Re: the 97% rule and american education standards (LONG)

I Find Karma (
Sun, 7 Apr 96 06:34:19 PDT

You know what? When you beat a dead horse, it stays DEAD.
Rohit, people keep asking me what the 97% rule is and I'm
tired of explaining it. Can we please archive it here once
and for good?

And now, back to our friendly neighborhood dead horse...

> You *sure* you weren't just being taken in by another Fool's joke, Adam? :-)

Not this time. Although at times, I was wondering.

> cal*de*ra \kal-'der-e, ko_l-, -'dir-\ n

And here I thought Caldera was just a cool computer startup.

> > 2. What is 108 divided by 9? <do it manually>
> Personally, I proceed by ordered guessing, which is why I'm not a
> mathematician and Z is: 9*10 -- leaves 18 -- aha, 12.

Was I the only one who had to memorize the times tables up to 12?

> Bzzt! see, silly me, I figured a desolate wilderness joined after the
> civilization that has been thriving for centuries.

Depends on your definition of civilization. I hear the eskimos live
rather well.

> More: Knowledge Adventure, La Crescenta -- oops, now Glendale
> Much, Much More:

I think it really SHOULDN'T be fair to answer an information
question with an URL.

> Hey, editing?! Sorry, Wendy, I just don't believe in that crap...

If this 45k message to FoRK is any indication, I believe you.

> I didn't read any of this pablum. I read ghost stories, the kid's biog
> series, and the World Book.

You read an ENCYCLOPEDIA!? What, like did you think it was a really
long poem about EVERYTHING???

> some white kid must have beaten me (Jewish, no doubt :-)).

Yes, your loss in your 5th grade literature reading contest was actually
due to a conspiracy by the various freemason illuminati floating about
the Nevada desert, Rohit.

> It's one of only two trophies I've ever one in my life, and I'm still
> proud of it.

Geez, so all we have to do to get your undying pride is give you
a trophy?

> I still don't get iambic pentameter, though.

Poetry is not something you can learn. Either you feel it, or you
don't. There's nothing to "get" in iambic pentameter.

> I also remember running playground polls on Mondale-Reagan '84

As if any 9-year-olds in 1984 had even HEARD of Mondale.

> > MATHEMATICS. Master basic arithmetic and more-advanced concepts involved in
> > geometry, algebra and probability concepts. Be able to apply them to all
> > sorts of real-life situations.
> Huh? that's the friggin goal statement for most COLLEGE math courses... :-)

Right, so why NOT expect that from our 4th graders? Actually, isn't
this the motivating example that 97% of the country is functionally
illiterate for -- applying basic mathematics to calculate a mortgage?

> Myself, I remeber causing my 3rd grade class trouble by skipping ahead
> to do the long division exercises during the quiz on integ. div.

So you've ALWAYS been a troublemaker, Rohit?

> Yeah, this all 4th and 5th graders in Thousand Oaks knew -- if only to
> play D&D :-)

Dungeons and Dragons gave me more vocabulary and math skills than all of
elementary school.

> > SCIENCE. Master the basics of how to formulate hypotheses and test
> > them in valid experiments. Understand physical properties like
> > light, heat, sound and magnetism. Start appreciating how living
> > things interact with the environment.
> Again, a completely vacuous mission statement.

And yet, this is EXACTLY what Caltech's Pre College Science Initiative
aims to do, you know.

> BG is totally right. In my early years, when I sucked at most everything,
> music used to be one of my only good grades -- but I got nothing out of it.

You probably got a lot out of it that you don't even realize.
Appreciation is something within that must be woken up, but often when
it is released, we are not cognizant of our newfound appreciation.

> > Explain the reasons why each of the following helps keep aquarium
> > fish alive: a light, thermometer, rock, snail and plant.
> It is a good one, but it's funnier because it leads to the fallacy
> that these items CAUSE the system to work -- glibly overlooking the
> carbon cycle, etc.

Actually, I'm not sure that 4th graders understand the principle of
cause and effect at all. I think that comes around 7th or 8th grade.

> > GEOGRAPHY. Know how to use maps and graphs. Develop a sense of the
> > world as a whole and the relationships between different regions and
> > peoples.
> Yeah, but we already know ADULTS can't do this...

Remember when we sat down and tried to name every country in the world?
And remember how unsuccessful we were?

> Me and a buddy now at the Air Force Academy built an 100sqft mideval
> castle, complete with catapults, seige setting, moat, and LN2 smoke.

See, it's unclear to me that building a diorama is actually educational.
I mean, it sure didn't teach you how to spell "medieval" correctly.

> What historical fiction are we exposing these kids to, anyway?

