Monday, May 21, 2007

Gain and Loss 3: Education

I believe myself fortunate to have had an independant mind through most of my life. Taking nothing I was told as fact, but merely stashing it in my mind under "what I have been told", and trusting my own ability to percieve and reason to provide me with the actual facts, I was able to form my own opinions of things. Such ideas as "homosexuality is evil", from the time I became aware of it, were given to me as facts, but never recieved as such. I had a somewhat detatched view of the world. This independant, detatched view served me well in isolating me from the ideas given to me through the public school system.

The grading system itself is wholly loss oriented. You start with 100%, and whenever you are wrong, you lose. Furthermore you do not lose because you put something at risk and made a wrong decision. You lose something you never owned nor wanted to risk, and your loss is not metaphysical justice but human-imposed retribution. When this item, your grade, is risked, there is no opportunity to gain, as there is in reality, you cannot get a 105% on most assignments, and certainly not a 125% that a dedicated gain-oriented thinker can pull, you are capped at 100%, amounting often to just defending the status quo.

It is irrelevant to the grading system how much you improve. Attempts at improving your ability are not rewarded except as you improve your ability to not lose, thus encouraging loss-oriented thinking. If every question is gotten wrong on a test, and you can then look at the test and realize the mistake you made and correct and learn from your mistakes, they don't care. You screwed up. Your attempt at gain afterwards goes wholly unrewarded. A student soon learns that gain is not to be sought. The goal is not to win, but to not lose.

In some cases, arriving at the correct answer in the "wrong" way, is punished. Thus, attempts at innovation are not only left unrewarded, but quite effectively dissuaded. Finding new ways to solve an equation that work and require less effort were not allowed in most of my math classes. It is analagous to setting me at the start of an obstacle course and telling me all I had to do was get to the finish line, and then punishing me for walking around the outside edge of the obstacle course and crossing the finish line from the other side. Someone with no patience for trudgery will take the path of least resistance, even when that path is the least obvious one. This is just a variant of innovation. In a real-world situation, if the goal really was "get to the finish line", my actions would have been rewarded to the degree that I cut down on the time and effort needed to do what I did. In this artificial fantasy world of public schools, where action has no consequences except as those actions are judged by others, where self-defense is prohibited, property rights do not exist, you are a slave to the state, to be told when and when not to visit the bathroom, when they say jump, you ask how high, when they say "don't run", you walk, when you're late for class because you couldn't run, they punish you, if you break their mold, they break you.

People make mistakes, and people learn from these mistakes. Under a system where mistakes are punished, mistakes are not made, and thus no learning takes place. Worse yet, under a system where mistakes are punished, it causes whoever made the mistake to not think, but to feel. To feel bad, for having lost. This suppresses their ability to think, their ability to understand their mistake, and to learn from it. It has the effect of closing their mind to the potential of learning. It has the effect of making them prefer submission and obedience, because if they do as they are told, any mistakes that are made are not their mistakes, but the mistakes of those who ordered them around.

Loss-oriented thinking is force-fed to kids for over a decade in their most formative years, drilled so deeply into their view of the world as to often paralyze their ability to think in a gain-oriented fashion.

It is high idiocy to give a student information in such a way that destroys their ability to process it correctly, to make them unable to think and to act.

To me, one thing is certain: A new way of teaching is needed. An objectivist method of teaching, in the sense that it is reality-based and not opinion-based.

It would be consistent between it's means and ends. It would not claim the banner of reason and then use force, the negation of reason, in order to compel it's teaching.

In reality-based education, perfect action is rewarded, imperfection is rewarded less, and big mistakes are not rewarded at all.

In current education, perfect action is given zero punishment, imperfection is punished slightly, and big mistakes are punished harshly.

Is it any wonder kids hate school? Is it any wonder mistake-phobia is so common? Is it any wonder kids come out of school with a loss-oriented mindset, trying not to lose, as they have been taught to do?

The destruction of minds that comes from the public school system must NEVER be underestimated. I would venture so far as to say that next to the military, the institution of public schooling is the most destructive government program ever. And I'm not even sure that the military has been more destructive. I think it's actually that bad. The military's destruction manifests more obviously to all as a major loss (just look at any warzone). The schools' destruction manifests in reduced creativity, reduced productivity.

How much better off would America be if the 200 million or so people that went to school had not been force-fed loss-oriented thought? Where would we be if they were seeking liberty and not security? If they were seeking entrepreneurship and not employment? If they were thinking and not fearing? If they were seeking problems to answer rather than answers to problems?

It's really amazing me how many recurrent themes I'm noticing when I write these...


Blogger Aaron Kinney said...

Good post! The loss-oriented vs gain-oriented comparison is spot on.

7:40 PM  
Blogger not pc said...

Over one million home-schooled children would agree with you. Whether or not you agree with their parents' politics or religion, those kids are not being taught to pass on the right, raise their hands before speaking, or act stupid so their friends won't feel bad. They can learn at their own pace and are often encouraged to think originally. The obvious academic success of homeschooling encourages us as a society to rethink our method of delivery of education. In a free society, having the government "educate" children is having the fox watch the henhouse. Homeschoolers are the leaders of tomorrow.

10:50 PM  
Blogger noor said...

Another thing is when some teachers complain about students that prefer to think out problems independently, I've had that happen to me several times. The idea of classrooms in which all students must progress at the same pace is collectivistic also, and as you discussed on another post, collectivism leads to stop-loss orientation. Students are told that they must stay on track with the rest of the classroom, and that often leads to rather desperate attempts to stop getting behind.

Nice post.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Alex Ramos said...

Excellent post, Zhwazi! This has bothered me for some time.

1:22 PM  

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