Our education system and methods suck

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Our education system and methods suck

Postby Frenetic Pony » Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:06 pm UTC

The more I think about it, the more I realize this. Students are given lists of facts to memorize and recite on cue without ever needing to understand the underlying concepts, why such discoveries were made, what the thoughts behind them were, how the model of their subject was constructed over time and what it's based on.

I mean, why is it ok that I know more about neuroscience than my psychology teacher? I'm sitting here, supposedly "studying" by be given a huge list of things I have to know about developmental psychology and one of the first questions is "What is the significance of Synaptic pruning?

Well first off, what is synaptic pruning, what are the mechanisms behind it, what are the outcomes of such a thing? But no, the answer is a few words I get to pick out of several possible answers on a multiple choice test. Secondly, the answer given by the text is simplistic and misleading. Synaptic pruning is the the removal of extraneous inter neuronal connections after they are initially made to pare down the connections to the correct neural pattern resulting in our brain's structure reforming itself to "learn" the correct behavior.

I knew that off the top of my head, because I read a paper on that same subject when bored recently. The "correct" answer is apparently "It leads to more efficient brain function." Why the frak am I taking this class? Hells, the entire structure of how students are supposed to "learn" is off. Stop giving out rip off textbooks and fact memorizations. Start giving out the actual papers that build the foundation of any objective area of study. Have people learn how professionals in the field learn, have students research things themselves all the time instead of one paper a class and then sitting in a lecture that does nothing but go over the same textbook you just had them buy.

/Angry Rant
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Jplus » Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:14 pm UTC

Just out of curiosity: did you mention this to the teacher?
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Frenetic Pony » Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:30 pm UTC

Jplus wrote:Just out of curiosity: did you mention this to the teacher?


I've emailed her, but haven't gotten a response back. Not that such is uncommon, I've already had to explain what telomeres were, and I suspect I could explain other things as well.

The point is that there is, seemingly, a better way to teach than the current model. That continuously outdated textbooks, which are nothing more than summarized collections of freely available knowledge online, might be something of an outdated concept. That with the rapid pace of advancement in many fields the ability to keep up with the latest research may be beneficial. That most lectures are nothing more than repeated lessons that could just as easily be recorded on video and disseminated by the internet. That multiple choice tests are a forced choice of convenience for professors with hundred upon hundreds of students that encourage rote memorization of facts rather than detailed functional models of understanding.

But I'm not sure how to fix any of this of course. It's far easier to point out things and call them problems than to find practical solutions to fixing them. Maybe in the future we'll have mapped the chemistry and physical patterns of the human mind so well that we can just scan someone with a detailed knowledge of integral calculus, the history of the byzantine empire, or etc. and then just transfer that same knowledge directly into the brains of others. Calvin's dream will finally come true!
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:22 pm UTC

How about a little more detail about your educational background or what level you're currently at. This sort of thing happening on the graduate level? Unacceptable. Undergrad? Pretty reasonable. High school? My guess is you don't know as much as you think you do.

It's easy to get annoyed in giant lecture feeder classes with how basic shit is. That's to be expected. They aren't interested in teaching you nitty gritty details, they're interested in seeing whether or not you can put in the time and effort to pass the class. The more interesting stuff comes later. If it's really, actually beneath you, and not just you feeling superior to everyone in the class, then talk to an adviser or professor about getting into more advanced classes in the future.

But one thing I will say is failing the class because you couldn't put in the effort to memorize the textbook answers to stuff you purportedly already know is extremely lame.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:19 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:How about a little more detail about your educational background or what level you're currently at. This sort of thing happening on the graduate level? Unacceptable. Undergrad? Pretty reasonable. High school? My guess is you don't know as much as you think you do.

It's easy to get annoyed in giant lecture feeder classes with how basic shit is. That's to be expected. They aren't interested in teaching you nitty gritty details, they're interested in seeing whether or not you can put in the time and effort to pass the class. The more interesting stuff comes later. If it's really, actually beneath you, and not just you feeling superior to everyone in the class, then talk to an adviser or professor about getting into more advanced classes in the future.

But one thing I will say is failing the class because you couldn't put in the effort to memorize the textbook answers to stuff you purportedly already know is extremely lame.

Why do you need to know about his educational background? How is that at all relevant to his rant/argument? It sounds like you are just looking to dismiss him as in favor of the establishment essentially because 'he's a kid' and thus can't possibly know more correct than the establishment.

The reality is that our system and methods do suck, but it is not limited to that. Our educational goals suck as well. Only have to look at this idiot to see how misguided out entire system is. "We have to educate our way to a better economy." Highest office in the land related to education and the only goal he, that he even mentions at all pretty much ever, has for the system is improving our economy.

The individuals that have the power in our system aren't interested in building a better system a system to create a more educated population they are interested in building a better trained one.

Our degrees in education don't educate people how to teach, they train people to use methods we know aren't particularly effective (can provide more links if that article isn't convincing).