Diary of Ann Frank, Night, Schindler's List. You know as well as I do
that the Holocaust was just a myth that the Freemasons propogate so we
loos in the 97% don't figure out that they're running the whole show... ;)

> > FOREIGN LANGUAGE. Don't just begin reading, writing and speaking at a basic
> > level in a foreign language, but learn about a country's culture and how it
> > compares with one's own. <bg- this is necessary>
> Huh, BG? We are 'murricans, goddangnabit, and we OWN the world. Let em
> f*ckin' speak Eenglish, ok? :-)

But not English english. American english. Preferably with the
southern California vernacular, if I get to be choosy.

> Started early on French in 7th, and four years of it taught me nothing
> but an abiding contempt for gendered languages...

Interesting point. But Rohit, at least you can order wine without the
garcon saying something snide like, "We're out of the merLOT this
evening, mssr. Rifkin, but perhaps I can interest you in a nice merLOH."

> > Become pen pals (via letter or E-mail) with a student in a foreign
> > country, asking and answering questions about family, school events

About family? Whoa, there's such a thing as getting TOO personal.

> What is this, a USPS subsidy conspiracy?

No, conspiracies are strictly property of the Freemasons. Damn, why
does my version of Emacs not have M-x spook installed??????

> And what the heck does this other kid know, anyway?

Actually, Rohi, most surverys indicate that the other kid knows a
helluva lot more than his 'Merican counterpart.

> Want an answer, read the friggin encyclopedia.

Only someone in search of a trophy would actually sit down and READ an
encyclopedia. But we've been through this.

> Pen pals, my ass...

You know, Rohita, the words "pen" and "pal" bring back bad memories.
You do realize that we singlehandedly started the Problem Solving
Environment counterrevolution with our PEN and PAL visions?

We gotta learn to stop having visions...

> the only real long-term multicultural education comes from *living* with
> other cultures -- other kids, other neighborhoods, etc.

Yes, but can we do an exchange program for 4th graders? Isn't that
a little young to do that?

> We did music and art, but we ALL know dance and theater is for sissies.

Thanks to Billy Joel, "I found you could dance and still look tough

> None of that, except for field trips to the Nutcracker...

I want to go on record as saying that I think "Nutcracker" is a perfect
name for such an emasculating experience...

> > Paint a representation of a favorite song. <bg- I can't do this-
> > some people are just incapable of doing this>
> No freakin' way can I do this. What a bogus, unmeasured goal!

You could do it. Just make sure your favorite song is Nine Inch Nails,
and you paint with violent, passionate strokes. Again, though, this is
not something you LEARN; rather, it is untapped potential that can be
released, given the proper experience. And I think we all have it to
some extent.

> More to that point, we were _at most_ able to distinguish visual styles --
> Impressionism, etc. Today, I think that would be best taught by Photoshop :-)

Can you imagine COMPLETELY revamping the current educational system to
make full use of state-of-the-art technology? I still believe that this
will cause GREAT educational strides in the next decade or two.

I mean, what were we weaned on, Sesame Street and paper-and-pencil work?
Kids today have CD-roms, the Web, videos, and magnet schooling. It's
almost a problem of too many bits - we're blowing up their little minds.
Either that, or doctors are WAY overprescribing Ritalin and Lithium.

Then again, given ActiveX and Microsoft's forthcoming agenda, who in the
world DOESN'T need Ritalin and Lithium...

> 4th grade, this was the humiliation of having to wear a funny paper hat
> for a nonspeaking role as a soldier in the class Nutcracker...

Yes, Nutcracker is a VERY appropriate name...

> In sixth grade, we had a journal exercise, one or two pages of a comp book
> each week. Man, what a pain!

Think about how much easier this would have been if you had a notebook
computer with you at all times.

> > 4. In ancient Greece, most towns were built on tops of hills
> What friggin bigots, like the Greek were the only ones to figure this out!

No, but when you think of ancient civilizations fighting each other, you
tend to think about the western ones, not the eastern ones. The eastern
civilizations tended to be more peaceloving until the Brits came in...

> I am worried that current events are nonexistent here.

Yes, me too. But when I think back on high school, current events were
NEVER covered. They expected that if you were interested in anything
that happened after WWII, you'd look it up on your own. Bad

> since two hours every morning was devoted to dissecting the Times

Just think about that. 1/12 of your life devoted to the Times.
Something wicked that way goes.

> > HISTORY. Eighty-six percent of students can't meet history standards. Four
> > out of 10 cannot answer a basic question like:
> > 6. Who wrote ``We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are
> > created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
> > unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
> > happiness''?

More important are the facts that the man who wrote this had many
mistresses, hence in practice he did not believe women to be created
equal, and that the man who wrote this had many slaves, hence in
practice he did not even believe all men to be created equal.

