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Journal jd's Journal: Continuation on education 13

Ok, I need to expand a bit on my excessively long post on education some time back.

The first thing I am going to clarify is streaming. This is not merely distinction by speed, which is the normal (and therefore wrong) approach. You have to distinguish by the nature of the flows. In practice, this means distinguishing by creativity (since creative people learn differently than uncreative people).

It is also not sufficient to divide by fast/medium/slow. The idea is that differences in mind create turbulence (a very useful thing to have in contexts other than the classroom). For speed, this is easy - normal +/- 0.25 standard deviations for the central band (ie: everyone essentially average), plus two additional bands on either side, making five in total.

Classes should hold around 10 students, so you have lots of different classes for average, fewer for the band's either side, and perhaps only one for the outer bands. This solves a lot of timetabling issues, as classes in the same band are going to be interchangeable as far as subject matter is concerned. (This means you can weave in and out of the creative streams as needed.)

Creativity can be ranked, but not quantified. I'd simply create three pools of students, with the most creative in one pool and the least in a second. It's about the best you can do. The size of the pools? Well, you can't obtain zero gradient, and variations in thinking style can be very useful in the classroom. 50% in the middle group, 25% in each of the outliers.

So you've 15 different streams in total. Assume creativity and speed are normally distributed and that the outermost speed streams contain one class of 10 each. Start with speed for simplicity I'll forgo the calculations and guess that the upper/lower middle bands would then have nine classes of 10 each and that the central band will hold 180 classes of 10.

That means you've 2000 students, of whom the assumption is 1000 are averagely creative, 500 are exceptional and 500 are, well, not really. Ok, because creativity and speed are independent variables, we have to have more classes in the outermost band - in fact, we'd need four of them, which means we have to go to 8000 students.

These students get placed in one of 808 possible classes per subject per year. Yes, 808 distinct classes. Assuming 6 teaching hours per day x 5 days, making 30 available hours, which means you can have no fewer than 27 simultaneous classes per year. That's 513 classrooms in total, fully occupied in every timeslot, and we're looking at just one subject. Assuming 8 subjects per year on average, that goes up to 4104. Rooms need maintenance and you also need spares in case of problems. So, triple it, giving 12312 rooms required. We're now looking at serious real estate, but there are larger schools than that today. This isn't impossible.

The 8000 students is per year, as noted earlier. And since years won't align, you're going to need to go from first year of pre/playschool to final year of an undergraduate degree. That's a whole lotta years. 19 of them, including industrial placement. 152,000 students in total. About a quarter of the total student population in the Greater Manchester area.

The design would be a nightmare with a layout from hell to minimize conflict due to intellectual peers not always being age peers, and neither necessarily being perceptual peers, and yet the layout also has to minimize the distance walked. Due to the lack of wormholes and non-simply-connected topologies, this isn't trivial. A person at one extreme corner of the two dimensional spectrum in one subject might be at the other extreme corner in another. From each class, there will be 15 vectors to the next one.

But you can't minimize per journey. Because there will be multiple interchangeable classes, each of which will produce 15 further vectors, you have to minimize per day, per student. Certain changes impact other vectors, certain vector values will be impossible, and so on. Multivariable systems with permutation constraints. That is hellish optimization, but it is possible.

It might actually be necessary to make the university a full research/teaching university of the sort found a lot in England. There is no possible way such a school could finance itself off fees, but research/development, publishing and other long-term income might help. Ideally, the productivity would pay for the school. The bigger multinationals post profits in excess of 2 billion a year, which is how much this school would cost.

Pumping all the profits into a school in the hope that the 10 uber creative geniuses you produce each year, every year, can produce enough new products and enough new patents to guarantee the system can be sustained... It would be a huge gamble, it would probably fail, but what a wild ride it would be!

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Continuation on education

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  • Creativity has a bell curve. The task is to excite people where they are, and drive them toward improving creativity, knowing that nurture can only go so far with a given natural set of chromosome pairs.
    • by jd ( 1658 )

      Which is precisely the point. I see no way of exciting creativity when the level of variation drowns out individual effort by the less creative and requires minimum exercise by the super-talented. However, you are correct that what I outlined is not enough to inspire.

      Two people join a class, one from a poor school and is a ways behind, the other spent time in a crammer and is functionally a year ahead. The first person learns a lot more than average, but makes only an average grade. The second person does n

      • Part of our challenge is that, just as you can't take the square root of 9 without roots of +/-3, the idea of making the individual the unit of analysis implies that some people are going to "fail", according to some measure of success.
        So much of our contemporary society is predicated upon attempting to factor out the -3 of reality (at least, according to materialistic scales) that we're now watching a global economic system consume itself with debt.
        Education is a seed scattered to grow where it may, not
        • by jd ( 1658 )

          I absolutely agree. My idea of having a symmetrical arrangement for speed and creativity is that there will be brilliantly creative people who need a lot of time, and amazingly fast people who have the creativity of a lettuce leaf.

          In terms of +/-, because this is 2D, I would describe these as -3 + i and +3 - i.

          Now, because everything is done per subject, you can be -3 -i in absolutely everything but basket weaving, where you might be +3 +i. Would you be a success or failure? Broad society would probably say

          • You might find Glenn Reynold's [] upcoming book of interest.
            • by jd ( 1658 )

              Thank you for the link. It looks intriguing.

              Basically, my assumption has been that you can treat education as being a problem in multi-variable space, that it cannot be reduced until all the variables have been identified together with their relationships and interactions, but that once reduced to the simplest elements, those elements should naturally form a very simple pattern or weave. If my reduction is inaccurate, the weave I have produced will be flawed. Threads will tangle, patterns will become disjoi

              • The point isn't that you're wrong; it's that, if correct, the situation is far too complicated to be "solved" by government.
                The best government programs are going to do is provide substrate and catalyst for the more complex, individual reaction.
                • by jd ( 1658 )

                  I would concur with that. What I have proposed is at the upper limits* of what can be achieved by a single entity running a single entity. If you need finer granularity, more dimensions or greater timelines to give everyone a fair chance in life, no single entity (corporate or government) could do it.

                  *It may actually be beyond. Not financially, but organizationally. To predict the optimum path for each student individually, track that, and correct at a moment's notice, no entity has shown the capacity to do

                  • I'm waiting for computer games to merge with History and let students really step into some ancient contexts.
                    Of course, there is going to be some shock as people discover some of the airbrushing that's gone on. . .
                    • by jd ( 1658 )

                      I'm working on it. Seriously. They dug up an Iron Age settlement not far from where I used to live. My father was one of the scientists on the team, providing magnetometry, ground penetrating radar and mass spectrometry. One of his colleagues from the university provided geological analysis and a colleague from another university handled conservation of things like amber artefacts.

                      I have all that data (not all of which was released to the public) plus the archaeological reports and a decade of photographs o

                    • by jd ( 1658 )

                      As for airbrushing, there was an interesting story run by the BBC a month or two back. Apparently Queen Elizabeth I signed into law the right for theatrical companies to kidnap children off the streets without limit or redress in law. It was apparently boasted that not even the children of nobility were safe.

                      This isn't the sort of thing that gets a lot of mention in productions set in that period.

                      Norse-style grave goods were also still deposited at the time, apparently some Londoners considered themselves t

                    • I can't believe there aren't historians who would totally groove on the project.
                      Get some English majors to contribute historical fiction.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"