Things tagged education:
Jordan Ellenberg at Hmm Daily:
“I have, or had, more math talent than football talent,” Urschel tells me. “I fully believe this.” But the world is on the lookout for football players. His coaches at Canisius, an all-boys Jesuit high school, continually encouraged him to think big, bigger, biggest. If he worked at it, he could play in college. He could play in the Big Ten. There was a chance he could play in the NFL. From his math teachers? Zero.
That changed at Penn State, where Urschel enrolled in 2009 to study math and play football.
Oren Cass at the Manhattan Institute:
America’s education system, from kindergarten through the state university, is designed to produce college graduates. Those who stop short of at least a community-college diploma are widely regarded as failures, or at least victims of a failed system. Yet most Americans fall into this category, and current trends offer little hope for improvement. Politicians and policymakers are finally paying attention to this population—which, roughly speaking, comprises the working class—and calls for more vocational education and apprenticeships have become fashionable. But a more fundamental reordering of the nation’s misshapen educational infrastructure is necessary if alternatives to the college pipeline are to take their rightful place as coequal pathways to the workforce.
Via @pkedrosky (who deletes his old tweets, so nothing to link to).
David Graeber in the Chronicle:
I would like to write about the bullshitization of academic life: that is, the degree to which those involved in teaching and academic management spend more and more of their time involved in tasks which they secretly — or not so secretly — believe to be entirely pointless.
For a number of years now, I have been conducting research on forms of employment seen as utterly pointless by those who perform them. The proportion of these jobs is startlingly high. Surveys in Britain and Holland reveal that 37 to 40 percent of all workers there are convinced that their jobs make no meaningful contribution to the world.
Largely a painful rant, but does have it’s moments of clarity.
It strikes me that a real problem with the university system is that, intellectually, it is becoming the only game in town. Scholars have no other place to go, scientists few, and even as university departments themselves become less and less concerned with ideas, almost anyone whose work is in any way related to the life of the mind — artists or journalists, for instance — becomes more and more likely to have to spend at least some time employed by one. These two phenomena are related. The best thing that could happen to universities would be to face a little competition.
It’s helpful to remember that universities have faced effective competition before, and benefited from it. Most 18th-century Enlightenment thinkers had nothing but contempt for universities, which they saw as corrupt, pedantic, moribund, and medieval; they preferred to write for the general public.
Ashley Gross at NPR:
In a new report, the Washington State Auditor found that good jobs in the skilled trades are going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor’s degrees.
Among other things, the Washington auditor recommended that career guidance — including choices that require less than four years in college — start as early as the seventh grade.
Helen Fessenden for the Richmond Fed:
Dale Phillips, a night-shift maintenance supervisor at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, S.C., is busy balancing a full-time job with online coursework to complete a bachelor’s degree in management. He oversees a team of equipment-services associates in the plant’s paint shop, whose duties include preventing equipment breakdowns in the conveyors, lifts, pumps, and industrial robots. He says he never envisioned such a career until four years ago, when he started at the plant as an apprentice after spending most of his 20s and 30s as a grocery store manager.
“When I was 17 or 18, I was frustrated about what I was going to do after high school,” explains Phillips. “I didn’t have any guidance and didn’t know how you prepare yourself for a good job. You just took whatever work you could find. But now I’m in a high-tech job, working as a supervisor. This is something I never even thought of.”
Phillips is a graduate of the BMW Scholars program, an initiative that the company began in 2011 to secure a steady pipeline of high-skilled workers for its South Carolina operation. Modeled after European apprenticeships, it now trains about 35 workers a year in a partnership with local community colleges.
An animated introduction to the Fourier Transform, winding graphs around circles.
Readers of Econlog who read co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s posts know that Bryan has posted a lot on a college degree as an expensive signal to potential employers. Here are 88 posts Bryan has written on signaling.
I find Bryan’s argument and evidence persuasive. Like some of his critics, though, I have often wondered why employers don’t figure out cheaper ways of getting information about potential employees. You might argue that the expense is not on the employer but on the employee. But if an employer can find a good employee who lacks a college degree, the employer can, all other things equal, pay less.