> Shoot, I still think it's fair if they miss Jefferson and guess
> Franklin or Washington.

Oh yeah? Well, I have a bunch of currency with pictures of Washington
on them that I'll gladly trade you for currency with pictures of
Franklin on them.

> They're not far apart on the Dead White Male Dartboard, after all.

Where can I get one of these Dartboards?

> Yeah, sure. Mostly through the classroom expedient of watching videotaped
> versions of the books :=)

I'd be willing to bet that 97% of the populace got through high school
literature by watching movies and/or reading Cliff's Notes.

> Inherit the Wind I got a lot out of. It taught me a lot about why I
> hated the Tennesse ed. system so much in k-2.

Very funny, Rohit. You do realize that Lamar Alexander completely
overhauled the Tennessee educational system, right?

> I did a large posteboard on the plot triangle of the conflict,
> resolution, and epilogue of that play.

Between this and Yaser Abu-Mostafa, I will always think of you as posterboy.

> See, bg, we agree! Although, we spent a lot of time on sonnets and
> Shakespeare in our 7th and 8th.

Which is, in fact, an absolute waste. Shakespeare, like most good
literature, can only be appreciated after one has experienced enough
life to put things into proper context. Otherwise, you're just reading
words (if that... like I said, most people are just watching movies
and/or reading Cliff's Notes).

> > Read in depth four books from a single genre (historical novels), by
> > a single writer (like Jack London), or on a single subject
> > (adolescent life); make connections between the works.
> Yeah, but we only became experts in the 5 paragraph A-B
> compare/contrast. A four-way, that's asking too much.

You're right, 97% of adults can't do menage-a-quattros, either.

> I remember fondly that they wanted us to do a longish book report thing, so
> in spite, I found the oldest, most useless book in the school library, and
> aimed for the longest, most opaque title. It was something on the
> evolution of the subsurface geographical artifacts of the greater
> chesapeake bay, but it had more jargon in it.

So Rohit, did you ALWAYS love jargon, or was this one of those
life-shaping experiences for you?

> > MATHEMATICS. Move from simply memorizing math rules to having a good sense
> > for which of different strategies would be the wisest to solve a given
> > problem. Make sense of complicated patterns and understand how math plays a
> > part in endeavors ranging from music to space travel. <bg- great goals>
> Move *from* simple memorization??! The only thing, at any stage, you're
> supposed to memorize in math is the mult. table

Not true. We memorized archetypal word problems - such as calculating
interest, and so forth. In junior high, we encountered word problems
different from the archetypes, and most people had a Calvin scenario.

> I remember the highlight was a report on fractals and a Koch curve
> program I learned in Logo from a magazine.

I sense a trend. Rohit likes to make reports.

> > If, in a school of 1,000 lockers, one student opens every locker, a second
> > student closes every other locker (second, fourth, sixth, etc.), a third
> > student changes every third locker (opens closed lockers and closes open
> > lockers) and so on until the 1,000th student changes the 1,000th locker,
> > which lockers are open?
> This is a little nasty, isn't it, folks? Frankly, it's even beyond SAT
> work (which I had a 13 something on that year).

You got a 1300 on your math SATs?! Wow, that IS impressive.

> Let's see: student n changed every nth bit. So, locker k is changed by
> #of divisors. And they want you to compute the PARITY of the number of
> divisors of every number from 1-1000? Well, we know all the prime
> lockers are closed, so we can use the prime density as an upper bound... :-)

Gordon already answered this, and well, but even if you didn't do the
above analysis, a trend shows itself quickly...

Initially every locker open.
After round 2, open: 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 ...
After round 3, open: 1 5 6 7 11 12 13 17 18 19 ...
After round 4, open: 1 4 5 6 7 8 11 13 16 17 18 19 20 ...
After round 5, open: 1 4 6 7 8 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 ...
After round 6, open: 1 4 7 8 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 19 ...
After round 7, open: 1 4 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 ...
After round 8, open: 1 4 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 ...
After round 9, open: 1 4 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 18 19 ...
After round A, open: 1 4 9 11 12 13 14 15 17 18 19 20 ...
After round B, open: 1 4 9 12 13 14 15 17 18 19 20 ...
After round C, open: 1 4 9 13 14 15 17 18 19 20 ...
After round D, open: 1 4 9 14 15 17 18 19 20 ...
After round E, open: 1 4 9 15 17 18 19 20 ...
After round F, open: 1 4 9 17 18 19 20 ...
After round G, open: 1 4 9 16 17 18 19 20 ...
After round H, open: 1 4 9 16 18 19 20 ...
After round I, open: 1 4 9 16 19 20 ...
After round J, open: 1 4 9 16 20 ...
After round K, open: 1 4 9 16 ...

