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Sunday, November 1, 2020

America! The victim of the Primitivism.



America is in a free fall. Joe Biden administration has a chance to open a parachute and slow it down. A very small chance, because America needs professionals. America BADLY needs professionals. But for decades (!) American managers have been rejecting anyone who did not fit in their “professional” profile where the top qualities were “nice”, “comfortable”, agreeing”. 


I personally have been conducting a 20-year long experiment on the matter. 


Links to stories that are closely based on personal experience:


“Being Polite” versus “Being Nice”: social implications of both.


When conforming to conformity leads to a social deterioration. 


Professional communication: a case study.


How To Fail A Job Interview


Confessions of a Creative Brain

Is the Cat Worth Be Saved? or A Curious Case of a Risky Entrepreneur.


Was Mr. Jeff Bezos a visionary, is he still is, and will he remain to be such?


Jeff Bezos v. Education


 Why I'm quitting Amazon Prime. 


The Beginning of The End of The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative


Vision v. Imagination: what does a venture capitalist use?


A word of advice to Mark Zuckerberg: “You are not Steve Jobs, and that’s a good thing.”


To Dr. Priscilla Chan (and everyone who is hungry): food for thoughts.


A free advice to a University President


Three Myths of The Higher Education


“A Convenient Lie” or “What Research University Faculty Tell Themselves About Their Teaching”


When both artificial intelligence and human intelligence fail – call it Facebook!


How much of the NSF funded fundamental scientific educational research is really fundamental?


Publicity v. The Mission; a tough decision For The NSF.


In Management Thinking Makes All The Difference


It took me a long way to reformat my mind.


From being a Teach-er to becoming a Teach-smith


Searching For Visionaries!


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


What does it mean to be "smart?"


Seven Reasons Why Rich Philanthropists Fail at Making Systemic Changes in Education


What is so special about being a Scientists?


How is U.S. education reform entangled with U.S.S.R.


 Appearances can be deceiving, in education, too.


Why Have Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Been Spent on Development the Common Core Math Standards?


The Biggest Fakes and Breakthroughs of The Next Decade.


The future of education is impossible without a robust online component.


Getting ready for the fall semester? Here are some hints.


I want you to know what I did last summer!


Evaluating Teaching Quality At a University Level


The Litmus Test


A Collection Of Student Evaluations


American Suicide, or "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions".

Chapter I:


Everything that is happening in America these years and days stems out from the same root, that is the way of life called the Primitivism. 


I have been writing on the matters for quite a while and have already numerous publications, hence I am not going to repeat all my views again. For example:


In management thinking makes all the difference.


In politics thinking makes all the difference.


I will not repeat all those arguments again. I just point at the fact that the just over the last decade, in front of my eyes, the quality of management and the quality of many products has dropped.

The Primitivism in business has led to the situation when the measure of business success has been reduced to only one parameter – money. The result of that was devastating for America. For decades American elite treated America in the primitive way, as it was a third-world country, draining resource in the cheapest way possible, without any consideration of how it might affect its future. And eventually America has become a third-world country, with the same level of division between rich and poor, educated and illiterate, born in affluent or depressed areas.


The Primitivism in management has led to the situation when the criterion for selecting a manager has been reduced to only one parameter – communicability. A manager does not need to be an expert, does not need to know the field. A manager needs to be able to inspire potential shareholders and deal makers. The result is that managers make their decisions based solely on how it will affect their end-of-the-year bonus and the potential golden parachute. One quick example: Massachusetts is one of the riches states in the country. And yet, its roads are covered with potholes, cellular signal is dismal, public transportation is terrible, the internet is slower than in Europe. Price of housing is very high but the quality of  houses is awful. And that’s just a tip of an iceberg.


The bulk of this piece is about the Primitivism in education, that has been proliferating for decades, and was the most damaging for the country.


I’m a teacher. For me, there is just so many times a teacher needs to repeat his explanation to a student. If a student still does not get it, it means he simply has no required background knowledge, skills or abilities. What should a teacher do in this situation? That is a completely different discussion, that, however, reminds me a very old joke.


