Date: Feb 1, 2013 1:24 PM
Author: kirby urner
Subject: Re: Rotten to the Core: War on Academic Standards

On Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 10:37 PM, GS Chandy <> wrote:

> I don't quite know who "the governors" might be, unless you mean our
> Moderators. I observe you've not responded to my exclamation: "What, in
> your opinion, was the opinion I might have expressed by which I was
> "wasting their time"! - which really was intended as a question.

No, I mean the CCSS process is being coordinated by Governors in the
various states.

Quoting from some random web page: "Today, the National Governors
Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief
State School Officers (CCSSO) released a set of state-led education
standards, the Common Core State Standards, at Peachtree Ridge High School
in Suwanee, GA"

All these acronyms have a kind of militaristic / bureaucratic flavor don't
they. Feels like Washington DC, kinda slimy. But that's OK. We start
building our immune systems early and don't cave to authorities just
because they use acronym-infested language. So do computer geeks, even
more than they do.

> Yes - this is indeed the 'kind of thing we do'. Alas all debates here do
> turn out to be (ineffective) "social discussions" - they may as well be tea
> parties or coffee breaks; in fact, we're on a perpetual 'coffee break' I
> find.

There's no need to reach agreement for discussions to be effective. Some
agreement, sure, among allies, but not universal agreement across the
board. We respect diversity and abhor mono-culture on principle, as
biologically unwise. Argument is natural.

I want to learn what the schools of thought are, the camps. I look for
more of a map of the factions. I'm not asking them to all come to some
uber-agreement or truce. Let them stay clear about their differences.

As far as I'm concerned, the so-called "math wars" is a permanent fixture
of a healthy society, as there is always a need to let these camps "duke it
out" (metaphysically / psychologically, not with outward weapons, which is
immature and not good role modeling for children).

> The first thing students should learn is there's lots
> of disagreement about what's being taught, which isn't
> an excuse to stop learning or not learn
> (people have a natural hunger to learn in my model).

> It's not just 'people' (by which term I presume you mean adults).
> That natural 'hunger to learn' actually starts in us when we're infants,
> even as soon as we are born into the world. See, for instance, "How a
> Child Learns", attached herewith.*

No, by "people" I mean "people", not just adults.

Younger people may have a stronger appetite to learn, because as people
grow older they may have their natural appetites beat out of them, e.g. by
schools, which often work overtime to depress curiosity e.g. by hampering
access to the Internet with filthy malware and sending kids to the
principal if they're caught reading subversive literature in class (e.g.
MAD Magazine).

> What, in your opinion, would be the benefit to students to hear views like
> "PUT THE EDUCATION MAFIA IN JAIL!" (and other such manifestations as we see
> here all too often)??

It's not for me to pre-judge what views they should hear or to calculate
the benefits.

I do not treasure either my or your opinions on this matter. I consider
our opinions on "how they might benefit" entirely irrelevant in this case.
What I want for them to have is full access to the debates, starting early.

They should know that many people think they're being victimized by
horrendously malpracticing institutions that should have been reformed or
shut down years ago. That will get them thinking critically, asking
important questions such as "am I wasting my life?"

I also encourage the spreading of debating skills, though not necessarily
"spreading" which is the technique of speaking really quickly in Cross-X.
That's a more specialized sport. Lincoln-Douglas is a better example of
what I encourage.

Resolved: high schools should teach more computer programming in
mathematics classes. Debate.

> Of course. As you seem to have some such good ideas as expressed above,
> why don't you get down and do precisely that? The attachments to the
> message noted above describes tools that could help, quite significantly.

I already do all this myself. I don't regard myself as the core problem,
though I certainly could improve my effectiveness in many ways.

> Agreed. When I say/write "the USA" (or "India", for that matter) I ALWAYS
> mean the 'integration' of all the needs, desires, wishes, aims of its
> individual people and variety of groups therein. THAT'S my "aggregate"!

How does one really "ALWAYS mean" any particular thing when writing? Is it
up to you what words mean?

