If you would like to add a comment to any of the threads here on AADB, registration with blogspot.com is not required. Simply click on the ‘comments’ link at the bottom of an essay, and either enter a nickname under ‘choose an identity’ or post your comment anonymously. Serious comments are always welcome.

REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

9/11/2007

The Purpose of Education

youngbuilder.jpg

As if we needed any more evidence of the sorry state of the “modern” American education system, the recent performance of Miss Teen South Carolina was the final report card: FAILED

One has to shake one’s head in disbelief at her incoherent answer to a simple question, but who can blame her. The poor girl was only reciting the mindless garbage poured into her head in the government schools.

Being at the curmudgeon stage of my life, I’m almost too old to care about the things I can’t possibly fix, but I can still point fingers and offer advice to those who will listen. So my advice to any of you who might want to fix the broken education system in America is to ask yourselves, "What is the purpose of education?"

As I was going through school, I often wondered what the purpose was. I had heard all the platitudes about "making me a better person", but that kind of "answer" answered nothing. In my own mind, I finally decided I was there to learn how to do things. That was good enough to get me through and in retrospect, wasn’t too far off the mark.

Now that I'm sixty, I finally understand that the purpose of education is Survival.

Humans and animals are both born with the desire to survive, but humans differ from animals in that we aren’t born with the knowledge of how to go about it - we have to be taught all that over a long period of ten or twenty years.

When baby chicks hatch, they’re up on their feet within a matter of minutes, scratching around for food - they’re born with that instinctual knowledge. When baby goats, cattle, horses, or most other mammals are born, within minutes they’re standing on their feet and nursing. What an amazing sight to see!

But we humans aren’t like that - we can’t even stand upright and walk for an entire year - we’re essentially helpless at first. Sure, we have a few built-in instincts - fear of heights and loud noises, and the suckling instinct - but that’s about it. A young human would die in short order if left alone after birth while most animals would do just fine.

The essential difference between humans and animals, of course, is that we humans have a conceptual mode of consciousness, whereas animals think perceptually. In other words, humans are rational animals and we have to learn how to do just about everything.

As a human child grows, the teaching of survival continues - at first by parents and friends, then (since about 100 years ago) in the public schools. After being taught how to eat solid food, walk, and talk by the parents, the “work of growth” continues, both at home and in school. Maria Montessori wrote in her book, Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook:

“The infant’s first impressions are a bewildering chaos of sensory impressions which he must learn to organize and integrate. He must learn to recognize and identify the things around him; he must learn the distinction between himself and the external world; between reality and dreams; he must learn special and temporal relationships (e.g. the difference between near and far, between past, present and future); he must learn to make comparisons, to classify and to judge. In sum, he must develop his conceptual faculty.”

After learning enough about his own nature (that he gets hungry several times a day), a curious child learns (or should learn) that the food he needs has to be provided by somebody. After learning enough about the world to understand that being outside can be too hot, too cold, or too wet, a curious child learns (or should learn) that the roof over his head and the warm bed in which he sleeps at night have been provided by somebody.

Little pitchers have big ears, as they say, and young children pick up a lot of this from just watching how their parents and siblings interact. You can’t tell them everything, you have to show them by the way you live. (Giving thanks before meals and at bedtime is a good way to teach young children about food and shelter, for example.)

After ten years or so, I suppose it’s possible that a human child could survive on his own in a stone-age sort of way - by hunting and foraging for food - but this primitive kind of survival isn’t the goal of education. The purpose of education is to teach children and young adults how to rise above living that kind of miserable existence. Every aspect of education should focus on what is required to achieve and maintain a civilized society - one where it isn’t necessary to forage for food and fight one’s neighbors in order to survive.

After learning the basics of how to use our conceptual faculties, we learn to read and write so we can learn things far beyond the circle of our family and immediate friends. In this way, the literate person can leverage his knowledge to take advantage of what others have learned over the millennia.

Some of us need to learn how to produce the food we eat, the tools required to produce the food we eat, the metals used to produce the tools. We need to learn how to mass-produce those tools so they are affordable. We need to learn about fertilizers, irrigation and pest control. We need to learn how to get that food to market and preserve it without spoiling.

All of the above is why we learn math and science - chemistry, biology, and physics. Not that every child will be a farmer, but every child should learn the basic facts of how food is produced, and in general, how the world works.

