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|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
The "Knowledge Economy' myth floated
is a farce and a falsehood. If everyone in the US had a college degree (4
years and up) the majority would still be working for minimum wage as the
supply would exceed the demand. It has already been happening for several
years as indicated by the falling wage rate for college grads. An Associates
in business means an $8-11 an hour job in retail store. A BA in business
from any put the very top colleges means $35 -45,000 a year as retail manager.
Additionally, policymakers simply refuse to face that fact that less than 20% of the US is truly college material (unless the material is dumbed down to high school level.) So what do you do with the 80% who are not getting that PhD in economics or computers or that MA in biochemistry or even that BA in business admin, eh? We sure don't need more people who perform 'services' like massaage, dogwalking, retrofitting insulation in houses or similar things as the majority of the population can not pay for such services.
November 12, 2010
In 1914, John Alexander Smith, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, addressed the first session of his two-year lecture course as follows:
“Gentlemen, you are now about to embark on a course of studies that (will) form a noble adventure…Let me make this clear to you. ..nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life – save only this – that if you work hard and intelligently, you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole purpose of education.”
I had an Economics instructor explain the Economics of Education. Contrary to all economic theory, the consume of college education chooses to pay as much as possible and receive the bare minimum in return.
Paying $50,000 a year is clearly superior to paying $20,000 a year. Attending class and doing homework would be optional at the best universities ( as are grades at some liberal arts colleges)
Your instructor has misidentified the product being sold. What is actually being sold is the ability to become peers with an elite group of fellow students. The education, from an economics perspective, is simply packaging.
Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent.
TCS Tech Central Station - Confessions of an Engineering Washout
I am an engineering washout. I left a chemical engineering major in shame and disgust to pursue the softer pleasures of a liberal arts education. No, do not pity me, gentle reader; do not assuage your horror and dismay at my degradation by flinging a filthy quarter into my shiny tin cup. Instead, hear my story, and learn why the United States lacks engineers.
Not long ago, I showed up for my first year at Smartypants U., fresh from a high school career full of awards and honors and gold stars. My accomplishments all pointed towards a more verbal course of study, but I was determined to spend my college days learning something useful. With my strong science grades and excellent standardized test scores, I felt certain that I could handle whatever engineering challenges Smartypants U. had to offer. Remember: Kern = real good at math and science. You will have cause to forget that fact very soon.
I had three options for a chemistry class: the intro course, the accelerated course, and the genius course. My high school chemistry background made me a good fit for the accelerated course, but my academic advisor warned me not to take it. The course instructor was a legendarily incompetent teacher, even by the dubious standards of Smartypants U's engineering department. He was so incoherent and capricious that academic advisors were warned to steer students away from his courses. So why was he kept on staff? His research was outstanding. My tuition dollars at work.
Being too arrogant to waste my gifts in some kiddie intro course, I enrolled in the genius course. Memo to freshmen, wherever you are: unless you are a certified, card-carrying prodigy with a four-digit IQ, do not EVER EVER EVER sign up for a chemistry class whose informal nickname contains the word "Turbo." "What happened?" said the comment on my second test. I wish I knew.
In high school I had grown accustomed to math classes that featured clear, helpful instruction from teachers who liked to teach and excelled at teaching. At Smartypants U, the jewel in the crown of American academia, my math instructor was a twenty-something teaching assistant whose classroom style never deviated from the following pattern:
1) Greet class.
2) Ask if there were any questions about the previous evening's problem set.
3) If so, work out the problem in question on the chalkboard, without further explanation.
4) Repeat step 3) as needed.
5) Announce the pages in the textbook from which the next problem set would be derived.
6) Perform a sample problem from the new problem set.
7) Ask if anyone has any questions.
8) Give the problem set assignment.
9) Dismiss the class.
Total elapsed time: never more than 25 minutes.
