RE: Old fellas. .. rant about educational system

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Mon May 20 2002 - 19:10:13 MDT

I'm only 35, but I had an aged 8'th grade math teacher who forced us to use
slide rules.

He also gave me a D in math that year, because every day I handed my
homework paper in *folded in half* (it fit better in my math book that
way). He gave zero credit for homework that was folded in half. I had a
99.9% test average but I got a D because I had a 0% for homework, although I
handed in the homework every day. The reason I didn't have a 100% test
average is because I got the following question wrong:

"True or False: 2 = 2.0"

I said True, he thought False. I knew what he wanted: he wanted false
because the accuracies were different. However i was a young idealist and
preferred to champion the notion of Equality as I understood it. I wrote an
explanation of my answer too, pointing out that equality meant invariance
under an appropriate set of operations and 2 and 2.0 were invariant under
pure-mathematical operations (I used less sophisticated language back then,
to be sure), but he didn't care, he marked me wrong anyway.

It was at this point that I became 99.99% certain of what I had long
suspected: the US educational system is almost totally hopeless.

I became even more convinced of that this semester while teaching an AI
class (4'th year undergrad, 1'st year grad). Half the students could barely
program their way out of a paper bag. They knew no mathematics and had no
interest in philosophy or psychology. They enjoyed writing very simple game
programs. I did teach the 4-5 decent students a little bit of interesting
stuff (Bayes nets, GA's, using GP's to evolve neural nets, etc.). But the
main point that struck me was *how little genuine interest* most of the
class had in AI, or in *anything* apart from getting their degrees and
getting jobs administering Microsoft Access databases.

Given an educational system full of teachers who squelch creative individual
thought, and students who don't want to think at all, it's no wonder we have
a society full of people who think AGI is a joke, or is 4000 years off...

But of course it's the human brain that's created this educational
system.... It's to the credit of the brain that it's conceived the notion
of an "educational system" at all, of course, but stil...

-- Ben

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Michael Roy Ames
> Sent: Monday, May 20, 2002 6:46 PM
> To:
> Subject: Old fellas.
> Mike Deering wrote:
> > P.S. Stephen Reed, glad to see new members in our age bracket. Do you
> > remember slide rules? I used to have a nice english one with wheels
> > instead of slides.
> Oh yes. Slide rules were great! I used my grandfather's
> mahogany one, with
> ivory inlay for the scales. I thought it was really swish...
> until I found
> out that they had to kill an elephant to get the ivory :/ I used
> it anyway,
> thinking "perhaps this elephant died of old age". I think it was
> the spring
> of 1975 when I saw the first calculator in my classroom. The slide rules
> vanished shortly after that... at least in Coventry, England.
> Michael Roy Ames.

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