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Munchy, Crunchy Food for Thought

Point and counterpoint from Arts & Letters Daily...

Point: Wall Street Journal: The Real-Life Jane Eyres
Sometimes the situations that governesses found themselves in were truly hellish -- read about the governessing experiences of sisters Eliza and Everina Wollstonecraft and weep. More often the misery was subtler, a kind of emotional claustrophobia. It was hard to live in the house of people with whom you might have nothing in common. It was frustrating not to be able to determine your future, from what you might eat at meals to what you could do or say. Charlotte Brontë gives Jane Eyre an eloquent soliloquy expressing this almost inchoate restlessness, this "silent revolt": "Women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer."


Counterpoint: Times Online: The Day Feminist Icon Alice Walker Resigned as My Mother
"Her circle were questioning power relationships and whether a mother had any more knowledge than a child. Some friends of hers were living on communes. I know those kids and they're totally screwed up.

"Some were sexually abused, all kinds of bad stuff happened, but even those who survived intact don't want to create communes for their children. They didn't want to be raised by 10 different parents — again, it was this ideological thing trumping the maternal instinct."

Towards the end of senior school, an ecstatic Rebecca showed Walker her offer letter from Yale. Instead of celebrating her daughter's success in landing a place at one of the world's top universities, Walker asked her coolly why she wanted to go to a bastion of male privilege.


Point: The New Criterion: The Age of Educational Romanticism
Educational romanticism characterizes reformers of both Left and Right, though in different ways. Educational romantics of the Left focus on race, class, and gender. It is children of color, children of poor parents, and girls whose performance is artificially depressed, and their academic achievement will blossom as soon as they are liberated from the racism, classism, and sexism embedded in American education. Those of the Right see public education as an ineffectual monopoly, and think that educational achievement will blossom when school choice liberates children from politically correct curricula and obdurate teachers' unions.

In public discourse, the leading symptom of educational romanticism is silence on the role of intellectual limits even when the topic screams for their discussion. Try to think of the last time you encountered a news story that mentioned low intellectual ability as the reason why some students do not perform at grade level. I doubt if you can. Whether analyzed by the news media, school superintendents, or politicians, the problems facing low-performing students are always that they have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or have gone to bad schools, or grown up in peer cultures that do not value educational achievement. The problem is never that they just aren't smart enough.


Counterpoint: Wired: Want to Remember Everything You'll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm
However, this technique never caught on. The spacing effect is "one of the most remarkable phenomena to emerge from laboratory research on learning," the psychologist Frank Dempster wrote in 1988, at the beginning of a typically sad encomium published in American Psychologist under the title "The Spacing Effect: A Case Study in the Failure to Apply the Results of Psychological Research." The sorrowful tone is not hard to understand. How would computer scientists feel if people continued to use slide rules for engineering calculations? What if, centuries after the invention of spectacles, people still dealt with nearsightedness by holding things closer to their eyes? Psychologists who studied the spacing effect thought they possessed a solution to a problem that had frustrated humankind since before written language: how to remember what's been learned. But instead, the spacing effect became a reminder of the impotence of laboratory psychology.


-The Gneech

Comments

sirfox
May. 5th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
On the education issue, i can guess why we haven't heard the topic of low intelligence. Those who ponder the issues of public education want a one-size fits all solution. Failing that, they still prefer to address an issue as it pertains to a group. (arguments like "poor urban families don't read to their kids enough")

When somebody says, "hey, what if dwight and mary are just really dumb?", those who ponder all this shudder as they imagine how that would play if cast over an entire group that performs badly in an academic situation. Cries of racism would just be the start.

The real problem is that public, (and most private) schools have a uniform curriculum for students to follow, and everything falls to bits very quickly for those on the outer edges of the bell curve, who don't fit the mold of "the average student". Many problems are as unique as the students who have them, and the solutions need to be just as tailor-made. This doesn't fit at ALL with how administrators like to handle things, it takes too much work.


Regarding the feminist icon blurb... It reminded me mostly that there comes a point where each of us is made viscerally aware that our parents can be fundamentally wrongheaded about some things. Growing up, we all know that parents can make mistakes, but only later when a point of emotional maturity is passed can we evaluate our parents' decisions based on the basic beliefs that they hold, and perceive the flaws in their thinking. That blurb sounded like one of those points.

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