[FoRK] Re: Re: Confessions of an Engineering Washout

Robert Harley robert.harley
Tue Oct 11 18:00:59 PDT 2005


>Too bad nobody was around to tell us that high school is
>just a game you have to get through.

My general impression of American high-school is (to exaggerate
slightly) that it serves to keep teenagers off the street until
they're old enough to work.
In Ireland and the U.K. it is intended to teach you a certain level of
chemistry or whatever, somewhat tuned to providing what one needs to
start a basic medium-skill job afterwards.
In France it sorts the men from the boys.  The "men" (women included!)
are those who can handle the higher level of maths and physics,
closely followed by bio and physics.
The level in physics, chemistry, biology etc. is similar to British
A-levels (would once have been a bit lower but A-levels have gradually
been dumbed-down).
The level in maths is higher than elsewhere.  There is no attitude
disparaging of "propeller-heads".  No adulation of football jocks or
whatnot.
Those who excel at the hard sciences, maths first and foremost, are
the elite of the future.

Clueful students in most places go on to university - in the US they
start uni knowing fuck all, apart from some who have done courses
outside of high-school,
but they catch up real quick.  I was one of those TAs (well-liked, to
borrow a phrase from Arthur Miller) who graded hard, but since grades
are adjusted to a curve anyway,
students are competing against each other, not TAs grades.

In France, university entrance is granted to everyone who graduates
from high-school.  It keeps young adults off the street until they get
a job.
Rankings of universities that diss French ones are beside the point -
good French students go to Classes Preparatoires, Maths Sup and Sp?,
or business-oriented ones
like Khagne, pr?pa HEC and on to Grandes Ecoles and research labs
outside the university system.

The best motivation I got was in French high school.  The best
teaching in Edinburgh University.
The best resources and academic freedom at INRIA (+Polytechnique),
closely followed by CalTech.
The University of Paris sucks rocks in comparison to all of the above
(but they award degrees earned elsewhere).

Oh, and to reply to the washout who started the thread: if you can't
hack it, you can't hack it.
>"Discrete Mathematics" is "the mathematics in which Kern was getting
a D at midterm."

Discrete Mathematics is what my wife, one of those French business
types, took a course on just for the fun of keeping up;
in the CNAM actually, as starred in Foucault's Pendulum.  How come the
anagram generator says: Kern dissembled <=> messed blinkers?

R.



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