) at A-level.
Science and maths have a lot less flexibility.
It was the same thing in Romania, at least in the '90s, when I went to school/high-school. It was always strange to me seeing all those American movies of the "nerds"/geeks getting persecuted by the "cool" kids, it certainly didn't happen to kids in my school and I'm pretty sure it generally didn't happen to kids generally around the country.
I know because I was a "nerd" guy but I also played sports and actively enjoyed doing that, was never made fun of by my high-school colleagues because of me studying/getting high grades, that would have been pretty awkward to hear.
A movie cheering for, or even trivializing anti-social behaviors would find it difficult to go past censorship (not to mention - to be conceived in the first place...)
It's for the same reason that you'd be hard-pressed to find a pre-1989 Central/Eastern European movie depicting any subcultures (like punks or hippies) sympathetically.
I wouldn't assume that's the case in American schools, though - not based on movies, at least. Could be just a convenient stereotype peddled by "college comedies", not a genre I'd take as valid social commentary
As someone who went through the US public education system in a lower-class neighborhood in the 2000s, I can't speak for wealthier neighborhoods , but people are definitely persecuted solely for their grades.
 One of the most interesting things about American culture is the dichotomy we have due to the large population and inequality (meaning there's ~no group overlap prior to college) - educational experiences had been so vastly different for many I met in college, and we were shocked at hearing the other side's experiences.
It's also sociologically interesting because Sava/Lazar/Vianu people (or, generally speaking, people who went to good Bucharest high-schools, it's probably the same for other big-ish Romanian cities like Cluj or Timisoara) are more "aware" of the high-school they went to and they generally tend to keep friends with their high-school colleagues for way longer (my so's boss went to Sava and he's still active friends with his former Sava colleagues 25+ years after finishing high-school). Like I said, we don't have that thing in small-ish cities.
I say it's interesting because I kind of noticed the same thing in this thread with people who went to prestigious schools in Moscow (#57, #2), they tend to remember fondly said schools and some of them kept closely in touch with their former colleagues.
There was no rivalry between Sava and Lazar 30 years ago, except for the Cismigiu park. They were in the top 5 schools in Bucharest, but there was no direct competition, they were all considered good places to study and kids used to choose based on the location and other preferences. Lazar had easier access to Cismigiu and lower admission grades, Sava was in a strange neighborhood but a nice, larger building, MF1 (Vianu) was smaller and harder to reach from some places, etc. They all had good teachers back then, no longer these days.
It's definitely a thing even in smaller cities with good highschools. Reunions for 10,20,30,40 years are very common and attended by all, including teachers still alive, etc.
Being good at everything was actually cooler than being bad, especially if you were pretending you're naturally smart and didn't have to work to achieve that. I never understood how come kids in American TV are bullied for being smarter than the others, usually being smart is an advantage. On the other hand if you worked hard for grades or (even worse) were a favorite of some teacher and sucked up to her - you were a "kujon" and that was very uncool.
So everybody pretended they are brilliant and never study for even 10 minutes just know everything :)
But as an American someone in their mid-40s...can anecdotally say it was definitely true in the 80s-90s.
It's a senseless/strange phenomenon that definitely existed but seems to have naturally died off. Guessing it's related to the increasing amount of tech-billionaires during this time. In general in American society, people with money are considered "cool".
At the end of the day, if kids are struggling, they're going to feel frustrated. And they're going to take it out on the physically weakest kids and the ones who are most making them look bad by being good at school if they're not separated, protected, or somehow made mutually engaged (all of which are expensive things to implement). I don't think it has anything to do with anti intellectualism personally.
Basically the adult cops undercover as high school students try to make a first day impression and they sortof trash academics and try to intimidate kids interested in studying etc. So they try to be stereotypical 80s/90s popular kids. It spectacularly backfires and they have to change their approach. It's actually a surprisingly insightful scene in the context of this discussion.
But I think you are wrong on "nerd" thing. Which doesn't mean technical excellence or excellence on a particular subject. "Nerd" means being weird while somehow interested in some technical matters.
There were a lot of "cool" kids doing great at math, physics or programming.
According to Mirriam-Webster, a nerd is "an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person".
> an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person
I was definitely unstylish, that's for sure, and I was no Adonis, that was also certain, but the good thing is that back in the day that didn't matter, how you looked and dressed as a kid didn't matter. I only had 2 pairs of jeans for my 4 years of high-school because that was all my parents could afford to buy me back then, but to be honest I wasn't aware of that back then. I'm afraid nowadays things are completely opposite.
In the United State there is an extreme anti-intellectual bias among conservative middle and lower class whites.
On the contrary, progressives in the US outright reject factual information and statistics and instead focus on political correctness and feelings.
There are many anti-intellectuals on both sides.
It's shown in 180 countries worldwide and very popular internationally (Including Russia):
While I don't necessarily love the show, I've known many PHD students from China, Taiwan, and Korea that absolutely love the show. Hardly from countries that "don't value intellect".
"This permeates western culture across the board,"
I can't speak for Australia, but I went to high school in the US during the 90s. The 'cool' kids weren't necessarily anti-intellectual, they were just more social and were well versed in the ability to make friends. Most were in the top 10 in terms of grades at our school and I didn't go to a specialized or private school.
The 'nerds' and unpopular kids weren't necessarily smart either. Many had Aspergers or were on the autism spectrum, which means they most likely won't do well in social situations and most likely won't ever be popular.
Others were just anti-social or were just never taught how to make friends or be a friend.
Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory is supposed to depict someone like this.
It's easy to say we aren't popular because we are smarter than everyone else, but the actual reasons are much more nuanced.
"The other factor is that westerners really love to coddle and infantalise their children. A 12 year old in Russia is basically treated as a small adult with the associated respect and responsibilities. A 12 year old here is treated (and behaves) like a large baby."
I suppose this is just the result of living in a stable and safe country. 12 year olds aren't adults and shouldn't take on adult responsibilities. It's sad to me that there are children out there that can't actually be kids for awhile, which is something you can never get back as an adult.
Anecdotally, and based on depictions in movies and TV, status for American kids is directly related to how well they do at sports. Doing well in your subjects and "trying" in class can either lead to ostracisation at worst or at best doesn't make a difference to your social status.