There is little validity in our teaching methods related student learning. I had a recent client that is in charge of a teaching an masters program in education. They are teaching their aspiring, and some of them current, teachers all but entirely failed pedagogy; such as Model Prompt Check or that "individualized learning" == teaching to audio, kinesthetic, and visual 'learning styles' simultaneously and other crap. This is not only hilariously outdated it shows no understanding of psychology and cognition.

For over a decade people have been trying to get the Dept of Ed to invest in online learning tools. This system has continually let down that idea. It has took a random dude who claims to have fallen into online learning to get any attention in this area (well and Stanford and MIT putting a foot in that water). Just imagine what it would look like if the resources that were devoted to No Child Left Behind and Race for the Top got allocated to building online learning tools.

Our problem starts with the fact that our system, methods, goals for creating our teachers is pathetic. Not to mention the respect they get from our society...
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:38 am UTC

Because the entirety of his complaint was based on thinking he knows more than his teacher, who in a lecture class is trying to deliver material in a simplified package? Oh, or did you mean that part where I was asking for more information to engage in a discussion, instead of simply cheering on anyone who is bored in class?

Also, linking to an organization that advocates for home schooling is going to win shockingly few points with me if you are trying to prove that teachers don't need to be qualified. I'm not in disagreement that our educational system is flawed, but as someone currently enrolled in very difficult academic challenges, I find sweeping generalizations with no contextual information given and no real substance beyond "my teacher is dumb and my class sucks", to be somewhat lackluster...

So, OP, I'm curious for more details, or to hear if you tried any of the things I mentioned, like talking seeing about advanced placement.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:56 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Because the entirety of his complaint was based on thinking he knows more than his teacher, who in a lecture class is trying to deliver material in a simplified package? Oh, or did you mean that part where I was asking for more information to engage in a discussion, instead of simply cheering on anyone who is bored in class?
He mentions his teacher once. He titled the thread 'our education system and methods suck' and for almost the entirety of his post focuses on just that, why do you focus on his frustration with the teacher?

Also, linking to an organization that advocates for home schooling is going to win shockingly few points with me if you are trying to prove that teachers don't need to be qualified.
Logic and reading comprehension fail all in one sentence, kudos. Because the article is on a site advocating home schooling does not make the evidence invalid. Nor do I ever state that we shouldn't have qualifications for teachers. Simply that our current qualifications are essentially useless.

Its cool though, I mean I really didn't mention anything about additional citations or anything.


I'm not in disagreement that our educational system is flawed, but as someone currently enrolled in very difficult academic challenges, I find sweeping generalizations with no contextual information given and no real substance beyond "my teacher is dumb and my class sucks", to be somewhat lackluster...


You're right not a single piece of substance besides "my teacher is dumb and my class sucks."

Frenetic Pony wrote:Students are given lists of facts to memorize and recite on cue without ever needing to understand the underlying concepts, why such discoveries were made, what the thoughts behind them were, how the model of their subject was constructed over time and what it's based on.


Well first off, what is synaptic pruning, what are the mechanisms behind it, what are the outcomes of such a thing? But no, the answer is a few words I get to pick out of several possible answers on a multiple choice test. Secondly, the answer given by the text is simplistic and misleading. Synaptic pruning is the the removal of extraneous inter neuronal connections after they are initially made to pare down the connections to the correct neural pattern resulting in our brain's structure reforming itself to "learn" the correct behavior


Hells, the entire structure of how students are supposed to "learn" is off. Stop giving out rip off textbooks and fact memorizations. Start giving out the actual papers that build the foundation of any objective area of study. Have people learn how professionals in the field learn, have students research things themselves all the time instead of one paper a class and then sitting in a lecture that does nothing but go over the same textbook you just had them buy.


Well...shit that is most of his post. Just because this might not be a new revelation to you, and it certainly isn't to me, doesn't mean his post is without substance. He breaks down the problems he has with the system, methods and means of assessing understanding and does so fairly articulately.

These aren't 'sweeping generalizations' these are chronic problems within our system. Simply because he is not the first to recognize these problems doesn't make his observation invalid. Nor does him being a student make them invalid.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Mar 10, 2012 5:24 am UTC

Zcorp wrote:He titled the thread 'our education system and methods suck' and for almost the entirety of his post focuses on just that, why do you focus on his frustration with the teacher?

I didn't focus on that; I specifically asked him more details about his situation, a query you dismissed as being irrelevant.
Zcorp wrote:Logic and reading comprehension fail all in one sentence, kudos. Because the article is on a site advocating home schooling does not make the evidence invalid. Nor do I ever state that we shouldn't have qualifications for teachers. Simply that our current qualifications are essentially useless.

Zcorp wrote:Our degrees in education don't educate people how to teach, they train people to use methods we know aren't particularly effective (can provide more links if that article isn't convincing).

Was what you posted, along with that link. Don't get pissy when I call your biased link biased and ineffective at supporting your claim, especially when it's an op ed piece written by a member of an organization with a clear and evident position on the matter.