A newly hired young math teacher just finished his class. In a hallway ye meets a seasoned teacher and tells him: “My students are so stupid! I explained them the theorem. They didn’t get it. I explained them the theorem again. They didn’t get it. I explained the theorem the third time. I finally got it! They still didn’t.”


There is also a Russian folk saying: “Saving a drowning guy is the business of the drowning guy”. So, saving Americans is the business of Americans. And that brings us to another saying, this time American: “One can lead a horse to water, but one cannot make it drink”. I got you to water, the rest is up to you.


In this piece I just want to shed some light on one specific consequence of the Primitivism in education.


In America, neither educators, nor administrators know the difference between teaching and training circus animals. That, of course, is true for politicians and even people in the field of artificial intelligence, but that is, again, a very different discussion. The vast majority of the research in education is either unnecessary or trivial. 


All that “research” has one and only one motivation – climbing a career ladder: grants, publications, fame, conferences. No one really cares about how would this “research” make actual difference for students (attitudes, learning outcomes). Because making actual difference for students does NOT need any of such “research” (I've been writing about it a lot, for example in this piece).


Give me a research” paper and I will prove that (like I did in this publication). It's like Let's study if the air is important for people; make two groups, the control group will be in the room with the air, and the other one in the room without it. Study shows ...”; or Let's study how exercise affects muscle; one group will exercise for a month both hands, and another just the left one”. Here is an example of a very resent publication where researchers“prove”that when teenagers do something outside of their classes they spend less time in front of a screen and feel better.


One can find researches in the field of educational psychology who have some right views on what is teaching and learning, but those people can be counted by the fingers on one hand and have no affect on education strategies and policies. The rest, the most active figures in education, believe that teaching is merely transferring knowledge from a head of a teach in to the head of a student. 1st. In order to this process work teachers should have much more specific knowledge in their heads, in the first place. 2nd. Teaching is simply not that. Learning is not drinking from the fountain on knowledge. The process of learning is the process in which knowledge is being developed in the mind of a person. But, when students are let to perform random activities, on their own, they will not be able to construct any significant knowledge. That is where a teacher comes into a picture. A teacher must be able to help students organize their learning activities in the most efficient way.


Thinking is a deliberate manipulation with various mental objects/elements/entities. A developed brain can simultaneously manipulate with many such objects, it can process vast amount information incoming via multiple channels. Using jargon familiar to IT and AI people, a developed brain is like the latest computer CPU, and an underdeveloped brain is like an old fashioned 80286 (look it up). The ultimate goal of education is helping people to make their brain work like a powerful CPU. BTW: AI people take this idea literally.


There are, of course, loud proponents of creativity in education, but those people are no more than motivational speakers who keep repeating trivial statements like: “people can find all the knowledge on the internet and what people really need to do is creating new stuff”; but (1) they have been repeating similar trivialities for decades, and (2) they cannot offer any specific teaching strategy because they have no idea what creativity is and how it is to be developed.


“Creativity … it is when people … create! So, let students create! And student will be creative!”


This kind of trivial, sorry, Primitive, stuff, represents the essence of their “creative” idea.


“Let students create” is no different from “Let a monkey type!” There is a chance that by randomly pressing letters on a typewriter a monkey will write something meaningful. But that chance is dismal. Exactly like the chance for kids involved in random activities become creative. At best, they will become self-confident; and eventually, when growing up, arrogant.


Not every activity teaches something valuable, not every action represents a useful experience. Even a seemingly meaningful activity becomes actually meaningful only via reflection on different aspects of that activity. Without that reflection it is only potentially meaningful. 


Since proponents of “creativity” cannot offer any specific teaching strategy, the majority of educators simply ignore them. And continue treating students like circus animals – in complete accordance with their Primitive view on what learning is: learning is acquiring specific knowledge and skills. Hence, the #1 teaching strategy is a drill. And even that would not be bad if teachers would be capable of complicated, elaborated, sophisticate, deep drills. Because in that case they would automatically, without even know it, be working on achieving the actual goal of learning.


