Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
Public schools are beginning to venture into the domain of self-produced digital curriculum. Through the advancement of technology, we are able to mass distribute content without the need for a third party publisher that charges high rates for their work.
I applaud school districts who have pursued this option. They save hundreds of thousands by building a reusable curriculum and rejecting the textbook industry model.
One benefit that has not yet been discussed is that schools could provide these books in the public domain. In fact, if you follow the federal president, it would be required that these books be made public domain. Since the creation of these books would be on the taxpayers’ dime, it would be reasonable to assume that members of the community could access the learning materials as well.
This could offer tremendous benefits to the community.
- Help parents understand their child’s classes- Let’s say a parent was helping their child with a math assignment, but they themselves struggled with math as a child. The parent could brush up on their skills before the child began the class, thereby allowing the parent to support the child in the best way possible.
- Review – How many times have you read a cookbook recipe, made the food once, then forgot how to make the recipe next time around? It happens to all of us. If we allow children to go back and review the subjects they once studied, they would have the opportunity to replenish ideas that had been forgotten.
- Auxiliary Education – Suppose a retired couple decides to go traveling, but they know little about the geography of the region. They could view the public school geography curriculum on the area to learn more about it. Furthermore, they could see who authored it, maybe contact the teachers, and possibly present more information on the region to the children in the classroom when they return.
- Homeschooling – Allowing open curriculum removes one of the major sources of contention between homeschooling families and public school systems. By allowing anyone to access the online curriculum, the homeschool families can reduce the cost of purchasing curriculum when so desired.
- Community Expertise – Residents may have valuable additions from personal expertise on certain subjects that they could contribute to the school district. This would increase the value of the curriculum over time.
- Working ahead – Believe it or not, many kids enjoy learning. Allowing communities to openly access the digital curriculum allows motivated students to work ahead and/or cover subjects that they would not have had time to take due to limited availability of classes or conflicts in scheduling.
- Collaboration with other school districts – Educators could save substantial costs by collaborating across school districts. If school x has two thirds of what school y needs, they could just add on to the good efforts of school x’s curriculum. The favor could be reciprocated when school y needs something. In the end, everyone benefits.
A tradition of the American public school, has been to hold a referendum vote on new taxes every few years. A classic political discussion on new funding will hit on issues such as how important it is for the children, how those who reject new taxes on local families to pay for education do not care about the children, and how public education must be protected and nurtured to blossom into this yet unrealized dream.
Usually, the promoters of “more funding” tend to gather around the idea that new technologies are about to revolutionize the system, making it cheaper and better for all on board. Their solution; Just give us a little more money now so we can reform the system, then you will see savings and improvements down the road.
I may get into the idiotic nature of such logic in another article, but today, let’s just focus on what education really is.
When one says a person recieved an education, this is usually to imply that the person attended Kindergarten through 12th grade and now has a diploma to show for it. Unfortunately, a diploma is nothing more than the participants ribbon of the education system. Employers, seeing right through the charade, ask for more. They want experience or evidence that you had the drive to actually finish something on your own (like college).
I would like to challenge these assumption. Here are a few common myths and their rebuttles:
- An education is simply a thirteen+ year journey that you take with your local peer group: Nothing could be further from the truth. As edusceptic argues, “the school system absolutely needs to accommodate families who are wise enough to know that learning is a whole world activity, and not restricted to a classroom.” Education is about learning, whether this comes from a trip to a museum, Nick Jr. TV, a Sunday School lesson, or a traditional classroom.
- Cutting dollars to public schools diminishes the effects of education: This is a silly statement considering the above point. Sitting in a classroom can be a tool to help children learn, but we also need to look at the opportunity cost. What activities and what lessons are they missing? Are they slowly having the burning desire to learn leached out of them by boredom and lack of challenge? By the public demanding more dollars from the student’s family, we could be siphoning off dollars that would have been used for valuable out of classroom educational opportunities. See myth #4 on this site.
