Skip to main content

View Diary: School board member who bombed Florida 10th grade test comes forward (216 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Richard Feynman on science education in Brazil (16+ / 0-)

    http://v.cx/...

    Brazil gets great test scores, but produces few actual practicing scientists. Why is that?

    So I tell them that one of the first things to strike me when I came to Brazil was to see elementary school kids in bookstores, buying physics books. There are so many kids learning physics in Brazil, beginning much earlier than kids do in the United States, that it’s amazing you don’t find many physicists in Brazil – why is that? So many kids are working so hard, and nothing comes of it.

    Then I gave the analogy of a Greek scholar who loves the Greek language, who knows that in his own country there aren’t many children studying Greek. But he comes to another country, where he is delighted to find everybody studying Greek – even the smaller kids in the elementary schools. He goes to the examination of a student who is coming to get his degree in Greek, and asks him, “What were Socrates’ ideas on the relationship between Truth and Beauty?” – and the student can’t answer. Then he asks the student, “What did Socrates say to Plato in the Third Symposium?” the student lights up and goes, “Brrrrrrrrr-up” – he tells you everything, word for word, that Socrates said, in beautiful Greek.

    But what Socrates was talking about in the Third Symposium was the relationship between Truth and Beauty!

    What this Greek scholar discovers is, the students in another country learn Greek by first learning to pronounce the letters, then the words, and then sentences and paragraphs. They can recite, word for word, what Socrates said, without realizing that those Greek words actually mean something. To the student they are all artificial sounds. Nobody has ever translated them into words the students can understand.

    I said, “That’s how it looks to me, when I see you teaching the kids ‘science’ here in Brazil.” (Big blast, right?)

    Then I held up the elementary physics textbook they were using. “There are no experimental results mentioned anywhere in this book, except in one place where there is a ball, rolling down an inclined plane, in which it says how far the ball got after one second, two seconds, three seconds, and so on. The numbers have ‘errors’ in them – that is, if you look at them, you think you’re looking at experimental results, because the numbers are a little above, or a little below, the theoretical values. The book even talks about having to correct the experimental errors – very fine. The trouble is, when you calculate the value of the acceleration constant from these values, you get the right answer. But a ball rolling down an inclined plane, if it is actually done, has an inertia to get it to turn, and will, if you do the experiment, produce five-sevenths of the right answer, because of the extra energy needed to go into the rotation of the ball. Therefore this single example of experimental ‘results’ is obtained from a fake experiment. Nobody had rolled such a ball, or they would never have gotten those results!

    “I have discovered something else,” I continued. “By flipping the pages at random, and putting my finger in and reading the sentences on that page, I can show you what’s the matter – how it’s not science, but memorizing, in every circumstance. Therefore I am brave enough to flip through the pages now, in front of this audience, to put my finger in, to read, and to show you.”

    So I did it. Brrrrrrrup – I stuck my finger in, and I started to read: “Triboluminescence. Triboluminescence is the light emitted when crystals are crushed…”

    I said, “And there, have you got science? No! You have only told what a word means in terms of other words. You haven’t told anything about nature – what crystals produce light when you crush them, why they produce light. Did you see any student go home and try it? He can’t.

    “But if, instead, you were to write, ‘When you take a lump of sugar and crush it with a pair of pliers in the dark, you can see a bluish flash. Some other crystals do that too. Nobody knows why. The phenomenon is called “triboluminescence.” ’ Then someone will go home and try it. Then there’s an experience of nature.” I used that example to show them, but it didn’t make any difference where I would have put my finger in the book; it was like that everywhere.


    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 10:13:37 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  So the united states (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      UntimelyRippd

      gets terrible test scores, AND produces few actual practicing scientists. Why is that?

      •  because science is fucking hard, (7+ / 0-)

        and generally doesn't pay nearly as well as many other occupations available to someone who has the necessary brains to do science.

        here's something i guarantee you: the average person -- american-educated or otherwise -- doing real STEM work for a living could pound the living fucking daylights out of these exams, whether they're the boring "straightforward" california math questions, or the "obscured by language" florida questions deplored by elfling.

        since you ask.

        although i know you only asked to be wicked, you naughty person.

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:00:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hehe (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nextstep, Deep Texan

          My answer is not too different.

          But I would more argue that our culture of stupidity is more to blame. Math is hard everywhere in the world but we here in the US seem to have an aptitude for failure. I am a STEM graduate (MS) now hoping to get my MBA. I know the pains and temptations of an engineering degree :)

          The united states ranks highly at producing degrees in basket weaving  art history and other Mcdonalds jobs while  very low ratio's of STEM graduates.  

          I blame the general perception of people like 'elfling' who are in a race to the bottom. They see a question that someone has a problem with and their answer is to lower the bar. The reality is many people are not cut out for higher education, part of the job to these standardized tests is to weed these people out and create clear stratification so people can prove themselves with hard-work and pure intelligence.  

          •  gotta tell ya--I looked at the Fundaments of Engin (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            HiBob

            neering exam the other day for the first time...

            THAT's a hard exam!  Not sure if I'd get 5 out of 60 on that one....

            And I teach math, did a year of physics, and do research in spatial statistics!