Brain development.


The mission of learning is brain development.


Brain development, of course, includes filling it up with specific historically/socially/professionally relevant knowledge.


Brain development, of course, includes training it with performing specific historically/socially/professionally relevant activities (a.k.a. skills).


But the most important goal of brain development is to make it, well, developed, i.e. to make it to be able to manage complicated, elaborated, sophisticate, deep thought processes.


This goal has never been a part of American education.


As the result, American education system has not been able to produce a sufficient number of people with a developed brain.


In the past, in order to function effectively, the economy did not need so many people with a developed brain. Even though the system of education did not have a goal of producing people with a developed brain, some people students would graduate with their brain developed enough (usually despite the schooling).


Gradually, the need for people with a developed brain has been growing. But the system still did not produce them. America runs on inertia. There are still many Americans who were trained about twenty years ago. But those people are leaving the work force. Hence, the economy has become addicted to foreign intellectuals. 


But American-born politicians, managers, administrators, etc. have been becoming less and less smart and clever.


And that includes educators of all sort.


A brain functions essentially like a regular muscle. If you train it, it gets trained. If your work is digging trenches, eventually you will build up body. 


That is why I said (the n-th time in the last 15 years) that if school teachers could provide sophisticated training to their students, those students would have been developing their brain anyway.


Unfortunately, American teachers cannot do that. It’s not their fault. They did not get the right training. Because America has no system of teacher preparation. Because people who are responsible for preparing teachers themselves have a very Primitive view on what learning and teaching is.


Essentially, America simply has no people who would be able to understand the actual mission of learning, and how to achieve it; and, hence, people who understand the difference between random human activities and the strategy for the guided process of the development of human creativity. And it's not because I try to explain Newton's Laws (and I could). No. It is because the understanding of the essence of learning requires a brain capable of manipulating with many mental entities for a long period of time. And such educators do not exist anymore in America (at least among those who actively influence education).


There is a phrase in physics “derived from the first principles”. It means that a scientist starts from a fundamental, i.e. the most general law/principle and logically arrives at a specific testable conclusion. The best example of such reasoning is the Special Relativity theory that starts from two Einstein's postulates. American educators do not possess such type of reasoning. Not virtually don't possess - that would mean it exists, but rare. No - don't possess - period. This is the only logical conclusion that explains almost two decades of my communication in the field. There are three reasons for that.
American educators do not have even the idea/notion of “a first principle”, and they do not know any first principles of learning and teaching.


And they are incapable of comprehending the complex mental structure required for building an internal/mental representation of the connections between fundamental principles and specific outcomes from those principles.

Because of that, instead of designing and offering to teachers comprehensive solutions, every single education development entity offers them one small tool that supposed to help with one small teaching action. the result is that teachers get (here comes a metaphor)
a kit of disassembled parts to build your own car, when all the parts come form different manufactures who do not even coordinate their own development”.


And trying to discuss with people in the field anything that goes beyond a simple one-element one-step action always hits a wall.


It's not that people hear your argument, disagree, and design a logically elaborated counterargument. No.  People simply cannot comprehend arguments anymore (here, of course, I talk about people who consider themselves intellectuals). Multiply that by the exaggerated sense of self-importance (a.k.a. exceptionalism, a.k.a. arrogance) and you have people who do not make (i.e. design) decisions anymore, because they have no such ability, but simply react on emotions. Hence - the rise of motivational speakers, including con men.

BTW: Hence – Trump.


And even if this term is his only term, the lasting effect of the American Primitivism will be shaping America for decades to come.


Of course, America has people who are experts in their professional fields. But heir professional knowledge is so narrow (hail to the Primitivism!),  so even when they gather together to discuss big issues, they act like the blinded men hugging an elephant.

 Dr. Valentin Voroshilov

Chapter II:

Another example of the primitivism is the ongoing discussion of  life-learning, like “these days life changes so fast that one cannot have one education for life, and has to learn new things again and again”. First, this statement is trivial and not new, e.g. I wrote it in my dissertation about twenty years ago.

