Kim,

great post, thanks!

You may enjoy this TED talk:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

As to your "laughing" friend, I also know some such people, they have in 
truth not understood what science is about: asking questions, being 
critical (especially self-critical!); science is a method, an algorithm 
for arriving at knowledge, never the current canon of knowledge (which 
will be an old hat in a decade).

People which laugh at everything that does not fit into their world-view 
are not scientific, just dogmatic. They believe in textbook knowledge 
from college times, which may be the snapshot of scientific modelling at 
a particular time, but, it's still not the _idea_ of science.



Cheers,
Günther

Kim Jones wrote:
> Let's keep it simple. Schools and universities (globally identifiable as 
> 'the education industry') have traditionally fulfilled the role of 
> fountains of knowledge. This is fine, up to the point where we realise 
> that we no longer need to attend these places if all we want is 
> knowledge (accumulated expertise, understanding of a field, the specific 
> technical low-down necessary to gain a foothold in a certain area.) 
> Increasingly the Internet fulfils this function in a direct and powerful 
> way. It also presents a lot of pratfalls as well - as Brent was very 
> hasty in pointing out, but then I would call 'using the Internet 
> responsibly' a skill that probably cannot be learnt easily from the 
> Internet. This is an example of what I mean when I say education should 
> now teach skills rather than knowledge. I am not talking either about 
> the vocational skills that many employers hotly desire from the 
> education sector although nobody could deny that those skills should be 
> taught as well. 
> 
> Above all what needs to be taught is the skill of thinking. Not 
> compartmentalised, specialised, academic thinking, but OPERACY - how to 
> get a result in a real and changing world. Bruno has referred (in his 
> 'amoebas" dissertation) to the value of posing questions in a childlike 
> manner. Children have not yet submitted to "the brainwashing known as 
> academic specialisation". He has uttered a profound and above all, a 
> useful truth in mentioning this, IMO.
> 
> Have you ever tried to stand upright on a carpet that somebody is 
> pulling along the floor from one end? Difficult. Ever learnt to ride a 
> surfboard? Similar skill. The world around you is changing fast and you 
> must strive to maintain some kind of relation to it that is useful. 
> 
> My point is that education fails badly to teach this kind of skill. 
> Every banker, every businessman, every politician, every company boss, 
> every worker, everybody in fact is "flying by the seat of his pants" 
> right now but education remains smugly complacent about it's 
> self-serving tradition. Kids go to school and learn to memorise a bunch 
> of stuff, they sit for exams and in so doing mandate the school to set 
> those exams and teach the stuff in the first place. The more you think 
> about it the more circular it seems. It's not for nothing that we talk 
> often about the 'education bubble'. By this we mean that in a certain 
> sense, education is not the real world. The teacher puts something in 
> front of the student. The student reacts to this using the vocabulary of 
> knowledge taught up to that point. This means the teacher is always 
> ahead of the student which is what lends the teacher their air of 
> authority. In the 'real world' it isn't as simple as that. You have to 
> invent initiatives and use risk-taking strategies to get ahead, 
> increasingly we must do this on a daily basis now to even survive. There 
> is no school subject, for example, that teaches "economic survival 
> following job redundancy", yet millions of people are facing precisely 
> this dilemma right now. In a certain sense their education has taught 
> them little of real value.
> 
> Don't forget about "the archway effect". This states that if a number of 
> brilliant people are sent under an archway, then it is highly likely 
> that from that archway will stream a number of brilliant people. You 
> have to be brilliant to get in to Harvard. They don't take in the class 
> 'dunce' in these institutions. The institution thus benefits more from 
> the quality of the students than the students benefit from the quality 
> of the institution.
> 
> Because of the unavoidable tradition of historical continuity in 
> education - which grew up, after all in the church, the least likely 
> institution to welcome any form of new knowledge or innovation - 
> education is marked by all the drawbacks associated with an overweening 
