Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Religiosity as indicator of education system performance

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-04-29

Increase analytical thinking in individuals and religious belief drops – so at a group level, increasing popularity of the more credulous sects suggests our education system is failing.  But don’t expect that indicator of education system performance to be used by politicians.

Scientific American has an interesting article "Losing Your Religion: Analytic Thinking Can Undermine Belief" (2012-04-26) – which seems pretty obvious, but the experiments looked at how analytical training attacks the cancer of religious thinking at the level of the individual.

This is trickier than tracking it at the level of a society, but I think the results would hold at the group level, with lower sky-fairy fandom the result of a better education system.

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Posted in Education, Science and Tech, Society, Theology and Religion | 1 Comment »

Scopes Monkey Bill – Victory for anti-Science

Posted by Dave Bath on 2012-04-15

"Tennessee Monkey Bill Becomes Law" (Nature News 2012-04-11) reports the continuing death-throeas of Thomas Jeffersons informed and active citizenry essential for democracy, at least in the USA.

The infamous 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial" pitched Tennessee against a teacher who dared to cover Darwin and evolution in class.

The governor of Tennessee has allowed the passage of the ‘monkey bill’, giving public-school teachers licence to teach alternatives to those mainstream scientific theories often attacked by religious and political conservatives.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Education, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion, USA | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Oldies but goldies kept out of our schools

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-28

Crap happens.  It has always happened.  It always will.  So why aren’t our education systems giving to people some of the best means of dealing with that crap? Tools that never age, are easily available, cheap, and nobody has ever really criticized in the last couple of millenia?

Even fixing up the biased Christianity in our schools, replacing it merely with comparative religion and ethics classes: good, but not good enough.  We need to provide kids with the tools for consolation and strength, the classical personal philosophies of the likes of Marcus Aurelius.

It’s deprivation, deprivation bordering on abuse.

Over the last couple of years, contact with a few of old uni friends has been re-established – and a couple of them have been having a hard time.  Intelligent folk, decent, crap from the fates, from spouses, from family courts … and there is one bit of advice that seems to have done the most good – and started doing good almost straight away:

Seriously, check out wikipedia on "Meditations" and Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor who wrote it, check out his wikiquotes, and remember this guy had the weight of the known world on his shoulders, and despite later (unprovable) diagnoses as suffering from depression, ruled pretty damn well, and his notes on how to view the world and the crap happening allowed him to rule well.  Have a browse, and if some of it rings true, get yourself the Penguin translation and open it at random – each paragraph stands on it’s own, so even if depression is hitting your cognition as you say, it’s in easy to digest bite-sized pieces.  Then come back to me if you want more of the Stoics and the Epicureans.

Well, usually within a day I’m getting emails that are "Wow!  Never knew this stuff – I mean, I’ve seen him as, you know, the good emperor in ‘Gladiator’, but …"

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Posted in Australia, Education, Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion | Leave a Comment »

Dumb marketing or dumb market

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-02-06

On the back of today’s Age "Sunday Life" fluff liftout is an ad that made my jaw drop – mentions St Valentine’s day, romantic picture of a couple walking under blossoming trees, picture of the products (jewellery)…

… but the brand name… "Pandora"!

Ever heard the common phrase "Opening up a Pandora’s Box"?

I wondered if the person suggesting that name was an idiot, a cynic after a very ugly marriage, or thought it a nice sound while assessing the wealthy demographics as untutored… or probably two out of three.

The message for the guy buying the ring? "The girl might have a lot going for her, apart from trustworthiness – things will get really ugly with the worst things happening – things so bad you’d never heard of them before – and there won’t be even a glimmer of hope."

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Posted in Economics and Business, Education, History, Humor, Language Use | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NAPLAN-like tests for pollies please

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-09-15

If the pollies to left and right are so keen on academic standards and publishing the results of formal testing, including the notion that it provides choice, then why don’t all the pollies submit to similar tests, across all the subjects relevant to parliaments, of the multichoice sections of year 12 subjects, and year 12 literacy test?

