25 February 2008

On when to give up

(In a similar vein, see this article, too)

There comes a point when the sensible thing is to give up. The article describes several students who have made that quite rational decision; unfortunately the government does not seem to be capable of acting with similar rationality. Of course, to do so would be to concede that ordinary people are sometimes more sensible than governments, so perhaps their denial is a little more understandable.

The 50% participation figure was plucked out of the air anyway. It was quite a noble if naive aspiration, but it is clearly not going to work, and the money could be spent better elsewhere.

Both this and other educational targets for literacy and numeracy achievement wilfully ignore the bell-curve distribution of abilities within the population. (I say, "abilities" because it goes for athletic ability, and musical talent and even maturity and sunny disposition [sorry, now known as "emotional intelligence"] and good teeth just as much as it does for academic ability.) If that level is seriously low, probably lower than in comparable countries, then by all means try and improve it. You will probably succeed and make quite rapid progress at first. In the current cliche, which is quite accurate and Aesopian, you are "plucking the low-hanging fruit". But then it get more difficult; more and more effort and money is required for less and less gain; the law of diminishing returns has set in. This is the case in all such areas of public policy.

But what started out as emphasising increasing opportunities has become an end in itself, as usual; and the degree, the qualification rather than the learning which led to it, has equally become an end in itself. Just as have improving pass rates for national exams. It is not an ideological point to observe that such obsessions with meeting targets for their own sake must distort the processes they are supposed to improve. They must dumb down.

And the only thing which cannot be pursued for its own sake in this system is education; even the word itself, in a truly Orwellian move, has disappeared from the titles of the government departments supposedly promoting it.

It is time to give up.

21 February 2008

On another swallow--but still far short of a summer

Another voice to add to the general trend identified in previous posts—a recognition that the instrumentalism of HE has gone too far.

18 February 2008

On the restoration of sense

I am indebted to a correspondent from New Zealand (whose actual email I have accidentally deleted, it appears) for drawing my attention to this article, apropos of my remarks a few days ago about the theremin player. I can only whole-heartedly endorse Pring's remarks.

14 February 2008

On special music

First; enjoy!

Second; Watch this clip and Pamelia's absorption in making music. I noted, for what it is worth;
  • How abstract the theremin is; she is getting no tactile feedback as she would have if playing a 'cello, for example.
  • Her total absorption in the task, and her limited ability to talk about it; no criticism implied, other than of our "educational" system which identifies skill and expertise with the ability to write about having it...
However; play it again!

02 February 2008

On cultural ignorance

One can take many different stances on Woolworth's withdrawal of a range of children's furniture called "Lolita". My take is about education and cultural background.

Woolworth stores are an enormous organisation. They doubtless employ thousands of graduates. Some of them will not be business studies or IT or whatever specialists. Some will be humanities graduates...

And none of them recognised the connotations of "Lolita"?!

That is what happens when instrumentalism takes over.