We have this nation-state based way of thinking that we're taught in
school. It's semi-effective. However we should also impart less
nationalistic ways of thinking. I bring a world map into classrooms that
shows no nations and I explain to kids that it's more accurate than most
maps they'll see, both mathematically and politically. That's debatable of
course, and debate is what I encourage.

Here's a picture of said map in a local high school (I'm well known around
Portland and have easy access to the schools):

Here I am with the same map lecturing to a bunch of IEEE people
(electronics types) at Portland Center Stage on election night, 2008:

Many adults are ignorant about this map because their schools failed them.
Portland has better public schools than most cities, because of people like
me (I am not alone, but part of a larger conspiracy [1]).

> Of course. So how do we train our own minds to avoid/ escape the inbuilt
> pathologies of each/all of our languages? I suggest we need to take a
> couple of simple steps in understanding what precisely we want to do when
> we communicate.

It takes a lot of training for sure. Anthropologists tend to do it, and
psychologists (the deeper ones). Mathematicians escape into their
alternative language games but often at the cost of letting their native
language over-dominate their non-mathematical thinking. They lack
anti-bodies. Look at Frege, the great logician, who fell victim to the
antisemitism of his day.

> Innumeracy is a form of illiteracy.

> I agree. But it IS often acceptable to boast of being 'innumerate'! But
> it is no longer (since the past 50 years or so, I'd believe) to boast of
> being 'illiterate'. The issue is somewhat deeper than you make it out to
> be.

I can't think of anyone I know personally who boasts of innumeracy. Mostly
they're apologetic and secretive about it, like other illiterate people
are. I don't believe in forcing people into the closet because of their
handicaps. Unless people are open about their needs, its hard to help them.

I do think there's too much anti-adult bias out there. It's always how to
teach kids this and how to teach kids that, One Laptop per Child etc., as
if adults don't matter. What's the English word for bigotry against
adults, something-phobia? Is there such a word? English has so many blind
spots, I'd not be surprised if this were one of them.

I go around using the word "andragogy" because I want to distinguish it
from "pedagogy". People are always asking me how I would teach computer
programming to six year olds, because they've been brainwashed into
thinking that "reform" means "doing things with little kids". I'd rather
work with their teachers and others in that age group.

Lets teach computer programming to retired folks, to people in "nursing
homes" (terrible Anglo concept / institution). Grandparents work with
children (or did, in not-broken societies). Lets have the retired folks
teach the newcomers and let the busy middle aged pursue their careers (an
ancient pattern -- partly why we have households with no parents at home
and paid day care (if you added grandparents to this picture it wouldn't be
so broken)).[2]

> Innumerate people are only
> > quasi-literate. Most Americans are only
> > quasi-literate, just as most are
> > malnourished (seriously overweight).
> >

> Indeed. Likewise in India. But:
> >
> > That's just the way it is.
> >

> This is where we SERIOUSLY differ!!! I claim there are specific and
> definite things we can do to change "the way things are". Some of these
> changes may take generations to come about. However, the basic fact is
> clear: It is no longer acceptable, NOW, to boast of being "illiterate"!
> (It was acceptable [here in India at least], just a few decades ago, to my
> very clear memory).

> >

Working for change means does not mean living in denial about how things
are right now.

This rush to focus on children is a kind of mental giving up. You're
saying it's too late for the adults so we will just focus on their
children. This reflex is partly left over from British Empire / Anglo
Dominance days, when the Anglos would round up the kids of a nation's
tribe, say Warm Springs here in Oregon, and hold them in boarding schools,
where they could be taught Anglo patterns of thought. This was an
effective way to destroy native languages and civilizations. The Anglos
are nothing if not destructive. Of course they call it "saving" people
(snicker). [3]

> It's a complicated history I'm sure.

> It is MUCH less 'complicated' than you would make it out to be. It was,
> earlier, a lack of needed tools. Then Warfield initiated our understanding
> of "CONTRIBUTION" through the modeling tools he pioneered.
> As I understand, in another instance, it took a couple of generations for
> people to shift over from 'Roman numeral arithmetic' to 'placeholder
> arithmetic'. But it did happen - and it is placeholder arithmetic in even
> the most backward of countries!