Although my conclusion was that because of that school teachers must have an ability to learn or they would not be able to teach that ability to students. I tried to promote this view but did not succeed ( - American teachers do not want learn new things. Anyway, once again the term
life-long learning” is being understood in a very primitive way. Of course people have to learn through all their lives - that is oboists, and the fact that technological world changes now faster than before does not make much difference. It only means that nowadays more people will be directly affected by those changes. Life-long learning means that now the world has become so complex, complicated, that no one can learn all its complexity even within about 20 years of constant learning. Those first years of learning - from an elementary school to a university/college can only give knowledge and skill sufficient to start professional carrier. But in order to become an advance citizen of the world one has to keep learning. That learning has to lead to not just professional growth but also the growth as a person, and has to include courses that help to broaden the personality (including history, philosophy, languages. art, music). That is why when HR needs to develop tools to promote and support life learning - not just in general (“you got a new certificate - great!”), but providing a specific list of courses HR wants one to finish (I mentioned the role of HR in this post).

Want to learn more? (really??)

Give a kick to your curiosity and read something from these pages:

Strategies For Teaching Science

Philosophy Of Education


For example:

No sign for improving math education soon.

Modeling Instructions, Design Thinking, and Productive Thinking for a Science Teacher.

The Essence of the Meaning of ZPD

What is the "Socratic Method"?

From being a Teach-er to becoming a Teach-smith

Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy: a Handbook For a Science Teacher.

Professional Designing for Teachers

A Problem v. A Task; the Distinction Matters!

Regular Education v. Elite Education

Rules For Becoming A Master 

Factual thinking v. integrative thinking, or how we need to teach science

The Deliberate Thinking v. Digging a Trench

Education Reform Needs a New Paradigm

How is U.S. education reform entangled with U.S.S.R

Three Lessons from Neurology to Science Teachers

Critical Reading of "Making Sense of Confusion" by Jason E. Dowd, Ives Araujo, and Eric Mazur

What does it mean to be "smart?" 

How much of the NSF funded fundamental scientific educational research is really fundamental?

"Backpack Full of Cash": pointing at a problem without offering a solution

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

Five Projects Critical for Education.

Seven Reasons Why Rich Philanthropists Fail at Making Systemic Changes in Education

Is the Cat Worth Be Saved? or A Curious Case of a Risky Entrepreneur.

The importance of early exposure to thinking.


P.S. If you read these words, it means you have your curiosity high enough to scroll down through the list of publications. Curiosity should be rewarded. Your reward is the joke below.


The saddest thing is that the American model - that is clearly proved to be wrong - has been adopted by numerous countries, which now experience the same issues. That brings to mind another old joke (names don't matter, but I'd advise to check them on Google).


Vasily Сhapaev and Chingachgook are drinking moonshine. When they finished the first bottle, Сhapaev said: “I got more in a barn, I‘ll come and get it”. He went out. Chingachgook left waiting, when he suddenly heard loud ruckus and a scream coming out from the barn. Soon Сhapaev came back holding a new bottle in his hand and rubbing a huge black eye with another one. Chingachgook asked nothing and Сhapaev said nothing. They finished another bottle. “Now, it’s your turn to go”, said Сhapaev. Chingachgook went to the barn. Soon Сhapaev heard loud ruckus and a scream. When Chingachgook came back, he had a new bottle and a black eye. They finished a bottle. Сhapaev stood up and went to a barn. After loud ruckus and a scream, he came back with another bottle and another black eye. And they finished that bottle. And Chingachgook went to the barn. There was no ruckus, no scream, and when he came back he got another bottle. “How’s that you didn’t hit your second eye?” asked Сhapaev. “Only a white man can step twice on the same bow-rake” said Chingachgook.


For me and my friends, this phrase: “Only a white man can step twice on the same bow-rake” has become a go-phrase when we wanted to describe someone who could not learn.


P.P.S. “Being Polite” versus “Being Nice”: social implications of both.


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