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Comment Re:Both! (Score 1) 77

Except that way leads to failure and frustration.

A guy who really enjoys history is likely to be thrilled by the prospect of an in-depth class on the political environment of the Italian Renaissance. On the other hand, there's people who couldn't care less about such a subject.

There are people who enjoy Trig or who will use it in their expected careers. Then there are others who simply loathe it and will never use it in their life.

The idealists and supporters of the US school system believe that this current way exposes everyone to everything and so everyone can be equally good. But really what ends up happening is that everything gets dumbed down to the point where everyone is equally bad.

There are very few students who can be Renaissance Men. There are very few people who have expertise in all the traditional areas of schooling, few are good at math and science and history and English and art. On the other hand, there are many students who excel in one or two of those areas and so it makes sense for those who are really good and really enjoy art to devote the vast majority of their studies in middle and high school to art. There are those who are really good at math, it makes sense for them to devote the majority of their studies to mathematics. In doing so, we breed better artists and mathematicians rather than starving the artists and mathematicians in courses that they will never fully master and bringing down those who are good at that subject.

The US education system apparently has not come to the realization that ability differs.

To use a sports analogy, its a bit like taking Apolo Ohno and Peyton Manning and telling them to throw a football 20 yards. Ohno is unlikely to ever need that skill (being an ice skater) and indeed not being a football player he might not even have the ability to do that. On the other hand, Manning isn't really challenged by this and is unlikely to really improve (because there's no support for learning to throw the ball any higher). Both Ohno and Manning are both brought down by this, Ohno because he has no motivation and little ability, and Manning because it is too basic. Instead, Ohno should be improving his speed-skating skills and Manning should be improving his passing skills (beyond just 20 yards!).

Comment Re:About time... (Score 1) 77

I think you are missing what Estonian schools are teaching. They aren't going to be throwing away math instruction but they are going to be talking about what the numbers mean. For example, they will talk about what a 7% tax is, talk about what are the expected numbers, etc.

And no, its not "dysfunctional" to get your algorithms and just put them in your program, its called efficiency. Why re-invent the wheel (and introduce potential bugs) by re-coding something that is already done (and tested)? I mean, sure a programmer could spend 85% of their time re-coding existing code, and the remainder working on new stuff, or they could just take existing, working code and focus on adding the new stuff.

and most of these "let's do education differently" programs are really about making better factory floor workers or IT service job workers. That's not necessarily what we want from education.

Um, have you even been in an American school? The entire program right now is to make factory floor workers! We focus on obsolete gruntwork rather than focusing on the big picture. We prepare students for life in 1913 rather than 2013. We ignore many technological advancements for the sake of a "complete" education. We waste time teaching students print, cursive and keyboarding rather than just print and keyboarding. We waste time trying to cram in dates and years rather than teaching the principles behind history so we can learn from it. Its the same with math, we can either focus on the gruntwork and spend 95% of our time teaching kids how to do long division and things of that nature, and only 5% discussing the principles behind it. Or we can spend 95% of our time discussing the principles behind it and only 5% discussing the gruntwork behind it.

The idea of the human calculator and the human encyclopedia is over. Real-world success isn't being able to quote dates or do multiplication in your head, its applying those concepts to the world around us. Its not knowing 400 digits of Pi but being able to use Pi to model the world.

Comment Does he not know... (Score 1, Insightful) 154

Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming...

Does Gates not know about Python? Python IMO is a whole lot easier to learn than BASIC ever was and you can do a lot more with it. And Python is much easier than C/C#/C++ to learn and is much, much, much cleaner than Java.

Slap on a few libraries and you can do just about anything in Python in less lines of code. AND you can actually read it when you're done :)

Comment Re:Both! (Score 2) 77

Except most students will not have a need to do the arithmetic by hand except for very basic problems.

To use a car analogy its a bit like riding a horse. Back in the days before cars and trains, if you needed to travel long distances you had to ride a horse. If you didn't know how to ride a horse you were at a distinct disadvantage compared to someone who could ride a horse. Knowing how to do complex math by hand in today's age is a bit like knowing how to ride a horse today. It might be an interesting skill to know, indeed it might be required for some professions, it might become a hobby, but it isn't essential.