In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal is an interesting news story by Rachel Feintzeg titled “Why Bosses Are Turning to ‘Blind Hiring’.” (WSJ, January 6, 2015, p. B4) [ed. note: see here for the article on archive.is to bypass the paywall].
The Guardian was breathless in its description of Yego’s winning heave on its live blog:
An astonishing throw by Julius Yego! He literally launches himself into his third attempt, straining every sinew as he releases the javelin and falling face down onto the floor. His nipples will have taken a hell of a scraping there. It’s ungainly. Unorthodox. And my goodness it’s worth it, the spear flying way past the 90-metre mark! It’s a throw of 92.72, a season’s best! And the Commonwealth record, previously held by Steve Backley.
And here is the actual throw:
Only for a week, why not always?
“I believe that it’s better to promote reading by rewarding those who read, instead of criticising the ones who don’t,” said Miron on arts website Bored Panda this week.
Brutal This American Life episode:
Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there’s one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation.
Open course by Robert Shiller. Link is to the fourth lecture which impressed me by explaining Efficient Portfolio Frontier in a way I actually grokked.
In this lecture, Professor Shiller introduces mean-variance portfolio analysis, as originally outlined by Harry Markowitz, and the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) that has been the cornerstone of modern financial theory. Professor Shiller commences with the history of the first publicly traded company, the United East India Company, founded in 1602. Incorporating also the more recent history of stock markets all over the world, he elaborates on the puzzling size of the equity premium and the very high historical return of stock market investments. After introducing the notion of an Efficient Portfolio Frontier, he covers the concept of the Tangency Portfolio, which leads him to the Mutual Fund Theorem. Finally, the consideration of equilibrium in the stock market leads him to the Capital Asset Pricing Model, which emphasizes market risk as the determinant of a stock’s return.
Issie Lapowsky at Wired:
AltSchool is a decidedly Bay Area experiment with an educational philosophy known as student-centered learning. The approach, which many schools have adopted, holds that kids should pursue their own interests, at their own pace. To that, however, AltSchool mixes in loads of technology to manage the chaos, and tops it all off with a staff of forward-thinking teachers set free to custom-teach to each student. The result, they fervently say, is a superior educational experience.
Katrina Schwartz at KQED:
Everyone has a pet theory on how to improve public education: better professional development for teachers, more money, better curriculum, testing for accountability, teacher incentives, technology, streamlined bureaucracy. Policymakers have been trying these solutions for years with mixed results. But those who study the brain have their own ideas for improving how kids learn: focus on teaching kids how to learn.
“The more you teach students how to learn, the less time you have to spend teaching curriculum because they can [understand] it on their own,” said William Klemm, senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University at the Learning and the Brain conference “Making Lasting Memories.“ “I think the real problem is that students have not learned how to be competent learners,” he said. “They haven’t learned this because we haven’t taught them.”
Ainsley Harris in Fast Company:
Before Kanyi Maqubela became an investment partner at the Collaborative Fund, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on social enterprises, he was a typical Stanford student in need of career guidance. He was working with startups, studying philosophy, dating someone special—and feeling overwhelmed.
Enter “Designing Your Life,” a new and wildly popular course for Stanford juniors and seniors that is grounded in design thinking concepts and techniques. The course’s lessons gave him the perspective he needed to navigate decisions about life and work post graduation.
“It really helped me understand what the concept of vocation was,” he says. “I had thought of it either as a narrowly religious concept or for a specific job. But it’s this feeling that I have true agency over my work, because I know what I stand for and I have tools to fix the things that I encounter in my life.”
Alec Wilkinson in The New Yorker:
The problem that Zhang chose, in 2010, is from number theory, a branch of pure mathematics. Pure mathematics, as opposed to applied mathematics, is done with no practical purposes in mind. It is as close to art and philosophy as it is to engineering. “My result is useless for industry,” Zhang said. The British mathematician G. H. Hardy wrote in 1940 that mathematics is, of “all the arts and sciences, the most austere and the most remote.” Bertrand Russell called it a refuge from “the dreary exile of the actual world.” Hardy believed emphatically in the precise aesthetics of math. A mathematical proof, such as Zhang produced, “should resemble a simple and clear-cut constellation,” he wrote, “not a scattered cluster in the Milky Way.” Edward Frenkel, a math professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says Zhang’s proof has “a renaissance beauty,” meaning that though it is deeply complex, its outlines are easily apprehended. The pursuit of beauty in pure mathematics is a tenet. Last year, neuroscientists in Great Britain discovered that the same part of the brain that is activated by art and music was activated in the brains of mathematicians when they looked at math they regarded as beautiful.
