Date: Feb 2, 2014 1:10 AM
Author: GS Chandy
Subject: Re: A question about straight lines

Kirby Urner (KU) posted  Feb 2, 2014 1:39 AM ( - GSC's remarks precede and are interspersed:

I've already responded to Robert Hansen's post on which KU is here commenting - hopefully, my response would pass muster. I HAVE sincerely tried!
> One philosophy book I liked, used a
> fear-versus-longing axis to chart the
> human condition. That reminds me of GSs contrasting
> of "goading" vs.
> "encouraging".

I guess the times may demand that scientific studies be done about the relative values of PUSHING/ GOADING students to learn versus ENCOURAGING them to do that. I personally would not in any way participate in any such 'scientific' enterprise for the damage I know it would cause to group that's PUSHED and/or GOADED.

I rest my case with the instances of mothers (human mothers as well as elephant mothers) ENCOURAGING their babies (/calves) to learn the many things those infants need to learn to become successful in life. Human and elephant mothers have done this most successfully for millennia. I strongly believe that infants (be they human or elephant) would tend to become anti-social 'non-learners' when they're excessively PUSHED and/or GOADED (which does happen all too often).
> There's a fine line though, as "fear of failure" may
> be likewise a "longing
> for acceptance".
> The child sometimes fears the father that can't be
> pleased and yet there's
> a longing for his approval.

Of course different children respond differently to the ENCOURAGEMENT they are provided. OF COURSE the 'stern father' may well be required alongside the 'loving mother' for the child to learn effectively. This is not disputed at all. But I claim that the 'stern father' who ENCOURAGES would be a damn sight more effective than the father who only (or primarily) PUSHES and/or GOADS his offspring. (As noted, I would not be interested in supporting any study to 'prove' my contentions in this regard).

The underlying issue is, now and always, "to make the most effective use of all individual and societal resources to ensure effective learning by individuals and groups". This is not recognised ANYWHERE in the world as a valid (or even practical) societal goal - witness the vast resources that are expended in fundamentally wasteful endeavours! (I have no empirical data available, but I believe that the greater part of societal resources are in fact expended wastefully. It would not be inordinately difficult to get such data together. I know that the Nobel winner Joseph Stiglitz has reliable data on the wasteful expenditure by GW Bush and Gang on that foolish war against Saddam Hussein. I'm sure it would be entirely possible to do such an exercise for the world as a whole).
> In the case of "hard fun" such as doing math and
> programming, there's a lot
> to say for "peer group" pressure, just like in
> ordinary athletics.

Math - and math programming - can be made enjoyable for the 'problem solving being' that every normal child happens to be.

'Peer group pressure' is surely a powerful motivation - MUCH more effective than any PUSHING/GOADING from teachers or parents! How to ensure that this appears in 'healthy forms' rather than degenerating into 'bullying'?

How to ensure that our students realise that their efforts can make for real change in society? How to ensure that students put *some* effort (in appropriate measure) into 'hard fun' such as math and math programming? How to ensure that they don't go out of school with the mistaken notion that life is all 'soft fun'?
> For example, my daughter's high school friends tended
> to be of the type
> that rooted their cell phones and downloaded exotic
> operating systems. The
> young women were doing this stuff as well as the
> young men. This was a
> topic for conversation in social situations. Kids
> would invest in
> technical tinkering in order to join the peer group
> of their choice, to
> partake of the conversation. Not a new phenomenon.
> In high school, the
> cliques coalesce.

I would not know much about the 'cell phone culture' in the US of A. I DO know that, in India, we have not taken much benefit from the 'learning revolution' that was potentially available to us when developments in computer and communications sciences brought the cell phone into society.
> I'd say a lot of my Saturday Academy students feared
> not doing as well as
> their parents had hoped. Parents with high
> aspirations for their kids may
> also instill realism. You actually need to make the
> time and there are
> objective standards.

Indeed. The highest aspirations for human beings are realised (I claim) when the underlying philosophy is the one I've sketched in a number of earlier postings:

"Children should be ENCOURAGED to learn. Should such ENCOURAGEMENT be done *effectively*, those children will also learn (teach themselves) how to PUSH themselves (and even to GOAD themselves when needed) to overcome the great many difficulties and barriers that they will surely encounter while learning".

As noted, the above is merely a claim, which I believe has been historically validated in ample measure during the 19th and 20th centuries. The works of Piaget, Maria Montessori (and many others) should provide plenty of evidence in support of my claim. (Check out; Plenty of other information available via Google).
> If you can put on your college application form that
> you already know two
> or three computer languages, that can be valuable, at
> least for some
> colleges.

Computer languages (computer sciences) are, in my opinion, useful - and very important indeed! - but only if developed from a base of effective 'problem solving skills' and *effective* 'critical thinking'. How to promote a 'problem-solving culture' in society??
> But it may take some extra-curricular push and
> exposure to outsiders to get
> over the hump, to buckle down. Students choose
> summer classes knowing they
> need some structure, having internalized parental
> views.

Yes - not just "some extra-curricular push" - there will have to be a HUGE push! It's not happening, so far as I am able to see.
> Parents come in many flavors as well, when it comes
> to their own ability to
> offer coaching.
> Some are so confidant they keep their kids home, a
> couple of PhDs who don't
> buy the social theory that at least in school they'll
> learn better coping
> skills around peers and strangers. No way. Kids
> stay home and get well
> informed like we are. That can work.

My claim: we require BOTH:

- -- 'Parents (in sufficient numbers) who are informed and aware'
- -- 'A sound "learning environment" such as could be possible in a school' - preferably this should be a 'public school' that all levels of society can afford and attend.

That defines two fairly sizable 'societal tasks':

i) Ensuring that 'most parents' are informed and aware about 'learning issues';
ii) Developing effective school systems.

There have been many technical developments that could now ensure successful accomplishment of both i) and ii) above. In general, we are not doing that.
> Other times, as you know, a parent will side with the
> kid and make the
> teacher the bad guy. This can happen for various
> reasons. The parent
> doesn't believe in school the institution. Or the
> parent just has a person
> beef with teacher X, thinks X is inept for whatever
> reason.
> I don't imagine there's "one correct parenting style"
> out of all of these.

In fact, parents do need to work out appropriate 'parenting styles' that will match their own and their child's temperaments. We don't have effective 'learning systems' installed in society to accomplish this.
> Kids have their own personalities and sometimes those
> with a greatest
> hunger for knowledge and higher learning are getting
> no family
> encouragement. They may have another role model,
> found in books, the
> movies or TV.

Every child has his/her own personality; his/her own skills; his/her own interests. An effective system should cater to all of this. The current system barely does this - except for the adjustments that exceptional teachers are able to make.
> I don't think parents should be either taking all the
> credit, or all the
> blame, for how junior turns out.
> Kirby

In fact, *society* (which is comprised of a large number of stakeholders [including parents]) will have to take ALL the credit, if any, and ALL the blame, if any, for how junior turns out. At the moment, we (and our juniors) are not turning out well at all. Primarily, we do not even know how to discuss such issues *actionably*.

I haven't read the book, but didn't Hilary Clinton write something to this effect in "It Takes a Whole Village!"??? (That was, I believe, a profound insight indeed).


Message was edited by: GS Chandy