Empirical Intersects with Epistemological, You Gotta Get Over to Edge.org

10 09 2007

We are witnessing a point in which the empirical has intersected with the epistemological: everything becomes new, everything is up for grabs. Big questions are being asked, questions that affect the lives of everyone on the planet. . . Following the theme of “new technologies=new perceptions”, I asked the speakers to take a third culture slant . . . and explore not only the science but the potential for changes in the intellectual landscape . . .

Darwin was just a phase, the scarlet letter A is bone-headed, and magicians use more sleight of mind than hand?? And how about this — “Two physicists, Cesar Hidalgo and Albert-László Barabási, and two economists, Bailey Klinger and Ricardo Hausmann, have been drawing unusual pictures of economic “space” that promise a deeper understanding of the biggest question in economics: why poor countries are poor. . .”

But here’s my personal favorite because it (most surprisingly) shores up the only finding of my own dissertation back in the last millennium –basically, that it’s a lot easier to discern good from bad quality in education programs, services and resources, without all this tortured evaluation and administrative angst:

One of the founders of your country, Benjamin Franklin, suggested to his nephew that when he made important life decisions, he should do it like a bookkeeper — list all the pros and cons and then make the decision, after weighing everything. That is the classical rational approach.

Q: I make my decisions that way. What’s wrong with it?

A: In some situations, that demands too much information. Plus, it’s slow. When a person relies on their gut feelings and uses the instinctual rule of thumb “go with your first best feeling and ignore everything else,” it can permit them to outperform the most complex calculations. Read the rest of this entry »

Athletic Young Mayor Says He’ll Fix DC Schools By Himself

10 09 2007

Like the Little Red Hen only faster, she said dryly.

Reportedly he IS planning on at least a little help, from a Korean-American woman he named as his “chancellor.” (I wonder if she goes along on his predawn power runs too? Can she keep up and if not, what does that prove again?)

 . . . Mr. Fenty, 36, is the youngest mayor in the city’s history, a populist more comfortable on the streets than behind a desk and a man impatient to get things done. . . In June, he seized control of the schools from the Board of Education.

. . .“For me the schools issue is partly personal,” Mr. Fenty said as he drove to inspect a school on the first day of classes last week. In high school, he said, he watched too many friends drop out or graduate unprepared.

He added that he remained an optimist, even though he had been stunned to find the school system in worse shape than he imagined.

“It’s been like peeling an onion,” he said of the layers of problems.

Hapless Twenty-Somethings Majored in Terrorism?

10 09 2007

The phrase “hapless twenty-somethings” tickled my consciousness this morning, as I slowly woke to NPR.

Which got me thinking, do hapless young adults pose a real threat to my domestic tranquility, once they are miseducated into radicalized religion and/or politics of any kind up to and including actual terrorist training? (Jesus Camp comes to mind, shudder . . .)

Let’s say they do, they all do whatever they have been taught — then what?

The hapless young idealists in today’s story were arrested by the FBI, *before* they could hurt me, because they had been taught sufficiently scary stuff, said the government. It’s called “preemptive justice” (arrest before crime, which the courts call impermissable “prior restraint” when it comes to journalism and the public’s right to know) — hmmm, but public education IS the public’s right to know, so shouldn’t schooling be just as constitutionally free from prior restraint as journalism, not to mention terrorist wannabes? Maybe more so?

Did these hapless twenty-somethings have the right to educate themselves in middle eastern terrorism, without prior restraint? Yes? — is that more or less freedom from prior restraint than a hapless middle schooler gets, to not dress out for PE because she’d rather read in the library? If we don’t restrain her from the library, will we restrain her from reading certain things once there — just in case it might lead her thinking astray?

Will the government test her on whatever she is allowed to read, until she learns that reading is a state function? Never mind her rights, will all that serve our right to have her know what we need her to know, to protect OUR rights from government?

Surely there are better answers on this test than prior restraint and preemptive justice. (Got any ideas?) If there is no best answer, does that mean we should just skip the question? Is there a scoring penalty for that?