> Nutso. I mean, they tried this on Math Team, but for *everyone*?

Sure, why not? Simple logic problem, right?

> > Show two different methods of answering the question: How many handshakes
> > will occur at a party if every one of the 15 guests shakes hands
> > with each of the others? <bg- at least this can be the hard way>
> two different METHODS? there's only one answer -- the point of math is that
> it's no one's freakin' business HOW you did it...
> 120 handshakes. (15 + 14 + 13... = N * N/2 = 16*7.5)

Where'd you get the 15 from? The first guy shakes hands with 14 others,
not 15 others. I mean, by your logic if there were 3 guests, they would
shake 3 + 2 + 1 times, when in reality A shakes B, B shakes C, and C
shakes A, which is 2 + 1 times.

Sloppy, sloppy, Mr. Rohit. Minus 10 karma points.

Even worse is that you wrote N * N/2 = 16 * 7.5 --- implying N = 16 and
N/2 = 7.5 ...

> > Explain the lines of evidence showing that dogs and cats are related by
> > common ancestors.
> Couldn't do that in Tennessee until 1967! (when they repealed the
> anti-evolution statue).

Ah yes, the Cat-Dog missing link reveals the Truth About Cats and Dogs.
I think we'll call her Lucy.

> > Explain what happens to the reading on a bathroom scale if one stands on it
> > while riding an elevator.
> Goodthing about our crappy schools is that the one gem who CAN answer
> this answers because he/she loves science, is creative, and understands the
> general principle on their own -- we don't even ATTEMPT to provide this
> understanding to all. See current attitudes to native-born grad students...
> pure selection bias -- those that are left MUST be good.

You're right, Rohit. The American educational system as it stands
favors the 3% --- those independent people who go out and learn DESPITE
the schooling they receive in the first 17 years of their lives.

The remaining 97% are functionally illiterate, and once they are locked
into that track it's very hard to escape it, because they're too busy
worrying about making ends meet to listen to any inner passion for learning
and/or introspection.

> Ah, SPIRE again: every damn issue, it's always "Social, Political,
> Intellectual, Religious, Economic".

Funny, I learned it as a PISSER: "Political, Intellectual, Social,
Semeticworlddomination, Economic, Religious."

> > Imagine yourself as the director who built Stonehenge.

Place in history secured. I can retire.

> By god, we don't KNOW how it was built in the first place!

Anyone who watches the X-files knows. Believe.

> And any kid with half a technical talent would tell you it's better to
> deploy those laborers on a crash program to invent Fiberglas first,
> and then build Stonehenge the way Disney does it... (speaking of
> which, wouldn't that be a COOL additon to Epcot?)

If Eisner's not working on it yet, he will now. He's got his ears
to the walls of FoRK.

> Oooh, comparative media analysis! And pray tell, WHY are we
> encouraging MORE tv-watching? :-)

Because our sponsors wanted it that way?

> Still, archetypal classification of stories across forms and cultures is an
> excellent goal. However, it presupposes the ability to hold one's own in
> intelligent conversation, a quality absent from the majority of adults to
> begin with...

You know I still believe it's not necessary to have any prior knowledge
of a subject area to hold an intelligent conversation in that area.
This allows the greatest free flow of cluons back to their source.

> PC garbage... I'd much more like them to explain the critical elements
> of the Tristate transport infrastructure, or Robert Moses: Moses or Lucifer?

Say what you want, the Robert Moses is a bitchin' beach.

> The last thing we need is another batch of zealot 8th graders out to
> save the world...

I remember doing an 8th grade project on turning cow chips into a
usable fuel. Won first prize in the Long Island science fair.
And almost saved the world, had the conspiracy not squelched me.

Then, in 12th grade, I recast the project, and turned it in to
the Connecticut statewide economics of energy competition. Won
first place in the state. But, FWIW, got no trophy. :)

> > Write a set of instructions on what your family should do in case of
> > a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, fire, tornado,
> > blizzard or flood. <bg- what does this really have to do with Geography?>
> Er, at least in California, this is elementary school material :-)

True. But they forgot such natual disasters as flooding, mudslides,
riots, and republican primaries.

> This sounds like fun, and the results ought to be even funnier! "Sorry,
> Sally, you forgot Madagascar. And Sam, WHERE ARE THE ALEUTIANS?!"

I still have trouble remembering all the current U.S. territories.

> Seriously, it would work wonders. On the other hand, don't knock
> memorization. I could still tell you all fifteen Soviet republics :-)

Um, Rohit, you do know there are now only fourteen republics, right?