Clutching the shredded tatters of my pride and dignity, I trudged to the office hours of my math instructor every week, seeking an explanation for the increasingly mysterious problems in the textbook. My instructor welcomed my presence as she would welcome the Angel of Death. Irritated? She was terrified. Explain…the problems? Articulate…the steps? Relate…the concepts? I would ask questions, and she would respond by completing yet another sample problem as fast as she possibly could, blushing nervously. I felt like I was on a Star Trek episode. "Captain, I think I understand…the creature communicates through multivariable calculus problems!"
I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. She was as American as I am. Spoke perfect colloquial English.
Engineering physics was only marginally better. The harried teaching assistant could actually explain the occasional physics concept. But he made sure you understood that a poor grade on any assignment reflected upon your merit in the eyes of God. "If you get a 60% below on ANY quiz," he wrote on the chalkboard on day one, "YOU ARE NOT STUDYING HARD ENOUGH." I wondered what would happen if you got a 30% on a quiz. Were you branded? Expelled? Excommunicated?
The social-life-killing workload was the stuff of gallows humor among the three or four upper-class engineers who could still laugh. "Sleep is for the weak!" they bellowed, when gathering at the listless engineering parties. "Your underwear has two sides," they whispered, pressing their furry acne-ridden faces into the ears of bewildered freshmen. "Use them."
Reader, let us not dwell upon the endless problem sets, the wretched grades, and the weary nights spent screaming at my inscrutable textbooks. Compose in your mind a montage of quizzes covered in red ink, classes wasted in the stupor of incomprehension, and frowning instructors muttering strange incantations in their eerie scientific argot. And of the hands-on laboratory portion of the chemistry class, I will say only that I still hold the record at Smartypants U. for most failed attempts at that hateful titration experiment. ("No - not dark pink! You filthy godless soul-eating beaker! Damn you to hell!") They assigned grad students to watch me after failure number six. And I still screwed it up.
Meanwhile, my friends majoring in the liberal arts pulled dandy grades while studying little. "You just wait," I thought, gazing upon them like the ant regarding the grasshopper in the summer. "You party and blow off homework now, but in ten years, you'll be making merely wonderful money as investment bankers and consultants, while I'll be getting laid off from a great job at General Electric."
My first-semester GPA was the engineering major average: 2.7. But to a former academic superstar, a 2.7 GPA was akin to a public flogging.
I nearly fainted when I learned that I received a 43% on the Physics final. I nearly fainted again when I learned that the class average was 38%. A sub-50% grade on a science test is a curious creature, as much the product of grader whim as academic achievement. "Hmmm…looks like he understood a tiny bit of this question. I'll give three points out of ten. Or should I give four? Whoops…tummy rumbling…better make it three." Having allegedly mastered 43% of the course material, I was now deemed fit to take even harder Physics classes. I wondered: at the highest levels of physics, could you get a passing grade with a 5% score on a test? A 3% score? A zero? Could drinking from a fire hose actually slake your thirst?
Exhausted and demoralized, I stumbled into my next semester of engineering. My new math T.A. had all of my old T.A.'s inability to teach, but half of her mastery of English. One day in class I heard myself saying: "If I understood what I didn't understand about the problem, I would understand the problem, and therefore I wouldn't be asking a question." The T.A. stared at me across a void that seemed increasingly unbridgeable.
The course was called "Discrete Mathematics." Many people thought that the course was called "Discreet Mathematics." Wrong. To clarify: "Discrete Mathematics" is "the mathematics in which Kern was getting a D at midterm." "Discreet Mathematics" is "how Kern dropped that class along with the rest of his engineering course load and signed into liberal arts classes, all on the last day he was eligible to do so, because he couldn't stand the stress, abuse, and lack of comprehension anymore." No one waved goodbye to me at the engineering door.
