Tuesday, February 27, 2007

TCS Daily - For Whom the Bell Curves

TCS Daily - For Whom the Bell Curves: America's Education Dilemma: "Thirty years ago, a vocational school for typists or for TV repairmen would have made sense. Many professionals used secretaries for typing, and many people took broken televisions to the shop for repair. However, not many people could have spent their entire careers doing typing or TV repair. Today, people throw out broken televisions (unless they are under warranty), and most people do their own typing on computers. "

How are to design a curriculum for our children when we have no idea what their lives may be like in 20 years much less 50 years in the future.
• 5 years ago the iPod was just getting off the ground
• 10 years ago the Web found it stride
• 15 years ago computer became affordable to most people

The most important lessons we have to teacher our children in to be flexible in learning.

I truly believe most people can learn anything they want if they think it is important for them to know it. The problem with most schooling is that the material is not interesting and presented in a way that emphasizes that it is not worth knowing.

IQ is a good predictor for how well someone will do in school, but it doesn't predict how well someone will live their life, or how well loved they will be, or how much money they will make or how happy they will be.

You can pick people at random on the street and find out their IQs and their earnings and the people with the highest IQs probably won't be the highest earners and the difference between the lowest earning and the highest will be over 10x while the differences between their IQs will be less then 2x.

IQ isn't useless but it isn't all that useful either.

Children are different from each other. but they can be clustered together pretty well, if we wanted to. However we can't do that any more in our schools so we will have to pick up the slack for ourselves.

For example if we have a set of children very interested in playing musical instruments we can start them off by learning all about scales and technique, but we can expand on that interest and relate it to many other branches of learning. The mathematics of the octave are beautiful to ear and brain. The chemistry of metal to made a trumpet or of lacquers to coat a violin can be all related to musical learning.

But what do we really do: we throw 30 random children into a class and expect them all to be wildly enthusiastic about every subject from any point of interest. When the reality is only 5% of the students (1.5 students or 2 since we can't really have half a student in class) will care about the presentation of the material at any given time.

If we could group them together into classes of interested students they would do much better and much faster too. Though we would have to be a bit sneaky in presenting material they may be less interested in but are sure to need later.

I mean how can you go through 12+ years of school and never take a course in basic banking functions (checking, saving, credit card, mortgages, simple investing)? I did and it slowed me down.

So what do we need to teach?
• Reading and writing
• Mathematics
• Learning how to learn
• Life skills (cooking, cleaning, banking, driving, first aid, &etc.)
• General Knowledge (history, Chemistry, Physics, Biology)
• Talent honing

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