But even more than all of the above, we need to understand that to prosper, we must find a way to live productively among each other (e.g. in a society). There are proper and improper ways to do that as well, just as there are proper and improper ways to grow corn. This is why we learn about history.

In any society, there are always some individuals choose to survive the easy way - by stealing from their neighbors. (Here in America, we call those people either criminals or politicians.) A just society has to develop systems (laws) which make production of any kind possible without the politicians and criminals stealing from us.

For example, why spend six months growing a crop when your stronger neighbor or the tax man will just take it from you? Why spend years and dollars developing a new tool, a new method, a new pesticide, or a new genetic strain if someone will just steal the idea and profit from it with no effort on their part? This is why we learn philosophy, the third branch of which deals with morality (or ethics), and the fourth branch of which deals with politics (e.g. the proper way for men to deal with one another in a society).

Some have asked, “Where do the studies of art, music, and the classics of literature fit into your idea of education?”

That’s an excellent question and as I said earlier, when I speak of survival, I don’t mean just bare subsistence as has been the lot of humanity throughout most of recorded history.

That sort of basic survival is primary, of course, but I was speaking more of the survival of civilization, or more accurately the best parts of civilization as we in America have known it. I think education should start with teaching what primitive survival was like, and then build on that base so the kids understand how we got from the "brutish and short" existence of not so long ago. That's where the fifth branch of philosophy - art - comes in.

Art, literature, and music are essential in this learning process, and essential to a civilized society. There was a great passage in Ayn Rand’s book The Fountainhead where a teenager was walking out in the woods feeling depressed and thinking he had nothing to live for. The boy happened upon a cluster of houses built by the hero of the book, Howard Roark. Just seeing that such a thing of beauty was possible gave the kid the power to go on. In my humble opinion, that’s the function of art - to show us that great things are possible.

Ayn Rand wrote her Romantic Manifesto in 1966. Those essays explained how a simple painting, piece of music, or group of buildings has the power to express our entire view of life. She wrote:

"Consider two statues of man: One as a Greek God, the other as a deformed medieval monstrosity. Both are metaphysical estimates of man; both are projections of the artist's view of man's nature; both are concretized representations of the philosophy of their respective cultures.

"Art is a concretization of metaphysics (the first branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of reality). Art brings man's concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts.

"This is the psycho-epistemological function of art and the reason of its importance in man's life...

"...The claim that "art is the universal language" is not an empty metaphor, it is literally true..."

Art gives people a sense of possibilities.

Heroes.jpg

The education establishment in America has forgotten the reason for its existence…or maybe I have that wrong. Maybe the education establishment knows full well what their schools are doing to our children, but it is the parents who have forgotten the reason for sending their children there. In 1963, Nathaniel Branden wrote:

“Should the government be permitted to remove children forcibly from their homes, with or without the parents’ consent, and subject the children to educational training and procedures of which the parents may or may not approve? Should citizens have their wealth expropriated to support an educational system which they may or may not sanction, and to pay for the education of children who are not their own? To anyone who understands and is consistently committed to the principle of individual rights, the answer is clearly: No.

Isabel Paterson wrote in The God of the Machine (1943):

“Where teaching is conducted by private schools, there will be a considerable variation in different schools; the parents must judge what they want their children taught, by the curriculum offered…Nowhere will there be any inducement to teach the ‘supremacy of the state’ as a compulsory philosophy. But every politically controlled educational system will inculcate the doctrine of state supremacy sooner of later, whether as the ‘divine right of kings’, or the ‘will of the people’ in ‘democracy.’ Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had his body, property, and mind in its clutches from infancy.”

I don’t see any of this changing any time soon. Yesterday I browsed the official websites of several of the presidential candidates, and their positions on education sounded a lot like Miss Teen South Carolina’s answer.

“I believe we can educate students more effectively…”

“I support streamlining the responsibilities of the U.S. Department of Education toward a goal of working in cooperation with local and state governments to meet local and state learning levels…”

"If we are going to compete in the global economy, we have to set our education goals higher."