The United States contains a finite number of smart people, most of whom have options in life besides engineering. You will not produce thronging bevies of pocket-protector-wearing number-jockeys simply by handing out spiffy Space Shuttle patches at the local Science Fair. If you want more engineers in the United States, you must find a way for America's engineering programs to retain students like, well, me: people smart enough to do the math and motivated enough to at least take a bite at the engineering apple, but turned off by the overwhelming coursework, low grades, and abysmal teaching. Find a way to teach engineering to verbally oriented students who can't learn math by sense of smell. Demand from (and give to) students an actual mastery of the material, rather than relying on bogus on-the-curve pseudo-grades that hinge upon the amount of partial credit that bored T.A.s choose to dole out. Write textbooks that are more than just glorified problem set manuals. Give grades that will make engineering majors competitive in a grade-inflated environment. Don't let T.A.s teach unless they can actually teach.
None of these things will happen, of course. Engineering professors are perfectly happy weeding out undesirables with absurd boot-camp courses that conceal the inability of said professors to communicate with words. Fewer students will pursue science and engineering majors, and the United States will grow ever more reliant upon foreign brainpower to design its scientific and manufacturing endeavors. I did my part to fight this problem, and for my trouble I got four months of humiliation and a semester's worth of shabby grades that I had to explain to law schools and employers for years. Thousands of college students will have a similar experience this fall.
So engineering is suffering in this country? It deserves no better.
James Heckman argues that we need to devote more resources to enriching the lives of young, disadvantaged children:
Schools, skills, and synapses, by James J. Heckman, Vox EU: America has a growing skills problem. One consequence of this skills problem is rising inequality and polarization of society. A greater fraction of young Americans are graduating from college. At the same time, a greater fraction are dropping out of high school. Trends in the production of skills from American high schools coupled with a growing influx of unskilled immigrants have produced an increasing proportion of low-skilled workers in the US workforce. More than 20% of American workers cannot understand the instructions written in a medical prescription. A further consequence of the skills problem is a slowdown in growth of productivity of the workforce.
The origin of this skills problem lies in the decline of the family in American society. Dysfunctional families retard the formation of the abilities needed for successful performance in modern society.
The importance of cognitive and noncognitive abilities
American public policy currently focuses on cognitive test scores or “smarts.” Yet an emerging literature shows that much more than smarts is required for success in life. Motivation, sociability, the ability to work with others, the ability to focus on tasks, self-regulation, self-esteem, time preference, health, and mental health all matter. In an earlier time, these traits were part of what was called “character.” A substantial body of research shows that earnings, employment, labour force experience, college attendance, teenage pregnancy, participation in risky activities, compliance with health protocols, and participation in crime are all strongly affected by non-cognitive as well as cognitive abilities. Heckman, Stixrud and Urzua (2006) show that in many dimensions of social performance, noncognitive traits are as important, or more important, than cognitive traits in predicting success.
Compelling evidence on the importance of noncognitive skills comes from the GED (General Education Degree) programme (Heckman and Rubinstein, 2001, and Heckman and LaFontaine 2008). GED recipients are high school dropouts who pass a test to certify that they are equivalent to high school graduates. Currently, 14% of US high school certificates are issued to GEDs. Previous research shows that the cognitive test scores of GED recipients and the cognitive test scores of persons who graduate from high school but do not go on to college are comparable. Yet GED recipients have the earnings of high school dropouts. GED recipients are as “smart" as ordinary high school graduates, yet they lack noncognitive skills. GED recipients are the “wise guys” who cannot finish anything. They quit the jobs and marriages they start at much greater rates than ordinary high school graduates. Most branches of the US military recognise this in their recruiting strategies. Until the recent war in Iraq, the armed forces did not generally accept GED recipients because of their poor performance in the military.
Ability gaps open up early in life
Gaps in both cognitive and noncognitive skills between advantaged and disadvantaged children emerge early and can be attributed, in part, to adverse early environments into which an increasing percentage of US children are being born. Figure 1 shows the gap in cognitive test scores by age of children stratified by the mother's education. Similar patterns are found for noncognitive skills (see Heckman, 2008, and Cunha, Heckman, Lochner and Masterov, 2006). Gaps in ability emerge early and persist. Most of the gaps in ability at age 18, which substantially explain gaps in adult outcomes, are present at age five. Schooling plays a minor role in creating or perpetuating gaps, even though American children go to very different schools depending on their family backgrounds. Test scores for children with very different family backgrounds are remarkably parallel with age.