> I believe foreign language training barely BEGINS in middle schools
> with most budgets.

Then again, here in California, most teens work in a Del Taco, and get
much-needed second language skills there.

> > Keep a journal (in the foreign language) with four entries per week.
> > Include reactions to literature and newspaper articles.
> Wow. Never got that far in 4 years.

Who's got time for this?

> > Write an essay (in the foreign language) on the differences between
> > nonverbal gestures in another culture and American gestures

Yeah, I got their gestures RIGHT HERE.

> > THE ARTS. Hone a unique, personal style in artistic creations.
> Way too subjective. A "personal style"? Well, I have one, and it is an art
> form, but it sure as hell isn't artistic: tweak the system.

Depends who you ask. According to Picasso, "Bad artists copy. Good
artists steal."

> > Recognize the historical period and genre of famous works of art, then
> > compare and contrast them and explain what makes these art works excellent.
> > <bg- again, what is excellent? Otherwise, pretty good>
> "What makes them excellent" is so orthodoxist. It encourages prattling.
> Classification is good, though, and plausible.

Maybe it should say, what makes them think these art works are
excellent. Or possibly, what makes them think someone else would
consider these art works to be excellent?

> > Accurately evaluate one's own and classmates' creations or performances,
> > offering suggestions for improvement. <bg- nah, too easy. I can just
> > see the backroom politicking that will take place- "you give me an A
> > and I'll give you an A as well.">
> Well, even if you're not grading, it's the temptation to tear down and
> mock. Constructive, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

Better than being in the eye of the beerholder, that's all I have to say.

> You know, they skipped the only two bits of coursework I learned from
> in all of middle school: Industrial Arts and Home Economics

You took Home Ec!?!

> that IA class, I never *built* anything before, and it was immensely
> satisfying to build lamps, injection molded screwdrivers, and write
> reports on transistors.

You're right, Industrial Arts was fun, in a Tim Allen sort of way.
I was much like a ferret who'd drunk too much espresso...

> In home ec, I lead the winning dinner team,

Winning isn't everything, you know.

> learned that one actually CAN bake from scratch instead of Pillsbury,

Not that you'd want to. I mean, your time is more valuable than that.

> and was initiated to the secret that you Sew Stuff Inside Out (I still
> used that lime-green carry all through HS...)

Just be careful not to lose any button holes. This was always
my biggest problem.

> To top it off, both these extras were possible because of
> Federal largess: WWII era surplus IA lathes, etc, and USDA cheese.

Excuse me, I missed something. What project involved your using both
lathes and cheese?

> And furthermore, nowhere in the list do they handle anything
> approaching career skills.

No wonder some of us are still in the dark Re: cultivating careers.

> > READING & WRITING. Two in 3 students can't meet suggested standards.
> > Forty-five percent cannot craft a well-developed essay on an object

An object!? Wow, most people with BS's in computer science can't
write a well-developed essay on objects...

> > and what it would reveal about current times if placed in a time
> > capsule. Just 12 percent can write well on a subject like: Why
> > students should be required to do community service.

Coincidentally, 12% of 12th graders are liberal pinko communists.

> What about those of us truly intelligent folks who would rather
> subvert such overt parochialism and write about why students should
> NOT be required!?

Coincidentally, 100% of Rohit Khares are NOT liberal pinko communists.
What's your war cry, Rohit? "Fiscally liberal, socially conservative"?

> One of the great outrages is that right after I graduated, MD was the
> first to require "volunteer" service.

Actually, nowhere in the word "service" is an implication of
volunteering; there is only an implication of serving.

> > 7. What do Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca and Benares have in common?

Not a single one of them has the technological infrastructure in place
to be competitive in a global marketplace?

> That's VARANASI, to you BUDDY! That's my hometown, and don't be so
> fucking British about it, you NEA loonies!

This from the man who earlier demanded that the whole world learn to
speak English...

> > a. capitals of highly industrialized nations b. the world's four
> > most densely populated cities c. areas of highest elevation d.
> > religious centers.
> And if you want to understand it as a religious center, it's Kashi,
> the name it has had for millenia before the Raj and Independence.

Cool, Rohit played the trump card.

> > MATHEMATICS. Eighty-four percent can't meet suggested standards.

Eeek! 84%?! Rohit, I thought this was supposed to be 97%!!!!!!!!!
Does this automagically convert the 97% into an 84% rule?? Doh!

> > Over a third can't answer a basic question like:
> > 8. If x can be replaced by any number, how many different values can the
> > expression x + 6 have?
> Er, aleph-null (infinity)? Holy shit! I bet they can't identify "irrational
> number", either.

