Rot, Rotter, Rottest

A most enjoyable session at gym. I managed to sneak in and out before the roads iced up, and the constabulary went all Gestapo but not before the sunshine patriots, the educationalists and almost all of the weight bouncers decided to bunker in. So the gym was quite sparsely populated.

Sadly the podcast, an episode of the CBC’s "Best of Ideas" was blah and vapid. The subject was 3-D printers and done for a boggish audience who pays scant attention to nerdery. So it presented nothing new except a bit of history of science fiction coming real. And that is questionable. I have been around 3-D printing for 20+ years now and the technology and organizational aspects of them are old underwear, the kind that can be trotted out as new to the mentally impoverished.

But this vapidity gave me occasion to expend cognitive cycles on a commercial I viewed last evening on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver. The commercial was a Tarzan piece by some corporation, whose identity is lost in irrelevance, about helping schules. Helping schules means selectively giving a few schules a token of money (compared to the cost of the commercial and air time) so the corporation can brag about giving back. Pennies on the Pound sort of thing, of course.

But what stuck with me was a throw away line:

"Fifty percent of all students are alienated to maths and science by the eighth grade"

That’s not exact but close enough.

My first thought at this was that money will have scant effect on this since it depends on adequate funding (obviously not met) to all schules (also obviously not met) with questing maths and science teachers ( patently not met but independent) who will use the money creatively to engage the students (almost an impossibility.) So the whole commercial was a grand prevarication. Goebbels would be proud!

The more I reflected on this, the more I recalled my own days in primary and secondary schule. Basically the same thing occurred, if not more so. In those days the teachers were willing – unlike today? – but woefully ignorant and hence ineffective bordering on incompetent, and the textbooks were horrible, insipid and inadequate, instilled with too little science and too much social nonsense. And the maths books were horribly simplistic and repetitive. Boringly, grindingly repetitive. So yes, by eighth grade most of use were completely alienated to public school maths and science.

That doesn’t mean we were alienated to maths and science in general. We grew up in a nerd town. Many of us had nerds for parents, and both human and textual sources of real information on science and maths. My parents were bogs with sparks of geekness but they provided me with lots of reading material (most not very good except my father’s navy correspondence courses’ textbooks.)

I am reminded again of that tweet of Neil DeGrasse Tyson,

Students who earn straight A’s in school do so not because of good Teachers but in spite of bad Teachers.

We probably have to add bad texts and bad parents to that list. Bad in this case means ineffective or weak or ignorant but not necessarily evil. Some teachers are evil these days since their pay is glued to not teaching well. But I think these are still the exception. The problem is that (1) teachers don’t know enough science and maths; (2) parents don’t know enough science and maths and they aren’t supportive meaningfully; and (3) the textbooks are terrible in so many dimensions. The worst of the latter is religionist politics and social moralizing, neither of which belong in science and/or maths texts.

So no wonder the kids are turned off. The problem is that this time it’s also at home. And from that there is no recovery except another dark age of misery and violence.

Buck up kids, you probably won’t have to endure being ignorant long.