But, a very persistent idea nevertheless. Isn’t force, as the expression of power (cf. @care_save’s essay series), our standard operating mode. And most newer sci-fi that I have seen (and as I’m not a big effects fan, I’m sure I don’t see enough … and what I read tends to be more classical in nature), hasn’t improved on the idea yet. Even here it’s the same pale, stale, patriarchal minds that are spreading around all that enticing cash to make sure we slaves stay submissive, says the curmudgeon. If there was ever anything I would like to be downright wrong about, it’s this kind of stuff.
Manfred Spitzer, perhaps Germany’s pre-eminent (and most hated) neuro-cognitive researcher, has repeatedly argued, based on sound, verifiable, empirical research, that sustained interaction with computers will dumb down anyone and is physically and developmentally harmful to children before they reach puberty. (You can imagine how well-liked he is.)
One of his most poignant reports is about the Chinese who also went down that path. To get competitive they digitalized a lot of their early education. Every couple of years they do a massive study to assess reading levels in the 4th grade. Traditionally about 25% were found to be reading below grade level (i.e., having reading difficulties). Since the introduction of computers, this has increased to over 45%. In traditional instruction, students had to practice calligraphy in order to get the ideograms right. With computers, they enter the “root”, say “li” and are shown the up to dozen ideograms that might reflect that pronunciation; they pick the “correct” one from the options presented. It appears an increasing number of students are not learning ideograms at all.
Things, of course, are not all that different in America. Last I heard, 23 states have already eliminated cursive writing from the grade-school curricula. Students are expected to learn to type by the end of the 3rd or 4th grade instead, for this is the input-method of choice for using computers. Literacy rates are dropping drastically. All those loop-the-loops and circles and fine spirals we were required to practice actually serve an important physiological, brain-based purpose. We’ve got science on that, but who cares?
In both cases the long-known, and well-documented link between the language and haptic centers of the brain are not only underutilized, from what we know about brain plasticity and its ability to rewire itself, it is often found that this traditional connection is actually broken down, which results, of course, in many cases in a reduced ability to process speech and text.
Even when we have the science, we very often opt to ignore it because it doesn’t fit well with the official lobbyists’ positions (large corporations like Google, Apple, and Microsoft smell a lot of profit in education), and the unofficial lobbyists, the AI and digitalization cheerleaders are hyping the public into believing that computers are actual learning devices. They aren’t.
Reading (and since it’s unavoidable when dealing with topic, learning to read) played no small role in the work I was doing at the university in Giessen. Granted, that was 35 years ago, but at that time, for example, the hot-topic debate was using phonics or word-recognition methods to teach it. All the research that I found on the subject pointed to only one significant factor in a child’s learning to read. The only variable with any statistically sound correlation was not method, it was the personal relationship between teacher and learner. (Yes, John, a parent’s knee or the next best thing, a teacher you like, is not only key, it’s crucial.) We had the science then, and we ignored it. We’ve had more science in the meantime, and it would seem we’re ignoring that too.
And some people are amazed that I’m curmudgeony. Go figure.
Oh, my…I see the 12/5 Cafe subtopic (Or, Superman vs. the Cosmic Void) and, with minimal understanding of the philosophical Ubermensch, am now waiting for the real Superman to be revealed.
From Globes, Conversation 1 thread:
…maybe this is what @madrush has in mind for the Cafe discussion…hope to make it there!
Great. I have sensed this too, with the Zuckerburg involvement in philanthropic education (New Jersey public education - see the book The Prize)
From inside flap of The Prize
When Mark Zuckerberg announced to a cheering Oprah audience his $100 million pledge to transform the downtrodden schools of Newark, New Jersey, then mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie were beside him, vowing to help make Newark a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation. But their plans soon ran into the citys seasoned education players, fierce protectors of their billion-dollar-a-year system. Its a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newarks children.
Dale Russakoff delivers a riveting drama of our times, encompassing the rise of celebrity politics, big philanthropy, extreme economic inequality, the charter school movement, and the struggles and triumphs of schools in one of the nations poorest cities. As Cory Booker navigates between his status as rock star mayor on Oprahs stage and object of considerable distrust at home, the tumultuous changes planned by reformers and their highly paid consultants spark a fiery grassroots opposition stoked by local politicians and union leaders. The growth of charters forces the hand of Newarks school superintendent Cami Anderson, who closes, consolidates, or redesigns more than a third of the citys schoolsa scenario on the horizon for many urban districts across America.
Russakoff provides a close-up view of twenty-six-year-old Zuckerberg and his wife as they decide to give the immense sum of money to Newark and then experience an education of their own amid the fallout of the reforms. Most moving are Russakoffs portraits from inside classrooms, as homegrown teachers and principals battle heroically to reach students damaged by extreme poverty and violence.
The Prize is an absorbing portrait of a titanic struggle, indispensable for anyone who cares about the future of public education and the nations children.
Granted, his kids are too small still, but as soon as he’s willing to send his own progeny to Newark’s schools, I’ll believe his actions are more than a “hey-look-how-great-and-generous-I-am” gesture.
