Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016?
The Answer Is Rooted In The State Of Education!
P.S. It is no secret that secret that the world is an arena where many countries compete with each other for political domination (like kids compete on a playground for friends and better toys). Intelligence services play an important role in that competition.
P.P.S. In a case you don't want to read about Russia, maybe you will read a piece on China? “Chinese children crush Americans in math thanks to a mindset Americans only display in one place: sports” (by Libby Kane; 2017)
Let's start from a simple statement: every game has two teams involved in it; hence, when one team wins and another team loses that says something about both teams.
Also, it is worth to mention the fact that for many decades the U.S. have been trying to influence political changes in many many countries in the world, including the USSR, including the use of the media available at the time. And in any country the general state of the intelligence forces reflects the general state of the governing.
And the last general statement is about Vladimir Putin. He not just blames America for the dissolution of the USSR, he hates America for that with all his hart and he will always hate it, and he personally will be doing everything he can to get back at America for that.
The question “Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016?” is related to the answer to the questions
“Why eleven World Chess Champions came from the USSR/Russia and only one came from the U.S. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Championship)?”
It might not seem obvious, but the answer to both question is the same, which is: “Because Americans do not value intelligence (a.k.a. intellect)”.
Just Google “Americans values”. The list would always include things like freedom, entrepreneurship, persistence, practicality, generosity, and others, but nothing related to “being smart”.
The highest recognition a smart person can have is to be called a “geek”, or a “nerd”, which stands for “a harmless idiot who helps a “school king” or a “school queen” with his or her math homework”.
I know that this is an exaggeration, which however is not too far from the realty.
Statistically speaking, three hundred million Americans should have twice more smart people than one hundred fifty million Russians. But we didn't see that in 2016!
Does it mean Russians are smarter than Americans?
The answer is – no!
The difference is not in the people.
The difference is in the approaches the two governments choose towards the youth preparation.
During the time of the Soviet Union Empire, almost every city and town in Russia had at least one chess club, funded by the government. Chess matches of various ranges, starting from a middle and high school levels, were a common place. Almost every paper and a magazine had a chess section. If sports like a football and a hokey were naturally popular, the popularity of chess had been promoted by the government.
In 1975 Russia’s TV launched a show called “What, Where, When?” where a group of six people, called “knowledgeables”, had to solve a number of problems (the number varied from a dozen to a couple of dozens, depending on the script). To solve each problem “knowledgeables” usually had one minute; during this time they could have a discussion to reason toward the solution, and then had to provide their answer. The show quickly has become very popular. Since 1986 the show is being translated live (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%3F_Where%3F_When%3F).
A similar show was launched on ABC in 2011, but was canceled after the first season.
American popular shows like “Jeopardy” or “Who wants to be a millionaire” do not require any reasoning; they based solely on the ability to memorize a large number of facts.
Many Russian movies have a character whose internal reasoning is presented to the audience. One of the most popular mini-series “Seventeen Moments of Spring” regularly depicts a Russian spy analyzing various scenarios. In American movies even “geeks” do not think, they just already know what to do (lately, however, some companies have launched criminal TV shows where some analytical work is being presented to the audience).
The difference in the approaches the two governments choose towards the youth preparation leads to the difference in what the youth considers to be “cool”, and in the end to the difference in the youth preparation.Because the society in general does not value logical reasoning (or at least does not demonstrate that it does), schools are not required to promote it as well, and school teachers are not required to use methods leading to the development and advancement of logical abilities of students.
The conversation about “teaching students to think critically” has been taking place for at least twenty years (for example, look up “Proceedings of the 1996 international conference on Learning sciences”; http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1161135&picked=prox&cfid=748024299&cftoken=68199815), but still has not moved beyond the initial statement that “we need to teach students to think critically” (for example, look up “International Conference on Learning Sciences; 2016 Proceedings”; https://www.isls.org/icls/2016/).
What does “thinking critically” mean, what is the structure of “critical thinking”, what are the elements and stages of the process of development of “critical thinking”, and why would “teaching students to think” be not enough, unless “thinking” is named “critical”; all those questions have not been answered, but even more importantly, all those questions have not been even raised – at least from a practical point of view, i.e. from a point of view of teachers helping students to advance their reasoning abilities.
However, the question “what to do in order to advance the development of reasoning skills?” has a very simple answer.
We know that in all human practices, to advance a development of a certain skill, one needs to use that very skill, and needs to use it on a regular basis (not episodically). For example, to get better at swimming, one needs to swim, and needs to do it as often as possible. To get prepared to run a marathon, one needs to do the running on a regular basis. That’s what is called a “training”.
Similarly, for developing reasoning skill students need to train that skill, meaning, students need to reason, and they need to do it on a regular basis, preferably under the guidance of an experienced “trainer”, a.k.a. a “coach’, a.k.a. a teacher.
All well-developed sciences like mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and other have a very clear, well-established, and well-known internal logic of the knowledge development. This makes these sciences a perfect instrument for the development of reasoning skills. However, we all know that this is not happening in our schools.
