Learning Feels Good

I had occasion to consider the state of education in the Yankee republic this week. First, I heard all the hullabaloo about the standardized tests on maths and sciences , the PISA tests, which name evokes not the leaning tower or Italy but rather micturation. Then I read this article [Link] that mumbled about the poor grades of students of the Yankee republic bottoming out but showing no improvement. Needless to say the authors of the article, journalists patently, have no statistics to uphold their allegations of minimalization much less data actually supporting this claim.

Then I happened across this article [Link] that dealt with the American Anthropology Association changing their charter to reflect that anthropology is no longer to be considered a science. Now, this one took be aback for a moment because I am rather more used to disciplines claiming they are sciences when they aren’t, such as political science, which gives rise to my long held hypothesis that any discipline that has to tell you it’s a science, isn’t. But to have a discipline, one of the so-called social sciences, and the most scientifically respected of those, to tell you it isn’t a science, that is not a comforting thing.

This is not to say that I do not consider some of my psychologist colleagues to be scientists, but on the main I fear that any discipline that behaves like a science and doesn’t do real experiments is just pretending. But some psychologists actually do experiments on small mammals and nematodes and such and try to extrapolate that to humans although I have my doubts about sociologists. And anthropologists at least seem to have some appreciation of observer effect.

But to stand up and say that they aren’t a science so they can hang onto the liberal democrat social engineers? Or appeal to them? That demonstrably confirms their excisions; once you get into engineering and making things work, it isn’t science. So now perhaps we have to consider anthropology as engineering, or maybe just social action and politics?

What does this have to do with education? It seems to me rather a lot. Back in the old days when society and civilization was defined by superstition and mysticism and ignorance you could do things just by deciding to go ahead and do them. And sometimes it worked but more often- almost always – you made things worse. But once we got past the idea that everything you needed to know was told you by the deity, who apparently left most people blissfully ignorant, we got to the idea that before you started making changes you had to have some understanding of how things worked.[1] And that understanding became what we think of as science. And the application of that understanding to make things work differently became engineering.

The problem is that science and engineering are not easy to learn. They take effort, they take frustration, and they take some talent. So when you have educationalists who have no knowledge of what they are supposed to be teaching but do have credentials that say they know how to teach, you have the same situation as a symphony orchestra with musicians and instruments but no score of music.

And if you tell the students that they are all great and wonderful and discourage competition, you also tell them they don’t need to learn, which is a good thing possibly given that the educationalists don’t have anything to teach, at least with regard to science and engineering. Now there are folks who teach this stuff at the college level, but those folks really are scientists and engineers and they don’t have certificates that they are educationalists. They worry about how to help the students learn but they don’t waste too much time and manna on feel good corruption.

So perhaps our poor national showing is all part of making the country into a new Tahiti. We should consider what happens when the barbarians arrive, those who haven’t told their children that feeling good about yourself is more important than learning, who have told their children if you learn more than the other kids, you will feel good about yourself?

[1] Now, Qadgop, what do you mean we just think we’ve gotten rid of superstition and mysticism on Tellus?