Why not make sitting such a test compulsory for all those standing for parliament, with the AEC supervising, and publishing the results on their website next to each candidate in the list of those running in each seat?

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Posted in Australia, Education, Governance, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Why most of us look at evidence and action arse-about

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-10

A very thought provoking paper on why people do not want to, and therefore reject, overwhelming scientific concensus, has just been released on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN): "Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus" (2010-02-07) with the lead author from Yale Law School.

It posits and tests the idea that your worldview will make you, near-instinctively, reject evidence based on whether the actions guided that evidence would conflict with your worldview.

Putting it a bit simplistically, libertarians hate the science of climate change because it demands action involving regulation, and supranational concerted action, while lefties, viewing big business as intrinsically untrustworthy, will not credit any evidence that nuclear waste can be managed.

We are all screwed, unless there are enough people who have the intellectual discipline and inclination to make evidence-based decisions.  The number of "people-of-faith" (e.g. base their lives on the idea that evidence is less important than other drivers) in the world means that evidence will hardly get a look-in, so evidence-based politics and consequence evidence-based policy will remain a pipe dream (unless we convince those with imaginary sky friends to be internally consistent and pray rather than seek medical help).

An agonizing crash of human civilization and population is inevitable unless we get rid of both theists and libertarians (hopefully by educating them properly rather than a pogrom).

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Posted in Australia, Education, Environment, International, Philosophy, Politics, Science and Tech, Society, Theology and Religion | 2 Comments »

Real computing power for students – while cutting spending

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-09

If KRudd (or state governments) wanted to improve educational use of computers in schools (and kindergartens), and wanted to DECREASE the government spend on IT in schools, all he’d have to do is point schools to the pages where Google offers schools a near-enterprise-level service free of charge: Google Applications for Education and Google Apps for Kindergartens through Secondary.

Then, there’d be no need to fund laptops – just low-end "diskless" (actually a flash disk) netbooks and a means-tested basic internet connection (enough to be ok for google apps, wiki pages, etc, but a bit painful for music/video).

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Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Education, Information Management, Politics | 7 Comments »

If MySchool logic applied to students and university entrance…

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-01

I wonder what would happen if the assumptions of MySchool on the worth of schools, their ability to teach students, were applied to entrance scores for university courses?

If one school is deemed half as good as another, then surely a student from the inferior school, with test results three standard deviations above the mean for that school, shows greater ability and dedication to learning, and is more worthy of entry into an elite course like medicine or law, than a person who may have got the same absolute year 12 score, but was only one standard deviation above the mean for the better-scoring school.

Indeed, any raw score for a student of one school scoring half that of another, should be doubled when considering eligibility for a tertiary course.

Imagine the howls of protest from the ivy-walled private schools, as parents dragged the brighter kids away to place them in more disadvantaged state schools.

Imagine how the per-capita funding of schools, even on just a federal level, could be more equitable.

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Posted in Australia, Education, Politics | 1 Comment »

Sexism and SOIFdom

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-12-21

Hat-tipping and riffing on Robert Merkel at LP, it seems no wonder that Slaves Of Imaginary Friends (SOIFs, pun with serf intended) tend to the "conservative" view that women should be homemakers, and furthermore, that if we want a society improved by rational policy, at least a couple of generations of males should be primary care-givers, particularly during the years when vulnerable brains can be poisoned, resistant to the idea of evidence-based action.

With 4 women as SOIFs for every 3 male SOIFs, and with more women as primary care-givers, the next generation is pushed into becoming SOIFs.  If this continues, we are doomed.  This depressing statistic may be related to either the gender gap in students and practitioners of the hard sciences (cause, effect, or self-amplifying feedback loop), and may also be related to the traditional and unfortunate low status of women in conservative societies, mirroring the popularity of early Xtianity among slaves.

Does it also reflect the popularity of fad diets, the relative frequencies of body images contrary to reason and evidence?  The resistance to accepting evidence in these things shares much in common with SOIFdom.