The fact that many school students lack interest to study STEM subject has become a common place. But as a common remedy for treating this attitude teachers are advised to either “make math/science fun”, or “connect math/science with a real world”. These two recommendations, although slightly differently worded, have been presented in numerous papers, conference proceedings, books, speeches, popular TV and radio shows.
There is a vast amount of publications on STEM education, but the most of them do not dig deep enough in the structure of the teaching and learning processes, and usually just repeat the same advises, which have been well known for a long time and ; like “get students excited, increase rigor, start early (i.e. from the elementary school), work together (i.e. teachers and administrators)” (https://is.gd/EEuvuV). However, authors do not discuss reason which for many years have been preventing school and teachers from implementing these “simple” advises in their everyday practice.
It is time to ask a question; if twenty years of trying to apply all these recommendations to a teaching process have not led to a significant improvement in students’ success in STEM subjects, maybe they do not present the actual reasons for the lack of interest to study STEM subjects?
I’ve been teaching – mostly physics – but also mathematics, problem solving, logic, for almost twenty years (not mentioning my professional work with teachers and administrators). My students always appreciate a good joke, or an interesting story about how we use some of the physics discoveries for our everyday benefits. But most of all they love the clarity, and understanding of what and why is being done in the class. That is why I have no doubts that all students would appreciate the same, if all teachers would be guiding them through the logical steps required for understanding of all important logical connections of the subject they teach.
The discussion of why it is not a case is outside of the scope of this paper.
The statement I make is simple: people who during their school years do not learn how to reason, will not be able to reason when the need for logical reasoning will be knocking on the door (The 11th Law of TeachOlogy).
The most important use of a logical reasoning in the everyday life is making predictions about possible events (The 33rdLaw of TeachOlogy). Those predictions allow us to make preparations to face those events, or to alternate their results.
A person who cannot reason, cannot predict what will happen, hence, that person can only react to what already happened.
This is exactly what is happening right now (April, 2017) within the U.S. intelligence services – a reaction to the “unpredictable” Russian cyber “invasion” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?utm_term=.3931175fa11f).
Cyber threat is only one of many the Country is facing these times.
When politicians and experts discuss what is the biggest threat to the national security, they also name climate change, mass migrations, Russia, ISIS, federal debt, income inequality, and many others (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/09/02/whats-the-greatest-threat-to-us-national-security).
However, what we all need to accept is a simple fact, that whatever threat the Country faces, whatever problem the Country needs to solve, that threat is not going to go away on its own, that problems will not be resolved on its own; only people who have sufficient knowledge and adequate skills – including reasoning skills – will be able to grasp, design, and enact the needed, effective, and efficient actions and counteractions.
That is why the most important capital any country can have is the human capital.
That is why the biggest threat to the national security is presented by the decline of the human capital; both, quantitatively – a negative birthrate, or qualitatively – intellectual stagnation.
This is why the intellectual heal of the nation should be treated with the same important and urgency as the physical health of the nation.
Unfortunately, the facts show the opposite.
“Nearly a half of PhD aerospace engineers, over 65% of PhD computer scientists, and nearly 80% of PhD industrial and manufacturing engineers were born abroad.”
“The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering fell 5 percent from its peak in 2008. At the same time, the number of students on temporary visas earning the same degrees soared by 35 percent.”
“According to a 2016 survey of 400 employers from across Massachusetts, 75% said that it was difficult to find people with the right skills to hire in Massachusetts.” “Respondents find deficiencies in the readiness of new hires, not just in “applied skills” like teamwork, critical thinking and communications, but also in simple reading, writing, and math.”
It has become a common place to present interviews or surveys where business leaders and business owners complain on the low level of skills of domestic workforce.
Numbers say that, essentially, the U.S. education system does not produce the domestic work force with the adequate set of skills and the sufficient volume of working knowledge.
If this issue will not be addressed forcefully and in time, the various U.S. services, including the intelligent services, will be predestined to play a catch-up every time after the next anti-American attack, which may happen in the economic area, cyberspace, or within the American territory.
Russian (or, for that matter, any other adversary's) intelligence forces saw an opportunity to use Facebook, Twitter, and Google to influence 2016 elections. This whole post has been based on the assumption that American intelligence forces did not see that coming and did not prepare the counter activities. But logically speaking, there are also other versions of the events.
(a) American intelligence forces saw it but was not able to do much about it. Or,
(b) American intelligence forces saw it but decided to do nothing.
Of course, I prefer thinking that the real reason is the state of the general education.
FYI: In Russia ALL middle-school students take physics 2 one-hour classes each week three years in a row (in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade); and then take physics again in high school (in 10th and 11th grades). I firmly believe that America must adopt the same approach.
Some links on the matter:
There are at least two versions of the famous quote
“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
“Every nation has the government which it is fit for.”
I would like to offer a modification.
“Every democracy has the government which is as smart as the most of the people”.
© Valentin Voroshilov (Nov. 2017)
That is why good public education is crucial for a democracy.
That is why everyone who is against good public education is automatically against a democracy, hence against the Constitution of the United States.
And BTW: For many decades the CIA, the NSA have been trying to steal Russian technological secrets. The most important "secret" they missed to steal is Russian school programs, syllabi, textbooks.
Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals
To learn more about my professional experience: