On Tue, May 6, 2008 at 5:04 PM, Edward Cherlin <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:

> On Tue, May 6, 2008 at 7:49 AM, Samuel Klein <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
> > Interesting point.  I do worry about mindful observation being biased by
> the
> > unconscious need to be fashionable -- something that affects all sorts
> of
> > experiments, scientific or not.
> Or the need to be unfashionable, as the case may be.

Just so.

> > > However, Wheldall is concerned that low-progress readers do not learn
> to
> > read naturally. "They will only learn to read with careful, systematic
> > instruction to which phonics instruction is central," he says.
> The history of science is littered with overambitious claims for
> research results.

Indeed.  We should be as wary of results we like as of those we do not.

See Maria Montessori, among others who document
> a sudden explosion into reading, where children go from knowing the
> alphabet to reading anything within their comprehension all at once,
> with no detectable progression.

Good example.  Can we list others?

> > Agreed -- "How wide should the net be cast in this discussion?" is
> another
> > good one.
> We are talking about the construction of entire human beings here.  What
> could we leave out?

If we leave nothing out, then we may fail to be productive in our lifetimes
thanks to constant diversions and distractions.  There are progressions of
thought and discussion which, like space-filling curves, manage to fill
finite area despite the narrow focus of any particular thread... my question
can be improved to, "how wide should the net be cast over the next month in
this discussion".

> > Which war(s) are we prepared to fight and which ones not?
> We are already engaged in several, and the larger society has more waiting
> for us. It is not our choice.
> * Software freedom
> * Child-centered education
> * Freedom of thought and of speech
> * Fundamental human rights of all kinds

others.We can (and should) prioritize one war without deprecating  Fighting
wars on multiple fronts without priorities, and treating setbacks in all of
them as critical brinks which demand diverting all available resources to
recovery, is a recipe for constant inefficiency and confusion.

> Our most serious opponents are well-organized on a narrow range of
> issues, extremely well funded, and implacable. To many of them, we are
> the greatest threat to humanity ever.

I don't think there is a single group who currently considers "us" or "our
projects" to be the greatest threat to humanity, or even on the list of such
threats... for any definition of "us".

> Education is the front line on the battleground. Hence religious
> home-schooling in the US.

Those are complaints about how current school systems teach, not about the
idea of exploration as a path to learning and discovery.

> Another good one.  A related question : when is it acceptable to dismiss
> > commonly-held beliefs as obviously wrong (is it ever acceptable?) and
> when
> > should they be addressed in detail?
> Wrong question. When do you need to explain why something is wrong,
> and when can you just say so and move on? Depends completely on the
> audience, and the purpose of the occasion. In some cases a third
> strategy is indicated: Silence until you get to a safe distance.

I would suggest that for every commonly-held belief that appears to be
wrong, a serious discussion of the merits and demerits of the underlying
observations, and of the analysis leading to said belief, is necessary.  It
may not be appropriate to discuss with every audience, but it should be
publicly available and open for dialogue, say on a well-known wiki.

We will find that some in any community, and many in some
> communities, will have nothing to do with us and our ideas, and will
> work to undermine any good that we think we are doing, because to them
> it is ultimate evil.

I don't know what you consider to be 'us and our ideas' here, but I think
that almost every community respects the notion of education as a path
towards practical, spiritual, and collective societal improvement.
Different communities may privilege learning some things and deprecate
learning others.  I have never been part of a community that did not have
implicit ideas of what should 'always' be learned and what should 'never' be
learned by good people.

It is good for us to debate what should and should not be learned. Some will
say that /everything/ should be learned, both how to inspire and discover
and create and how to manipulate and destroy.  Some will focus on specific
things that should be learned, both positively and prophylactically.

However, we should not mistake disagreements about what should be learned
for disagreements about the value of education.

> Highlighting some major differences -- as perceived internally, and as
> > perceived by visiting educators from elsewhere -- will be useful.
> Differences between what and which?

Between learning environments and priorities in different countries -- say,
a specific country in Europe and a specific LDC.

> Negative results are also very interesting : what are major educational
> > initiatives (in a given region/country) that have been tried without
> > success?  What are narrow areas in which they dramatically succeeded or
> > failed?
> Interpreting negative results is a dicy business. There are too many
> reasons why an experiment can fail besides the failure of the
> experimental hypothesis. The most common are human, not technical:

Yes, those are quite common.  However, we should actively share and discuss
negative results, rather than discarding them.

This editorializing in what purports to be a news story seems to be
> typical of the increasingly shoddy reporting at the NYT in recent
> years. No numbers, no analysis, no comparison with districts that did
> get good results. Argument by anecdote.

I do not wish to defend the NYT or their practices, but I have not seen a
good set of numbers, analysis, or comparisons of districts implementing
1-to-1 computing projects anywhere in the last couple of years... but rather
descriptions and analyses by anecdote.

This is probably a good thread for the research list (copied).

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