But that is neither here nor there; I don't disagree that our education system is flawed, nor have I ever contended that there are frustrating aspects of being a student. What I asked for was more information about the OP's situation.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Sat Mar 10, 2012 5:31 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Was what you posted, along with that link. Don't get pissy when I call your biased link biased and ineffective at supporting your claim, especially when it's an op ed piece written by a member of an organization with a clear and evident position on the matter.
Thats quite the claim. I got "pissy" did I? Obviously you didn't even bother to read the article nor did you notice its citations and follow them. You dismissed it without reading it for entirely thoughtless reasons, despite that I anticipated you being so idiotic and offered to provide additional citations. I offered that link first as it is actually the most comprehensive of the ones I had easily at hand.

But that is neither here nor there; I don't disagree that our education system is flawed, nor have I ever contended that there are frustrating aspects of being a student. What I asked for was more information about the OP's situation.
No, what you did is dismiss him thoughtlessly and pathetically.

My guess is you don't know as much as you think you do.


The more interesting stuff comes later. If it's really, actually beneath you, and not just you feeling superior to everyone in the class, then talk to an adviser or professor about getting into more advanced classes in the future.

But one thing I will say is failing the class because you couldn't put in the effort to memorize the textbook answers to stuff you purportedly already know is extremely lame.


Don't throw out moronic ad hominems and back pedal to say you "asked for more information." That would be well...lame.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Mar 10, 2012 5:33 am UTC

This thread is not sufficiently entertaining to me. Therefore I am locking it for the duration of Mod Madness.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Jorpho » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:49 am UTC

Aww, is the madness over already? It ended so abruptly.

Izawwlgood wrote:How about a little more detail about your educational background or what level you're currently at. This sort of thing happening on the graduate level? Unacceptable. Undergrad? Pretty reasonable. High school? My guess is you don't know as much as you think you do.

It's easy to get annoyed in giant lecture feeder classes with how basic shit is. That's to be expected. They aren't interested in teaching you nitty gritty details, they're interested in seeing whether or not you can put in the time and effort to pass the class. The more interesting stuff comes later. If it's really, actually beneath you, and not just you feeling superior to everyone in the class, then talk to an adviser or professor about getting into more advanced classes in the future.

But one thing I will say is failing the class because you couldn't put in the effort to memorize the textbook answers to stuff you purportedly already know is extremely lame.
I would just like to add that I agree with Mr. Good's assessment and think his query is entirely relevant.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Proginoskes » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:21 am UTC

Frenetic Pony wrote:The more I think about it, the more I realize this. Students are given lists of facts to memorize and recite on cue without ever needing to understand the underlying concepts, why such discoveries were made, what the thoughts behind them were, how the model of their subject was constructed over time and what it's based on.

I mean, why is it ok that I know more about neuroscience than my psychology teacher? I'm sitting here, supposedly "studying" by be given a huge list of things I have to know about developmental psychology and one of the first questions is "What is the significance of Synaptic pruning?


You would have a point, if every student in the class knew about Synaptic pruning. My guess is that they don't, and that's why that topic is being covered in class.

To paraphrase Sartre, "Hell is other students."
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Angua » Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:03 am UTC

To be honest, I think the answer the teacher gave was technically correct. They asked the significance of synaptic pruning, rather than how the process occurs. As in, why is it necessary, not how does it occur. If you were writing an essay, they'd want you to focus more on the outcomes of what happens when pruning doens't occur, rather than how the signalling and apoptotic mechanisms work (though you'd have to mention them so you can talk about how you get mouse models which are deficient in these mechanisms).

Of course, that is a deeper problem with multiple choice questions and how they like to trick you with word play.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Hofstadter'sLaw » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:41 am UTC

Frenetic Pony wrote:The more I think about it, the more I realize this. Students are given lists of facts to memorize and recite on cue without ever needing to understand the underlying concepts, why such discoveries were made, what the thoughts behind them were, how the model of their subject was constructed over time and what it's based on.

The class has to go through a whole general/introduction textbook in one semester. The textbook doesn't have room to include every underlying concept, why such discovers were made, etc. for each concept and students don't have time to learn all that in one semester either.

Frenetic Pony wrote:I mean, why is it ok that I know more about neuroscience than my psychology teacher?

What makes you think you know more than the teacher exactly? Is it just because they happen to not be teaching things you already know?

Frenetic Pony wrote:I knew that off the top of my head, because I read a paper on that same subject when bored recently... Start giving out the actual papers that build the foundation of any objective area of study. Have people learn how professionals in the field learn, have students research things themselves all the time instead of one paper a class and then sitting in a lecture that does nothing but go over the same textbook you just had them buy.

It helps some students to learn the same material in multiple ways (hearing a lecture, reading a textbook, doing an assignment). Just skip the lecture if it bores you (and use the time to read more journal articles :P). A lot of the students in the class aren't studying to be professionals in the field, so they don't really need to learn how professionals in the field learn. Journal articles usually focus on a specific thing, and if it's a general/intro class, then it's probably better to stick with a textbook and cover a lot briefly than a few things in-depth. The teacher won't have time to grade 50-200 research papers if the class is large.