“I believe that every child should have the opportunity for a quality education…”

Nathaniel Branden had it right over forty years ago: "…when a government enters the sphere of ideas, when it presumes to prescribe in the issues concerning intellectual content, that is the death of a free society."

by John Cooper
(contributing team member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)

(included artwork by Bryan Larson -- http://www.cordair.com/larsen)

40 comments:

Lori_Gmeiner said...

John, if you're not a teacher, you should be. Better yet, you should be teaching teachers.

Thank you for this.

daveburkett said...

I'm curious, Cooper. Do you have a degree in education or is all of this just personal observation and theory? It doesn't sound like something a person would learn when getting an education degree. Too much common sense. {G}

I especially like your comparison of humans and other animals. (And your comparison of the presidential candidates and Miss South Carolina.) {G}

All good ideas obviously based on years of observation. Thanks for writing it all down.

Anonymous said...

...when a government enters the sphere of ideas, when it presumes to prescribe in the issues concerning intellectual content, that is the death of a free society.

Branden was right.

I forwarded your article to my nephew who teaches history in large metropolitan area. I know he will appreciate it and I hope he shares it with others. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Should the government be permitted to remove children forcibly from their homes, with or without the parents’ consent, and subject the children to educational training and procedures of which the parents may or may not approve? Should citizens have their wealth expropriated to support an educational system which they may or may not sanction, and to pay for the education of children who are not their own? To anyone who understands and is consistently committed to the principle of individual rights, the answer is clearly: No.

There's too much indoctrination in the public school system, and parents don't even give a damn what their kids are learning anymore. The reason the indoctrination exists is that the "teachers" and administrators are no longer held accountable for what is "taught."

This is an excellent essay. I will be mailing it to all of my local board of ed directors and the superintendant of schools. I'll be interested if there is any feedback.

All_good_men said...

Well stated and to the point.

Another purpose, besides survival, of education, is training of good citizens. A good citizen will not be a burden on his society. A good citizen will know the foundations of his country and government.

However, the current education system tells sudents not what is their responsibilities but what the government can do.

John Cooper said...

lori, dave, and all...

Thanks for your kind words. No, I'm not a teacher. Never have been, never will be. I have a low tolerance for bureaucratic BS, and wouldn't last a day as a teacher. My BSEE was in Electronic Engineering, not (shudder) Education.

I'm a former machinist, former electronic technician, former nuclear power plant engineer, former general contractor, former space shuttle test conductor, and former electrician.

Oh, and I can cook, too {G}.

John Cooper said...

I'm having a special on insane rants today, so here's your bonus rant which I posted on an education blog about a year ago:

I Tossed my Calculus Books Today

Yup...I tossed them all in the trash this afternoon. I've kept them around for forty years and moved them with me to three different states just in case I ever needed to remember how to integrate by trigonometric substitution on some fancy job where I alone was responsible to design some great project or invent some new technology.

But at this late stage of my life, living here in the West Carolina woods, that's never gonna' happen.

I worked so hard back in those days as a (young and naive) student to understand Calculus - three da*n quarters of that stuff and then three more quarters the next year of advanced engineering math. It hurt my head at the time, but I felt like I eventually did master the concepts and got comfortable with doing it without the former pain.

But they never told me that learning calculus was a fool's errand.

Looking back after all these years, I realize that not once did I ever use calculus on a job. I've built nuclear plants. I've launched space shuttles. I've designed and built homes and office buildings. I've built a airplane. But not once did I ever use calculus. So I tossed the books.

That long-overdue task done, I reflected for a moment on exactly what I had learned in engineering college that any of my former employers had ever paid for, or that had made my life better in any way.

I couldn't think of a single thing.

I can only conclude that earning a college degree is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. It gives you a warm feeling, but nobody notices.

kathymlynczak said...

Mr. Cooper--

You sound like a man who has spent his life observing, and learning from every observation. That kind of "education" is worth more than any post-doctoral degree. Wisdom and education aren't the same thing. Thank you for sharing all you have learned. I learned by reading what you wrote.

cw-patriot said...

John, I read your essay this morning and have been planning all day to respond to it. Yet as I sit here tonight I have difficulty finding something to write, since you just about covered all the bases. This is a brilliant in-depth analysis of what we need to ‘learn’ to thrive, as individuals and as a society. Thank you for this excellent essay!

Your comparison of man and the lower animals in their innate abilities and limitations, and your description of the tools needed in order for a child to develop and mature, are spot on and beautifully described.