As I understand it, the spread of placeholder arithmetic was actively
countered by the Church in the Middle Ages, which didn't want numeracy
spreading among the masses, literacy either if they could help it.
Everyone was supposed to let Mother Church do their taxes and allocate
resources. Their power lay in the ignorance of the laity. Doing "cyphers"
(0-based placeholder arithmetic) was a punishable offense.

The Church was very jealous of its power. Mercator, who did great world
maps, was thrown in jail by the Inquisition for awhile, not just Galileo,
because he was more advanced than the people in Rome (the old Washington
DC). I don't know if the Vatican has officially apologized for its sins in
great detail -- maybe because it's too busy mounting up new ones to
apologize for its older ones (WDC similar).

There's a lot about school that's like the Church in wanting to have
conformist adults as the outcome, not "think for yourself" adults. Schools
in the US strike a fine balance between training people to live in a
pluralistic democracy and training them to obey authority figures.

The strongest authority is a "peer group" in terms of setting norms of
behavior. In some schools, it's not really cool to study. The teachers
don't. They just recite from textbooks. [4]

> Likewise to change from accepting 'illiteracy' - this change has already
> occurred in society practically everywhere in the world.
> Also, quite similarly, the shift from accepting 'pure prose' as being the
> ONLY way to discuss complex issues - to a stage where people realize that
> we do need something more than that 'pure prose' to discuss and arrive at
> an effective understanding of the complex issues we do need to deal with
> all the time.

TV / Youtube etc.

E.g.: (not just prose -- simultaneous drawing)

> Agreed. So why not actually work out (to a more specific extent than I've
> seen you do here) your ideas about "polyhedra and thinkers" that I've seen
> you put forward at these interactions of ours. I believe you would find
> the graphical 'structure-conceptual' tools of Interpretive Structural
> Modeling' (ISM) and Field Representation (FR) Method to be useful tools.
> It'll take some doing to "do the demo" - but you have to be the person to
> do it.

I'd say "to a more specific extent" doesn't mean much to me. I am very
specific in what I do.

My guess is you haven't had time or access to really know what I've been up
to. That shouldn't matter though, as I agree my effectiveness may always
be increased.

Since I'm a Quaker plugged into Quaker networks, I have some clout (weight)
in that respect. The intellectual currents you should tune in are American
Transcendentalism ala Dial Magazine and later Dial Press (see Wikipedia)
and esoteric philosophy ala Robert Anton Wilson etc., which some call "new
age" or "Aquarian" (I tend to avoid those terms, but I understand the

> Now, most of India seems to be convinced that putting those 5 1/2 men to
> death will cure the Indian male's need to demonstrate his power over women
> who are (very slowly) liberating themselves from the patriarchal mindset
> that has enslaved their minds and bodies for generations. Even many women
> are calling for the death penalty to be applied!

No such "power over women" is ever demonstrated in rape. It's a full
disclosure of powerlessness and needing to resort to brute force. Rapists
are unpowerful and not fully mature humans (psychologically).

Indian males are clearly inferior to Indian females, I think that's obvious
to anyone. Indian males tend to be weak spoiled brat types in my
experience, over-protected and over-full of themselves. Indian women are
far more powerful. The men are just goofy (with some exceptions). Of
course I'm just indulging in stereotypes for the moment, exposing the
preposterousness of over-generalization.

The US is full of insecure cowardly moronic males too, many of them frat
house football players or military dweebs hoping to get away with their
cowardly brute force antics overseas (where their commanders give them
permission to behave in ways that are oh so criminalized at home -- talk
about hypocrisy!).

> Inquiry Questions:

> >
> > 1. When you extend to a new number systems (e.g.,
> > g., from integers to rational
> > numbers and from rational numbers to real
> > eal numbers), what properties apply
> > to the extended number system?
> >
> > 2. Are there more complex numbers than real
> > eal numbers?
> >
> > 3. What is a number system?
> >
> > 4. Why are complex numbers important?
> >

> Excellent! Why not work to put such ideas into the 'regular curricula'?
> What would be needed to accomplish that? Who to discuss matters with?
> HOW to do this discussion??? Etc, etc.

