(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘education

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”*…

 

You are on an asteroid careening through the cosmos. Aboard the asteroid with you are nine hundred highly-skilled physicians, who have been working on developing a revolutionary medication that will cure every disease in the known universe. The asteroid’s current trajectory is taking it straight toward the Planet of Orphans, where all intergalactic civilizations have dumped their unwanted offspring, of which there are now 100 trillion, all living, breathing, and mewling. If you detonate the asteroid, all of the doctors will die, along with the hope for curing every disease in the universe. If you do not detonate the asteroid, the doctors will have time to develop the cure and send it hurtling toward the Healing Planet before you crash into and destroy the Planet of Orphans. Thus you face the crucial question: how useful is this hypothetical for illuminating moral truths?

The “Trolley Problem” is a staple of undergraduate moral philosophy. It is a gruesome hypothetical supposedly designed to test our moral intuitions and introduce the differences between Kantian and consequentialist reasoning. For the lucky few who have thus far managed to avoid exposure to the Trolley Problem, here it is: a runaway trolley is hurtling down the track. In the trolley’s path are five workers, who will inevitably be smushed to a gory paste if it continues along its present course. But you, you have the power to change things: you happen to be standing by a switch. If you give the switch a yank, the trolley will veer onto a different track. On this track, there is only one worker. Do you pull the switch and doom the unsuspecting proletarian, or do you refrain from acting and allow five others to die?…

How a staple of moral education “turns us into horrible people, and discourages us from examining the structural factors that determine our choices”: “The Trolley Problem Will Tell You Nothing Useful About Morality.”

[TotH to the ever-illuminating 3 Quarks Daily]

* Aristotle

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As we carefully consider the questions that deserve our response, we might spare a thought for German Idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; he died on this date in 1831.  While his ideas have been divisive, they have been hugely influential (e.g., here).  Karl Barth described Hegel as a “Protestant Aquinas,” while Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote that “all the great philosophical ideas of the past century—the philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche, phenomenology, German existentialism, and psychoanalysis—had their beginnings in Hegel.”

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Written by LW

November 14, 2017 at 1:01 am

“We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane”*…

 

For three days, thousands of uninsured Americans converge on the Wise County [Virginia] Fairgrounds for the largest pop-up clinic in the country. Most are poor, many are in pain, but all have faith in a level of care that neither the government nor private industry can provide…

A story both heart-warming and horrifying: “Tent Revival.”

* Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

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As we tend to the needy, we might send instructive birthday greetings to William Sanford “Bill” Nye; he was born on this date in 1955.  A mechanical engineer turned actor, science educator, and television presenter, he is best known as the host of the PBS children’s science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–1998), and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media.

Nye was greatly influenced by Carl Sagan, with whom he studied astronomy at Cornell University. He began his career with Boeing, in Seattle, designing hydraulic systems, from the early to mid 1980s. From 1986-91, he created and developed the Science Guy persona for local radio and TV, while eking out a spartan existence as a stand-up comedian.  But in 1992. he made a pilot program for the local PBS station, attracted underwriters, and launched what became a five-year national PBS series, Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Since then he has appeared in other TV science programs and as a guest expert on TV shows, continuing his quest to make science accessible to the public.  He currently serves as CEO of The Planetary Society.

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Written by LW

November 27, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I have students who are now in chairs in five continents”*…

 

Cornell University Press, office chair. @Scott_E_Levine

“You think you’re having a hard time in academia, but have you ever thought of the chairs? Will no-one think of the chairs?”

Choose a seat at Sad Chairs of Academia.

* George Steiner

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As we encourage endowment, we might recall that it was on this date in 1773 that the first recorded (Western) Ministry of Education, the Commission of National Education, was formed in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.  An important facet of the Polish Enlightenment, it broadened access to education, incorporated Enlightenment thought into tuition (laying the foundation for the prominent Polish scientists and authors of the 19th century), and helped preserve Polish language and culture during the Partitions of Poland – heavy Russification and Germanisation notwithstanding.

Bishop of Vilnius, Ignacy Massalski, the first Chairman of the Commission of National Education 

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“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition”*…

 

 

school

One quibbles with Jacques Barzun, the author of this post’s title quote, at one’s peril.  Still, as Lapham’s Quarterly points out, disrespect, even disdain for formal education has a long history.  In this season of school’s end, LQ reaches back to the 17th Century for an example: an excerpt from Nicholas Breton’s The Court and Country, in which the then-popular author argues that on-the-job training, in the fields where husbands know their wives and farmers know their cattle, is all the learning anyone needs:

Now for learning, what your neede is thereof I know not, but with us, this is all we goe to schoole for: to read common Prayers at Church and set downe common prices at Markets; write a Letter and make a Bond; set downe the day of our Births, our Marriage Day, and make our Wills when we are sicke for the disposing of our goods when we are dead. These are the chiefe matters that wemeddle with, and we find enough to trouble our heads withal. For if the fathers knowe their owne children, wives their owne husbands from other men, maydens keep their by-your-leaves from subtle batchelors, Farmers know their cattle by the heads, and Sheepheards know their sheepe by the brand, what more learning have we need of but that experience will teach us without booke? We can learne to plough and harrow, sow and reape, plant and prune, thrash and fanne, winnow and grinde, brue and bake, and all without booke; and these are our chiefe businesses in the Country, except we be Jury men to hang a theefe, or speake truth in a man’s right, which conscience & experience will teach us with a little learning. Then what should we study for, except it were to talke with the man in the Moone about the course of the Starres?