I know /. is very biased towards math/science but in an average occupation, indeed in everyday life there are just some things that you don't need to know such as long division. There's no doubt there will be kids who will do (and will enjoy) doing math by pencil and paper. Indeed, I have no doubt that there are some brilliant (potential) mathematicians who decided not to pursue mathematics further because they didn't like the "gruntwork" of arithmetic.

Comment Re:About time... (Score 3, Insightful) 77

Yep. Looking back at my elementary school/middle school years that rang especially true. I'm not -that- old (graduated HS in 2008) but the stuff I learned was already obsolete by the time I learned it.

For example, in Kindergarten I learned print handwriting. In first grade I learned D'Nealian (basically a bastardized version of cursive, not quite print and not quite cursive) by third grade teachers required that everything should be written in cursive. The idea was that somehow, despite the fact that computers were everywhere and few people actually used cursive that it was a required skill to learn and that we'd be using it the rest of our lives. Wrong. Aside from a time from 3rd to 5th grade when teachers required it, I never used cursive, it was really a waste of time.

There's a whole host of useless things I learned, each with a rationale that we'd be using this "skill" the rest of our lives. Which might be true if I lived in 1950, but I don't. I remember at some point we were forced to keep a pen-and-paper agenda and my request to use my PDA to keep track of things (I mean, nothing fancy just my dad's hand-me-down monochrome Palm Pilot) and that request was flatly denied. There were all sorts of things that I could have been (and should have been!) taught in elementary/middle school, things like computer programming, basic electronics, etc. but those were overshadowed by much more "important" things such as learning to write in cursive...

I'm glad to see this mentality that calculators don't exist banished from classrooms.

Comment Re:Both! (Score 4, Insightful) 77

Aside when I sleep I've got a calculator on me at all times. My phone? A calculator. My laptop? A calculator. My iPod? A calculator.

And yes, there's a reason why China is behind the US in terms of math, because, like you said a lot of the value is placed on rote memorization, but that is also the reason why China has lagged behind the US in terms of real innovation.

Oh, and good luck getting a calculator to tell you what went wrong when a number you get isn't right.

Except this is what Estonia is having students learn: what the numbers really mean and how to use them. Which is a more useful skill, to be able to compute the A^2+B^2=C^2 your head or to be able to recognize a right triangle when you see one and be able to use that formula to find out useful information?

What most education systems are doing is teaching kids to memorize formulas and be able to do them with pencil and paper (or in their head) but not telling them when to use it or what the numbers really mean. You can ask most students what the Pythagorean theorem is and they can tell you, but how many of them can actually practically use it?

Comment About time... (Score 4, Insightful) 77

It is about time that schools embraced calculators and computers when it comes to math. When it comes to having a competitive edge and actually DOING something with math, the question isn't if you can do 123123.12 x 213123 / 23423.28 in your head, it is about learning to apply mathematical principles in the real world. You quite simply cannot get a job simply because you are good at doing addition, multiplication, subtraction and division. 100 years ago before the advent of the computer that might be true. Today though? Everyone has a calculator on them nearly all the time. The question is not if you can accurately calculate how much that $7.99 shirt is going to be if it is taxed at 7%, but how to plug in the numbers for that. The question isn't manually computing how to do a PageRank algorithm, but understanding the logic behind that (and improving it!).

Comment Sure... (Score 4, Insightful) 173

Sure, the IT departments of the 1990s aren't going to be the IT departments that we need today, but we rely on computers much more in 2013 than we did in 1995. In many places, if the computers are down (or the network is down) work simply cannot be done. A great example of this is at a bank, if the bank's internal network goes down, tellers cannot really process your transaction, they can't let you know if a check will clear, they can't add the deposited funds to your account. The best they can do is write you up a paper receipt and add the funds to your account whenever it system comes back up. An IT department is CRITICAL there to fix the problem ASAP, because otherwise the bank might as well stick a closed sign up. There are many other businesses that when the network goes down the business simply cannot function.

Yeah, everyone knows now how to stick an ethernet cord in your computer. Sure, most companies will have several people who know how to install RAM. How many of them though know how to fix a server when it goes down? How many of them know how to restore from backup? In 2013 it is true that an average (good) IT guy will spend less time having to do things in an average day than back in 1995 simply because hardware and software is much more reliable than it was back then and so less time is spent on maintenance and fixing minor issues. But when you have a failure of some component, having a well-trained and well-equipped IT staff is absolutely critical.