- We need standards. Without such standards, children would fall through the cracks: A one size fits all education system, fails most in the name of uniformity. Tell me if you truly believe that “no child left behind” or “profiles in learning” really made your kids smarter. The truth is that standards testing templates tend bureaucratize the education of children. What we really need is a system of local control where parents have measures to hold individual teachers accountable.
- Education is too complicated to be handled by amateurs: The nature of how a person learns has not changed, only the subject matter has changed. In today’s world, technologies have made a K-12 education simpler, not harder. In the age of online encyclopedias, Google, and even post secondary education options for high schoolers, we are kidding ourselves if we believe that single teachers in classrooms can compete with the distributed forms of education that the internet brings. Ask most software developers (myself included) how they learned so much about computers. Guess what they will say. They self taught themselves by research and collaboration online. Sure I have a formal degree in computer science, but that only supplements my learning through other channels. Education is more about teaching people how to find and piece together the information and less about having an expert educator provide you with the information. He is educated who knows how to find out what he doesn’t know.
Finally, I would like to leave you with the quote that has made me think many a time about how we educate our kids. (Thanks Bruce Little for the interpretation an critique of this quote):
Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire. -William Butler Yeats
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject or if you have anything to add. If you found this post interesting, please subscribe to my posts here.
P.S. As long as we are speaking of education, can you figure out the spelling mistake in the article above?
Why does college cost so much?
There are several factors influencing the cost of college. Many of these interlocking factors seem to be catalysts for other price increases. The whole price issue with colleges is such a mess because there are just so many factors. As such, nobody knows who to blame, which makes it a tough issue to fight.
A few factors that contribute to cost include:
- Text Books – Considering the fact that many text books are just regurgitations of existing writings, mixed up in a different form, there is absolutely no reason the book should be worth $200. Take, for example, a calculus book. Nothing has changed, in regards to the information, yet the publisher forces us into a new edition by rearranging a couple chapters and swapping out a few math problems. Overall, no new value is added, but the company comes out pretty good.
- Labor costs – Professors and staff are sometimes overpaid for the value they provide. This is especially true when you add in benefits packages, tenure, and so on. It is true that some employees are paid less than they are worth, but these are usually the exception. Auxiliary staff consume large amounts of resources as well.
- Freely available student loans and grants – The readily available student loans create an upward push on the education market. Since the loans are neither tied to actual performance or to the student’s value (in terms of career wages after school), vastly more loans are issued than should be issued.
Is college worth the cost?
As a guy who went to a few colleges myself, I’ve had some time and experience to think about the true value of college. There are parts of college that are very valuable if it makes sense in your career path. Then again, there are many, many, parts that are less than useful. They simply consume precious resources that you will repay after graduation.
Outside of the fact that most employers demand a degree, there is little need for college in most circumstances. A high level tech school, or an intense on the job training program would do a much better job preparing an individual for life than a college degree would do.
There are hundreds of thousands of waitresses and parking lot attendants who worked hard through college and are now paying off a lot of debt. They would have been much better off skipping college and forgoing the debt.
Entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who made his fortune building PayPal and Facebook, is so eager to wake people up to alternatives to college that he’s paying students $100,000 each if they drop out of college and do something else, like start a business.
Even in my field (programming), there should theoretically be little need for college completion. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, echoed this sentiment when he would recruit people away from college. Why program in a classroom, when you can do the real thing right now?
Mark was right. In reality, the best programmers got that way outside of the classroom. Computer Science classes can be beneficial, but if you want to find the true superstar programmers, you need to look outside the classroom. Look to the open source coders, the hackers, and the innovative individuals that code not because they were told to do so, but because they need to invent, create, and build. Here, you will find your best “workforce,” whether they have been to college or not.
So, is college worth it? That is a question for you to decide. I lean towards “no,” but given society’s aversion to individuals who buck the system, it may be necessary at times. Check out the video and also let me know what you think about the matter below.