[“On the Development of Human Representational Competence from an Evolutionary Point of View” in Symbolizing, Modeling and Tool Use in Mathematics Education, pp. 277-293 by James Kaput and Donald Shaffer] cited here:
Based on Merlin Donald’s model* (Origins of the modern mind, 1991) of the evolution of cultural mind-sets, James Kaput and Donald Shaffer argue for a coming ‘virtual’ phase of culture now that we can interact with our devices, computational algorithms taking place ‘outside’ of the human brain, as it were. For them, a general precedent is found in the emergence of mathematical symbology independent of the representation of speech which helped to shape the era of modern science.
from p. 283 of the article (p. 15 of the pdf)
In particular, it is now possible to design and build human-computer interaction systems that take advantage of the highly sophisticated physical and perceptual competence of human beings. Hence it is possible to create manipulable worlds with increasingly arbitrary ‘reality’—but without the constraint of physicality (Kaput, 1996), particularly with freedom from the time and size scales
of the physical world.
Kaput and Shaffer hold out hope that the more “integral” possibilities of a brave new world will manifest. But even they note that commercial forces usually end up driving things forward…
*((hominid?) episodic -> (homo erectus?) mimetic -> (homo sapiens) mythic -> (beginning with the Greeks) theoretic
Donald’s model does not map exactly to Gebser’s consciousness structures, but there is some overlap. Notably, Donald also insists that previous “stages” (“mutations” for Gebser) fully remain in the toolkit. Donald believes that mimetic representation is the dividing ‘line’ between ape-like memory and human abstraction, but is pre-language, so he would likely include Gebser’s magical and mythical structures in his “mythic mind”. The theoretic mind very closely corresponds to Gebser’s mental structure. For Donald, further modifications of theoretic culture seem more likely than a “post-human” “independence” of information.)
Thanks for this great article, TJ. Here is an interesting talk by Donald. His work informs what we are doing with Maps of Time. Through our maps we are creating external memory systems. This is the dawn of the hybrid mind!
Deacon is also an interesting voice, Both of these authors would be worth a cafe conversation.
Perhaps we can focus our attention on the interplay of these theorists with our own map making efforts? I have some great models for working with different kinds of memory because I have worked with aging persons and dementia.
A suggestion. If we did a workshop for our circle, I would like to offer something experiential while you could do the meta-theoretical part. I am just putting that out there as an adjacent possibility, suggesting that, perhaps, as we are getting more meta-skilled , we will need to get ready to do some really heavy lifting!
Only the neuromaniacs still believe it all happens “inside” the brain. (Cf. Kastrup.)
(Aside: I wonder how these guys feel about the approaches to teaching math that I’ve seen critiqued in relation to Common Core, etc. Are students learning more effectively or are they simply being exposed to notions they’re not developmentally ready for? My grandson won’t be faced with this for a couple of years still, but I’m concerned that what’s happened to kids’ heads (and hearts!) when they get too close to formal learning environments.)
I have often wondered: Is this so really different? If mathematics is a “language” then it would seem to me that it would follow similar developmental rules and processes as so-called “natural” language? I was only a math major for one semester (a l-o-n-g time ago, but I taught pre-algebra, algebra and geometry (up to congruency theorems for triangles) for eight years, so I don’t feel qualified to speak authoritatively on “how we understand” math, and I certainly have no idea how we understand what math is saying to us. (So, what is it about de Broglie’s equations that reveals the positron, or whatever? Just how does that work?) I’m starting to think that maybe there’s just too much that I need to get smart about if I’m going to understand the simplest things.
I think this is a bigger issue, if not problem, than all of us want to admit. This is definitely a curmudgeony contributor.
As I’m not familiar with either Donald or Deacon, I’ll have to check out the vid links @johnnydavis54 has provided and give it all some serious thought.
(It probably won’t be today, though. It’s 2nd Advent Sunday and we’re off with the grandson to the Fairy-tale Christmas Market in Kassel today. (Shows you where my level of engagement is located.) We live in Brothers Grimm country (Snow White was from the Kassel area, but the theme of the market this year is Hansl & Gretl; the seven basalt cupolas strewn out over the rolling plain to the East of us are called the Seven Dwarves … but, I’ll admit it, I’m a big fairy-tale fan (not the sanitized Disney versions, the real grim Grimm versions).
This clip was exceptionally stimulating to watch. Thanks for posting @johnnydavis54
I’m sure you will a magical time with your Grandson!
Where could I learn more about Maps of Time and creating external memory systems, @johnnydavis54? Could we do a talk / workshop / study circle on this? (or if that’s already happened, could you point me to the thread where?) Thanks!
(Very relevant to Cosmos and to individual growth in awareness/skills!)
You may want to check out the recent Maps of Time experiments we have recently explored at the Cosmos Cafe. We are developing some of the ideas we discussed when you were in New York. I loved our conversation! We have another meet up on Tuesday and I hope to bring some of the maps together and contemplate what happens next. I would love to see you there!
Cosmos Café: Time, Space, & The Hebrew Alphabet [01/09]