            •  Fun fact (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bevenro

              When I took the EIT exam, it was the only time in my whole life where the men's room line was wrapped around the room but there was no waiting for the ladies' room. :-)

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 11:38:09 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  You might be right (4+ / 0-)

          I ditched the PhD and post doc in biology to go practice law.  My current salary two years in is about eight times what my last scientific salary was.   You think just maybe people might respond to that kind of differential?

          ( actually it was the brutal job market for me)

          Intelligent, passionate, perceptive people will always disagree, but we should not let that disagreement, however heartfelt, lead us to become deaf to those better angels of our nature.

          by Mindful Nature on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 09:49:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Sure, a STEM person can (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus, banjolele, gabjoh

          wipe the floor with these tests. Most people who go into STEM also happen to be very good at gaming any kind of standardized test. It's not necessarily a related skill, but it's how we select for math aptitude.

          But understand, these exams deny high school graduation to kids that don't pass. They are not meant to divide the best and brightest from the ordinary. There are not that many questions on each topic, and they are covering a breadth of curriculum that is pretty amazing when it comes down to it. They are meant to determine whether particular concepts were learned.

          The level of responsibility to create clear questions that quite precisely measure the intent of what we need a high school graduate to know is immense and not to be taken lightly.

          It's a different purpose than the SAT, or than an entrance exam for an elite university.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 11:36:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is what it comes down to (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Abelia

            Some people who are very good at standardized tests believe standardized tests are both fair and wonderful.

            Ratings privileges revoked without explanation during the Great Purge. So, consider yourself recommended or hidden as you think you should be.

            by banjolele on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 03:20:52 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  nice. (0+ / 0-)

            yeah, it isn't because people who have been successfully educated in STEM -- successfully enough, at any rate, to successfully work in STEM careers -- have mastered the knowledge. no. it's because they "game the tests".

            what fucking bullshit.

            what fucking anti-intellectual, anti-elitism, self-stroking bullshit.

            what a fucking insult to anyone who actually can do this stuff.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 06:44:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's also very obvious bullshit (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              UntimelyRippd

              All you have to do is look at the actual test, and see with your own eyes that a moderately educated person can pass it without "gaming" anything.

              Indeed, this is why we all expect someone controlling our kids' curriculum to be able to pass these 10th grade tests of mathematics and English.  Not because we expect school administrators to be good at "gaming" things, but because we expect someone with at least a high school education to be able to pass these tests.

              Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

              by Caj on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 10:50:47 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Actually we produce quite a lot of practicing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dewtx

        scientists.

        Dr. Feynman for one.

        As for why we don't have more, science jobs in academia don't go begging. They're filled up, even though a substantial part of the job is rustling up money, for yourself, your lab assistants, and your graduate students, rather than doing science.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 11:28:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  are you kidding me? (0+ / 0-)

          You do realize the entire H1B visa program exists because the united states is utterly failing to generate any significant amount of science graduates?

          There are entire scientific departments within major schools where >80% of professors/students are foreign nationals. This is a major major problem

          The issue is not that we have foreign talent joining us.. the problem is that we have virtually none of our own homegrown.

          This is the situation your race to the bottom creates. People need to step up and recognize that they are responsible for their own fate. When you fail a test, its not the tests fault its you who are the failure.

          Only when you recognize this can you solve the problem and work hard to overcome the challenge.    

          •  Are you sure about that? (0+ / 0-)
            You do realize the entire H1B visa program exists because the united states is utterly failing to generate any significant amount of science graduates?

            I thought we had the H1B visa program because engineers with H1Bs can be hired for less money.

            Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

            by Caj on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 10:51:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If you (0+ / 0-)

              have an eng degree...there is no unemployment for you. At the worst part of this rescission I once had a friend with an eng degree who did not have a job for a month and a half. Last I looked the unemployment rate at the worst was like 3 maybe 4%.... almost if not full employment.

              I have my problems with the H1B program but thats a topic for a different day. The short point is that there simply are not enough american engineers.

              If you took away all the H1B's you would not get lower unemployment you would get the collapse of every major and most minor firms dealing with technology.

               

          •  A big part of the problem is that the ones we grow (0+ / 0-)

            are working on Wall Street creating derivatives. (And there are many that leave the field for various reasons.) STEM jobs are very high friction - meaning that job openings tend to be very specific and specialized and they also tend to have long cycle times. If you're a PhD astronomer, there just aren't that many openings for you to work with.

            H1B is broken. It's often used to hire very ordinary talent when Americans are available. It holds those workers hostage, because they can't change jobs without having to leave the country. And for the extraordinary talent the program is supposed to get, it's too messy. It serves no one well.

            Staple a green card to every American STEM diploma. Let them work for any American company who will hire them.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 03:34:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bull shit (0+ / 0-)

              Although I have never met someone with a degree in astronomy. I know plenty of physics phd's and they have NO trouble finding a job. That and they have a VERY diverse set of options.

              H1B never was designed or intended to get extraordinary talent the goal is to get anyone and everyone with slightest bit of intelligence to come and stay here because are workers are too stupid to tie their own shoes half the time, thus the 8.6% unemployment rate.  

              " It holds those workers hostage, because they can't change jobs without having to leave the country. "

              Although there are problems with the H1B program which are 'kinda almost sorta similar but' not that. Basically this is another statement of yours that clearly shows you have no experience or understanding of the issues that face STEM and H1B holders.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site