Figure 1. Trend in mean cognitive score by maternal education, IHDP study
Note: Using all observations and assuming that data are missing at random. Source: Brooks-Gunn, Cunha, Duncan, Heckman, and Sojourner (2006).
How do these early and persistent differences in abilities arise? Is the difference due to genes as Herrnstein and Murray claimed in The Bell Curve? Evidence from the recent literature in psychology and biology suggests that the genes versus environment distinction that was once much in vogue is obsolete. Extensive recent literature suggests that gene-environment interactions are central to explaining children’s intellectual development. For example, breast-fed children attain higher IQ scores than non-breast fed children. This relationship is moderated by a gene that controls fatty acid pathways. Identical twins are affected by life experiences that substantially differentiate the genetic expression of adult twins. Further, the impact on adult antisocial behaviour of growing up in a harsh or abusive environment depends on the absence of a variant of a particular gene. A substantial literature shows that family environments play an independent role in creating adult abilities. Adverse family environments of children create problem adults.
The decline of the American family and the rise of social problems
The evidence on the importance of family factors in explaining ability gaps is a source of concern because a greater proportion of American children are being born into disadvantaged environments, where disadvantage is measured by the quality of parenting (Heckman, 2008). A divide is opening up in American society. Those children born into disadvantaged environments are receiving relatively less stimulation and resources to promote child development than those born into more advantaged families. Women who are more educated are working and earning more. Their families are more stable and mothers in these families are also devoting more time to child development activities than less educated women. Children in affluent homes are bathed in financial and cognitive resources. Those children born into less advantaged circumstances are much less likely to receive cognitive and socio-emotional stimulation and other family resources. The family environments of single parent homes compared to intact families are much less favourable for investment in children (Moon, 2008).
Enriching early environments can partially compensate for early adversity
Experiments that enrich the early environments of disadvantaged children demonstrate causal effects of early environments on adolescent and adult outcomes and provide powerful evidence against genetic determinism. Two of these investigations, the Perry Preschool Program and the Carolina Abecedarian Project, use a random assignment design and collect long-term follow-up data. They demonstrate substantial positive effects of early environmental enrichment on a range of cognitive and non-cognitive skills, schooling achievement, job performance, and social behaviours long after the interventions end. The Perry Program was administered to 58 disadvantaged African-American children in Ypsilanti, Michigan between 1962 and 1967. The treatment for this program consisted of a daily 2.5-hour classroom session on weekday mornings and a weekly 90-minute home visit by the teacher on weekday afternoons. The control and treatment groups have been followed through age 40. There is a consistent pattern of successful outcomes for treatment group members compared with control group members, even though an initial increase in IQ gradually disappeared within the four years following the intervention.
Such IQ fadeouts have been observed in other studies. Focus on cognitive skills alone misses the point. The Perry program operates primarily through improving the noncognitive traits of participants (Heckman, Malofeeva, Pinto and Savelyev, 2008). At the oldest ages tested, treated individuals scored higher on achievement tests, attained higher levels of education, required less special education, earned higher wages, were more likely to own a home, and were less likely to go on welfare or be incarcerated than controls even though their IQs were no higher than those in the control group. In the similar, but more intensive and earlier starting Abecedarian program, IQ gains were found to last into early adulthood.
An estimated rate of return (the return per dollar of cost) to the Perry Program is around 10%. This high rate of return is higher than the post-World War II return on US stock market equity (5.8%) and suggests that society at large can benefit substantially from such interventions in the lives of disadvantaged children. Interventions in the later lives of disadvantaged children, such as job training, convict rehabilitation, and reduced classroom sizes, have much lower returns (Cunha, Heckman, Lochner and Masterov, 2006).