You are so right in that ‘education’ truly finds its real value in the learning of the basics that we must grasp in order to simply survive, and that there are also educational planes 'above' that basic, but most necessary level of learning, that are also extraordinarily important for those who wish to live (and live in harmony) in a civilized society.

The only thing I might add, of somewhat lesser importance than what you covered, is that in order to accomplish all of the pre-eminent educational goals that you described, the most basic tool that is required is the ability to analyze.

And the way in which our public education system is most letting us (and future generations) down is that it is incrementally disallowing critical thought.

Below is an opinion that I wrote on that subject recently, some of which I believe compliments only that part of your essay that deals with the denigration of our public education system.

_____________________

I have been on a rampage for the past decade or more over the fact that I believe our public education system is now purposefully geared toward disallowing critical thought. If a child (and the adult he becomes) is capable of nothing more than swallowing whole that which is fed to him, he becomes much easier to oppress, and much more willing to abdicate his freedoms to a ‘nanny state’ that will do his thinking for him, and see to his every need.

I have degrees in math and English. I tutor math, and, at times, help local students with writing projects, speeches, etc. I am always dismayed (understatement of the century) at the fact that students with obvious potential are often unable to move intellectually from Point A to Point B without a roadmap being placed before them. The majority of the children I have tutored and otherwise helped are of average or above-average intelligence, but are dramatically lacking in critical or analytical ability.

And I blame that on our modern public education system – and secondarily on parents who are too ‘otherwise occupied’ to notice that their children aren’t being provided critical thinking tools, either through their parental example, or through the schools their children attend.

Attend a local school board meeting someday and you will see just how concerned the average American parent is about this dangerous decline in the quality and direction of their child’s education. Unless an increase in taxes, or termination of a sports program, is on the agenda, you will be pretty safe in assuming that the number of parents in attendance is at or near zero.

For what I believe is the first time in our history, our public education system is geared, more than it is not, toward indoctrination of America’s youth so as to raise succeeding generations who are incapable of serious critical or analytical thought. The system has found itself incrementally hijacked by socialist/Marxist-leaning decision-makers over the past fifty-plus years. Children indoctrinated by dogmatic texts and teaching techniques, and unschooled in methods of critical analysis, are much more likely to be submissive to government control, and much less likely to see America as historically unique, or deserving of pride …and defense.

Common-sense analysis is becoming out of reach of the average young American. Sit a pre-ordained ‘plan’ in front of him, mapping out each successive step he must take in order to reach his goal, and he may succeed. But ask him to design and construct a map of his own creation and you will most likely be met with a blank stare.

... which is precisely the fabric of which Lenin’s useful idiots are crafted.

~ joanie

Anonymous said...

WELL SAID!!!!!!

smithy said...

John and Joanie, you should put your heads together and send something on education to one of the conservative maganizes. I think your ideas are worthy of publication.

3timesalady said...

John Cooper, you sound like a combination of a social commentator, a (good) psychologist, and an educational scholar. Even if you don't have legitimate credentials for all of that, you ought to add it to your resume. ;)

2ndAmendmentDefender said...

Being at the curmudgeon stage of my life, I’m almost too old to care about the things I can’t possibly fix, but I can still point fingers and offer advice to those who will listen.

I know you didn't intend this sentence to be a major point in your article, but it sure struck a chord with me. I'm around the same age as you and I've learned to try to overlook the things I can't change (that took a long time to learn), but I don't think I'll ever stop pointing things out for other people who are still young and idealistic enough to think they can make a difference.

johnsteever said...

Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had his body, property, and mind in its clutches from infancy.

State supremacy in education is the cancer that is rotting our country more than any other enemy we face. You did a good job of explaining the kind of education we really need as opposed to the kind the state is forcing on us.

Anonymous said...

Art, literature, and music are essential in this learning process, and essential to a civilized society.

After reading this column, I would be interested to know who your favorite composers, writers and artists are.

John Cooper said...

My favorite classical piece is Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2, followed closely by Devorak's New World Symphony. In my mind, the Rachmaninoff conjures up images of some sort of difficult struggle, followed by success and vindication at the end.

...but then of course I like Frank Zappa, too {G}, so go figure.

After Joanie, my favorite writer is Ayn Rand.

