Re: youth & adult education

Dale R. Reed (
Fri, 08 Aug 1997 07:31:11 -0700

A.R. Gouin wrote:

> > "The soul and spirit that animates and keeps up society is
> > mutual trust." Robert South.

Schools are institutions set up to FORCE children to listen to their
elders. Children even at Sudbury must be there more or less 5 hours a
day, five days a week, 180 days a year. The State and their parents
would be very upset if the school "lost" the children and young adults.
As I think through this I want a better word to describe the K-12
children. Oh yes they are called students. Students who attend the
school. Very neat and tidy and out of the way, out of the job market,
the shopping malls and out of the adult's hair being "educated" or at
least "educating" themselves for a few hours every day.

And it makes sense. I know that in my 62 years I have learned a few
important things that I think would be useful to youngsters. Sometimes
by simple trial and error. Almost automobile accidents that taught me
to routinely drive a safer route to the grocery store. The wrong ways
and the right ways to handle a boss. What foods and exercises that
agree with me. And what I have observed about alternative life styles
that result in cancer, obesity and unhappiness. How to develop the
ability to solve difficult mathematical word problems. How NOT to learn
grammar. How to be productive and happy. Even a few things about what
does not work and what does in economics and politics and about basic
human nature.

> How can we do it in cyberspace? you ask. Probably by waiting for the kids
> to want IT. That'll happen when they sense IT as an opportunity, as more
> and more are discovering, I intuit.

Well they do not want it. I spent two years in Antarctica 40 years
ago. We have a fine discussion list on the South Pole. As far as I
can tell none of the subscribers are children. A couple old geezers
like me and lots of middle aged explorers and wanabes, some people
actually on the ice or at least were there recently, Mothers of people
going or coming or on the ice, but no children.

I am on another list that I think would be fascinating to teenagers.
The LOGO programming code allows kids of all ages to produce beautiful
graphics on the CRT with relatively simple commands. You simple program
the "turtle" to go forward 100 steps and a line straight up the screen
is drawn 100 turtle steps long. In any color you want. Type in the
command "repeat 360[forward 1 right 1] and a circle is drawn. And
beautiful drawings and vigorous discussions are posted with
contributions from all over the world. Why are there no interested
teenagers? None

So what are the children interested in? What is this "opportunity" they
are supposed to sense?

And don't tell me that we have ruined ALL the children's natural
curiosity by FORCING them into school 5 hours a day I would have been
sympathetic to that comment twenty years ago but now millions of
children all over the world have never been to school. Not only are
there hundreds of thousands of unschooled homeschoolers many of them
with computers but millions of schooled cyberkids with plenty of
opportunity to plug into what I imagine are tens of thousands of
lonesome, eager, full of wisdom and eager to talk to someone-anyone
geezers and geezerettes CQing(did you see Contact with Jodie Foster?)
from their own terminals.

No there is something more fundamental here and it is not the
technology. I think that most brand new humans want to do their own
experimenting. I think we all would prefer to earn our own scars. No
matter how much it hurts. In fact the more it hurts the better. And we
have very narrow interests at different times in our lives.

Maybe the following quote from the August 1997 IEEE Spectum, page 15
helps focus these ramblings.

"It is much easier to have some vague notion about any subject, no
matter what, than to arrive at the real truth about a single question,
however simple that may be." --Rene Descartes(1596-1650), in his 1629
text, "Rules for the Direction of the Mind." This
mathematician-philosopher set precedents for mathematical notation, such
as reserving the last letters of the alphabet for unknown quantities and
the first letters for known quantities.

Katy and I, once a month, view a slide show at the Boeing Alpine Club.
Yesterday evening a fellow showed his slides of a wonderful first accent
on a new route up the south side of Argentine's highest peak,
Aconcagua. A whole list of helpful hints. He had learned some lessons
and had some missing toes for evidence as to what happens if you do not
wear vapor barrier socks and if you leave a couple hours too late, and
do not bring enough food, and

The people in the room were listening very carefully and had many many
questions. Some of them decided during that meeting that they were
going to climb that mountain and they were not going to lose any toes.

Is this what you mean by "opportunity" A.R.?

The people at the slide show did not ask to see Coy Wall's feet. They
trusted that he was telling the truth. Truth that would apply to some
of them when next January(summer in the Southern hemisphere) when they
would be kicking(with front pointing crampons) their toes, still all
their toes hopefully, into the 2500 foot ice wall while trying to stay
cool in the +100 degree days while being constantly threatened by
quickly changing weather that often results in 150 knot winds and -60
degree weather from nearby Antarctica.

I think us oldsters have to find something more interesting to talk
about with the youngsters. Something they want to talk about. I don't
know what they want to talk about but I bet they want to talk about it
very deeply. And their experience is that most adults don't know very
much about anything(maybe mountain climbing is the exception) deeply
enough to satisfy their curiosity and desire for action.

And besides, if they cannot apply their knowledge to the real world then
who cares about anything anyway? If they expect to be in school next
January then who cares about learning how to keep your toes? There were
not any children or teenagers at the Alpine Club slideshow. And if
there had of been any younger children they would of been fidgeting most
of the time as they were thinking about something else while wanting to
go home. Just as they do in school. Dale

$   Seattle, Washington U.S.A.  $