Why are so many people so bad with money? Because we treat money as a taboo topic in the home, worse then sex. Here is a good column exploring this:
Ron Lieber in the NYT:
Money is a source of mystery to children. They sense its power, so they ask questions, lots of them, over many years. Why isn’t our house as big as my cousin’s? Why can’t I have a carnivorous plant terrarium? Why should I respect my teachers if they earn only $60,000 per year? (Real question!) Are we poor? Why didn’t you give money to the man who asked you for some? If my sister can have Hello-Kitty-themed Beats by Dre headphones, why won’t you get me the Bluetooth-enabled Lego Mindstorms set? (It’s only $349, and it’s educational, Mom!)
We adults, however, tend to do a miserable job of answering. We push our children’s money questions aside, sometimes telling them that their queries are impolite, or perhaps worrying that they will call out our own financial hypocrisy and errors. Sometimes we respond defensively and viscerally, barking back, “None of your business,” unintentionally teaching our children that the topic is off limits despite its obvious importance. Others want to protect their children from a topic many of us find stressful or baffling: Can’t we keep them innocent of all of this money stuff for just a little bit longer?
Elizabeth Green in the NYT Magazine:
As soon as he arrived, he started spending his days off visiting American schools. One of the first math classes he observed gave him such a jolt that he assumed there must have been some kind of mistake. The class looked exactly like his own memories of school. “I thought, Well, that’s only this class,” Takahashi said. But the next class looked like the first, and so did the next and the one after that. The Americans might have invented the world’s best methods for teaching math to children, but it was difficult to find anyone actually using them.
Not about math, it’s about teaching. See also why I think (American) education is worse than useless.
Cassie Walker Burke in Politico Magazine:
Of course, there were big questions: Would the Promise really reverse Kalamazoo’s decline? Could this be a model for other struggling cities around the country? Or was college-for-all too much a fantasy given the entrenched realities of poverty, an unrealistic goal for a world where even getting two-thirds of the city’s kids to graduate from high school is a heavy lift? Nearly a decade—and some $50 million—later, the effects of this bold experiment in using education as a redevelopment engine are now coming into view. And though stubborn challenges remain, so too is a different Kalamazoo.
Education is often considered to be the foundation of a well rounded and productive society, but this belief usually stems from an underlying assumption: that those coming out of the education system will keep the cogs of society turning in order to maintain profit margins of large companies in a system that requires constant growth. Instead of encouraging creative and out-of-the-box-thinking people, today’s education paradigm tends to promote more submissive, obedient, and trained graduates, thereby ensuring that the current system is always maintained.
What this means is that standard education is focused less on each individual and their growth and more on creating a supply of worker bees that can go out into the world and operate within the confines that the system has set out. Sir Ken Robinson gave a famous TED talk in 2007 where he discussed his beliefs about how education kills creativity. This video is one of the most viewed TED talks of all time and has inspired many to re-think the way we are educating our children. Since traditional education is still taking its time with adjusting to the demands of a changing society, many are turning to homeschooling as a solution, as it allows children to explore education much like Logan did.
Joshua Davis in Wired:
Access to a world of infinite information has changed how we communicate, process information, and think. Decentralized systems have proven to be more productive and agile than rigid, top-down ones. Innovation, creativity, and independent thinking are increasingly crucial to the global economy.
And yet the dominant model of public education is still fundamentally rooted in the industrial revolution that spawned it, when workplaces valued punctuality, regularity, attention, and silence above all else. (In 1899, William T. Harris, the US commissioner of education, celebrated the fact that US schools had developed the “appearance of a machine,” one that teaches the student “to behave in an orderly manner, to stay in his own place, and not get in the way of others.”) We don’t openly profess those values nowadays, but our educational system—which routinely tests kids on their ability to recall information and demonstrate mastery of a narrow set of skills—doubles down on the view that students are material to be processed, programmed, and quality-tested.