Thursday, May 21, 2009

QOTD

From Outside the Beltway's James Joyner:
There’s not much doubt that the Web has shortened my attention span; I want to get to the point now and be able to bypass things that don’t interest me. I read far fewer books than I did just a few years ago even though I read much more content. And, yes, I almost certainly store less trivia in my head than I once did.

It also occurs to me that this is the Americanization of intelligence. As both a student and a teacher, I noticed that European, Asian, and African undergraduates seemed to have a much better storehouse of knowledge about a given topic, having memorized much more information about it, but that American students were better at processing given information and providing novel responses. Whereas their system encouraged rote learning, ours emphasized understanding and deduction. With Google largely obviating memorization, it stands to reason that what will be prized in the future is the ability to access information and do something with it.
(via Normblog)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would modify that final statement as follows to ensure it does not create unintended consequences.With Google largely obviating memorization, it stands to reason that what will be prized in the future is the ability to access information, confirm its veracity, and do something with it.

Otherwise, you might have inappropriate behavior, per the following [modified] example presented by Anthony Iannini in an article about the Gettier theory of knowledge problem, at http://www.artbyai.com/essays/essay-gettier.htm#_edn1 Let’s suppose that Smith is home one evening and learns, from several reputable web sites, that leading astronomers have agreed that a planet-sized asteroid will hit the Earth the next day (A). Smith, who is justified in believing this, infers that he will die the next day (B). It is apparent (assuming some basic understanding of what happens when two planet sized objects collide) that A does entail B. Smith, then, was justified in believing B.

Now, as Smith believes he will die the next day, he decides to do all of the crazy, dangerous things he had never done. As Smith’s body is not used to such excitement, it turns out that Smith ends up dying of a heart attack around noon the next day. It also turns out that some strange phenomenon in space had caused the astronomers of the world to conclude falsely that an asteroid was heading for Earth.

For someone to know something, it must be related to something else that such a person knew in a certain way. In the case of the man who believes he is going to die as a result of a catastrophic collision with an asteroid, his belief is causally connected to the belief that there is an asteroid coming. In other words, if the asteroid does not come, then his belief that he is going to die has no causal connection with any facts about the world.

Because grounds for inferring other generalized beliefs might turn out to be false, the inferred beliefs themselves and any resulting reaction to them could be baseless and unwarranted.
But I am sure Smith died “knowing” he was “right” . . . and with a smile on his face!-Cogito

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Amen, James Joyner. This specific criticism of American students, which we hear all the time, is misleading. So what if the Swiss beat our students in geography knowledge or the South Africans on chem tests. Somehow, American children continue to go out to rule the world, and it is because of, not in spite of our educational system.

30% of American schools are just terrible. Agreed. I have some ideas what would help, but don't have a quick solution. Children from all other countries learn foreign languages, which is good for general brain power. Also agreed. Yet they have nowhere near the flexibility and adaptability to new information that American (and Canadian, Australian) children have. Europeans are especially unable to unlearn information that isn't so.

This is not an either-or issue. East Asian children may be slightly smarter and only slightly less adaptable, putting them on an even footing over time. We could certainly do even better with our own students here. Too much froth and junk is indeed taught in American schools. But the basic model of learn-unlearn-learn is simply far superior to other models.

Carl said...

Cogito & AVI:

Agreed.

OBloodyHell said...

> I would modify that final statement as follows to ensure it does not create unintended consequences:

With Google largely obviating memorization, it stands to reason that what will be prized in the future is the ability to access information, confirm its veracity, and do something with it.
--

I would modify the above statement in regards to the bolded addition:

...what will be prized in the future is the ability to access information, and, unless you're a liberal, confirm its veracity, and do something with it.--

-

I'm sure that's how the Teachers of America will make it work, anyway.

OBloodyHell said...

Anon:

In regards to your observation, I cite to you "Dune":

Whether a thought is spoken or not, it is a real thing and has powers of reality. - 'Dune' -

Thought, belief, meme, all the same for the above. Just because Ideas are more ephemeral than the wind, does not mean that they don't have consequences as a result of their mere existence (you know this, clearly, just adding a plank to your structure of thought).

----

P.S. the Dune Trilogy (the first three books) are very, very good, and have a lot to say about politics, religion, philosophy, and the perceptions of people. f anyone reading this has not read them, I recommend them highly, along with Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, as Subtle Bearers of Big Ideas.

.