01-24-2013 | The New Pedagogy

"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob!" - Rick Santorum

Palantir Tiger

Dr. Reuven Feuerstein on Why Intelligence is Modifiable - BW

Kurt Lewin, Group Dynamics, and Informal Education - iED

What Can Education Actually Fix? - The New Inquiry

Agnotology - The Jimmy Wales Project

Questioning Clay Shirky - Aaron Bady

"the way higher education works in America is to deliver the most resources to the people who need the least help" - Matthew Yglesias

Obama and the Cult of College: Why Rick Santorum Had a Point - Rick Perlstein

"Classroom Without Walls" - Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan at Work


  1. Part 1

    I like to look at Singapore and Finland for two contrasting ways of learning. Finland's system is very free-form and simple, focusing heavily on essay-style questions. Singapore has a score focused system, it started out 40 years ago as a simple fishing village and the focus on scores gave the government a clear metric for progress at the expense of developing flexibility and creativity. Singapore also practices attrition through tests on purpose, high scores are a ticket to a civil service job. Every score you get throughout life is recorded. There are limited government jobs, so the herd has to be thinned out. Finland has a reputation of being much more supportive of struggling students. They empower schools, teachers and social workers at a local level to get them back on track. I’ve seen programs here in Texas that were quite effective simply because they would never give up on a student as long as the student put forth effort.

    A score based system completely falls apart if you can’t rigorously fight cheating. Scores are a very invasive metric, an ecosystem of predators and parasites will pop up seeking to exploit the metrics for their own good. That means test-prep services, outright cheating, people paraphrasing and students who leech off of the work of smarter/more prepared students. The downside is that when only one person is doing the work, even if s/he is smart they will usually have many bad assumptions which will compromise the overall understanding of the topic and no one in the group has the knowledge the challenge those assumptions. On the upside Singapore has been able to import talent from the US, Europe and China to add top talent they would otherwise be lacking.

    China has a test score focused model as well, but they are generally too disorganized to police cheating. Drop-out rates and suicides are also very high in China, 22.23 per 100,000, versus 12 for the US and 10.3 for Singapore. The US rate would be much lower if you cut out US military and the LGBT groups. Singapore, amusingly enough, has outlawed suicide and will press charges against anyone who attempts it.

    The US system is just a mixture of all of the above elements and more. Even though we place in the middle to bottom on the PISA if you cut out students who aren't fluent in English or are very poor we come out in the top 10. Hispanics make up 23% of under 18 population in the US, they are dragging the scores down even though they score higher than in their home country.

    It’s reasonably easy to fix compared to other issues, make sure you have staff on hand who can speak Spanish, even if the children speak English fluently you still have to deal with the parents who probably aren’t as fluent. Reach out to the parents and family, make sure the kids don’t skip school, really simple stuff. Blacks are much more spread out geographically and successful features varies a lot more, but all of the disadvantaged scores have been rising over the last decade.

  2. Part 2

    Though US disadvantaged students are now catching up to other countries in the OECD. Europe is going to have a much harder time catching up, the immigrants they have brought in have been practicing cousin marriage for centuries, which has caused a dramatically higher incidence of birth defects.

    This may of been an effective strategy when group cohesion mean't the difference between life and death, but now they are just creating a sizable minority of children who can never be economically competitive and will have a lower quality of life because of preventable disabilities.

    The entire Muslim community has to start using genetic testing if they want to keep their traditions, several generations of inter-cousin marriage dramatically increases birth defect rates.


    PISA Scores:

    Suicide by country:

    Japanese Mathematics:

    What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?

    "The Finns won attention with their performances in triennial tests sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group funded by 30 countries that monitors social and economic trends. In the most recent test, which focused on science, Finland's students placed first in science and near the top in math and reading, according to results released late last year. An unofficial tally of Finland's combined scores puts it in first place overall, says , who directs the OECD's test, known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The U.S. placed in the middle of the pack in math and science; its reading scores were tossed because of a glitch. About 400,000 students around the world answered multiple-choice questions and essays on the test that measured critical thinking and the application of knowledge. A typical subject: Discuss the artistic value of graffiti."

    Universal Principles of Design, Lidwell, Holden & Butler 2003 :
    "In cases where highly invasive measures are used over long periods of time, it is common for systems to become permanently altered in order to adapt to the disruption of the measure. For example, the goal of standardized testing is to measure student knowledge and predict achievement. However, the high stakes associated with these tests change the system being measured: high stress levels cause many students to perform poorly; schools focus on teaching the test to give their students an advantage; students seek training on how to become test wise and answer questions correctly without really knowing the answers; and so on. The validity of the testing is thus compromised, and the invasiveness of the measure fundamentally changes the focus of the system from learning to test-preparation."

  3. Part 3

    Cheating In Chinese Schools

    "In a survey of 900 college students by the China Youth Daily released in 2008, 80 percent of those polled admitted to cheating on exams. Organized cheating rings have been uncovered. Students in Guangdong Province were caught using two-way radios to communicate during the exams.
    Cheating and falsifying credentials also occurs outside the education system. In 2009, state media warned that growing competition for government jobs appeared to have encouraged cheating in the civil service entrance exam, with about 1,000 cheaters caught over a four month period. After a plane crash in August 2010 killed 42 people in northeast China, officials discovered that 100 pilots who worked for the airline’s parent company had falsified their flying histories. It has also been revealed that Tang Jun, the millionaire former head of Microsoft China and something of a national hero, falsely claimed to have received a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, October 6, 2010]"

    Here's a blog by a Singaporean living in Finland comparing them:

    Finland: Slow and Steady Reform for Consistent Results

    Genetic Disorders

    Bradford's cousin marriage boom
    "This has been the surprise finding of the Born in Bradford research project . It's a huge long-term study of 14,000 mothers and babies in the city, the largest ever undertaken in the UK. Half of the families in the project are Asian.
    Cousin marriage has important implications for health because marrying a cousin increases the risks of passing on genetic disorders. Bradford has three times the national rate among children for disabilities including deafness and blindness.
    Globally, cousin marriage is practised by an estimated billion people, according to Professor John Wright, who is leading the Born in Bradford research project. It yields considerable social benefits - particularly in ethnic groups, where it is traditional for women to live with their in-laws."

    Cousin marriage: Is it a health risk?
    "The Born in Bradford study, tracking 10,000 children from birth through their first two decades of life aims to rectify this.
    Around 50% of children born in Bradford are to Pakistani parents.
    Dr Peter Corry, a consultant paediatrician at Bradford Teaching Hospitals says they have identified almost 150 of these rare genetic conditions in the city - much higher than would be expected.
    And data collected by the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit has shown since 1997 there have been 902 British children born with neurodegenerative condition
    "Of the first 1,100 pregnant Pakistani women recruited, 70% are from consanguineous marriages," he said."