Some of my favorite artists are Atilla Hejja (space shuttle art), Dru Blair (aviation art), Clement Hall (If you want to see his work, you must visit the American Pavillion at EPCOT Center in Florida.), and a couple of my neighbors, Barbara Boerner (oil and acrylic) and Lew Wallace (who does waterfall watercolors).

A couple years ago I did some electrical work for Ms. Boerner, and she paid me with a *beautiful* oil she had painted of a mountain scene in Scotland. I got the best end of that deal.

Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...

Your favorites are all good choices (Zappa is iffy), except that I don't know Hejja, Blair or your neighbors so can't comment about them. :>)

john galt said...

This should be a chapter in a textbook for teachers, but the NEA would never allow it.

John Cooper said...

You can see examples of Hejja and Blair at Dru Blair's Art of Technology. Toward the lower right is a button reading "Catalog Thumbnails". Hejja's space shuttle paintings are hidden down in "Other Subjects".

Al said...

I worked so hard back in those days as a (young and naive) student to understand Calculus - three da*n quarters of that stuff and then three more quarters the next year of advanced engineering math. It hurt my head at the time, but I felt like I eventually did master the concepts and got comfortable with doing it without the former pain.

But they never told me that learning calculus was a fool's errand.


Tell that to Isaac Newton.

To bad he isn't still alive so you show him the error of his ways.

John Cooper said...

Joanie--

The ability to analyze is exactly what our school system seems determined to kill off - starting in pre-K.

In 1970, Ayn Rand wrote an essay entitled The Comprachicos (the buyers of children). I find that one very disturbing, but it starts with her translation of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs: "The Comprachicos, or comprapequeños, were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today…The comprachicos traded in children."

Hugo goes on to describe how the children were purposely deformed by various burnings and surgeries over a period of years to make them into a hideous form of “entertainment” for the royalty of the day. He also wrote of the similar Chinese practice of taking a child of age two or three and putting him into a top-and-bottomless porcelain vase so that his head and feet protruded. He would be forced to live and grow in that vase for several years until his body had taken on the shape of a pot.

Ayn Rand wrote of this: "The ancient comprachicos hid the operation, but displayed its results; their heirs have reversed the process: the operation is open, the results are invisible…This is the ingenuity practiced by most of today’s educators. They are the comprachicos of the mind. They do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a 'Progressive' nursery school to adjust him to society.'

Now I don’t believe that *any* teacher today purposely intends to mentally cripple his or her students. But teachers are *forced* to use materials and methods chosen by leftist administrators. As I see it, being a teacher today is a case of good people being caught up in a bad system. Ayn Rand continues:

"Intelligence is the ability to deal with a broad range of abstractions. Whatever a child’s natural endowment, the use of intelligence is an acquired skill. It has to be acquired by a child’s own effort and automatized by his own mind, but adults can help or hinder him in this crucial process. They can place him in an environment that provides him with evidence of a stable, consistent, intelligible world which challenges and rewards his efforts to understand - or in an environment where nothing connects to anything, nothing holds long enough to grasp, nothing is answered, nothing is certain, where the incomprehensible and unpredictable lurks behind every corner and strikes him at any random step. The adults can accelerate or hamper, retard, and perhaps, destroy the development of his conceptual faculty."

She describes in great detail how kid’s minds are mangled in 'progressive' nursery schools, then continues:

"What became of his potential intelligence? Every precondition of its use has been stunted; every prop supporting his mind has been cut; he has no self-confidence - no concept of self - no sense of morality - no sense of time-continuity - no ability to project the future - no ability to grasp, to integrate or to apply abstractions - no firm distinction between existence and consciousness - no values, with the mechanism of repression paralyzing his evaluative capacity."

"Any one of these mental habits would be sufficient to handicap his mind - let alone the weight of the total, the calculated product of a system devised to cripple his rational faculty."

"At the age of five-an-a-half, he is ready to be released into the words: an impotent creature, unable to think, unable to face or deal with reality, a creature who combines brashness and fear, who can recite its memorized lesions, but cannot understand them - a creature deprived of its means of survival, doomed to limp or stumble or crawl through life in search of some nameless relief from a chronic, nameless, incomprehensible pain."

"The vase can now be broken - the monster is made. The comprachicos of the mind have performed the basic surgery and mangled the wiring - the connections - in his brain..."

cw-patriot said...

