The Bitter Pill Thread



  • OK, confession time: the real reason I am so bitter and cynical about politics is related to the fact that the one cause I have ever whole-heartedly supported - SMI2LE - has less popular support and recognition than NAMBLA.

    Yeah, almost everyone can get behind 'improving education' - though most assume it just means throwing a huge pile of money down the rathole - but when I start to talk about funding research into how to do a better job at teaching, I get blank stares. Life extension? Even people in their 70s and 80s are surprised to find out that gerontology even exists. And when I mention the important of NASA and private space projects and colonizing the L5 region, most people look at me as if I were advocating the decriminalization of cannibalism.

    And if I mention Transhumanism, out will come the torches and pitchforks.

    I was a paying member of both the Planetary Society and the Living Universe Foundation at one time, and if I thought they had their heads out of their asses again, I would sign back up.

    So yes, bitter asshole is bitter. What makes you bitter?



  • @ScholRLEA without a doubt the fact people think education funding counts as "throwing a huge pile of money down the rathole" (not aimed at you, obs). I work in education in the UK and we service 25000 students annually. We're understaffed, badly, recently took a 5-8% pay hit, paid off loads of staff and are expected to provide the same quality of teaching, support, training, etc as previous despite losing over 120 staff via voluntary early retirement (often some of our best and most experienced out the door including at least 4 MBE's that I know of).

    So what makes me bitter? People whinging about how little Timmy only got a Pass/Merit at his A-levels and blaming the school. We operate under a budget tighter than you wouldn't believe and your little "angel" only attended 42% of classes.

    That and this being Northern Ireland, the religiously biased 2 main parties are all a bunch of fucking knackers and won't invest in integrated education.



  • @thegoryone No offense; as you say, I'm obviously in favor of funding education as much as we can. The problem is that even those in favor of education spending - and there are a lot more who say they do than act on it - think that the answer is just more money, more standardized testing, more of the same stuff that isn't working.

    While part of the reason it isn't working is lack of funding, that is just the tip of the iceberg. We simply don't know how to teach, and don't know how to teach how to teach.

    It's especially bad in the US, where most people seem to be actively anti-intellectual - the idea that school (even at the University level) is anything more than a way of corralling teenagers in one place seems anathema to many, and those how don't get an education and succeed are held in higher esteem than those whose success came through learning.



  • @ScholRLEA said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    We simply don't know how to teach, and don't know how to teach how to teach

    Some people? Definitely. Some people should be nowhere near a classroom under any circumstance. But some people were born to teach. They can and do teach yet their attempts to help others improve falls upon deaf ears (I see it regularly here). Teaching methods have come on so much in the past 15-20 years yet there are some teachers stuck refusing to adapt.

    more standardized testing

    One of the worst things, ever, ever, ever created. I failed all my programming tests at A-level (High school?) yet aced my coursework, and got my degree easily which was generally 60-70% coursework/group work/presentations and 20-40% max exam based.

    It's especially bad in the US, where most people seem to be actively anti-intellectual

    Very common here too, especially in cities. Ironically our education system out-performs the rest of the UK across all fields below undergraduate. Considerably, when it comes to numeracy, and even more ironically when it comes to literacy (Seriously, we can't even speak proper English never mind write it..."Ere see thon thing over thar? Aye she's a right fukin melter so she is right nuff like" is very possibly something a northern irishman might say)



  • @thegoryone said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    @ScholRLEA said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    We simply don't know how to teach, and don't know how to teach how to teach

    Some people? Definitely. Some people should be nowhere near a classroom under any circumstance. But some people were born to teach. They can and do teach yet their attempts to help others improve falls upon deaf ears (I see it regularly here). Teaching methods have come on so much in the past 15-20 years yet there are some teachers stuck refusing to adapt.

    I agree on all of these points. There has been real progress made, and more that can be made is right around the corner; but there are plenty of corncobs out there who, often with the best of intentions, are perpetuating crappy teaching methods and attitudes.

    more standardized testing
    One of the worst things, ever, ever, ever created.

    This, so very, very much. Like Dicksores, it is an excellent example of Perdition's cobblestones - something which, despite all the good will behind it, creates a bigger problem than the one it is intended to fix.



  • in my country, I hate when they spend on science and inovation, because all my last employers used the incentive to inovation thing as a money grab, lying about doing research.

    And science projects here mostly seem to be aiming for an ig-nobel


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    We already had a perfectly good educational system. Look up trivium and quadrivium. However, it involves dead white people, so it's raaaaaaaaaacist.