Whereas in other places, such as where I grew up, kids who tried hard and did well in their subjects had the highest social status. They were the "coolest", in the eyes of their peers. Rewards in status meant that such effort was positively reinforced.
You know how Hermione Granger is thought to be a know-it-all and insufferable? I could never understand that. Where I grew up she'd have been the most popular kid. Most other kids would have wished they could be more like her.
If you pick 10 random people in Russia and ask them about this show, all 10 will either not have heard of it or react with disdain. I have no idea where you get the notion that it's popular in Russia.
> It's easy to say we aren't popular because we are smarter than everyone else
I was popular in Russia. Then I had difficulty fitting in at the Australian school until I learned to act like an idiot and not reveal my 'nerdy' (a word that doesn't even have an equivalent in Russian) hobbies and interests outside of select circles. The same hobbies and interests that were perfectly average in Russia - electronics, astronomy, chess, that kind of thing. After that I fit in again. It's pretty hard to interpret this as some sort of social issues like you claim. I think you lack perspective on this. This is also the same culture that teaches teenage girls to act dumb in order to appear more attractive, which is pretty well studied at this point and will hopefully die now that it's in the public eye.
> It's sad to me that there are children out there that can't actually be kids for awhile
As one of the kids who would match your label, I think it's sad that children here are artificially held back from their natural maturation in order for the parents to selfishly extend the baby phase for their own enjoyment. Nor does this coddling have anything to do with stability. Plenty of stable countries across Europe where kids are allowed to grow at their natural pace, including several first-hand accounts in the comments section here. This is also why you'll find significantly lower age limits for things like consumption of alcohol, drugs, sexual activity in those same countries.
Coming back to the OP topic, soviet textbooks are 'hardcore' because the pupils are 2-4 years more mentally mature than their western counterparts due to cultural and education system differences. It's as simple as that.
I wonder how many languages actually do have an equivalent. Maybe English is the only one?
When I translate something to Slovak, I also struggle with the word 'nerd'. We do not have a word for this concept. A close one is "bifľoš", which means a person who puts a lot of effort into memorizing school material, but it is implied that the person does not truly understand it. Another one is "kockáč", which means a math-oriented person. But we do not have a word that means: a weird person, because they actually study and understand something.
To me it seems that America is like "no child left behind", while Russia and Eastern Europe are like "if a child gets behind, wolves will eat them, who cares, at least it motivates others to run faster". :D
And that's why it has 8.6 on Kinopoisk? I don't like it either, but imaginary statistic is not a statistic and your social circle is not the whole country.
> I learned to act like an idiot and not reveal my 'nerdy' (a word that doesn't even have an equivalent in Russian)
Of course it does have an equivalent, it's "задрот" if you're being mean or "ботан" you're old enough to actually have used that.
While this is true, I think we often don't give kids enough credit either. Around that age they can be quite capable.
I think we've gone too far the other way and just don't push kids whatsoever, so now most 18 year olds are completely clueless as they head into college. This is compounded by USA's growing anti-intellectualism where we're proud to be bad at math, argue about having to study literature, and so on.
> It's shown in 180 countries worldwide and very popular internationally (Including Russia):
I can make this same argument about a Korean tv show called Running Man, which is indeed popular abroad... to niche audiences, like me. :-) I probably wouldn't argue with a Russian person about what shows are popular in their country, though.
You are confusing popularity with agreement with the anti-intellectual undertones.
I landed on my feet as a programmer, thankfully, but not until the depression set in and my performance in sixth form and university utterly plummetted. Impossible expectations, zero family support (never good enough and never doing the right thing _for them_).
Hearing stories about the different priorities in Russia and Latvia, from my various friends who came frmo there, made me feel quite envious, although I only heard the good parts of it (like learning multiple languages from a young age).
It's definitely not just the education system that's to blame (although the repeated hammering it takes from successive governments is an issue), there's definitely a wider cultural issue where it's almost cooler to be ignorant.
The USSR coasted its first half of existence milking Tsarist legacy of science and engineering, then the other half copying the intellectual fruits of supposedly dumb Western jocks.
Modern Russia isn't even half of that.
Precious little to show for all the cheek puffing and talent grooming.
I call it "preserving tradition."
Post-Stalin they had an opportunity to develop their schools of science but it's only so much a few, even dedicated, individuals can do. By 1990 these efforts largely fizzed out.
As a Chinese student who studied in Australia for a few years I think you just misunderstand the culture.
Most of the popular kids got good grades and were not labelled as nerds. And the nerd kids didn’t really get good grades either.
I think Australians are very practical focused (maybe this is what you mean by anti-intellectual?).
For example the friends I know who wanted to do medicine and law - and are now successful doctors and lawyers - stopped focusing on maths at the end of grade 10.
This would put them way behind in math than an equivalent Chinese student who also wanted to be a doctor or lawyer but as far as I can tell it hasn’t had any negative impact on their careers.
Many great discoveries come from linking different disciplines. I hope there is more to live than just a career. I am very grateful for the broad spectrum I've been given.
Chances are they took a basic Epidemiology class -- or a class that had it as a component -- and covered "Stat for medical workers." And that should be enough.
Whether currently available statistics training is even adequate to the task of teaching this skill is a separate question, the answer to which is unclear to me.
I think you will find that your bar would exclude the overwhelming majority of doctors.
I had friends who came to Australia after starting their education in Singapore, and they were continually shocked how far behind we were. It's honestly gob-smacking how little is being done about this, we're doing a massive disservice to our young people which they will have to overcome for the rest of their lives.
Is this actually the case? Much of the most useful science & software comes from people educated in the Americas and Western Europe. I think that non-western schooling methodologies under-value problem solving and overvalue "raw" knowledge.
They have the basics, motivation, and opportunities.
Those that stay in poor countries don't have opportunities nor motivation. Those that come from rich countries don't have the basics nor motivation.
It's a generalization, of course.
>It's a generalization, of course
But there is a lot of truth to this.
One other thing that i have noticed, is that in "rich" countries, knowledge of trivial and basic stuff are celebrated in the name of "positive reinforcement". This gives students the false idea that they have "mastered" something while they have just started learning. IMO, this is extremely harmful to the student's psychology.