These are not especially good questions.

Better: are time accounting systems number systems? I would say yes, and
mathematics gives up way too soon when it comes to teaching about time
accounting, just like it gives up on latitude / longitude in this day of
GIS / GPS. Geography dies away and Geometry is cut loose to NOT be about
"Earth measure" (everything is landlubber "planes").

Time accounting is a mixed base number system no less, a doorway to bases.
Is "base 2" a number system as distinct from "base 10"? I don't think
there's a right answer to that as these terms are only pseudo-defined. [5]

> > Those questions look pretty desultory and insipid,
> > but that's what standards
> > are like.[5]
> >

> Nope: you are wrong. Approached *properly*, these are very real questions
> indeed - and they could lead to quite profound investigations into the
> field (of "'learning' and 'teaching' math" - by a person who is qualified
> to do - capable of doing - such investigations).

Nope, these are silly "busy work" questions thrown together by
unimaginative worker-bees who want to sound educated in their own ears.
Lets pay them and then ignore them while we get on with more serious STEM


> Well - the underlying idea is to create the right math/ geometry
> textbooks. Nowadays, with computer software and internet, it should be
> possible to do. (But I do approve of Dom Rosa's dislike of 'door-stoppers'
> serving as learning tools for kids).

> >

Textbooks waste trees.[6]

Not that screens don't come with their own waste stream. We study that
and address it. We recycle components. We have Free Geek type outfits
etc. The precious metals get recovered. Plus the amount of resources in
each device continues to drop.



[1] the conspiracy to which I refer is mentioned under GRUNCH in Robert
Anton Wilson's encyclopedia of conspiracies "Everything is Under Control".
Haim is familiar with it, for using "gander" instead of "gaggle" (of geese)
and for confusing "pedagogue" (teacher-slave) and "pedant" (foot soldier),
which come from different "peda"s in his view (he makes a good case). (picture
of book cover)

[2] Yes, I had a grandparent in my household during much of the time my
youngest was growing up, so yes, I walk my talk in this respect (the
grandparent doesn't code, but she knows HTML and Drupal).

[3] The tribal museum on the Warm Springs reservation remembers those
days. In general, the natives have been terribly oppressed by the
Anglo-speaking majority. It took several generations to learn enough
English to fight back in a way English recognize, by using "the law". Even
so, it's an uphill battle. How to overturn "monogamy" as the only legal
way for families to bond? What a terrible imposition of an alien way of
life that was. Thank God that's all behind us now.

[4] I went to a school in Florida where only one of the teachers appeared
to study at all. The others were, frankly speaking, morons. I felt sorry
for my peers and understand why Florida is such a horribly backward state.
Both my late wife and one of my current peers (co-faculty @ Blue House)
were escapees from that region (refugees). They'd heard Portland was
different, and this was even before the TV show 'Portlandia' on IFC (a
spoof of life here, different enough to warrant a TV series apparently --
already in 3rd season).

[5] I do think not teaching base 2 and base 16 is the signature of a poor
school, like one of those in Florida I went to (gad that was awful, what a
contrast from my privileged international school upbringing, poor Americans
to have to put up with such garbage institutions -- but then they created
them, so I guess they get what they deserve? No, they deserve better.
Lets liberate Florida!).

[6] People say "but I don't feel as comfortable reading a screen, I want to
snuggle up in bed with a book" and yadda yadda. There will always be
books, but to expect all your math texts to come printed out in thick heavy
paper format is just spoiled brat thinking. What I say to these folks is
"Don't you care for the environment you paper cup plastic utensil throwaway
mindless consumer people? Stop just thinking about your own comfort for a
change you selfish morons" (my co-faculty is better at it -- she hasn't
ridden in a car for some years except for medical emergencies, thanks to
her hatred of car culture and the thoughtlessness it engenders). We can't
have so many billions all expecting paper textbooks that have to get thrown
away every few years. Lets get real.

Message was edited by: kirby urner