  • @lolwhat I learned watching Highlander that you can get knowledge cutting people heads.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @ScholRLEA said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    Even people in their 70s and 80s are surprised to find out that gerontology even exists.

    Well, it turned out to be really difficult, beyond even curing cancer in terms of challenge. Yes, there's research ongoing but most of it involves making transgenic mice and them chopping them up into little pieces to see what's going on with their telomeres.

    The respectable end of this research area is looking at making life in the 70s and 80s less painful.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @fbmac said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    And science projects here mostly seem to be aiming for an ig-nobel

    That's way better than just doing them for graft reasons.

    Fact injection: We've had a number of Brazilian collaborators and students over the years, and have never had a problem with them. We've even got a Brazilian employee in the office at the moment; he seems good but he's a new hire so it is a little soon to tell and his projects don't overlap with mine.



  • @dkf it's most the government choice of projects to fund that suck



  • @lolwhat said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    We already had a perfectly good educational system. Look up trivium and quadrivium.

    That's like saying we had a perfectly good system for public hygiene when were we using chamberpots.

    Tossing the contents of chamberpots into the gutters was acceptable when there were only a few hundred people around in a locale producing waste. Scaling matters in more than just databases.

    However, it involves dead white people, so it's raaaaaaaaaacist.

    Not anything I much worry about. Mostly because I am more interested in STEM than in Humanities, but also because despite their reputation as being all about learning how to learn, the Scholastic and related approaches don't provide jack shit for techniques. The medieval assumption was that knowledge was finite, and anything not covered by those seven areas wasn't worth learning about. I (dis)respectfully disagree. Regardless, it isn't hard to see that methods which work for mastering a few dozen religious or philosophical treatises left over from Classical and Late Antiquity just isn't going to solve anyone's problems now, especially since the main technique they were using - rote memorization for recall of the texts - has been obsolete since Gutenberg noticed that he kept using those same 50-odd little picture thingies over and over again when he was carving his printing blocks, and wondered if maybe the blocks wouldn't break so often if they were made from little pieces of metal instead of huge hunks of wood. Regardless of whether the works in question are still relevant, the means by which they were studied then by and large aren't.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @ScholRLEA Dorothy Sayers would beg to differ:



  • @lolwhat The techniques Sayers is talking about are so intensive of teaching time and effort that they were only possible for a few thousand educated aristocrats across the width and breadth of Europe, and only a fraction among them actually managed to learn anything through them. While they may have produced the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon, they utterly failed people like John Plantagenet (and most of his fellow royals). Even if they had a far higher success rate, it is beyond absurd to think that they could be applied to more than a handful of people worldwide. We would need to devote most of the planet's resources to teaching the population of even a small nation, doing things this way.

    Even a broken (analog) clock is right twice a day, and just because (for example) someone like Dick Feynman could come out of the education system of New York State in the 1920s, or someone like Mark Twain could be sufficiently auto-didactic as to become a leading author and humorist in 19th century from his start in rural Missouri, doesn't mean that they got great educations. They were anomalies, and so were the great luminaries of medieval scholarship.



  • To clarify, I am not disputing that the Trivium are a necessary starting point for well-rounded learning, but the statement of their importance is itself fairly shallow; it is like saying that one needs to consider the importance of air when diving to great depths, or the importance of gravity when push a large object up an incline. That these are the tools one can use for this purpose is not the question, but rather, whether they are sufficient as well as necessary.

    Nor do I disagree that the lack of a formal, systematic approach to teaching them is a problem, whether you use that name or another one. Teachers are well aware that at some point, the students have to start moving from rote learning to a more mindful process of interrogating the world around them to find useful information, and everyone at least gives lip service to the idea of a liberal education.

    The questions are, by what means do you achieve this goal, and how soon can you start moving from, "remember this" to "consider this"? And while sadly, the answer most current education systems gives is, "we can't do it at all", that has more to do with the change from trying to teach a wealthy few from similar backgrounds to trying to teach vast numbers from diverse ones than it does the efficacy of the methods.

    My point earlier was that the Scholastic approach worked poorly even at the best of times - it only seems successful because the passage of time has erased most of its failures - and demanded so much from both the students and the pedagogues that trying to apply it to a general would be untenable. It relied on the fact that, while there might be dozens of students in a professor's lecture hall, each of them would spend as much if not more time discussing these lecture topics with a much smaller group of fellow students under the guidance of their own advisor afterwards. While this is something that ought to be done still, not only is it fearfully expensive (which on its own is a terrible excuse for poor education, but the fact remains that budgets are finite), it is not enough on its own to ensure that the lessons cohere - especially regarding the methods of rational inquiry.