Of course, case point 1, comparing 'gymnasium' (more theoretical study-focused high school instead of say practical crafts, good preparation for university) with some US public high school.
Schools back home have gone 'softer' on students since we studied (don't all complain at some point about that?), so maybe now its more comparable.
The thing is, hardcore math skills apparently don't have that high impact on overall functioning economy. More open society, freedom to pursue ones dreams, freedom to try your own business idea (and fail hard if stars don't align) make overall a better functioning economy.
I talked to a couple of friends about this, and about 1/2 had similar course offerings.
I know nothing about your history, but usually moving to a new country means you are now an immigrant and by definition have less privilege than before, even if you can't immediately notice it.
Another hypothesis is that you left an elitist good school in russia and joined a not-so elite school in Australia. You could have done the same in Russia just by moving to a slightly cheaper neighborhood. Confirming the parent poster you were replying to.
Can anyone comment on how this translates into results in adulthood, in the current age?
Do we see more discoveries in fundamental science, more inventions, better medical care, or better-run businesses?
As I don't speak Russian or Chinese, I don't really have a fair view and it would be easy for me to mistakenly under-estimate what the graduates of these schools get up to.
University education fixes these problems. People who only finish high-school rarely do science later in life.
Ultimately, regardless of how the high school education level might be, these countries win out.
Nerd is different in that it's more about interests. If you're interested in any kind of science, biology, history, literature you're a nerd. Anime nerd is also a valid combination but it wouldn't work for 'kujon' because there's no repetition.
In Russia it used to be pretty common to see chess players in a park or train. Books readers were also more common in public spaces than in Poland. Russia has many problems for sure, but it has certain respect for intellectuals, composers etc.
Level of school while it is supposed to be same is night and day. The special Math/Physics school is one thing, but under that there are “good” schools in the city, ok, shitty then you have countryside etc
Same thing applies to other countries. Depending on where you went to school in same city you experience can be vastly different. Some school in let’s say Toronto have A- Math in high school average, other 20mins by bicycle can be C-. In Moscow you can have an awesome school, take metro for 30 mins and only thing you are learning is how to not get shit beaten out of you during a class break.
I went to a very good city school in Kyiv till grade 8, then specialized Math/Physics school from then on(I was bottom of the barrel at the new school in Math ouch). I used to come to my old school sometimes to hangout, level was absolutely different as in nobody there could solve a single problem in my home work. University exam at KGU in physics I took 1 hours instead of 3. But this is a trick. Once you get in second round of weeding out starts, I remember the breakdown people had after first couple tests. People who had 5 on all subjects their whole life, but they went to normal school. I think more then half of them did not make it through first semester.
I then left to Canada and went to middle of the road University there for Comp Sci. Honestly I liked it far more. It was more fun and flexible in terms of what you could take and learn, I could do a minor in Economics half way through because I liked it. I could work as research assistant in later and actually get my name on a paper and then go to a conference in Vegas :)
Australia is terrible at maths given its levels of wealth. By one measure students in Kazakhstan perform better.
This would be a national scandal if not for the anti-intellectualism that pervades the nation.
This is one of the reasons I think Australia (my home country) is in big trouble economically in the long-term.
tv.sohu is one of the largest streaming sites in China.
EDIT: My recollection is poor, long division and the associated concepts like fractions and decimals may have been later and spread out over more years, but I'm sure there were at least 2 to 3 wasted years in my mathematics education.
In my experience (left high school in the early 2000s), the kids who were bullied were the kids regarded as "weird", smart kids were mostly left alone or blended into popular groups. The "weird" kids were mostly kids with obvious issue. Social maladjustment, visible poverty, autism spectrum disorders, or just being unkempt. There is some overlap here with smart kids, largely due to autism.
The reason this narrative exists is that a lot of the children with issues told themselves they were bullied because they were smarter than everyone else, even though that wasn't the reality. I don't know if this was them internalizing the hollywood stereotype, or hollywood playing to an existing narrative. It's perhaps more tragic that kids who were already at a disadvantage were the ones who were bullied, but it makes more sense and is the actual reality as I experienced it.
Edit: I mean that in the Eastern block you were better off in mathematics than in things like physics and chemistry. This holds for countries with historically diverging cultures from the Russians too (like Poland and Hungary).
Edit 2: I think perhaps it is also worth mentioning that you have "hardcore" on the one side and then pure artistic poetry on the other side. I've heard that French mathematics is a pleasure to read as it is both hardcore mathematics and well written prose. Some of the limitations on the Russian texts was also imposed by other restrictions: For example, the articles often had to be shorter than the authors would have wanted.
> this weird anti-intellectualism culture that just doesn't exist in Russia
Anti-intellectualism does exist in Russia. Read for example Edward Frenkel's autobiographical works.
My speculation: This hasn't anything to do with the "eastern-ness" of a countries culture – but rather the ROI for education / medicine, which looks quite different under a communist economy, under which so many other endeavours scale so much worse.
Great point! I might add that this is also true of many "third world" countries even without Communism.
A few of my family members are teachers (in both private and government schools) and from what I hear there is not yet much of a shift away from the anti-intellectual culture.
Seems a bit exaggerated to me. At my high school (in the US) the cool kids were just the more socially outgoing kids. Some of them had great grades and others not so much. It was the same in the 'nerds' group.
From my experience academic achievement didn't really have any bearing at all on the social group you fell into.
But I guess experiences will vary....there are pretty huge differences in public school quality across the US and even within one local school district.
I think that image of high school has some truth to it, as I graduated high school a couple years before the movie came out and it was already beginning to change. Kids playing pokemon at lunch were the same kids on the varsity sports teams. It was okay to like video games, and to be upset about getting a C on a test. The image of bullies as "cool kids" was changing to "kids whose parents probably never told them they love them" - and everybody knew it. The cool kids are nice now. Not totally sure if the shift has continued in the last 7 years, but it is definitely happening.
So it is with the kids. I don’t think there was a lot of “participation trophies” and idea that “you’re a winner just for trying”. It was realistic. Women in Russia are told to look beautiful by their mothers, for example, and they are expected wear makeup and heels just going out to the store or to work. Imagine a US mother saying that.