* Jacques Barzun

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As we celebrate the onset of summer, we might send back-to-nature birthday greetings to Ralph Waldo Emerson; he was born on this date in 1803.  The essayist (“Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” et al.), lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, he was one of the linchpins of the American romantic movement, and friend and mentor to Henry David Thoreau.

220px-Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_ca1857_retouched source

 

Written by LW

May 25, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Different languages, the same thoughts; servant to thoughts and their masters”*…

 

Every year, the US Census Bureau releases data on the languages spoken in American homes. Usually it groups the languages in 39 major categories. Now it has released much more detailed figures, which show that Americans speak not 39, but more than 320 distinct languages.

The bureau collected the data from 2009 to 2013 as part of the American Community Survey, which asks Americans all kinds of questions to create highly granular estimates on various demographic indicators. The new data estimate that more than 60 million Americans speak a language other than English at home…

Learn more– and see the breakdown– at “All 300-plus languages spoken in American homes, and the number of people who speak them.”

* Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

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As we choose our words, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that Sesame Street premiered on public television in the U.S.  In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans had watched the series as children.  By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street was broadcast in over 120 countries, and 20 international versions had been produced. And as of 2014, Sesame Street has won 159 Emmy Awards and 8 Grammy Awards—more than any other children’s show.  The show, which was itself based on mountainous research,  has been the subject of, literally, thousands of studies on its effectiveness as a learning vehicle for children; it has been a keystone of English (and native) language learning in the U.S. and around the world.

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Written by LW

November 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Since my last report, your child has reached rock bottom and has started to dig”*…

 

Between 1830 and 1860, historian Carl F. Kaestle has written, American schools, influenced by theories stemming from European educators Joseph Lancaster and Johann Pestalozzi, began to favor the inculcation of “internalized discipline through proper motivation.” In practice, this kind of discipline might include positive reinforcement, like these certificates, as well as corporal punishment. 

Schools that wanted to teach children to be “obedient, punctual, deferential, and task-oriented,” Kaestle writes, were responding to the exigencies of a classroom environment that could easily descend into chaos. (Nineteenth-century schoolrooms might be crowded with large numbers of students or be required to serve a wide variety of ages and abilities; teachers were sometimes young and inexperienced.)

This range of merit certificates shows what kinds of behaviors were valued in 19th-century students: selflessness, “correct deportment,” and diligence…

The digital archive of The Henry Ford has a group of 60 examples of rewards of merit given to 19th-century schoolchildren; more at “School Certificates of Merit For Good Little 19th-Century Boys and Girls.”

* actual comment made by a New York Public School teacher on a report card; see others– equally amusing– here

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As we polish the apple, we might spare a thought for Ron Toomer; he died on this date in 2011.  Toomer began his career as an aeronautical engineer who contributed to the heat shields on NASA’s Apollo spacecraft.  But in 1965, he joined Arrow Development, an amusement park ride design company, where he became a legendary creator of steel roller coasters.  His first assignment was “The Run-Away Mine Train” (at Six Flags Over Texas), the first “mine train” ride, and the second steel roller coaster (after Arrow’s Matterhorn Ride at Disneyland).  Toomer went on to design 93 coasters worldwide, and was especially known for his creation of the first “inversion” coasters (he built the first coasters with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, loops).  In 2000, he was inducted in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame as a “Living Legend.”

Toomer with his design model for “The Corkscrew,” the first three-inversion coaster

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“The Corkscrew” at Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio

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Written by LW

September 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is an art to flying… the knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”…

 

Some readers will recall that (R)D has kept an eye on the state of paper airplane engineering. Today, from Guinness laureate John Collins, a lesson in how to fold the world record paper airplane.

email readers click here for video

Enthusiasts can join Collins in his Kickstarter campaign to use paper aviation as way to stoke interest in STEM subjects in schools, museums, and libraries around the country and the world– now in its final days.

* Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

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As we worry about wingspan, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that the New York City Board of Education voted to establish the Bronx High School of Science.  A report by the Board of Superintendents had recommended creating an institution to develop “a scientific way of thinking,” with courses to train prospective physicians, dentists, engineers and laboratory workers. Using entrance exams to screen for suitable ability, about 400 boys were admitted to the first cohort, which matriculated in September of that year in a repurposed building. The school has grown to a full enrollment of about 2,500, and is fully coed.

The school has graduated eight Nobel laureates, seven Pulitzer Prize winners, and six winners of the national Medal of Science; 29 of the 2000 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences are alums.  But the graduate cohort is an eclectic bunch, accomplished in other ways as well:  e.g., the great Otto Penzler, editor/collector/archivist of espionage and thriller books; Millard “Mickey” Drexler, CEO, J.Crew; ex-CEO, Gap; Jon Favreau, actor/director of Elf, Iron Man I & II, Chef and others: Mark Boal, journalist, screenwriter and producer, winner of 2010 Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for The Hurt Locker; and Jonathan Kibera, Venture Hacker at AngelList.

The Gothic building at 84th St. and Creston Ave. that housed the school from its founding in 1938 until 1959

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Written by LW

February 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

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