I do agree that a lot of textbooks are ripoffs and that memorization isn't a great way to learn (though it is a necessary evil for learning some things).

edit:

Frenetic Pony wrote:I've emailed her, but haven't gotten a response back. Not that such is uncommon, I've already had to explain what telomeres were, and I suspect I could explain other things as well.

Wait, so you had to explain to the teacher what telomeres were, or she asked you to explain it to the class during lecture since you brought them up at some point?

Frenetic Pony wrote:That most lectures are nothing more than repeated lessons that could just as easily be recorded on video and disseminated by the internet.

That'd be nice (and I actually prefer recorded lectures myself), but some people think it's easier to listen to a live person, and with a live person you can interupt and ask questions.
Last edited by Hofstadter'sLaw on Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:55 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:54 am UTC

Hofstadter'sLaw wrote:Wait, so you had to explain to the teacher what telomeres were, or she asked you to explain it to the class since you brought them up at some point?

Without any clarification on what the OP meant, I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume the topic of telomeres were brought up apropos of nothing, and the professor was actually asking 'why is this relevant in the context of what we are discussing'.
There's a dude in one of my classes who is constantly bringing up stuff that is at best tangentially related to the topic at hand. The professors typical response is 'Ok, tell us about x?', and allows him a minute or so to demonstrate that he is (the kid) just being obnoxiously bombastic.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Jorpho » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:56 am UTC

Frenetic Pony wrote:Stop giving out rip off textbooks and fact memorizations. Start giving out the actual papers that build the foundation of any objective area of study.
Wait, what? Papers do not "build the foundation"; they are rickety structures perched precariously on the foundation of everything that came before, frequently written in a manner hopelessly inaccessible to someone with no experience in the field (e.g. people attending a class early in their academic careers). You wouldn't try to teach someone about DNA by handing him or her the original publication of Watson and Crick and maybe Franklin's X-ray crystallography data, would you? (I suppose you could, but a semester can be over with fairly quickly and there's a lot of stuff that can be taught about DNA.)
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Hofstadter'sLaw » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:59 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Hofstadter'sLaw wrote:Wait, so you had to explain to the teacher what telomeres were, or she asked you to explain it to the class since you brought them up at some point?

Without any clarification on what the OP meant, I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume the topic of telomeres were brought up apropos of nothing, and the professor was actually asking 'why is this relevant in the context of what we are discussing'.
There's a dude in one of my classes who is constantly bringing up stuff that is at best tangentially related to the topic at hand. The professors typical response is 'Ok, tell us about x?', and allows him a minute or so to demonstrate that he is (the kid) just being obnoxiously bombastic.

"Bombastic." Adding to my list of words I need to use some day. "Apropos" was already on the list. I need to read more of your posts.

edit: Sorry. Just realized this post was spammy. I got used to doing chat-like-posts in some of the huge general area threads. =/
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:12 am UTC

Hofstadter'sLaw wrote: I need to read more of your posts.

I can almost promise you, you are the first to think so.
Jorpho wrote:Papers do not "build the foundation"

Exactly. This is part of the sentiment expressed by the OP that led me to ask what their current academic situation was. Being in a lecture class and being testy you aren't learning from papers is a good indicator you aren't at the graduate level, and thus, probably not ready to be learning from primary literature.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Angua » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:47 am UTC

Yeah, trust me, learning from papers is difficult, especially in things like neuroscience where you get a bunch of conflicting results. You can even get conflicting reviews of the conflicting papers!

Also, neuroscience and psychology may be related disciplines, but they are pretty different when you're teaching them. Not knowing so much about one, doesn't mean you don't know that much about the other. I'm also not even sure why you would be talking to the teacher about telomeres (I can't really remember them being that important in neuro, much less psychology, but I could be wrong), but if the link wasn't obvious, they may have just been asking to figure out why you'd brought them up.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:27 pm UTC

Yeah, I was also confused by the telomeres comment. Even if the professor was asking out of genuine ignorance, I don't see why that's a terribly bad thing given that the topic of the class is completely unrelated to them. And as others have said, it's also entirely possible that the professor knew full well what they were, but asked Frenetic Pony out of curiosity about their relevance to the class.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby starslayer » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:27 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Exactly. This is part of the sentiment expressed by the OP that led me to ask what their current academic situation was. Being in a lecture class and being testy you aren't learning from papers is a good indicator you aren't at the graduate level, and thus, probably not ready to be learning from primary literature.
And hell, at least in astronomy, you don't primarily learn from papers in classes and such at the graduate level (you do, of course, read a whole bunch of them in doing your research). However, my professors do give us citations for important results, and we can go look them up on our own time if we're interested. For the rest, we still learn from textbooks.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Mar 19, 2012 6:35 pm UTC

Frenetic Pony wrote:I knew that off the top of my head, because I read a paper on that same subject when bored recently. The "correct" answer is apparently "It leads to more efficient brain function." Why the frak am I taking this class? Hells, the entire structure of how students are supposed to "learn" is off. Stop giving out rip off textbooks and fact memorizations. Start giving out the actual papers that build the foundation of any objective area of study. Have people learn how professionals in the field learn, have students research things themselves all the time instead of one paper a class and then sitting in a lecture that does nothing but go over the same textbook you just had them buy.