STEM in Russia and China’s schools is wayyy more advanced than USA.
Not just in Moscow but every city center in every former Soviet republic. It’s one of the things the Communists really instilled early on after taking over backwaters (at the time) like Uzbekistan (along with equal rights for women, 95% literacy and electricity). Compare that to pre-revolutionary Cuba or Hawaii, for instance, that USA took over.
I think right around Sputnik time and the cold war, the US had a major STEM crisis and started trying to teach math more. But really, most of our brightest students are just imported - and they’re happy to come.
Gonna drop this one in there, from Dr Kaku, on a panel discussing this exact question:
As an Australian nerd who got higher than average grades, it's not accurate in the slightest to generalize your experiences to my entire country and I haven't seen the anti-intellectualism you claim is there.
When I was in high school I was very much a nerd. Good grades, tried to win the approval of teachers, head in a book, never played sports, interested in chess and video games.
I definitely did not fit in. Making friends was difficult, I was teased and all the things I gather you had issues with.
However I also had a close friend who despite sharing my interests and grades, was also much more outgoing, participated in sports and was generally well-liked. He had no troubles at all fitting in.
To strengthen the counter-example even more, in grade 9, all of the highest academic achievers got put in the same class. These people did not have issues.
So intelligence clearly wasn't the problem. What I think the problem was is that I was quiet, shunned sports, kept to myself and occasionally saw my brains as making me better than other people. That's what led to the ostracizm that might be misinterpreted as anti-intellectualism.
Also, all traces of this were well and truly gone by years 11 and 12. At this point everyone is doing what they can to get into their chosen university so they can't criticize you for doing the same.
> A 12 year old in Russia is basically treated as a small adult with the associated respect and responsibilities. A 12 year old here is treated (and behaves) like a large baby.
I'm married to a Russian and my mother in law is a high school English teacher in Russia. I think you're very much overgeneralizing in these cases too.
Perhaps in some cities and families 12 year-olds are expected to behave the way you claim but it's definitely not universal. There are plenty of 12 year-olds who are allowed to be children in Russia.
> > Even the accelerated programs were hopelessly behind the regular curriculum for my age group in Russia.
Which curriculum? They vary by state. I believe the curriculum for maths and sciences in Victoria (my state) was very similar to the International Baccalaureate (I compared topics with students in that program).
If you want to point at an area in which Russia is significantly different, I'd point at the arts. In Russia children are expected to study and learn poetry and read literature from a very early age all the way through high school. It's not at all frowned upon. Boys choosing to learn "feminine" things like ballroom dancing also seems to be well accepted from what I've seen.
The biggest difference wasn't separating kids into math classes and language classes, but genrally separating them by "good" and "bad". Having a random mix of students, where some can barely read, and others read two books per week (or some can barely multiply, while others code math problems for fun), is a very hard job for the professor, because in the end, they have to lower their standards, expectations, and the quantity of material until most students scrape by. Having a group of students that are good at "school stuff", means the teachers are having very little problems with the basics and can continue faster and prepare students better for university and life. If we had separation for stem-talented students, and language-talented and *-talented, it would be even better.
So basically... group better students together, and you can do a lot more with them, if you don't have to pull the 'bad' students behind. I am aware that this is bad for 'bad' students, and that it should be fixable somehow (they should have options to move to better schools), but good students thrive without idiots in class.
Anecdotally, a Finnish friend told me that if you excel at one subject, you are encouraged by teachers to stop doing it, and instead spend more time learning the other subjects.
One problem is that Small-fish-in-big-pond-effect, a good chunk of us realized there that we weren't special anymore, there wasn't the honor and praise for being top- and consequently that drive was lost.
Plus, once some schools become well established and start to attract highly talented kids- kind of kids who can do well by themselves without much external help, the school itself, I mean teachers and administrators, doesn't have to be very good. Their success starts to depend more on their ability to attract talent, and less on actually nurturing and developing them. Past success bring more success- a sort of virtuous cycle.
One such disrupter can take away easilly 10 minutes of a class hour, and 1/3 of the class not understanding basics, means the teacher has to try again and again to teach them the things they should already know, while the rest of tle class stagnates.
Available AP classes/tests include STEM...so Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, Biology, etc.
Three times a week all the Russian kids were rounded up for "Russian Math," taught by, Arkady... my friend Mike's Dad. They followed the Russian/Soviet curriculum, which was 2-3 years ahead of the school's.
I think we focus a lot of educational systems, because these are matters of policy which can be critiqued and maybe changed. But, I think culture plays a big role.
My mother has PHD in physics, so its not like I'm from an anti-math culture. But, the Russian take was a different level. Being mathematical was very important to them, and they made it happen.
A good example for this is language learning. In some schools/places/countries/communities, language learning is culturally important and culturally supported. In those places schooling works, and kids graduate with strong language abilities. In other places, it isn't, and kids generally don't progress regardless of what classes they are in.
Europe is like a lab for this. Most Dutch kids graduate with native-level english, and often a 3rd and 4th language. In Italy, kids have almost no english. Modern young-people Dutch borrows a lot of English. They watch English TV. English is part of the culture, so the schooling works.
I failed in taking math study seriously at that point as everything was so easy. When things did get hard at some point in high school and I had to learn new things, I no longer had the discipline to really commit. Also there was no strict grandmother to make me study math for hours after school or on Saturdays anymore. I really regret not having the foresight to stay committed to it now. I did end up taking "advanced" math classes through high school, but my level of commitment and understanding was never what it could have been.
oh god.. I failed because of this too. By the time I got to college I was so weak I sunk to the bottom in less than 3 weeks. An .. interesting experience.
There are probably more people on the long tail of math talent here so it's understandable their impressions on the two systems are much different. OP's comment also talked about the pipeline for gifted kids and he concurred that the Soviet style is effective for training those students.
Oh, and the maths/physics/etc. competitions started at neighborhood level, so every school would typically send at least a few kids, and encourage the kids who were better at the subjects to do well. I went to neighborhood biology/history/etc. competitions too, but never did very well. I assume whoever did well in those and went into next rounds could go on to enroll into a different set of specialized schools :)
Also, some parents did enroll their kids straight into those schools, but I dunno how prevalent that is. They are very ability focused, unlike US private schools that I've heard of where money and helicopter parenting seem to be a major factor.