Using an empirically determined technology of skill formation, Cunha and Heckman (2006) simulate an early childhood intervention that moves children from the bottom 10% of family resources to the 70th percentile. This intervention achieves Perry results. To achieve similar results using adolescent interventions requires spending 35-50% more in present value terms (Heckman, 2008).
Fifty percent of the variance in inequality in lifetime earnings is determined by age 18 (Cunha and Heckman, 2007). The family plays a powerful role in shaping adult outcomes that is not fully recognised by current American policies. As programs are currently configured, interventions early in the lives of disadvantaged children have substantially higher economic returns than later interventions such as reduced pupil-teacher ratios, public job training programs, convict rehabilitation programs, adult literacy programs, tuition subsidies, or expenditure on police. This is because life-cycle skill formation is dynamic in nature. Skill begets skill; motivation begets motivation. Motivation cross-fosters skill, and skill cross-fosters motivation. If a child is not motivated to learn and engage early on in life, the more likely it is that when the child becomes an adult, he or she will fail in social and economic life. The longer society waits to intervene in the life cycle of a disadvantaged child, the more costly it is to remediate disadvantage.
Brooks-Gunn, J., F. Cunha G. Duncan J. J. Heckman, and A. Sojourner. “A Reanalysis of the IHDP Program,” 2006. Unpublished manuscript, Infant Health and Development Program, Northwestern University.
Cunha, F. and J. J. Heckman. “Investing in our Young People.", 2006. Unpublished manuscript, University of Chicago, Department of Economics.
Cunha, F. and J. J. Heckman. “The Evolution of Uncertainty in Labour Earnings in the US Economy,” 2007. Unpublished manuscript, University of Chicago. Under revision.
Cunha, F., J. J. Heckman, L. J. Lochner and D. V. Masterov. “Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation,” eds. E.A. Hanushek and F. Welch, 2006. Handbook of the Economics of Education, 12, 697-812, Amsterdam: North-Holland.
Heckman, J. J. “Schools, Skills, and Synapses”, Fall 2008. Economic Inquiry, 289-324.
Heckman, J. J. and P. A. LaFontaine. “The GED and the Problem of Noncognitive Skills in America,” 2008. Unpublished book manuscript, University of Chicago, Department of Economics.
Heckman, J. J., L. Malofeeva, R. Pinto and P. Savelyev. “The Effect of the Perry Preschool Program on Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills: Beyond Treatment Effects,” 2008. Unpublished manuscript, University of Chicago, Department of Economics.
Heckman, J. J. and Y. Rubinstein. “The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program,” May 2001. American Economic Review, 91(2), 145-149.
Heckman, J. J., J. Stixrud and S. Urzua. “The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labour Market Outcomes and Social Behavior,” July 2006. Journal of Labour Economics, 24(3), 411-482.
Herrnstein, R. J. and C. A. Murray, 1994. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York: Free Press.
Moon, S. H. “Skill Formation Technology and Multi-dimensional Parental Investment,” 2008. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Chicago, Department of Economics.
The European Commission - Socrates programme - Higher Education (ERASMUS)
Slashdot Ask Slashdot Laptops In Education
|by rakjr on Friday April 14, @07:59PM EST
|A laptop is only a tool like a screwdriver.
It really does not matter which screwdriver manufacture I pick (other
than mileage may vary) to assemble a do-it-yourself kit. What matters
is the do-it-yourself kit. The laptop is inconsequential because
you are still working with the same kit. Give a bad teacher better
tools and you still have a bad teacher.
The education system has many known good points and many failings. To date, I do not know of any software or communication forum on the net which significantly improves on the thing we call public education.
When looking only at the laptop as a tool, I say (personal opinion), the sooner a child is exposed to technology the better. My son started playing on a computer at age 2. He is now 4 and can select his own background, install software (if there are not too many options), and work his way through many types of problem solving tasks. He also has no fear of trying every button on the screen that he can find. Consequently, he has managed to do things on his computer which I did not know was possible as a feature of some software. He has a fresh curiousity which will take him very far, something that people lose as they get older. Right now, aside from problem solving, he is learning to master the computer. The reading, spanish, and math software which he has is coming along barely ok. He does much better when I or his mother work through this software with him because while he is focusing on the environment, he can easily miss the "true" objective. He learning also improves when we review the material outside of his computer time.