What is the meaning of the pledge of allegiance? Is it appropriate for individuals to reject saying the pledge of allegiance? Furthermore, is it appropriate for individuals to recite such an all encompassing pledge?
These thoughts have been deep on my heart recently. I began wondering about the meaning and purpose of the pledge. I began looking into Biblical and philosophical positions on the pledge and considered what the motivation is for saying it, and whether it is always completely appropriate.
This moral dilemma was nagging at me. Given the dilemma, I did what anyone would do. I turned to Google. In doing so, I cam across an interesting commentary by Jim Perry. The article is entitled “What I Expect My Child To Learn From Not Saying the Pledge of Allegiance.”
I take words very seriously and feel it is beneficial to have an intellectual conversation about the words we use. If there is a government and societal requirement to recite something, we should continually question our reasons and our motives for doing so. Our government expects us to say this oath before each meeting, at the start of the school day, etc. I feel great harm has been done throughout history because individuals blindly accept things without raising questions on issues such as this.
The pledge may be valid and appropriate, then again, it may not. Culturally, it is completely unacceptable to discuss the relevance and purpose of the pledge in a skeptical manner, but I really feel like we need to have this discussion.
Please comment on your opinions on this after the article. I want each of your opinions on this because I really do want to think through some of this and have that debate. Open discussion is always better than blind acceptance in important matters such as this.
Here are my concerns with the pledge of allegiance:
- Blind recitation of any pledge or oath just brings images of gulags, re-education, and dead religions. Reciting pledges simply because a culture or a state demands it only demonstrates one’s tendency to submit to another power. While submission to some may be merited (i.e. submission to God), most submission is just an acknowledgement that another entity has forced you into a place where you must do as you are told or face serious consequences.
- A blanket submission to a country diminishes your allegiance to God. As written, the pledge almost seems to imply that our submission to God comes through our submission to our country. While I believe in following the laws when possible, a person who is so tied to the allegiance to a state would have to acknowledge that their true lord may be the state and not God Himself.
- If I make a pledge to “the flag of the United States of America and to the republic,” that is a very serious commitment. I do not want to make a commitment that I may have to go back on. It seems more and more that our nation’s laws conflict with what God would direct a person to do. We cannot serve two masters. While we can live in the nation and respect its laws, if laws conflict with our beliefs, as mandated by our creator, it is our duty to oppose them. How can we, on the one hand pledge our allegiance to God, while on the other, pledge to our country without a condition attached to it.
- Pledging to a flag seems to border idolatry. I am an evangelical Christian who has a serious concern if I put anything to the level of near deity. My pledge is to God alone, and because of God, my pledge is to build my family in a Godly fashion, to share the message of Jesus, to respect my fellow man, and to live in peace with others. Some may argue that we must “give Caesar what is Caesar’s” but my counter would be that such a strong pledge of allegiance is not Caesar’s to have. That sort of unconditional allegiance is reserved for God alone.
- I respect the idea of a republican form of government, of the rights of individuals, and of the honoring of agreements between our fellow man. However, it does a disservice to these ideals when we sum them up into a physical object that we solute to. It diminishes the true power of the American experiment that we embrace.
- A pledge to a union that is indivisible is a denial of states rights and of the reality of the situation. The union is only as strong as the commitment that the individual states made to abide by the constitutional intent of the union. When the breakdown of respect for the constitutional agreement takes place, there should be a natural loosening of ties within the union. This is our “miner’s canary.” The only reason this does not occur is that the federal government forces the offended states back into submission. The framers intended a weak union to prevent this from happening. The pledge we recite implies a permanent and strong union, which in my opinion, is designed to force submission of the states to a federal normalcy.
- The pledge is specifically targeted at children. While I am all about teaching children our national heritage, I want them to take ownership in our history, not because they blindly recited a pledge over and over, but because they truly thought through the same issues that our founders thought through. Blind recitation makes subjects, intellectual ownership makes citizens.