As a side note, my friend did enroll into #2, and I didn't go because was too lazy to commute 40mins one way when my own school was a 3-minute walk (it was a subway trip for him as is, so I'd like to think that was the difference ;)). We've both done well for ourselves but he's definitely much better at math now.
Now, living in a western European country I found in a hard way that the key to a better education for your talented kid hides in your bank account.
Don't get me wrong, I in no way support Soviet system, but this was one of the things they did good.
It tricked me, until I read the link.
The converse claim (every multiple of 3 has a digit sum that is a multiple of 3) is a more natural one for induction, though that's not the most standard proof there either.
n = Sum(d_k 10^k)
Let S = sum of digits = Sum(d_k)
n - S = Sum(d_k (10^k - 1))
But (10^k - 1) = ((9 + 1)^k - 1) = ((1 + k*9 + (2 choose k)*9^2 + ... + 9^k) - 1)
by binomial expansion so is divisible by 9.
Therefore n - S is divisible by 9, so n is divisible by 9 iff S is.
The same is true when you replace divisibility by 9 with divisibility by 3.
I don't remember precisely what it was we were asked to prove. It may have been the converse.
100x + 10y + z modulo 3
Removing 9y and 99x gives equivalence:
x + y + z modulo 3
Now what’s left is induction with proper base (1-digit).
Hah, that mirrors my wife’s experience in Riga - she came second and first in national physics competitions for two years, and was twice invited to enroll in a different school - but she stayed put, because she didn’t want to have to change trams twice, rather than a direct trolley bus. She’s happy with her choice.
I think that I was very lucky to get in and it was the most valuable part of my overall education. It taught me many things. That there are other people who are much smarter than me and it's OK (and may be I'm not smart enough to do math as a science for a living). A lot of mathematical intuition, about very non-mathematical things, all the way to poetry. How to structure your thought, attack your own arguments and prove something - or discover that the proposition you were trying to prove was false to begin with. (Apart from state-mandated math program, we had our own, with special lessons, where we wouldn't need to calculate or find anything. The only activity was to try and prove theorems and lemmas that you didn't know the proofs of.) That despite years of experience of being a weirdo and a nerd I can finally find a social circle where I can feel normal and accepted. In fact, 15 years after graduation we still have an active Discord server where 8 people were streaming some video games and chilled in voice chat just last night.
So, I think that when you filter kids not only by some "IQ-by-proxy" tests but also by what later get the name "culture fit", and let them coexist together for a few years, it can be a very powerful and life-changing thing. Not everyone such a good experience, of course - but a lot of us did.
Edit: btw, I don’t know how I actually got these invites. Either from math competitions, or through my math teachers who found a way to get rid of me ;)
Almost certainly from the math competitions. Nikolay Konstantinov  had his apartment full of boxes of punched cards with data on every high school student who produced at least a partial solution to any of the advanced problems at those competitions.
It makes sense to isolate together those who can. The special schools don't do anything special, they just cut down the distractions, shift 0.5-2 university years into the school and spice things up with some competitive math/physics/programming/chemistry/biology/geography/etc.
> the socioeconomical situation is exactly the same (because communism)
Not true at all. It might look that way to an american, but there are things like social capital, and it's not even true for financial capital. From USA perspective we were all equally poor, but from our perspective and "in our world", 300 vs 900 usd monthly wage is (was) a huuuuuge difference.
You have to consider that my parents and parents of my former classmates were raised during actual communism. Do you know how they raised children during communism? They beat them, because disobedience could mean death or lifelong prison or being sent to uranium mines - for the whole family. One bad word was all it took. And many parents haven't yet realized, even today's, that this is not the correct way. On top of that, during the 90's, rampant corruption has emerged, then the economical crisis, etc.
And then of course the teachers - their role during communism was different that what it should really be today, and many have not realized yet.
About the beatings: it's more about the Russian culture, it's even kinda normal for the husband-wife relationships in some regions. To the West there was less of it.
Sounds like something from a school history textbook. It was way more complicated than that; the "ruling minority" or proximity to it was nearly irrelevant to most people (and also a direct threat - you stayed away from these people and their 'friends' as much as you could), what mattered more was your street's communist committee, the teachers at schools, if you wanted to have nicer (or any at all) stuff, then you had to know the shopkeepers, if you wanted your child to go to a high school, you had to know the principal, if you wanted your child to go to university, then the whole family had to have a clean and pro-communist record, if you wanted to visit a doctor, you had to know them or bring something (not necessarily money - money was not that useful), if you wanted to have a okay-ish workplace then... (I could go on forever)
In my previous comments, I was talking mainly about the 90's and early 00's - post-communism. I'm also not a Russian, I'm as west as communism got.
For the positions like for example even drivers for the high party members it starts getting unequal.
And about the nineties: inequality in the nineties is weird because very large amount of the criminals who got rich didn't bother to educate their children. Of course, some part of them opted for expensive teachers/schools or for sending children to the Western schools, but the "getting by force" attitude of the parents didn't really mesh well with learning.
Of course there are countries that had it even worse, like Hungary and Romania, and the states that broke off the Soviet Union.
In the 80s and 90s some attempts were made to try to escape this reality by changing the question. Multiple-factor intelligence models were proposed and widely accepted by pop-psychology, but most academics acknowledge now that there is some general intelligence level, a "g-factor".
Anecdotal - I always remember my aunt who was a literature teacher. She always stuck to those ideas and told me that it's obvious that there are different types of talents, because there are people that are good at maths, but do a lousy job in her classes. What she did acknowledge once though, was that people that were good at maths were also the ones that have been writing the best essays from all of her students. There was something that underpined their skills in both areas, but since they knew that they can achive something real in maths they probably did not try so hard to "pick the right key" in interpretive literature tasks. On the other hand for those students that were a bit slower literature was the only field that thay could perform well. Good literature students did not have any particular field in maths that they could perform well in. They stuck to literature, because they could memorize all the important answers and boast that they poses some innate talent.