Sure they can. An irrational number is one that cannot be reasoned with
using conventional logic. The best strategy when confronted by an
irrational number is to defer your argument to the gentleman from the W3C.

> > HISTORY. Eighty-nine percent can't meet suggested standards, and 57 percent
> > can't answer basic questions like: 9. Many American colonies believed the
> > Stamp Act (1765) was a form of:


> > a. taxation without representation b. colonial self-government c.
> > compromise with the British Parliament d. limitation on
> > international trade.

Wait a second, at least A and C are correct here. And it DID limit
international trade...

> Ouch! But indeed, it WAS c) as well as a), and did have the effect of
> d).Lousy question!

Wow. 2 out of 2 surveyed FoRKers agree...

> W.B. YEATS 1865-1939
> Turning and turning in the widening gyre
> The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
> Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
> Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

MERE anarchy?! Man, Yeats was full of it.

> The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
> The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
> The best lack all conviction, while the worst
> Are full of passionate intensity.

Who'd have thought that Yeats could have predicted Microsoft?

> > Read 25 books, including works such as:
> in what, a year, the whole of HS?

I think they mean 25 books in all of high school.

> One book every two weeks is not enough for a truly educated populace,

Especially for me, the last four books read being Primary Colors,
Dennis Miller's Rants, You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again,
and Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.

Am I the illiterate masses, or what? Hey, at least I only read
the Celestine Prophecy once, and I finished neither Bridges of
Madison County nor The Road Less Travelled.

> and far beyond the majority. To top it off, the establishment refuses
> to even cater towards what little youths DO read -- ever tried to file
> a report on Michael Crichton? (the Andromeda Strain will teach
> you far more about the nature of government than Julius Caesar)

You've got that right, Rohit, but why did I not think Crichton is an
author that most teens read, though?

> Why is it you have to get to college to properly study bestsellers?

I never studied bestsellers in college. What kind of lax humanities
requirements did they have at Caltech?

> > For Whom the Bell Tolls Julius Caesar I Know Why the Caged Bird
> > Sings A Brief History of Time
> HAWKING? He who Time estimated to be the most-purchased and least-read
> author of the decade?

Least-read?! But even for me, Brief History of Time was a catwalk.
Er, cakewalk. Er, easy. That is, if you didn't sweat actually
comprehending everything...

> Sheesh, the latter parts are tough going for Techers! You may
> as well ask them to explicate the whole of Godel, Escher, Bach.

I'm still on page 300 of that. But it would be easy too if I wasn't
worried about understanding all the subtexts in it. Then again,
I've been reading that damned Umberto Eco book for 4 years now.
Tell you one thing: if I DO go to San Francisco this summer, I'm
going to make it my personal goal to finish both GEB and Focault's
Pendulum. Oh, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, a work
that has still not yet piqued my interest.

never quite could get into.

> pro-Cold War satire advocating militarism, UFOs, and aliens, by turning it
> into a psychohistorical and economic manifesto for peacetime


> military-industrial complex (see the chap<N>.txt files at
> )

MiscellaneousDOS?! Baw ha ha.

> Well, I *ran* the school newspaper, so that's not a fair one to bat
> down.

Rohit Khare, gossipmonger extraordinaire.

> > Write a reflective essay--such as an analysis of a proverb's significance.
> > <bg- all good for Seniors in HS>
> Of course, we all know how pathetic this is compared with a French Bac --
> "Explain the nature of God in the 19th century. Now. And If You Can't
> You'll Be Pumping Gas Like Uncle Jacques!"

God had a nature in the 19th century??? Was that nature some
approximation of "comatose"?

> > MATHEMATICS. Have a full command of advanced theories and formulas like
> > quadratic equations and the Pythagorean theorem.

Um, how does having a full command of the Pythagorean theorem help
me with life?

> > Use knowledge from geometry, trigonometry, algebra, statistics and
> > calculus to solve real-world problems.
> Trigonometry? HA! In the best of schools, this reaches a bare majority of
> students. Probablity, perhaps, but statistics, other than the baseball-card
> variety? Never!

Hey, sports statistics are very important, if for no other reason, game

> Three or four percent of ALL HS students ever take an AP exam, and Calculus
> is one of the very least popular.

Really? I thought Calc was the easiest of all the APs. I think that
was my downfall, though, since I never again did any Calc classes after
high school.

> > Explain which is a better fit, a round peg in a square hole or a
> > square peg in a round hole. (Hint: Think in terms of ratios.)

Ask your average high school student about pegs and holes, and I'll
wager s/he'll be unable to concentrate for the next half hour.

> one is ~75% efficient (pi/4), the other is a square 2/sqrt(2) on a side,
> 2/pi, 66% efficient. Not a bad question. Just don't depress me by
> saying how few get it...