Once again, I want your opinion. It is something that has been pulling at my heart for a while. I respect the reader’s of this blog. A couple years ago, I would have had a knee jerk reaction of calling such questions treasonous. I believe it not to be so now, but I want input from you. Please reply with any comments, good or bad below. If you do your own blog post or Facebook note, link to it, I want to see it!
I will end by saying this. I love the freedoms that our country is founded on. The founders of our nation were geniuses ahead of their time. They changed the world because they stood on principles, whether or not they were popular. These founders challenged the very fabric of western thought and made their world a better place. They created a nation that respected liberty and justice for all, and for that, we can all be grateful.
By bringing this up for debate, I hope to, in a small way, encourage that sort of continual dialog that helped the founders formulate the logical ideas that created the bedrock for our nation.
People are always talking about how exercise can help keep you healthy.Â This is true, and most of us realize that we need to do more of it. However, what most people do not realize is that your brain also needs to be exercised.
There is a website dedicated to just such a cause. It is called SmartKit Brain Enhancement News. On the site, you will find the latest tips and news on helping you get the most out of your brain.
Looking on the right side of the page, you will see a category listing that will help you find specific topics of interest. These range from Accelerated Learning to Brain Teasers to Study Tips.
This site shows the importance of exercising your brain, and great techniques on how to do so. So go check it out future Einstein!
The other day, a fellow computer science student and I were discussing how it is often easier to learn if you see a video of a concept.
Last year, he had shown me some really good videos on learning Java, and they helped me learn a lot of the basics. Anyway, he recently came across another good source of “video learning.”
This time it is a website that has free videos listed on it.Â It is a site sponsored by Berkley. They post their webcasts from classes on the site, so you are likely to find a wide variety of topics on it. You can find everything from Java, to Optics, to Data Structures, etc.
Just point your browser to http://webcast.berkeley.edu/courses/ and check out these great learning videos.
Have you ever wondered what your IQ is? Before the age of the internet, finding your IQ involved going to a testing center or taking the test at your school.
Thanks to the modern marvel called the internet, IQ tests are available on several sites.
I just took my IQ test on a site called “tickle.” After taking the test, you get your score and a brief description of the results. Then, for about $12, you can receive a full fifteen page report about your IQ test results (that is how the site makes money).
I got a score of 140. If you wish to see how IQ is calculated, go to LearningInfo.org’s page on the IQ test.
After that, go to Tickle.com and do your own IQ test. When you find your results, post them in the comments!
This Weekend, I am at a conference for MSUSA. It is being held in Mankato, MN. Our group is staying at the MicroTel Inn and Suites.
It is ironic that Microtel’s #1 biggest marketing ploy is offering free internet access, yet there internet access is spotty. When we asked the front desk, the person said “it will start working when it is fixed.” (And that in itself should show you why you need to get a college education!)
Hopefully, I will post more later, but this is a filler post to let you know that barring more internet problems, there will be more technology news coming up!
Today, I finished a report for one of my classes. The assignment was to provide report on a financial topic. I chose to demonstrate how a potential employee might choose to evaluate a possible employer. For my case study, I chose one of my favorite companies, Lawson Software. Below is the report in its entirety.
The Analysis of financial statements is usually thought of as a task done by investors and financial planners. These are not the only entities that should consider a financial analysis of a company. It is important for a potential employee to know the details of the financial status and history of a prospective employer.
This analysis can provide a person with knowledge about the company that they would not receive from an interview or simple review of the company website. With such a tool, one can analyze the companyâ€™s goals, their ability to promote employees, and the overall stability of the companyâ€™s employment situation. The following is one such analysis using the St. Paul based Lawson Software as an example.
Lawson Software (Nasdaq: LWSN) was founded in 1975 by Richard and Bill Lawson, and colleague John Cerullo, with the mission to â€œprovide the best business applications to customers by taking full advantage of the latest technologies.â€ …