/Angry Rant


I don't think this is how a professional would ever go about learning about a brand new topic. If you are already thoroughly knowledgeable with the subject material, then sure, you can pick up papers and read them pretty easily. Otherwise, it's going to be a really, really tough slog, because papers are often built off of previous work in the field, and don't necessarily form a coherent line of reasoning leading to a given conclusion; rather, it's an organic process where one paper flows into the next, ideas get developed or discarded over the course of dozens of works spanning several years, and often require specialized knowledge of specific techniques or analysis that may be utterly irrelevant to what you're trying to learn.

For most people, even scientists or other professionals, if they wanted to find something out about a topic they knew nothing, or very little, about, they would probably start out by looking it up on Wikipedia or something similar, possibly some other similar Internet resources, and then moving on to a textbook or maybe a very accessible review paper. Or possibly consult an expert to get a good overview. They'd then move to more advanced material, eventually working their way up to looking at papers in the field. Nobody would ever start by reading papers--it's much too difficult because papers aren't designed to be read by a lay audience (with a few exceptions).

Textbooks are designed to summarize the material from many papers in a way that is sensible and coherent. They are often much more useful as learning tools, because the texts are often better organized, provide critical information without irrelevant details, and, frankly, are often much better written, than the average paper or stack of papers. Nobody uses the Principia Mathematica or the Origin of Species as a text anymore--there are better written and more up-to-date texts out there that cover the material in these books. Yes, there are some really terrible texts out there as well. But there are lots more really terrible papers.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:48 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:For most people, even scientists or other professionals, if they wanted to find something out about a topic they knew nothing, or very little, about, they would probably start out by looking it up on Wikipedia or something similar, possibly some other similar Internet resources, and then moving on to a textbook or maybe a very accessible review paper. Or possibly consult an expert to get a good overview. They'd then move to more advanced material, eventually working their way up to looking at papers in the field. Nobody would ever start by reading papers--it's much too difficult because papers aren't designed to be read by a lay audience (with a few exceptions).

I cannot begin to tell you how many incredibly intelligent scientists I know go to wikipedia first, to get an overview and idea of what sort of literature is out there, then an associate next, and finally, do their own research in papers or the like.

Most would probably hit a review article before diving into the material itself anyway.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Angua » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:08 am UTC

Heck, our tutor who's one of the editors of a leading scientific journal told us to start our research for our essays by going on wikipedia.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Yakk » Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:01 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:Its cool though, I mean I really didn't mention anything about additional citations

Let us look at the first citation in this post.

The person who posted it is a fellow of a right-wing think tank with a libertarian leaning purpose and mission. The article linked doesn't include any technical details of the claim -- not even effect size or a sampling error information -- that could be used to see if the claim is credible, just "it is going to be published in this journal" (or has been?). The article in question lists "fewer teachers are granted tenure" as an explicit, stand-alone, plus to the system he is describing. The think tank he works for gives awards to Republican governors. The measuring stick they are using -- change in marks on standardized testing -- to classify teachers as effective or not is the same as the measuring stick they use to validate their findings -- change in marks on standardized testing. They implicitly relabel this as being the best (only?) measurement of teacher quality in the article linked.

Note that if they claimed "how tall teachers are" as a measurement of teacher quality, they would find that if they took the tallest teachers and measured them next year, they would be the tallest teachers. So their claims rely, fundamentally, on "change in marks in standardized testing of students" being a good measure of teacher quality -- from reading the article, what seems to be occurring is that they have shown that "change in marks in standardized testing of students" is (at least somewhat) consistent from one year to another for a given teacher.

So, for this to be validated, someone who isn't being paid by an anti-teacher-union pro-republican think tank would have to do a similar study and replicate the findings. The findings would have to have a large effect size and be significant. There would have to be some strong evidence that there was no filtering (ie, if the study failed to show anything significant, it should still be available) that would bias the results. This first tentative link -- that you can attribute some of the change in standardized test performance to the teacher variable -- would have to be connected to something we actually care about (we should not care about standardized test scores). Some method of determining teacher quality that isn't "just try them out in a classroom" would have to be developed. And a means of attracting more people who would qualify as a high quality teacher to the profession would have to be developed. Then this theory of education would have to be tested, and make sure it isn't a "if you change things, they get better" effect.

The linked article is at most suggestive of a path that might be worth exploring. Holding it up as some kind of "now we know the truth, and everyone else is fools" evidence is foolish. I know that the social sciences are ridiculously hard, but that doesn't mean we should treat "what is easy to measure" as "what we should aim for".
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:03 pm UTC

The important thing to remember is Zcorp is fighting the system, man.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:57 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:The important thing to remember is Zcorp is fighting the system, man.