> respect for 'historical continuity'. It is difficult to break with the 
> patterns of the past. Teaching, education - call it whatever you want, 
> was for a long time in the hands of ecclesiastical authorities who 
> founded the vast majority of our elite educational institutions (not ULB 
> - a good point in its favour) and so established the traditions of 
> education. I often harp on about the need to teach 'creative thinking' 
> in my posts. Note that by this I do NOT mean artistic thinking but 
> generative, innovative and risk-taking thinking generally. Critical 
> thinking was and still is of paramount importance in the ecclesiastical 
> world since it has proven the most effective weapon against heresy and 
> deviation and since that world consists of concept edifices that must 
> have internal consistency and validity if they are not to be overrun by 
> outside ideas that would cause them to appear relativistic and thus to 
> risk collapse. But all that is very far from the practical, messy world 
> in which people have to think (often with very inadequate data) in order 
> to solve problems and bring things about. Critical intelligence is very 
> valuable. Critical thinking is an essential part of thinking. But 
> critical thinking can never be the whole of thinking.
> 
> The apostolic succession of educators in posts involving tenure and high 
> levels of job security mirrors the smugness with which the education 
> world holds its historical continuity in high esteem. It is highly 
> amusing for me to see a computer scientist and systems architect such as 
> Steve Wolfram innovating in such a way as to make these people seem less 
> and less relevant.  Wolfram has his detractors for sure, many people 
> think he is a bullshit artist, but he is also a risk-taking entrepreneur 
> who has little regard for the sanctity of education institutions to 
> claim some kind of monopoly in the knowledge game.
> 
> Bruno speaks often of 'interdisciplinarity'. This is the need to escape 
> specialisation, rather than to embrace it. Increasingly, I see this as 
> the safe path for education in the future. We all know about the 
> professor of quantum mechanics who was so expert in his field, he could 
> not even work out how to buy sex in a brothel. I think they made a movie 
> about it starring Marlene Dietrich. It is also true that the people who 
> are the most likely to innovate in any field are not the hidebound ones, 
> the pedants and the experts who act like oracles of all truth and 
> wisdom. Anyone who claims to be an 'expert' at something is by 
> definition expert in the state of knowledge up to that point. The 
> expert's judgement is based on the past. The expert's judgement is based 
> on what IS rather than what CAN BE. The expert is always being asked for 
> expert opinions. The expert cannot risk his or her reputation. So the 
> expert does need to stay on the side of caution. Better to say that 
> something cannot be done, rather than to say that it can be done and to 
> be responsible for some mistake. Experts are the guardians of the past 
> and people expect them to be so. They are like priests of knowledge. A 
> so-called 'expert' in QM has been telling me for ages how stupid all of 
> you people are for imagining that MWI makes any sense. He laughs like a 
> drain when I describe to him Bruno's teleportation gedanken experiment. 
> He simply 'knows' that it is all fancy make-believe and that we are all 
> engaged in some kind of new-age nonsense here. He is highly educated and 
> highly respected as a teacher. Experts (specialists) once declared that 
> for a rocket to get to the moon it would have to weigh a million tons. 
> Experts once calculated that the total world market for computers would 
> be just eight computers. These particular experts worked for the Xerox 
> corporation. We all know what happened to Xerox in a fast-changing 
> world. Experts once declared that the telephone was nothing more than an 
> electronic toy. 
> 
> These days, everybody can stake out their field and research whatever 
> they want. Life, however, is increasingly demanding that we all 
> specialise a little bit in many areas. As Bruno says, his own field of 
> thought is on the cusp of math, biology, psychology, theology, physics, 
> logic, computer science etc. Descartes said that it would be best to 
> teach all the sciences as one. Increasingly, the Internet is the EXPERT 
> and we are the fuzzy, creative innovators who design new fields of 
> endeavour with our vast realms of knowledge. A kind of emergence 
> phenomenon, if you will.
> 
> Kim Jones

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