Including you, Rohit, I think one person has gotten it.

Then again, just eyeballing it would allow you to fudge the right

> > Ann tells you that under her old method of shooting free throws in
> > basketball, her average was 60 percent. Using a new method of
> > shooting, she hit on 9 out of her first 10 throws. Should she
> > conclude that the new method really is better than the old method?
> > (Hint: Advanced statistical formula must be used.) <bg- What the
> > fuck is an advanced statistical model. I barely passed algebra III/Trig>

As our friend Edward Tufte would attest, so few people actually
understand statistics, that those in the know (of hypothesis testing and
so forth) can weave webs around the remaining 97%. Or was it 84%?

> Well, it's comparing the 90% to the null hypothesis that the 9 out of
> ten is just the 60% rate and luck: confidence intervals appear, and so
> on. Definitely beyond current HS stds.

You're right, I couldn't explain it in a way that my PhD buddy Eve
understood it.

> Fine, but how are we teaching them this? The overhyped evening news?

Channel One works for me. Plus, it's sponsored by Pepsi.

> Such as? I mean, almost all memes have translations -- the trick is
> *why* we choose to reference them in the original -- how "joie de
> vivre" becomes submlimated into an opaque handle to a meme. Explain
> how English has won cultural wars because of its openness to
> integrating other idioms.

Interesting point. English is the Borg of languagesm eh?

> In that vein,

You gave us Baudrillard. You gave us Callipygian. And now...

> there was a neat book reviewed this week in the Times (Cultural
> Evolution (?), Basic Books, $26) about how luminaries appear in
> spurts, and are purely products of cultural hagiography

Hagiography?! Geez, you use some obscure words...

> -- it's not about Shakespeare's innate greatness, it's his revival
> among the elites in an era that British culture was being spread
> worldwide by conquest. It's a nifty Darwinian thesis

Given your theory that the good is the enemy of the best, think what
the best might have been if Shakespeare was the good!

> > THE ARTS. Specialize in at least one of these four arts--dance, music,
> > theater, or visual arts--creating complex works. Begin to convey more
> > abstract themes in artistic works.
> Everyone? Yeah, the arts are for everyone, but the resources to support and
> the willfullness to demand that everyone pick a personal art are sorely
> lacking.

Hey, what you do is open to interpretation. If John Cage can write the
zenlike piece 4" 33' (which consists of exactly 273 seconds of silence),
just about anything can be considered art.

Isn't this what got Newt Gingrich's panties in a bunch over the NEA in
the first place?

> I mean, I *never* conveyed an abstract theme in a visual or musical work
> (except perhaps through angry typography),

And we've seen that repeatedly.

> and I'm doing just fine. More importantly, I learned to see it when
> it's there, and that's quite enough of an achievement.

Remember, art is not complete when you've done everything you could,
but rather, when you've removed everything that isn't absolutely

> > answers 1. b 2. 12 3. Hawaii 4. C 5. 3 weeks 6. Thomas Jefferson 7. D 8.
> > Infinitely many 9. a
> Whew. I'm too tuckered out to draw general conclusions at this point.

General observation: Educational syllabi need a REAL shaking up. What
we see here is more of the same old stuff -- an ambitious take on the
same old stuff, but the SOS nonetheless. Where is the emphasis on
creative skills over rote memorization? Where is the utilization of
ever-increasingly-important technology? Where are the job skill
preparations in the global market? Where is the push that people LIVE
and make smart choices and examine their lives and choices regularly, an
adjust and adapt where necessary? Education should prepare kids to
treat others with respect, and to live their lives the best they can,
and to evaluate their actions continually through careful thinking.

> Basically, we have to realize one thing about the world:
> Think about how dull the average citizen can be.
> Half of us are duller.

Think about how stupid the average person is. Half of the
populace is dumber than that!

(As Rob would say, "I feel much better, now that I've given up hope.")

> Thus, we're much better off with REALISTIC goals than playing an other
> political pinata game with another generation of American kids.