?
The important thing to remember is that the US has an incredibly weak showing in education despite spending more per capita. A significant part of that is our educational system and methods being pretty sucky.

Is your position that the US system and methods do not suck? That we shouldn't fight the trends in our educational system? Or do you simply disagree with the OP and that route memorization is what we should ask from our students?

Every day we see new evidence of how crappy our educational system is. You really think this is a fight to be avoided?

As for Yakk, I would greatly appreciate if you read what I wrote, the articles or their citations. I believe I linked 3 different articles in this thread, you are welcome to read them and their citations. What research do you think assisted in spurring ideas like NCLB or RTTT? We have observed that our teaching methods are not valid for improving student performance, the Bush and Obama administration have tried to fix that problem by rewarding teachers for student performance rather than for pieces of paper (although that still exists). It is unfortunate they didn't try to invest in improving teacher training instead or professional development of existing teachers. Or invest in an online learning platform.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Jorpho » Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:33 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:The important thing to remember is that the US has an incredibly weak showing in education despite spending more per capita. A significant part of that is our educational system and methods being pretty sucky.
But does it differ that much from the same system and methods used in Canada? Or in parts of Europe? I rather suspect the differences there are considerably smaller than the differences between the current system and homeschooling.

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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:35 pm UTC

I think my request for more information was entirely on point to ascertain what level of education FP is complaining about, and I think you are trying to derail the thread with a discussion about failures in grade or high school that most likely don't have any relevance to the OPs complaint. My guess is that the OP is in undergrad, taking introductory level material.

Zcorp wrote:Or do you simply disagree with the OP and that route memorization is what we should ask from our students?

Depends on the level. Truthfully, in the beginning, even the most dynamic, creative, 'going for one on one time' teacher is going to have to say 'Now everyone shut up and listen while I explain something that I expect you to memorize. There will be a quiz on this material'. So, yes, *rote* memorization is occasionally a very important thing in the education process.

Zcorp wrote:Every day we see new evidence of how crappy our educational system is. You really think this is a fight to be avoided?

No... Which is why I asked for more information, a query you immediately dismissed and started getting pissy over.

I also think linking a couple of articles to a discussion that might not have any pertinence to the discussion, and then repeatedly demanding people read those articles is kind of annoying.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:12 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I also think linking a couple of articles to a discussion that might not have any pertinence to the discussion, and then repeatedly demanding people read those articles is kind of annoying.
Being off-topic, it is additionally not something that should continue cluttering up this thread.

(Which is to say, zcorp needs to back off it as well.)
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:07 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I think my request for more information was entirely on point to ascertain what level of education FP is complaining about, and I think you are trying to derail the thread with a discussion about failures in grade or high school that most likely don't have any relevance to the OPs complaint. My guess is that the OP is in undergrad, taking introductory level material.
Honestly me pointing out how your posts, in this thread, are consistently antagonistic is just going to take us further off topic.

The OP made an observation: Our education system and methods suck. He expressed how he is discouraged by this and spoke of a personal experience with an aspect of our systems failure. He analyzed his frustration and articulated it in a easy to understand manner.

He can try to speak further with his teacher about his personal experience in the classroom, which he claims he did. He can then try to talk to their superior, a risky and generally fruitless endeavor, or he can fight through the shitty system and hope that it changes in the future and even become part of that change. Hopefully in this process he can learn while getting is credential and is likely going to have to go out of his way to do so despite that the class should be teaching him. In the mean time, like many other people, he is likely going to find a good place to vent or post 'angry rants.' He is likely to do that in a place where he feels he can be heard or sympathized with.

Now is there any substance to actually cover in this thread, as it seems examples of how our system and methods are poor are considered off topic?
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:21 am UTC

Again, on the topic of 'my education system is failing me', I have little sympathy for someone in, say, introductory biology, complaining that they aren't learning about telomere activity. I TA'd introductory biology last semester (and I'm TAing introductory introductory biology this semester); I can tell you with a certainty, that even at a pretty good college, these kids are not on equal footing with one another and even the smartest of them has a lot of learning to do. So, again, without Frenetic Pony explaining the situation or providing more details, I'm sticking to my original response to them, and siding with everyone else who seems to agree, that FP is in the wrong, and this actually has nothing to do with American grade or high schools educational shortcomings.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:39 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Again, on the topic of 'my education system is failing me', I have little sympathy for someone in, say, introductory biology, complaining that they aren't learning about telomere activity.
Cool, how about a little sympathy for a student who might be in introductory psychology who is frustrated with a teacher that isn't testing understanding of what a synapse is? Or who has a general and valid complaint out the system in general?

Because you know...that might actually not be a red herring. But why use logic or read when you can use ad hominems to make yourself feel good? Hows that grad school treating your reading comprehension?



I TA'd introductory biology last semester (and I'm TAing introductory introductory biology this semester); I can tell you with a certainty, that even at a pretty good college, these kids are not on equal footing with one another and even the smartest of them has a lot of learning to do. So, again, without Frenetic Pony explaining the situation or providing more details, I'm sticking to my original response to them, and siding with everyone else who seems to agree, that FP is in the wrong, and this actually has nothing to do with American grade or high schools educational shortcomings.
Of course they have a lot of learning to do, that would be why they are in college.