Al, that Calculus thing was the one and only aspect of John's arguments here with which I, too, took exception. I worked for a few years as a mathematician before 'retiring' to raise a family, and during that time I consulted my Advanced Calc text book, and mathematical tables, more times than I can count. The pages became soiled, yellowed and dog-eared to the point where my office mate offered to buy me new copies. :)

But I believe John's point may have been that most college students these days who are required to take Calculus will suffer through what proves to be major torment for those whose aptitude lies in disciplines other mathematics, and they will never so much as use any of it for the remainder of their lives.

I believe his point was that, after our formal education ends, we so often realize that so much of what we are required to learn is of absolutely no use to us in our lives, post-formal schooling. Yes, we may cross a suspension bridge every day in order to get to our jobs, or watch twenty hours of television a week, or enjoy witnessing the launch of the space shuttle, but we did not need to know the calculus theories and formulae intrinsic in their manufacture in order to benefit from their existence. That skill and aptitude is a specialization. And the time we were forced to spend in learning a higher math might better have been used in learning a discipline that helped us to better survive in our adult life.

How many history majors have sat through a semester of even elementary Calculus classes, never to use the concepts again, and would have been much better served by having taken a course in how to manage money, or how to perform simple automotive repair?

So, while I believe you have a valid point, I don't believe it coincides with the one John was trying to make. Both you and I may have originally misinterpreted his intentions in writing what he did.

~ joanie

cw-patriot said...

John, Rand is an absolute genius. And her theories and observations are almost timeless.

Our daughter has read just about everything she has ever written, and absolutely adores her. I know that you, too, deeply respect her work.

I have only read some long excerpts of her writing, but, the more I read, the more I realize that I must read more.

What you cited above is incredible, and I intend to get ahold of The Comprachicos, to begin with. What you excerpted here is chilling. Many thanks for alerting me to its existence.

~ joanie

Al said...

cw, Thanks for the comments on calculus.

I myself don't know what it is and never will,

but I will take Newton and Leibniz' word on it over the original comment here.

Al said...

"I have only read some long excerpts of her writing"

That is the way to do it.

I consider the greatest exertion in my life in the area of endurance I have ever made was the reading of Atlas Shrugged to the end.

It is the only book I ever read where (for the last third of the book) I kept calculating every few pages how many more pages I had to go.

When I finished I said, "Never again."

Formwise and storywise it is not a masterpiece as a piece of literature, but that is not the point of it.

SharonGold said...

Joanie, you mentioned the space shuttle in your description of "Yes, we may cross a suspension bridge every day in order to get to our jobs, or watch twenty hours of television a week, or enjoy witnessing the launch of the space shuttle, but we did not need to know the calculus theories and formulae intrinsic in their manufacture in order to benefit from their existence" but Cooper said he worked on the space shuttle and didn't use calculus. How do the two things mesh? (I never learned calculus, so I'm totally in the dark)

cw-patriot said...

Sharon, among countless other gifts, John was (and actually still is) an engineer. He did indeed work on the space shuttle, and in the nuclear power industry. But his use of higher math most likely did not coincide with mine.

When I worked in the nuclear power industry, I worked with several physicists and engineers who did what I called the ‘higher level’ work, and then they came to me to translate it into black and white for them, or they would bounce their ‘higher level’ ideas off of me in order to simply receive feedback.

John has incredible gifts in both the creative realm and the nuts-and-bolts construction realm. I actually can’t think of anyone I know personally who has more innate ability to make ideas reality, or more innate ability to take ‘raw materials’ and fashion them into something of utilitarian purpose or aesthetic beauty. So I suspect that, although his abilities in math would rival anyone’s, he has found that his passion lies more in the creativity involved with design, and fulfillment involved in personally seeing design turned into reality, and I take his word that his higher-level college math has not been useful to him in those passions … both of which were rare and valuable abilities forty years ago, and which have become even less prevalent today, much to our society’s detriment.

~ joanie

Anonymous said...

"Humans and animals are both born with the desire to survive, but humans differ from animals in that we aren’t born with the knowledge of how to go about it - we have to be taught all that over a long period of ten or twenty years."

