Friday, September 24, 2010

More Philosophy of Education

More banter with RH (from math-teach) -- typos fixed:

> "And the reason is....?"
> In my opinion, arithmetic is essentially the literacy equivalent
> to reading. It has a functional use in everyone's life, like reading.

The ability to read is not just one skill. What if graphs are involved, statistics? The science you might want to tune in, to follow debates about genetically modified foods, requires some mathematical background perhaps.

It's not just what math Obama might need. You also want your Supreme Court and Congress to have a fairly strong grasp of the technical issues.

> Beyond arithmetic, the skills begin to become "nice to have"
> rather than "must have". I generally share the same
> thought with the others that subjects like algebra exercise
> and develop one's reasoning skills, even if there will be
> no practical use later. But this isn't a must have, it is
> a nice to have, unless you have decided that you will
> be an engineer or some other math related career
> and then for you personally, it is a must have.

You've generally been dismissive of "math appreciation" as not the real deal, just like "physics for philosphers" can't really amount to a hill of beans in your book.

Calendars and navigation, architecture, surveying, map making... each one of these topics comes with skills you might learn, surrounded by stories of other civilizations. To fully understand history, one needs to be able to follow the math and science (e.g. the role of cryptography in ww2).

If we dont' consider "math appreciation" as part of mathematics proper, then we should at least allow it to surface under the heading of literature.

Dr. Susan Haack, a contemporary philosopher, is quite explicit about this: in her view, a distopian society we do not want to have, consists of docile non-scientists who can't follow the debates and
leave all the decision-making to the supposedly most qualified, the credentialed experts.

You want informed voters.

You also want people not easily manipulated or hoodwinked.

I say "you" in a general sense, realizing that informed and intelligent voters is maybe *not* what some people want. They'd rather have a lot of docile broom pushers who just smile and nod when told what to do by the ruling class digerati.

> What would be the "nice to have" element of reading?
> Or maybe I should say literature? I would propose that
> creative writing is a "nice to have" but not a "must have".
> Reading and basic writing would be "must haves" in my opinion.

Any educated high schooler should be able to read and write about how the Internet works, yes or no?

Any educated high schooler should have read a lot of civics, know about the history of the world, including recent history.

E.g. books by Edwin Black are appropriate for an American History class, or at least lengthy excerpts, along with related documentaries.

There's a difference between knowing how to read, recognizing the words, and being literate, being given the time, encouragement, guidance and freedom to read widely in many subjects.

Does a society afford people that freedom, people of all ages?

Or does it simply give them rudimentary reading skills and then push them out the door after 6th grade, handing them a mop if they don't prove sufficiently compliant or worthy in the minds of corporate eugenicists?