Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016? The Answer Is Rooted In The State Of Education!

Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016?

The Answer Is Rooted In The State Of Education!

P.S. In a case you don't want to read about Russia, maybe you will read a piece on China? “Chinesechildren crush Americans in math thanks to a mindset Americans only display inone place: sports” (by Libby Kane; 2017)

Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016?
Why eleven World Chess Champions came from the USSR/Russia and only one came from the U.S. (
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 (
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”;, 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”;
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)” ( 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” (­­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 (
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.

P.S. 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.

Some links on the matter:

What Would Businesses Do if No Foreign Students Could Come In the Country Anymore?
Who and why should learn physics?
ow much of the NSF funded “fundamental” scientific educational research is really fundamental?
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. 

What does it mean to be "smart"?

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

To learn more about my professional experience:
The voices of my students 
"The Backpack Full of Cahs": pointing at a problem, not offering a solution
Essentials of Teaching Science

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Do Many EdTech Startups Fail? Really!

Why Do Many EdTech Startups Fail? Really!


In his post “Why Do Many EdTech Startups Fail?”
Matthew Lynchdescribed five reasons for a failure:
Lack of market understanding
Startups expect high growth right from the start
take five years for the product to fit the market
Many startups start with a wrong revenue model
Early traction is interpreted incorrectly
All these reasons are correct, but they do not pay the major role, they all are secondary.
The main reason for Ed startups to fail is because they ignore the nature and the history of education – as a human practice. They act like this is the first time in the history of the world when innovations are entering education (well, trying to enter).
It is not. Thinking that only shows the ignorance of the “thinkers”.
There have been many waves of innovations. Every new device, or gadget, or a technological approach (a TV set, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a computer, the Internet, to name a few) has been seen as a tool for revolutionizing education.
So far, innovative waves come and go, but the revolutionizing has not happen.
This situation provides a very clear illustration to a rule that, when one does not learn from history one is doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
That is what is happening with those failing EdTech startups. They do not learn from the history of education. They do not even learn for the history of their peer trying to change education. And - naturally - they repeat the fate of all previous startups – they fail, too.
The strategy has been the same for decades: “Hey, teachers, see what a neat gadget we invented for you, buy it and use it, it will do wonders for your students!” (may have many variations, instead of "a gadget" could be; "an app"; "a project based approach, with an app , and a gadget", etc.)
Do you know what teachers need? Do you know what teachers want? Do you know what teachers can and cannot do?
This is a quote from my post “Will the Yidan Prize Affect the Evolution of Education? Too Soon to Say” (
“The challenges education faces today have been facing education for decades. Education has “survived” many waves of innovations, so to speak. Big corporations and small startups develop a vast amount of various teaching tools. Teachers are flooded by innovative tools. It is like you buy a car, but instead of a car you get a kit, a collection of parts, and you need to assemble it, like a chair from IKEA.” And that is the best case scenario.
Or another analogy may be useful, too. Teachers are like people who want to buy a car. But everyone offers them only parts, someone offers a windshield, someone else offers wheels, etc. What makes it even worse, all those parts don't fit with each other! 
If you want to start an EdTech startup, start from asking yourself a question, what can you do different from what huge and wealthy organizations have been doing for decades (but so far no one speaks about it, e.g. XQsuperschool:
And one more thing, try to follow the strategy which had led Steve Jobs to his success. He said that acting "hey, we can do this, now let's sell it to consumers" is a dead end. But this is how all EdTech startups act today. According to Jobs, first they need to learn what consumers - teachers - really need and want, and then offer them the product. Probably, venture capital firms seeking to invest in educational startups should also keep Jobs' lesson in mind.
In one short sentence: EdTech startups fail because they have a lot of Tech and no Ed. 
As the result, they don't know the psychology governing teacher behavior. For example, often there is a big gap between what people say they need, and what they really need, indeed. That includes teachers. So, all focus goes on the technical part of project.
Keep in mind, all failed startups have been backed by successful VC entrepreneurs. It means that their backers have exactly the same mentality (click here for the one of the recent examples or here for another - with MUCH more money).
When they start their educational project they may have some advisors from the field. But how do they know those people have the whole picture of the Education as a human practice? Because, currently, there is no science of education (there is a scientific field! but that is NOT a science yet).
The very approach they used to propel their startup to a prosperity will NOT work in education.
Of course, if you through enough money on one local educational entity that will work (under the right guidance) but claiming "I will disrupt education" just shows how little she or he knows about learning and teaching. Education starts, propels, and changes from/by/via a deep and serious study
Everyone who wants to "disrupt" education should start from the questions - what is the mission of education as a human practice. (BTW: if an "expert" cannot give a clear answer - don't hire him or her).
To get a better understanding how VC and similar entrepreneurs work, I like to observe who Y Combinator is working and listening to what Mr. Sam Altman is saying.
It helps to crystallize the psychology of a venture capitalist.
First, of course, one needs to have money.
Then one starts selecting targets to invest.
The most important parameters are:
1. There is already a working team, in idea author, a manager, a product developer, a salesman (sometimes one person wears several hats)
2. there is a product, or at least a working prototype
3. the estimated consumer audience is large enough
4. the estimated production processes is reasonable enough
5. team members are articulate and seem know what they are doing, what they want, and what to do in the near future.
A very similar approach is adopted by the NSF to advance science.
However, the history of science demonstrates that a breakthrough usually does not follow this pattern.
The most well-known (but not unique) example is the “Manhattan Project”.
1. Someone comes up with an idea
2. Someone at the top management gets impressed with the idea (for whatever reason)
3. Management composes a team around the idea and supplies some resources to start the development
(basically, after this step the team makes a transition into the step #1 of the previous approach).
The VC approach can be helpful for solving a complex (i.e. with 
many details, parts, entities) but doable project, i.e. it will require a lot of doing but not a lot of thinking. The "product" (the goal) will definitely be achieved (but there is a chance the consumer will not like it as much as it was hoped).
The latter approach does not guarantee that the expected product will be developed (the goal will be achieved). The project is complex, but also complicated (i.e. requires a lot of thinking; which requires a special type of management). 
However, This is how breakthroughs come to a life. This is how a field of human practice becomes disrupted.
Otherwise, everyone would be able to see this product (goal) and be 
trying to get to it ahead of everyone. But the disruption is called that because no one could see it coming.

"Just" for fun.
This is the example of a technocratic approach.
The designers of the Microsoft OneDrive pondered, what would people want to do with files when they get downloaded from the cloud on the hard drive? Well, they didn't think of the obvious option - GO to the file, so now, everyone gets to click it through (BTW: one of the reason why writing a good instructive manual is not an easy task). 
This is what happens when a product for people design by the technocrats.
It is not a big deal for a giant like Microsoft, but for a small startup it may cost its existence.
For a large interpreter investing into an educational project it may cost unnecessary losses.

I have seen again and again numerous examples similar to this one (for example, check this 14-s video which shows a weird incompatibility between such giants like Apple and Blackboard).

The pictures of a post on LinkedIn

My comment to it
Teacher: "I would like to buy a car"
Eduventures: "We have no cars, but we can sell you a kit - you can assemble your car yourself!
Teacher: "OK, I think I can give it a try"
Eduventures: "Yeah, one more thing. All the parts are made by different manufactures who do not communicate, so the parts may not fit with each other, but - hey - it is better than nothing! Yes?"
Teacher: "Well, at least I will be doing something new, maybe I got lucky and and it will help me to make something which would move we a little bit faster than I walk now"

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

To learn more about my professional experience:

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