You don't think that this "The more I think about it, the more I realize this. Students are given lists of facts to memorize and recite on cue without ever needing to understand the underlying concepts, why such discoveries were made, what the thoughts behind them were, how the model of their subject was constructed over time and what it's based on." isn't a valid criticism of the American school failing at ALL levels? We have many individuals with a little piece of paper that says PhD that got it by a system that judges them by this criteria.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:50 am UTC

Zcorp wrote:You don't think that this "The more I think about it, the more I realize this. Students are given lists of facts to memorize and recite on cue without ever needing to understand the underlying concepts, why such discoveries were made, what the thoughts behind them were, how the model of their subject was constructed over time and what it's based on." isn't a valid criticism of the American school failing at ALL levels? We have many individuals with a little piece of paper that says PhD that got it by a system that judges them by this criteria.

I think if he's complaining about this issue, he's clearly not on the graduate level, because you are amusingly incorrect about this last point.

I think you could really stand to read the discussion that has been had in this thread more closely for some insight into why myself and a handful of other people are saying what we're saying.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:07 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I think if he's complaining about this issue, he's clearly not on the graduate level, because you are amusingly incorrect about this last point.
I'm not certainly not. You have a delusional understanding of the quality graduate level education provides if you think it consistently produces individuals who are capable of deep insight in their fields, life or reason. Or even deep understanding.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Dopefish » Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:06 am UTC

It may or may not be the case that the OP's complaint is justified based on their own experiences, but many people would agree that the system as it stands is rather suboptimal, what with it largely being focused on rote learning amongst other issues, which would render the OP right (perhaps for the wrong reasons).

I myself am rather strongly against rote learning as a good method of learning anything, but as a result of similar debates on the topic I acknowledge that it may be more a necessary evil in some fields then others. (Bio/med being the main ones that seem to require a huge amount of memorisation.) Of course, the problem is that alternative methods of teaching are much harder, and often far less practical the way things are set up. Rote learning will eventually allow most students to grasp the material do well on tests, but for very few people is that likely to be the optimal way to learn. The problem being of course that whatever the optimal way for one student is, may be sufficiently specific to them as to be near useless to the rest of the class, and it just works out that rote learning is a 'good enough' method common to (nearly) everyone, and hence we're largely stuck with it.

I'm inclined to think that ideally the system should work in a way where teachers don't actually teach anything, but instead build a love/interest in the relevant material for the student. Using textbooks along with the increasingly available resources that the internet provides, students would then be inclined to actually teach themselves via whatever method works for them. I feel this could be just as effective, if not more effective, in getting students to learn and understand the material, but whats more is they'd enjoy it. This is as opposed to the current system where it's basicly a matter of biting the bullet and actively memorising 500 terms, rather then just absorbing them in the context of a bigger picture.

On the quality of understanding of PhD's and grads...I'd like to think that essentially all PhD's do have a deep and thorough understanding of the underlying concepts in whatever field they earned their PhD in, as the requirements for a PhD do need a lot of original thought and independant research(/learning), plus they (hopefully) earned it in a field they've always enjoyed, alllowing them to appreciate all the details along the way. I'd imagine much of that would also apply to masters students, but it is much more prone to letting people get through without any deep insights, as they can slide through with enough work and memorisation (and y'know, blindly do what their supervisor tells them to do until they get tired of dealing with them and graduate them). At the undergrad level and below though, I wouldn't imagine that even the top performing students are necessarily capable of demonstrating any deep insight, and rather for the most part just really good at doing the specific subset of problems they've had to do as a student.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:18 am UTC

Dopefish wrote:On the quality of understanding of PhD's and grads...I'd like to think that essentially all PhD's do have a deep and thorough understanding of the underlying concepts in whatever field they earned their PhD in, as the requirements for a PhD do need a lot of original thought and independant research(/learning), plus they (hopefully) earned it in a field they've always enjoyed, alllowing them to appreciate all the details along the way. I'd imagine much of that would also apply to masters students, but it is much more prone to letting people get through without any deep insights, as they can slide through with enough work and memorisation (and y'know, blindly do what their supervisor tells them to do until they get tired of dealing with them and graduate them). At the undergrad level and below though, I wouldn't imagine that even the top performing students are necessarily capable of demonstrating any deep insight, and rather for the most part just really good at doing the specific subset of problems they've had to do as a student.

It largely depends upon the field, and then of course the individual student and program. There are many individuals who are the top of their field with only, or not even, having a bachelors. Pretty much the entire point is that 5-7 years of practical application in the right environment has been shown generally (again I'll mention this is field dependent) to be just as useful as getting a doctorate. And to state something more specific what we teach teachers and school administrators is incredibly poor. We have fairly deep and complex understanding of development in neo-piagetian theories theories. As well as a decent grasp of motivation relating to personality and differences in intelligence. There is great depth to what should be being taught in pedagogy, we just aren't doing it.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:27 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:There are many individuals who are the top of their field with only, or not even, having a bachelors.