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Posted in Education, Society, Theology and Religion | Leave a Comment »

Stalin’s children – Western “democracies”

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-03

I propose what seems to be a general rule of politics these days:

The probability of policies being set in harmony with the opinion of experts is inversely correlated to the unanimity of expert opinion and the importance of that policy.

Climate change is but one example where unanimity of relevant experts is near total, yet scientists are ignored at best, and often punished

Economic policy is an example where there is no unanimity, so the politicians choose the expert opinion that suits them or political sponsors.

Nature ("Sacked science adviser speaks out" doi:10.1038/news.2009.1053 2009-11-02) has a depressing interview with a recently sacked advisor on non-therapeutic drug use, who made the following comment.

It just seems to me a nail in the coffin of evidence-based government.

– David Nutt
University of Bristol

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Civil rights, Education, Environment, Governance, International, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 9 Comments »

What is it wroth?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-09-09

Senator Steve Fielding announced in Punch, after the "F-I-S-K-A-L" difficulty, that he was suitable for his Senate position, despite his admitted problems with articulation and spelling (and the 29% in HSC/VCE English), putting forward as evidence for his smarts his great VCE maths scores, his Bachelor of Engineering, and his Masters of Business Administration.

Do you notice anything really odd about his argument?  (Hint: three letters).

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Posted in Australia, Education, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Religious exemption from anti-discrimination law: the inescapable conclusion

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-07-22

As a hypothetical, let’s say that anti-discrimination laws allow discrimination by certain organizations based on the nature of the organization, such as religious institutions, including schools, wanting to be able to employ only those (whether as teachers, janitors or receptionists) of the same sect.

Then we invite the Education Minister to an interview:

  • Interviewer: Minister, how important do you think it is that children in our education system are not only given basic facts, but are provided with the skills to develop questions and hypotheses, analyze information, and come to the best conclusions based on the information available to them?
  • Minister: (cannot answer anything but "very" unless wanting a change of portfolio).
  • Interviewer: So, essential to the nature of a state education system, indeed any education with support from the state, is the need to question?
  • Minister: (cannot answer anything but "yes" unless wanting a change of portfolio).
  • Interviewer: The dictionary would define "skepticism" as questioning, wouldn’t it.
  • Minister: Ummmm, (quivering voice, starting to see what is coming) yes.
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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Education, Legislation, Philosophy, Politics, Theology and Religion, Victoria | Leave a Comment »

Plaque removal

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-25

So, schools need to put up plaques and signage, from roadsigns to plaques on buildings and chairs and stickers in books, to get money from Canberra… and promise to waste valuable teaching time by having ceremonies to open everything so that Her Deputy-Prime-Majesty can waste time when she should be helping to run the economy rather than eat cucumber sandwiches.

What educational benefit is there in all that propaganda?

If there should be any road signage, it should only be for things like "Children Crossing".  Extra signs are nothing but a dangerous distraction to drivers.

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Posted in Australia, Education, Governance, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Valentine: 4th July, Al Capone, and more Tom Lehrer

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-14

A few words on an Australian perspective of Valentine’s Day, and the problem with special days for modified behaviour that are desirable the year around, as so well described by Tom Lehrer (video links below, as well as to lots of other versions of Lehrer’s songs on YouTube)

The Feast of St Valentine became well-known in 19th century United States, and promoted by greeting card manufacturers  Any association with love on that day before the middle ages was with the Roman (and earlier Greek) Lupercalia (from lupus=wolf), which was a fertility festival where lots of young males run around naked, with perhaps the best modern equivalent of such practices being the Sydney Mardi Gras.

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Posted in Arts, Education, Humor, Science and Tech, Society | 7 Comments »

Money wasted on Vic iliterasy and innumberasy

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-04

The Victorian Auditor General’s report on Literacy and Numeracy Achievement (2009-02-04) is out, showing that despite squillions, nothing much has been achieved, regardless of Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) claims and propaganda.

I’ve summarized the key points over the fold: bolding is mine and italics are my additions.

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Posted in Education, Governance, Victoria | Leave a Comment »

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