Anecdotal 2 - Sure, there are some kids that could perform in one area better than in the other, but in my experience this variance is overshadowed by the difference between kids that can do ALL things well and kids that can do NO things well.
EDIT: A nice example of the multi-factor intelligence "scam" are the books from D. Goleman in "Emotional Intelligence" series. They were mostly targeted for middle management people and were very in line with the whole trend. The main motive is that emotional intelligence is a much bigger factor than general intelligence in the context of career progression and overall success in life. What was not made obvious is that the comparisons were done in environments of people that were already successful. If you take a group of people that have a high iq level, then it's very possible that the most successful will be the ones that can work with people a little better. Unfortunately it's not sufficient to be a peoples person to achieve high efficiency in such environments. The "hidden" conclusion was: GI + EI > GI; EI < GI; GI + GI < GI + EI (at least to some degree). There were also some unresolved questions - can you really possess EI without a sufficient level of GI? Isn't EI just a form of GI? In summary there was a lot more of nitpicking of definitions than actual science. It all felt like p-value hacking on language level.
In addition, schools are funded based on standardized test scores, which encourages many schools, especially in poorer areas, to teach to the tests—instead of teaching students to think.
Witness all the accelerated programs that have been shut down, the many recent attacks on objective standards—all in the name of “equity” (which does not mean equality of value, treatment, or opportunity—it means creating equal outcomes by whatever means is available —consider the implications carefully).
Universities are being forced to grapple with these ideas, with the core question being “does our university still value the pursuit of truth, critical thinking, and free inquiry above all else, or will we acknowledge that ‘people from oppressed classes have a truth unto themselves that cannot be taught but must be respected, and all opposing viewpoints must be shut down’?”
If this movement hasn’t yet affected you, it will soon. It’s ripping apart social groups all over the place.
(I can give examples of all I’ve described in the morning if you’re interested. I’m just tapping this out before bed.)
What you write sounds plausible, but it also mirrors a lot of what we hear from the right that is at times overstated.
I'd love to hear a set of sober examples- I don't have any connection to early education anymore and I'm really curious.
This is in the US/UK.
The problem is, these students are not coming here to learn how we're all equal, they're paying for a degree that proves they're very much not equal to about a billion people back home (compare the median wage in China with the cost of a one-year MSc in the UK for example).
That's also why most of our Covid-19 planning is around how do we deal with the income loss if 50% fewer international students enrol next year, the options seem to be government bailout or bust.
So there may be an unspoken rule in some places that you don't criticise the latest theories on diversity, but there's an even more unspoken rule that you don't publicly apply them to the situation in Tibet or Urumqi.
It will be extremely interesting to see how these two pressures interact over the coming decade.
New York City has (or had?) an active effort in place to cancel/dismantle "gifted" programs in primary and secondary education. Here's the PDF released by their committed last August: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/1c478c_f14e1d13df45444c883bbf... . There are lots of other examples of this phenomenon around the country... I doubt I need to come up with more examples now.
Notably, the University of Chicago came firmly down on the side of free inquiry: http://provost.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/documents/re...
An excellent, charitable, clear-minded discussion on critical theory in general: https://youtu.be/p6DnHxuuXI4
Here's a good introduction to many of the practical, everyday consequences of CRT/I's influence in American culture. It's an interview with Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay (this is part 1, and I think there are 3 or 4 parts in total): https://youtu.be/YDFL3xwEEG8
-- that last one in particular, if you watch the whole thing, is chock full of great examples.
Hope that's helpful. That's all I was able to find in the time I had.
If you accept this point of view - and lots of educators past and present have done so, including white male ones - then the student slogan "Why is my curriculum white?" makes sense. Would a stock of common background knowledge (for want of a better word) be that much less effective if it included slightly less Hemingway and Twain and slightly more contributions from more diverse authors? So the argument goes, if (to simplofy a lot) white kids learn about white culture at home and black kids learn about black culture, but the test to get a good job includes the "culture fit" part of can we hold a conversation based on the kinds of analogies and forms of speech you learn at college, then it's (1) unfair if the thing you learn at college just happens to be "white culture" and (2) even more so if a more diverse college education would serve _exactly the same purpose_.
The million dollar question is whether (2) is true. I personally think it mostly is for "arts", mainly because there are different cultures with different languages even within "the west" and several of them seem to work about equally well.
But here's the rub: science doesn't work like that.
There's a philosophical argument that Twain _created_ Huck Finn, but Newton only _discovered_ the laws of motion - if Twain hadn't lived then we might have equally good literature, but it would not be the same. But if Newton hadn't lived, someone else would have discovered F=ma and the like by now, and the formula would be exactly the same.
My main worry is that if the US tries to turn science/tech into liberal arts and China doesn't, then we're creating a new kind of inequality: in a generation or two they will wipe the floor with us. But I'm happy to listen to any argument from the SJ/CRT/I side that doesn't imply us handing over our place in the world to a power who very much believes that all races are not equal.
Meanwhile, countries which no such handicap will rise economically and be able to export more of their own ideologies.
Soviet Union had great schools, doesn't mean their economy was doing well.
The US is still doing well even when its school system and even university system have not really been that great overall.
In practice it hasn’t worked out that way.
Instead it has:
1) Created a cultural barrier between the average Joe and the “liberal elite”.
It turns out that Twain etc are approachable to the average high school diploma American in a way the replacements texts are not.
2) Created a clear divide between minorities who study at elite US universities and the rest of us.
For example there is a level of alienation between Chinese tech workers who went to college in the US vs other Chinese tech workers here.
3) Created a group of “liberal elite” who think they can speak on behalf of, and even lead, other cultural groups when what they have learned isn’t representative of those cultures at all.
My understanding is that you're saying there is a causal link between admission programs being shutdown and CRT/I, and that the particular aspect of CRT/I that causes this is an insistence on equal outcomes across social groups. I'd be interested to first establish what the actual statistics are wrt gifted and talented student programs - are the closing faster than they opening? Are they shrinking or expanding? Where approaches have changed, are the outcomes definitely worse? etc.