Considering Frenetic Pony was directly talking about neuroscience, I'm going to ask you to show me a neuroscientist that is the top of their field with only, or not even, having a bachelors.
Or you know what, show me an example of an accomplished scientist who, instead of graduate school (or even college!) worked for 5-7 years in the field to produce something awesome. I'll wager there may be a few examples of mathematicians over the years who were entirely self-taught and so brilliant that everything they touched turned into graduate thesis level productions, but that level of genius is hardly worth hanging your argument on.
Zcorp wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:I think if he's complaining about this issue, he's clearly not on the graduate level, because you are amusingly incorrect about this last point.
I'm not certainly not. You have a delusional understanding of the quality graduate level education provides if you think it consistently produces individuals who are capable of deep insight in their fields, life or reason. Or even deep understanding.

Enlighten me then. And I'm going to ask you to explain your situation now if you're making these claims, because they directly contradict everything I've observed. That is, people do not get PhD's unless they possess great insight and mastery over their particular subfield. It does not come with rote memorization, although that is certainly part of what they must do. As Dopefish pointed out, a thesis, even a masters thesis, is not simply a recitation of facts.

Lets take a step back; if you're arguing that our grade and high school teachers are in poor shape and those educational systems are failing our students, then you should understand no one is arguing with you. If you're arguing that on the college level, in the sciences, that we need a total renaissance of our educational system, I would strongly disagree with you. Complaining that you have to memorize things at the introductory level is an incredibly weak complaint.

Zcorp wrote:Cool, how about a little sympathy for a student who might be in introductory psychology who is frustrated with a teacher that isn't testing understanding of what a synapse is? Or who has a general and valid complaint out the system in general?

No. I don't have any. We all got bored with parts of our introductory classes. As I said, Frenetic Pony probably doesn't know as much as they think they do, and without any further information, I'm still standing on the notion that unless they get an A in the course, they didn't put in the work they should have. As I mentioned, as someone who has TA'd introductory classes, even the smartest kids are learning new material. Rarely, RARELY, is someone in a class like this and is actually probably qualified for more advanced material. Nothing FP has said indicates as such.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:53 pm UTC

Dopefish wrote:I myself am rather strongly against rote learning as a good method of learning anything, but as a result of similar debates on the topic I acknowledge that it may be more a necessary evil in some fields then others. (Bio/med being the main ones that seem to require a huge amount of memorisation.) Of course, the problem is that alternative methods of teaching are much harder, and often far less practical the way things are set up. Rote learning will eventually allow most students to grasp the material do well on tests, but for very few people is that likely to be the optimal way to learn. The problem being of course that whatever the optimal way for one student is, may be sufficiently specific to them as to be near useless to the rest of the class, and it just works out that rote learning is a 'good enough' method common to (nearly) everyone, and hence we're largely stuck with it.


I think rote learning has gotten a bad reputation. It isn't a bad way of learning. It is a good way of learning; it is not a comprehensive way of learning.

I think of rote learning as like doing drills in sports, or practicing scales as a musician. You will never be a good basketball player unless you are willing to spend a significant amount of time just standing there shooting free throws or doing layups or whatever, just to work on your mechanics. Likewise, you're going to have a hard time mastering calculus if, at some point, you don't take some time and differentiate a couple hundred functions. Practicing your skills is a vital part of mastering any material. The problem is that sometimes the education system makes practice an end unto itself. If you do nothing but practice free throws, and never actually play a game of basketball, you're doing something wrong; if you do nothing but memorize facts and don't actually apply or synthesize them in novel ways, you're doing something wrong. But that doesn't mean you don't need to memorize the facts in the first place.
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Re: Our education system and methods suck

Postby Zcorp » Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:11 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:No. I don't have any. We all got bored with parts of our introductory classes. As I said, Frenetic Pony probably doesn't know as much as they think they do, and without any further information, I'm still standing on the notion that unless they get an A in the course, they didn't put in the work they should have. As I mentioned, as someone who has TA'd introductory classes, even the smartest kids are learning new material. Rarely, RARELY, is someone in a class like this and is actually probably qualified for more advanced material. Nothing FP has said indicates as such.

I only have time for a quick response at the moment, I'll respond to the rest sometime soon.

School shouldn't be about 'putting in the work' it should be about learning. Grades don't correlate very well to understanding of course concepts. Pretty much the only thing they do correlate well with is future grades. Some people get straight A's but cant apply what they are being taught and others skip by with D's but are great at applying those skills.

No one here is arguing, including the OP, that there is nothing to be gained introductory classes. So please stop with the fallacies, or do you really not understand what is being said?
It is getting hard to have sympathy for you failure to read and understand this discussion. I'd hope this is a skill you would of learned by now, being a TA and graduate student. Or maybe being a graduate student, even in the sciences, doesn't actually make people good at logic and reading comprehension. Maybe that has to do with our educational system and methods being poor...
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