[IAEP] Another article that could probably use some measured response.

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Fri Sep 18 05:01:35 EDT 2009

The same problem about _the_ effect of Logo occurs with _the_
Scientific Method. Real scientists observe, conjecture, theorize,
plan, experiment, calculate, and have Aha! moments. Toy science does
demonstrations and calls them experiments, and pays no attention to
the rest. This is because only demonstrations have Right Answers
suitable for teaching in standardized curricula, and even more so when
teaching to standardized tests. The whole point of doing an experiment
in Real Science is that we don't know what the right answer is, and we
want to find out.

The relation between Toy Science and Real Science is much the same as
the relation between Guitar Hero and a guitar.

When you have a new theory worked out, you don't know whether it works
until you test it by observation and experiment. Then you can test it
further by varying conditions one at a time. When you don't know what
you are doing, but you have noticed something that isn't covered by
current theory, you have to conjecture before you can do anything
else. Max Planck's quantum conjecture resolved the Ultraviolet
Catastrophe in 1899. From there to wave mechanics as a fully developed
quantum theory took more than 20 years and the invention of new kinds
of mathematics. It took decades more to get to the Standard Model,
which we have not fully confirmed or falsified. We are still in the
realm of conjecture on Theories of Everything, where hardly anything
is within the reach of practical experimentation, and theory has to
poke around in the few lighted corners of spaces of mathematical
theories with hundreds of dimensions.

Several workers have successfully observed, conjectured, theorized,
and experimented in education in the last century. I will cite only
Maria Montessori. The profession has taken the same attitude to all of
this as it took to Einstein in the beginning, when no university would
hire him. So he invented three whole branches of physics while working
as a patent clerk. Even then, he didn't get a position right away.
Similarly Dr. Montessori invented a whole new style and technique of
education, and of education research while working with slum children
who were expected to fail.

But Physics is a science, with laws of its own that most of the time
no Church or legislature can interfere with any more. You are
permitted to test new theories, and so Einstein was vindicated, and
eventually became known as the world's greatest physicist. Education
is not a science, although it occasionally pretends to be. It is a
branch of politics, considered in the extended sense of the common
interest in the organization of society, and also in the restricted
sense of education officials and education legislation and regulation.
It is thus, like health care, traditionally held in a legal
stranglehold by competing forces, in this case including churches,
industries, commerce, militaries, professions, sciences, government
agencies, and many more that have quite different interests in the
outcome. You can test new educational theories up to a point, but in
practice you aren't allowed to implement them. Politicians,
professionals, and parents will routinely ignore you or actively
obstruct you, with relatively few exceptions.

For example, the Montessori movement has almost no professional
acceptance. It has turned itself into a religion rather than a
science, with sects, schisms, and dogmatics. Montessori teachers are
to absorb the Method, but not to observe and learn from children
themselves. I have learned this by direct experience with my
daughter's Montessori teachers, who would not allow her to create a
new educational use for their materials. We then put her into a school
that encouraged exploration.

Several hugely important series of scientific experiments produced
answers that were unthinkable at the time, such as the
Michelson-Morley experiments that were intended to measure the earth's
motion through the luminiferous ether, but instead proved that there
is no luminiferous ether and no absolute motion. Or the Ultraviolet
catastrophe. Or the photoelectric effect. Or the calculations for the
orbit of Mercury. Resolving these quandaries led to new and beautiful
theories in new branches of physics.

Even in mathematics, which has a special reputation for Eternal
Verity, things get shaken up from time to time, so that the impossible
becomes controversial and then commonplace, while the obvious becomes
impossible. Complex numbers. Non-Euclidean geometries. Infinities. The
paradoxes of naive logic and set theory. Fractal dimension.
Incompleteness and undecidability. Non-standard arithmetic and
analysis. Conway numbers and games.

All of which our schools resolutely ignore or even resist, as the
Catholic Church once resisted and condemned Arabic numerals. (There
was a Crusade on at the time, you know.) But negative numbers have
made it past the gauntlet.

On Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 12:41 AM, Tomeu Vizoso <tomeu at sugarlabs.org> wrote:
> On Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 21:05, Bakhtiar Mikhak <mikhak at mediamods.com> wrote:
>> More than two decades ago, Seymour Papert wrote a response to similar
>> criticisms of the role of computers in education:
>> http://www.papert.org/articles/ComputerCriticismVsTechnocentric.html
>> I think Seymour's comments are as relevant today as when he first wrote
>> them. It's interesting to read the paper replacing LOGO with OLPC, olpc, XO,
>> or Sugar.
>> I don't believe this paper has yet been mentioned in conversations on our
>> lists. I think it would be of interest not only in light of reviews like the
>> one that is the subject of this thread, but also with respect to the broader
>> education conversations that have come up.
> Great reading, thanks for sharing!
> Pity Sugar and OLPC doesn't get more useful criticism, but after
> reading the paper, I understand why ;)
> Regards,
> Tomeu
>> Best wishes,
>> Bakhtiar
>> On Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 8:39 PM, Bill Kerr <billkerr at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> On Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 9:40 AM, Bill Kerr <billkerr at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> On Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 5:39 AM, Kevin Cole <dc.loco at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> This may have already come up in the 680 unread messages I have in my
>>>>> inbox...  If so, my apologies.
>>>>> A researcher in my office subscribes to Miller-McCune magazine, whose
>>>>> slogan is "Turning Research into Solutions".  After seeing last week's
>>>>> presentation by SJ et al, he handed me an article from the latest issue
>>>>> (September / October 2009, Volume 2, Number 5).
>>>>> | News and Opinions by Timothy Ogden (page 12)
>>>>> |
>>>>> | There appears to be cheaper, more effective ways to improve education
>>>>> in developing nations than the glitzy One Laptop per Child program.
>>>>> The article is available on-line
>>>>> at http://miller-mccune.com/business_economics/computer-error-1390
>>>>> At the risk of being burned at the stake, though I'm one of the devout,
>>>>> I think the author makes some good arguments that should be either countered
>>>>> POLITELY and/or addressed.
>>>> hi kevin,
>>>> my thought was to ask: why do some NGOs criticise other NGOs  in this
>>>> way? While other NGOs just get on with the job. Is this to do with a real
>>>> discussion of the issues or is there another agenda, such as a fight for
>>>> being noticed to attract funding?
>>>> I would see a real discussion about the different efficiencies of
>>>> different methods of helping developing countries as important and am very
>>>> interested in such discussions -
>>>> see http://universalcommunication.wikispaces.com/
>>>> But what is the relevance of comparing deworming with the xo???? No one
>>>> promoting the xo is critical of deworming. And such different approaches
>>>> attract different types of people, surely there is room for both. The other
>>>> comparisons too while a little more relevant don't make much sense to me.
>>>> Esther Duflo's suggestion of teachers making a date stamped photo of
>>>> themselves each day is going to improve teacher attendance at low cost.
>>>> Great idea. But the goals of this approach compared to the xo approach are
>>>> very different and so its difficult to compare. I didn't see this article as
>>>> fair or balanced because it didn't attempt to setup a real basis for
>>>> comparing things.
>>>> Also the link provided by walter is very interesting - all the comments
>>>> as well as Oscar Becarra's response
>>> more information on the esther duflo approach here:
>>> http://econ-www.mit.edu/faculty/eduflo/papers
>>> her approach is cost efficient small interventions that make a big
>>> difference developed into a "science" - that is the claim, which is
>>> interesting but my response is skeptical - I'm not convinced we are at the
>>> stage of the one true scientific approach wrt the developing world
>>> I think from her perspective the OLPC mega change approach  is seen as
>>> wasteful
>>> here is a popular article about her:
>>> http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/step-aside-sartre-this-is-the-new-face-of-french-intellectualism-1332028.htmlhttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/step-aside-sartre-this-is-the-new-face-of-french-intellectualism-1332028.html
>>> "She investigates, in elaborate detail, the practical, small things
>>> which can make a difference in trying to improve the lives of the
>>> poorest of the poor. For instance, not just "education, education,
>>> education" but how to make sure pupils and their teachers turn up at
>>> school. (Answer: tiny incentives, such as free meals or uniforms, can
>>> transform attendance in poor countries.)"
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> IAEP -- It's An Education Project (not a laptop project!)
>>> IAEP at lists.sugarlabs.org
>>> http://lists.sugarlabs.org/listinfo/iaep
>> _______________________________________________
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> --
> «Sugar Labs is anyone who participates in improving and using Sugar.
> What Sugar Labs does is determined by the participants.» - David
> Farning
> _______________________________________________
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Edward Mokurai (默雷/धर्ममेघशब्दगर्ज/دھرممیگھشبدگر ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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