Comment The problem is... (Score 4, Interesting) 291

The problem is:

A) The display

B) The interface

The closest Apple has come to a watch is the iPod Nano (6th gen) which had a whole host of problems, namely that the screen (and therefore the interface) was tiny. Assuming the Nano 6th gen as a template in size, what functions of my smartphone could that easily replace? Music playback would work, but not videos, nor would web or messaging work all that well. I suppose a game or two might not be too bad. But other than that I'm at a loss as to what it could have that my smartphone has. Streaming music perhaps? But really, the screen is going to be too tiny to be usable.

Comment Re:Rock & A Hard Place (Score 0, Offtopic) 564

We shouldn't have a minimum wage. Period.

Essentially what a minimum wage says is that it is illegal for you to work for less than the minimum wage. Now for quite a few people that might be fine, but there are many people who might provide, say, $6 an hour in value but it is illegal to hire them.

Ever wonder why unemployment is so high among unskilled workers and teenagers? Its because their current value is lower than the minimum wage. Now that doesn't mean that their value will always be lower than the minimum wage, but without a job to start with how are they to get the experience to increase their value later on? And its not practical for a business to act as a charity and lose money in hiring people (keep in mind that businesses pay MUCH more than just your cash wages, they also have to pay a tax for hiring you and often insurance) especially when it comes to young people who aren't planning on staying with the company for the next 10 years.

Comment Shouldn't have had the mandate... (Score 3, Insightful) 419

Like 99.9% of government laws and regulations, we never should have had a mandate of ethanol in gas. Its bad for cars, makes no economic sense, and is actually less green (you've got to use more oil to make corn-based ethanol than it will save)

If we are going to use ethanol, it makes sense to use sugar like Brazil. Unfortunately the US has a pretty terrible climate for growing sugar except in a few key areas, and those few key areas have lobbied for massive tariffs on the importation of sugar, making it cost-prohibitive to import sugar from the areas of the world where it makes sense to grow sugar.

The US farming industry is a mess. Honestly, unless you are a factory farm, you're almost better off to buy an unproductive piece of ground, make a half-assed effort of farming it, take out crop insurance and live off the proceeds of that.

Comment Re:Too Late? (Score 1) 184

-cough- Desktop Linux -cough-

Around the time Vista was released there was a lot of interest in Linux for the desktop. It ran faster, with a custom theme it even felt more familiar. It was a whole lot cheaper. But it mostly fizzled out because of platform specific software. Platform specific software certainly can prevent people from changing platforms.

Comment And this is why... (Score 2) 93

And this is why consoles are still around. No need to worry about if X will run well on it, simply pop in the disk and play. No worrying about if the fact that something can run on it if that means that it will run lag-free or not. No messing through settings for an hour trying to get the best performance.

Much easier to just buy a $300 console which for sure will last 8 years+ of perfect gaming (EVERY title released for your system will work at 100% the developer's intended speed) than to buy a gaming PC that you've got no clue if anything will really run on there and what "run" really means.

Comment Re:Too Late? (Score 1) 184

Except people are already tied into their current OS in general. How many people do you think really want to pay for their apps again on a different platform (as will happen with anyone who has iOS apps) or for their apps to work better (as will happen for anyone who has Android apps unless the emulator is -much- better than the Playbook, most people will want native versions).

I know people who have literally hundreds of dollars worth of apps on their phones/tablets, I can't imagine them wanting to jump ship and have to pay the $$$ for the same exact program written for a different platform.

Comment Re:So rather than... (Score 1) 270

Interventionist policies DO NOT work. Why do you think 9/11 happened? Do you honestly think that terrorists flew a plane into three buildings because they "hated us for our freedoms"? No, they hated us because we bombed them! They hated us because we pushed for a trade embargo with Iraq that lead to the impoverishment of the Iraqi people. Believe it or not, people don't like being bombed, or being starved. How many new terrorists do you think are created because of US drone strikes in Pakistan? What do you think the sentiment of Americans would be if Italy flew a drone over California and fired a missile to kill an alleged murderer and ended up killing 3 innocent civilians?

Is it any surprise that the areas of the greatest instability are those where the US/NATO (or Russia) has interfered?

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