Without the direct adult attention, he is focussing on what he finds important.
What my first son does with the computer is great, but there is nothing which indicates to me that my second son will have the same kind of experience. All children are unique. So what will be a boon for one will be a hinderance for another. A tool is only worth having if it is appropriate to the task. The task is education of unique individuals--no one tool will work in all cases (but my favorite is the hammer ;)
In a place beyond time and space, in a land far better than this, look for me there...
|Re:Why laptops? (Score:2)
by Genom (email@example.com) on Friday April 14, @12:28PM EST (#236)
|Using desktops is even more complicated.
You need a 'lab' to use desktop machines. The classroom will be
effectively useless for any non-computer based work. If the computers
are to be used 'ubiquitously' for parts of all classes, every classroom
would have to be a 'computer room'.
Desktops, while taking up more space (at least "traditional" desktop systems) aren't any more complicated to operate than a laptop. They're also MUCH cheaper. Add a zip drive, and give the students a zip disk, and they can take their personal info, as well as a couple/few programs with them wherever they go.
You wouldn't necessarily need a "lab" either. Just rework the conception of a classroom to include the computers.
If you're like me, your conception of a classroom is a smallish room with a blackboard/whiteboard and largeish desk on one end, and the rest filled to capacity with as many small, cheaply built chair/desk assemblages as possible. Partially, this has to do with the overcrowding problem (which really isn't what we're dealing with here, but is one of the MAJOR problems with our educational system today).
Now - let's take 1/2 that blackboard/whiteboard, and use a projector to throw a display from the teacher's computer up there. Keep the other half for written stuff/examples/static info.
Now, the chair/desk assemblages...the chair is ABSOLUTELY necessary, as is some sort of writing surface. So, let's throw a 10.5" cheap LCD (akin to the ones used in the iOpeners) under some sort of VERY durable/abuse resistant clear polymer cover, and mount this where the desk normally attaches (usually right-hand side) - the clear top serves as a writing surface, while still allowing the screen to show.
With a cheap keyboard and mouse (read: easily/cheaply replacable) attached to minimal hardware stored underneath the seat, you'd satisfy the space requirement fairly well. As I mentioned before, a zip drive would allow students to take their work from place to place without the problems associated with notebooks.
By making the hardware minimal (probably little more than what's found in an iOpener, aside from the zip drive) the costs wouldn't be all that high, compared to full-fledged laptops. There might even be enough money leftover to afford a cheap desktop unit for the student to use at home.
A classroom network will have to be wireless, I don't see a way around this.
Well, in the above circumstance, there could simply be ethernet hookups run to each of the desks. In a circumstance where there are full-fledged laptops being used, just build an ethernet port into the existing desks.
They'll need to be ruggedized, commodity machines in a very standard configuration. These things aren't yet available on the cheap, but they will be shortly.
Definitely agree with you here - although the stuff I mentioned above shouldn't run more than $400 or so per seat right now - with prices dropping all the time, in a couple years it could actually be a possibility.
Ruggedness is key though. Most of the desks I had the pleasure to use had at one point or another been gouged with knives, burned, scratched in all manner of ways, drawn on, etc...
Those things, of course, would wreck havoc with a screen...
[June 28, 1999] Conference Proceedings on Computer Science Education
[June 28, 1999] WBT Systems - Solutions - TopClass Overview
[June 28, 1999] World Hall Lectures - Computer Science -- great collection of links
This site is devoted to the use of open source software in education; So all links from the main page links are related
harvard.net.news -- A Mall or a Marketplace of Ideas? The Choice is Ours
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ACM Education Board Appendix G -- a summary of the introductory computer
science course which is taught at the
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The Last but not Least
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Last modified: September 13, 2011