Right, here's my not-yet-patented Adam-Rifkin's-18-point plan of the
realistic skills I think kids by 18 should have:
1. An understanding of cause and effect and time.
2. An understanding that a person ultimately controls what s/he thinks.
3. An understanding that thought affects behavior.
4. An understanding that actions have consequences.
5. An understanding that personal actions require personal responsibility.
6. An understanding of the legal, ethical, and social issues that
drive the personal responsibility that underlies personal actions, and
a discipline of ethos with the foundation that each of us must take the
responsibility for all of the aspects of our lives.
7. An understanding that living one's life is an active process,
needing continual reevaluation, and that our thoughts and actions are
ultimately what comprise our lives, and that we should live our
lives the best we can.
8. An understanding of the worth and dignity of life, and knowledge
that death is the natural and inevitable end to this life.
9. A respect for other people, regardless of their differences.
10. The ability to listen and read actively and constructively.
11. The ability to talk and write effectively and convincingly.
12. The ability to interact and converse freely.
13. The ability to use one's innate creativity in problem solving.
14. The ability to reason, deduce, make sound judgments, and perform
mathematical calculations, to function properly in everyday situations.
15. The ability to find the right tool for the job, which requires at
least a peripheral understanding of available information resources and
technologies, and the meta-ability to figure out how to do new things.
16. The independence and self-motivation to continue to learn
and improve throughout the course of one's life, and the knowledge
of methods by which to approach new areas.
17. A healthy work ethic.
18. The appreciation of life, liberty, and leisure.

> Yeah, testing is somewhat stultifying,

The way testing is done now, IMHO, is all wrong. Testing should be a
series of refinements by which a student gains proficiency, not a single
barrier by which a student is judged. Tests should be difficult, but a
student who fails a test should learn why s/he failed, and be able to
prepare and take the test again, as needed. I mean, why NOT think of
tests as a learning process rather than a student segregator?

> but let's set national standards and start somewhere.

I think the national standards as set in the original post are wrong in
the following sense: they don't make optimal use of a child's time.
By gearing the program toward the middle, the bright are bored and the
dim are left behind. As elitist as it sounds, education here should be
a multitiered system based on skill level, not age group. Let the
sharp ones advance as fast as they can; let the dull ones progress at
their own pace. Schedule "social time" to ensure properly adjusted
social lives and interactions, but let everyone feel challenged to learn
as much as they can. In other words, use each child's time as
constructively as possible for that child. Technology enables
specialized student-taylored education; how long will it take before we
use it to enact a radical approach to learning?

> America's spirit of creativity, individualism, and openmindedness can
> only thrive under such objective standards -- testing alone will not
> make robots of us.

Our big problem right now is that we succeed DESPITE our education.
Why can't we make our education work for us instead?

> The threat is not a minor one: the stratification and paralysis of
> elitist "testing" societies is truly a tragedy (India, Japan,
> France...), but one that America is, frankly, immune to.

An intelligence test often shows how smart one would have been not
to take it.

> So let's stopp running from standards as a homogenizer. It can only help...

Personally, I'd be willing to forego all other standards of education if
all 18-year-olds would have my 18 points. Is it too much to ask?

> So the translation of the quote is, "if you are brain dead to the level of a
> forth grader from oxygen starvation, an Apple computer is all you will need,
> although most people will go around behind your back calling you a Idiot
> (dodo) and you will only look at computers as things with pretty little
> cartoon icons."

We can't hide anything from Tim, can we Rohit?

> I'm still puzzling about the grade 4 geography question. I thought
> plains where created by sedimentary processes from rivers and/or possibly
> uplift of the ocean bed, mountains by plates crashing into each other,
> canyons erosion by rivers, and deltas by river deposition.
> Volanoes?? Which of these do they create? Was this an April fools thing?

The question is, which landforms were most likely created by eruption of
volcanoes, and given those four choices, mountain is the only one that
sort-of makes sense. You're indeed correct, though, Gordon, in
assessing that plate tectonics are primarily responsible for forming
mountains, and Rohit was right that islands and calderas are the usual
end-products of volcanoes, as any geology book will tell you.

> > Factors come in pairs Except when squares...
> OK, Okay, I knew I had it coming when I decided not to think more
> about that problem... Sooo-rrr-y,

You need to think more carefully, Rohit. Sloppiness has caused a great
many problems in the world.

Actually, sloppiness has caused a great many problems in John Dobbin's
apartment, too, so you can see how that sort of thing aggrevates you on
both a microscopic and a macroscopic level.

> Rohit "You're damned lucky I don't come in pairs" Khare

You can say that again.

> PS. I was throwing out that stupid Southwest lost-ticket boondoggle,
> and I note that it's two weeks shy of a year since we first dragged
> Gordon down to Pasadena. Time flies... an arrow. But fruit flies like apples and pears and peaches
and plums and nectarines and an occasional watermelon...

> >> Sheesh.. you guys think your Soooooooo smart... :-)
> > ^^
> >it's simple: we're so smart, you're not even smart enough to
> >punctuate well enough to realize it :-)

No points taken off for creative punctuation. We'll just show him the
error of his ways and make him retake his test.

> > Staying home to set the clock back at 2:00 AM Rohit? :-)

I still think it really SHOULDN'T be fair to answer an information
question with an URL. But in this case, it is the right tool for
the job.

Adam, done beating the dead horse, just for the archives