    EDIT: Perhaps an analogy will help: imagine you are building a house. By long standing tradition and hard-won experience, people have for centuries known that the first step in building a house is to draw up a schematic (a 'blueprint', though that particular technology is mostly gone now) . When you have the blueprint for the house, you would then draw the insets for the specific sections, drilling down part by part until you have laid out the walls, the wiring, the plumbing, and so forth.

    Imagine now that, in an only slightly longer time frame, you must instead prepare a full set of schematics for a whole development plot consisting of hundreds of houses, including all the services for fire prevention, water, sewage, electricity, and so forth, all without personally surveying the ground because there is too much area to cover. The temptation would be to either hire a small army of draftsmen and evaluating their success afterwards, or double up on the blueprints for several houses and hope that there aren't any irregularities in the grounds that you haven't been told of, or even to start building without finishing the designs first. You would probably be in a state of panic, trying to accomplish the impossible immediately.

    (This part should sounds familiar to everyone in this forum, I expect).

    Now imagine someone coming up to you and saying, "no, no, this is all wrong, you need to do the designs one at a time like you used to, don't worry it always worked before and there's no reason it shouldn't work now." Would you be pleased to get such dismissive advice? While it would be sound advice if you had the luxury of doing so, it ignores a fundamental shift in the circumstances. It is far from helpful and only serves to distract from the goal, no matter how well meant it is.



  • Another thing just occurred to me that may be relevant: Sayers was discussing Public schools, not Compulsory. That distinction is (or was at the time she was writing) significant when talking about the British education system, as Public schools meant privately-operated schools open to anyone with the money to pay for them (as opposed to the more traditional private tutoring), not the government-run mandatory schooling more typically called 'public school' in the US. This weighs heavily on the matter of scale, as Sayers seems to be assuming that the entire idea of general, universal education is unworkable, which was not an uncommon gripe even into the 1950s. Despite some of the satire about the upper classes in her mystery novels, Sayers was (IIRC) a political and social conservative (though she was also a Christian Humanist and a big advocate of private charity) especially after WWII, and she might have been all too willing to dismiss egalitarian ideas as socialism.



  • sigh I know that trying to bridge the gap between theoretical informatics and practical programming is a task akin to squaring the circle, so why do I keep trying? Oh, right, the whole thing about being the Reconciliation of Opposites again. Thanks again for that particular boobyprize, Discord.

    And no, I don't mean 'reconciler'. How I came to be the physical embodiment of an abstract principle, let alone one so obtuse and esoteric, is a mystery even to me. I guess that if I ever do understand why I was picked for this particular onus, I'll go crazy. Again.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @ScholRLEA said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    why do I keep trying?

    Because sometimes it works, and that's a moment of:
     AWESOME!!!



  • So it is, so it is.



  • I'd rather have useable public hospitals and stop the government providing free education.



  • @fbmac Shit. Hang on a second. This one... Uh... This one... this one goes in your mouth.



  • @ScholRLEA said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    if I mention Transhumanism, out will come the torches and pitchforks.

    I don't see why deciding that The Cloud is equivalent to Valhalla should be torch-and-pitchfork-worthy. Belly laugh? Sure. Hostility? What for?



  • @flabdablet said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    @ScholRLEA said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    if I mention Transhumanism, out will come the torches and pitchforks.

    I don't see why deciding that The Cloud is equivalent to Valhalla should be torch-and-pitchfork-worthy. Belly laugh? Sure. Hostility? What for?

    Frankly, I'm at a loss here myself. Mostly, it seems to be seen as an insult to whatever Big Rock Candy Mountain the listeners' invisible friend told them they are going to go to already.

    I personally don't see it as a contradiction to my belief in reincarnation, but then again, that's less a sincerely held faith and more a bitter joke (the way I usually put it is, I don't think that the PTB would let us off so easily as to be able to get off the merry-go-round after just one turn).



  • @flabdablet said in The Bitter Pill Thread:

    I don't see why deciding that The Cloud is equivalent to Valhalla should be torch-and-pitchfork-worthy. Belly laugh? Sure. Hostility? What for?

    Maybe they've only dealt with HP datacenters?


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