[IAEP] Comments on David Kokorowski, David Pritchard and "Mastering" Educational SW

Alan Kay alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 2 07:49:58 EDT 2009

Hi Subbu

Here's one way to look at this...

IQ - What if you had an "IQ" of 500, but were born in 10,000 BC. You would not be able to make a lot of progress. For example, Leonardo was very smart but couldn't come up with the engines his vehicle designs needed in order to work -- he was born in the wrong century for what he wanted to do.

Knowledge - On the other hand, Henry Ford was not nearly as smart as Leonardo, but was born at a very good time and in a good place, so he was able to combine engineering and production inventions to make millions of inexpensive automobiles.

Outlook - what made Henry Ford powerful (and most other things today) was an enormous change in Outlook (you called it a paradigm shift) which we can symbolize by invoking Newton.

"Knowledge is Silver, but Outlook is Gold" (IQ is Lead ... because most worthwhile problems we want to work on and solve are beyond mere IQ)

In other words, most human cultures accumulate and use a lot of knowledge (this is what a culture is all about) that is used to survive, to accommodate to the environment and even sometimes thrive. But the knowledge of a traditional society is very different from that of a feudal society which in turn is very different from a technological scientifically based society.

The bug most people have about schools (including many who set up schools) is the idea that they are there to teach knowledge. (Not a bad secondary goal, but it's a very bad idea for it to be the main goal.) Montessori was an early voice who pointed out that the main purpose of schooling (especially early schooling) was to help students learn and deeply internalize the most powerful outlooks that have been discovered/invented by humans. She observed that otherwise children wind up living in the 20th century but with a 10th century (or much earlier) outlook. 

Both farms and schools (and books) can be limited or can be great learning environments for certain kinds of things. Historically, changes of outlook rarely happen on a farm, but sometimes happen in a school or from reading. Being around adults who have interesting outlooks works the best for most kids. 

I was brought up on a farm (a somewhat unusual one), but the farms in the region were not at all conducive for learning powerful outlooks, nor were the schools particularly. However, my grandfather was "a writing farmer" and had a huge library of books of all kinds in his farmhouse. This allowed me to bypass both the farm and the school. But someone helped me to learn to read at an early age, and someone had the library of books in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Someone decided that it was OK for me to read for hours every day instead of working on the farm (I had to do that too). So I very much depended on adult help but of a very different kind than my school friends got in their homes. The outlook in my farmhouse was that there was a lot more to life than learning to raise one crop a year.

One size doesn't fit all, so a personal story can't be generalized very usefully to cover the plight of other children and of their parents. 

But, if I were trying to make things happen with IAEP, I would try to do just a few main things, and one of them would be to make a program/user-interface which could do a great job of teaching a child to read and write their native language without requiring any more from the adults around them than a little encouragement. Part of the desired changes in outlook could be made part of the stories and other materials that the kid would encounter along the way (and part of the big change in outlook that we are a part of is fluent reading of non-story materials in general and about outlook changing ideas in particular).

Best wishes,


From: K. K. Subramaniam <subbukk at gmail.com>
To: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
Cc: iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org
Sent: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 12:12:59 PM
Subject: Re: [IAEP] Comments on David Kokorowski, David Pritchard and "Mastering"  Educational SW

On Wednesday 01 Jul 2009 9:03:26 am Alan Kay wrote:
>Your last sentence is somewhat parallel to what many business types like to
>say about how hard it is to measure Return On Investment for research
>funding. But in the business case, this is actually a form of dissembling,
>since an enormous percentage of all the GNP (and in fact GWP) comes directly
>as return from research.
The top 10% of learners don't need school. The bottom 10% need more than a 
school. For the middle 80%, learning in school should be demonstrably better 
than that out of school. A school is relevant only if it can detect and weed 
out contexts that hinder learning (or have nothing to do with learning) as 
quickly as possible. Otherwise people will vote with their feet.

In one of our local public school parents meet, a poor farmer challenged, "Why 
should I retain my kid in this school? Can you show me one student who studied 
here and became somebody in life? In the field, I can teach him to raise at 
least one crop a year". For him, there was lot more of physics in the farm 
than in school textbooks.


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/attachments/20090702/32383fb6/attachment.htm 

More information about the IAEP mailing list