Does this mean we are discounting material possibilities, such as just not having enough money or changing demands/restrictions on expenditure? Accelerated programs sound a lot like arts programs - easy to cut with minimal blowback. Are we also discounting that providing fair access to accelerated programs turned out to be far more complicated than we originally thought and that the choice has been to cut rather than spend money on extra tests and more qualified staff? CRT/I [aren't the only academic source](https://sci-hub.tw/10.1080/02783190609554382) of critique these programs receive.
I'd also contest your definition of equity in CRT/I as an overriding principle ('equality of outcomes by whatever means available' and implicitly, regardless of the consequences). CRT/I uses the principle of equity - that outcomes should be proportionate across social groups and that unequal outcomes must be accounted for. The vast majority of CRT/I scholarship explicitly focuses on 'leveling-up' outcomes, and where this focus is not explicit it is normally implicit (in that the paper would not otherwise make much sense, or the prospect of reducing everyone's outcomes to the lowest common denominator is a rhetorical tool).
‘people from oppressed classes have a truth unto themselves that cannot be taught but must be respected, and all opposing viewpoints must be shut down’: This is a misreading of CRT/I, and one that I suggest highlights its value. CRT/I asserts that everybody has a point of view and way of seeing the world that is affected by their various interlocking identities and experience. There are plenty of aspects of life were we generally accept the necessity and uniqueness of experience as a kind of knowledge - jobs, parenting, relationships, etc. Why should race, gender or class be different? However I'd argue that this assertion gets us closer to the truth. Accounting for bias in science and acknowledging how fundamental it is to people and instruments gets us better science, not worse, even if its harder. "all opposing viewpoints must be shutdown", seems to be a strawman: No reading of CRT/I demands this, in fact most of the literature consists of patient, often quantitative, critiques of systems (law, education, science, public health, etc). So if anything, CRT/I furthers the ideals you see it as threatening.
Equal opportunity does not imply equal outcome—even for a perfectly fair school. Quite the opposite! In fact, I’m glad I got rejected from several schools... their high bar helped guide me to something that worked better for me anyway.
I think this is exactly the wrong thinking about taxes. And it's abused by pundits and politicians by making people spend the same money many times in their head. I mean, you can't be simultaneously outraged that "your tax money" supports elite schools and abortion clinics and the military; you don't pay that much of a tax. In fact, an average taxpayer's contribution would amount to buying some office supplies for one, small government building.
Money is fungible, and by the time enough is collected to fund a school, there's no "my money" in there anymore, much like if you take a fistful of sand from your yard and throw it on a beach nearby, there is no more "your sand".
The opposite was recently litigated - that top universities were inequitable because they didnt sufficiently consider scholastic achievement:
They don't want equal opportunity, they reject that something like that even exists as opportunity is always unequal. Only transformation of society to communism in the end will 'solve' those problems.
So yes, in their opinion all of this stuff is evil and bad and should be replaced with ... something better. Of course they couldn't really tell you how that would look like.
Born gifted in Govneevka, Kirov obl., pop. 20,000? Good luck.
from someone, born in the system:
Our (Romania's) education system was (is) the same, if you were GOOD at something there were plenty of paths that teachers would generally push you towards, special clubs for maths, languages, art (less common). Or schools who would try to group together highly skilled students.
System (after communism) has the same flaw, most rural areas have worse access to education, or better said, much worse quality of education.
That is exactly right. The other people commenting to the contrary don't seem to know what they're talking about. Even in public schools it was common across the US until the late 1990s to have separate programs and classes (almost always referred to as "gifted" in some regard) for superior students. It wasn't viewed as unfair either, it was common and it was a point of pride to be in those classes, to be selected as a higher tier student.
Something changed in the last 20 years where treating students differently became considered unfair. The everybody gets a trophy syndrome took over.
Straight from the horses mouth.
First person) Every teacher who's using it basically is saying this is inspiring a closer and more engaged student body. So the people that are actually using it like it. And again in terms of the local control, you still have local control. So if you want higher standards, if that's really, if that is your genuine point, then you can go ahead and do it. You can do the higher standard. And the process was indeed totally transparent. And when [garbled] we'll move on to David and Bill.
Second person) Um, I'm not paid to be here either. I'm just an interested teacher who helped write the standards. And the reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society I'm given a lot of privilege that I didn't earn. And as a result ... [scattered boos from the audience] ... I think it's really important that all kids have an equal opportunity to learn how to read. I think I had a set of advantages as a result of who I was, not ???. And when I walk into places like Roberto Clemente high school on ??? side of Chicago, I think it's really important those kids learn how to read just as well as I had the opportunity to learn how to read. And ??? created an equitable education opportunity for all kids. I think this is actually the greatest lesson we can teach our kids.
Because the big breakthroughs and innovations in math and science are achieved by the elites and not by the mediocre masses.
This doesn't mean that we should neglect the mediocre masses (I'm one of them, by the way), they do good, important work. But they're are not sufficient.
Surely not the proletariat in modern America, where the vast majority are getting poorer year by year.
I'd like you to explicitly list in which ways I'm "objectively inferior".
And, per Wikipedia, many of the faculty came from Stuyvesant, founded 1904 (which has itself had 4 nobel prize winners).
I'm glad there is khan academy now, but come on.
Re 1-1: the biggest advantage is that students can rediscover things. It’s one experience to read or listen to a proof, and it is completely different experience when you discover it yourself with small hints from the teacher.
Also math tends to have a documentation problem that could learn a lot from software engineering. Single letter variables are not acceptable in most coding for a simple example.
He teaches undergrad level math with his youtube videos in the most intuitive way I've ever seen on video.
You can get some taste of these handouts for grades 8 and above from https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%...
I am absolutely certain nothing like this was available to any kid in my schools growing up.
It's also not an automatic thing, so a parent will have to be informed about the program and have the time to fill out the paperwork, and these schools are also at specific location, so if you live far away you might not be able to get there without difficulty and stress.
All of this puts filters on who gets to go, rather than just making space for everyone who shows interest in certain areas and puts forth effort. It also removes successful students from local schools, the proportion of academically inclined peers goes down, the proportion of bad influences goes up, and the entire school system suffers as a consequence. Ideally these programs should exist in house, expanded or contracted to fit the number of kids scoring >x% on whatever measure.
To get into the highly gifted magnet, you have to request a subsequent test, which the district administers. You have to score above the 99.5 percentile.