That's a very interesting point that I had never really thought about. A lot of children these days don't really have parents that teach them their survival instincts and our schools are failing at that too, so too many kids these days have to learn survival instincts on their own or from their friends. That explains a lot of what's wrong today especially in the inner cities.

I agree with the person who wrote before that this article should be a chapter in a textbook that is required reading for people studying to be teachers.

Anonymous said...

John Cooper,

You would love this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Classrooms-Hoover-Institution-Publication/dp/0817995323/ref=sr_1_10/105-0492533-8174861?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1189623585&sr=1-10

Thanks for the great writing on a subject that people don't usually write much worth reading about.

Marcus Aurelius said...

From "Continuing Education for National Survival" by C. Scott Fletcher:

Education in general….will determine the future well-being of the United States. The primary goal of education in a free society is to help the individual realize his potentialities and to enable him to expand his capacities to make wise decisions. The goal in a totalitarian society is the dominance of the state.

John Cooper, what percent of our modern public education is geared toward the first part of this description (the “free society” part) and what percent do you think is now geared toward the second part (the “totalitarian society” part)? I see it as about 20-80 today.

John Cooper said...

al--

I think you misunderstood my comment on calculus. It's a beautiful thing to behold, but all I was saying is that I never once had occasion to actually use it.

I didn't mind learning it, because you never know what you will end up needing. I figured the more I knew, the better off I would be. Well, that hasn't exactly worked out, but still, you just never know. Take thermodynamics for example.

I hated that class. Flunked it outright the first time and got a D the second. Being an electrical engineer, I couldn't see any use for it.

But sure enough, on a power plant job in Arizona, I actually had to use thermogodd**ics. I was an instrument engineer at the time and had to figure out how to calibrate the turbine load meter in the control room.

Now imagine a huge, two-stage steam turbine about 200' long with a 24" diameter 1000 PSI steam pipe feeding into it. Right where it went into the main turbine, there was a pressure transmitter and a temperature transmitter. From those two signals and a few amplifiers and multipliers, somehow I had to figure out how to set it all up to display 0-100% plant load.

By the grace of God (my HP-45, the Steam Tables, and plenty of help from a *real* mechanical engineer), I was able to pull it off. It felt good.

Only time in my working life I ever used the term "adiabatic", too.

SharonGold said...

From what Joanie said about John Cooper, I have one question for him: Will you marry me? If not, will you build me something? :>)

trustbutverify said...

"adiabatic" --- Isn't that what you call people who fly on trapezes? ;)

John Cooper said...

Sharon sweetheart, you and Joanie are making me blush. I'm sorry, but I'm spoken for as far as marriage goes.

I'd be glad to build you something though, as soon as I finish all the other projects I've started but haven't finished yet. I'm thinking I'll be available in about twenty years or so...

arlene albrecht said...

A very good essay and a very good list of comments. Bookmarked and saved.

Al said...

For Ayn Rand readers:

Here the NY TIMES explains all about Ayn Rand.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/15/business/15atlas.html?ei=5090&en=8fc42c2f2603a791&ex=1347508800&adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1189854904-kvpIniodgOvm+UgijUVh/A

John Cooper said...

See also: Johnny Can't Add or Subtract... But He Sure Does Love Polar Bears by Joanie.

John Cooper said...

Take this American Civics Literacy Quiz

College freshmen averaged 50.4% on this wide-ranging civic literacy test; seniors averaged 54.2%, both failing scores if translated to grades.

I'm proud to say that I only missed three out of sixty (95%). Not bad for a dumb redneck, eh?

cw-patriot said...

John, you deserve major kudos. Rick got four wrong, and I got six (she hangs her head in shame). :(

(Although we both have a criticism of two of the answers.)

John Cooper said...

Joanie--

It wasn't an easy test, I thought, because many of the questions and answers were of the type that required knowledge in several areas, and "situational awareness" to put them in context.

I, too, questioned some of the "correct" answers.

And I have to admit that the web page where I found the link to this test gave away one answer that I might have not answered correctly - the Battle of Yorktown.

So let's call Rick and I tied. If you missed six, you still got an "A". Go to the head of the class.

I especially liked the philosophy questions, but that subject is no longer taught, AFAIK. Come to think of it, I learned the answers to almost all those questions *after* I got out of school

I sent the link to my daughter the teacher {evil grin}.