Privately, I would look at: https://cty.jhu.edu/
In America, it feels to me ,there are plenty of programs to help the students who don't perform that well. Brilliant kids, outside of various gifted/talented programs, are left unchallenged. My son just qualified to an online math olympiad, and he told his teacher and peers about that (over a zoom meeting, obviously). The teacher was impressed, and commended him, but that's it. He will not give my son any more challenging problems, or give him any extra attention. If he does well in that olympiad, he'll congratulate my son once more, if not, he couldn't care less.
When I was a kid growing up, math/physics olympiads was what I was living for. Here most teachers are not even aware they exist.
Overall though, I'll go against the popular opinion, and state that I consider the school system in America (or at least in NYC) better than the one in Eastern Europe. Sure, some could point out at the ridiculous budget that schools have here ($25k per pupil in NYC ). But all in all, I feel my son's school experience is better than mine 35 years ago.
I went to a top university in the US and there were definitely kids who arrived being much more advanced in certain areas such as mathematics than the rest of us. Maybe it is not as regimented in the US but there are definitely highly talented kids who take much more advanced STEM classes than the average student.
My dad was similarly hyper-tracked: he entered grade school at 7 and graduated at 16 (he grew up in the Philippines, but as part of the expat Filipino-Chinese community, and went to Chinese schools). When my dad tried similarly hyper-tracking me academically (suburban Boston), I got beat up, physically, by my peers. Having been traumatized into becoming a terrible student, I later found out I did much better economically than many of my more academically-diligent college classmates that ended up getting physics Ph.Ds.
The U.S. is fundamentally an exchange economy: you succeed based on how well you can make other people happy. That privileges EQ and social intelligence over IQ and academic intelligence. The USSR was a command economy, and China was an export economy until very recently. Both of those privilege having specific technical skills in areas that are particularly useful to the state, many of which have mathematics and science as a precursor. It wouldn't surprise me if China starts devaluing academic achievement as it transitions from an export economy to an exchange economy. We're already starting to see it with the fuerdai, the children of the new Chinese rich.
This is a problem. Regardless of whether hyper-tracking is beneficial, no kid should have to suffer from this kind of bullying. I don't know why bullying in the U.S. is (or seems to be) so much worse than other countries.
There are many reasons. Parents and students wield too much power in the American school system, and the idea of tying a school's funding to local property taxes makes this worse.
In addition, America lacks the cultural norms of respect and deference for education and educators that are present in more traditional societies like India or China.
Asians always address their parents with words meaning "mother" or "father". Calling them "you" is extremely rude.
We can go on and on how vastly different the norms on respecting parents (and teachers).
There were programs after hours for gifted students but for the first eight years normal hours you were locked in with the other animals there wasn't anything special and it was living hell. Don't think I call my young peers animals for nothing, I do not only carry the emotional scars but also the physical: more than thirty years later it's visible where one of them has bitten my shoulder at the age of 13. I ran away from the school very early once and my father practically dragged me back and I was contemplating suicide when I was 9.
Doing a lot of those after hour programs and an ungodly amount of luck and goodwill made me pass the admittance exam of the best special maths high school class in Hungary. You know those question where they ask what you would do differently in your life if you could do it again? Well, I would tell 13.5 yrs old me to do the goddamned homework for the preparation course! One of the homework questions was the entrance exam and I mostly fubbed it and as I learned much later one of the two teachers didn't want to admit me while the other saw something... It makes me shudder to think of my life if I hadn't gotten in that class...
This runs through to post-secondary education. America's college admissions system is legendarily rife with corruption, even into its basic structure; you think it starts there?
When relocating years later to California for work, locals seemed to have had access to far fewer opportunities in school.
Besides math, as in the OP's observations, foreign language options seemed to only include Spanish, whereas Chicagoland had French, German, Spanish, Latin, and that included some ancient Greek.
Just different opportunities, by school district.
I don't think so, compared to the difference between the US and my country (which is western but closer to USSR/Russia regarding math curriculum). I think you overestimate what the average US high school student learns...
I've seen current students grasping at a calculator the first opportunity they were given.
What happened with NYC’s gifted and talented programs was a perfect example of this idiocy.
I do agree that we should change that.
To have true equality we will need to bring genetic engineering to the masses. Human genetic augmentation seems criminally underfunded and over-restricted to me.
If we find that there are significant, genetically-controlled disparities, how do you suppose we go about treatment? We can't even treat SNP-based disorders yet. Cognitive function is controlled by the complex interaction of multiple genes.
I'm sorry for the cynical response. I'm just annoyed that this approach seems to come up constantly, despite the problem being unproven and the solution not efficacious. As a society, provide people with safe, stable homes and communities, their children with equal education and development-centered nutrition and activity, and keep going for a generation or two while we increase our sophistication with genetic and heritability science. Then we can talk about where differences may lie and how, if at all, to treat them.
But even if the IQ (yes, I can hear the collective groan, but keep reading) difference between a Nigerian and a South Korean is 0% genetic, the within-group differences are still a good 20 points, half of which a genetic engineering program might be able to fix.
We're a long way from being able to do this admittedly, which is why funding and less restrictions would help, but I believe the QALY gains from success would be huge.
Btw: If it does turn out that womb environment is the killer app, the government should try and encourage a massive surrogacy campaign (allowing payment if it doesn't already).
Tons of privilege-this and that (this is normal in the bay area, pretty sure a lot more schools have similar systems) but at the end of the day kids (like me) studied extremely hard for these placement tests.
I completely messed up a French test on purpose, so the teacher had an excuse to put me in the class below. We really didn't like each other, and I did much better being in the top 25% of the middle class, rather than the bottom 25% of the top class.
British teachers call splitting up a year by ability for all subjects "streaming", and just for some classes "setting", and searching with both terms shows there's plenty of debate on the merits of each (or neither) method at all ages. Since I left the UK, it looks like politicians have been trying to get involved.
Ended up failing the elementary school test and was 1 out of 4 in the district who aced the middle school placement test to skip prealgebra (math 6 to algebra directly). Much of this can't be done nowadays because of common core.
By the time I went through precalc and calc at MV I realized maybe I should've taken a slower math sequence XD