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Preview: Bill Kerr

Bill Kerr

Updated: 2018-02-14T20:19:22.138+10:30


my understanding of marx's theses on feuerbach


I Ontology = What exists = the furniture of the universe
Combine 1 and 5
Hegel wrong: Ideal thoughts
Feuerbach wrong: Material objects
“Correct” abstract thinking, even imaginative “correct” abstract thinking doesn't grasp reality
Human practice, activity grasps reality
Practice is not just doing, it is the full, messy, sensual social human drama of activity

II Epistemology = the path to true knowledge
Combine 2 and 8
Thinking, rationality, logic, dialectics separated from practice, can't achieve truth
The path to truth is in the world, lived practice

III Emancipation
Combine 3, 4 and 11
Humans change society which changes humans in a never ending dynamic spiral

Existing secular social relations are just as oppressive as religious social relations. It is not enough to understand or interpret the world from an atheistic viewpoint. The stinking mess of capitalism needs to be changed, revolutionised.

IV Human essence
Combine 6, 7, 9 and 10
You have to look in the right place to find the essence of humans → the ensemble of social relations.

The atomised, isolated, abstract individual is a dead end which must not be our unit of social analysis. That belongs to the capitalism social form.

An individual is nothing more or less than a vehicle of dynamic social relations. Our individual self is spin, we invent ourselves from the available social relations. The idealised, independent, autonomous, successful individual in capitalist society is merely someone who has selected the social memes, and is a slave to those memes, that make for success in capitalist society. They have an individual body but a human is fully social, not just a body.

The original:
Theses on Feuerbach

Brecht De Smet on this xmca thread

Reading List (started not finished):
The Mathematics of Mathematics: Thinking with the Late, Spinozist Vygotsky by Wolff-Michael Roth (2017)

I believe that Marx's theory can be updated and that Wolff-Michael is making a valuable contribution to that. My notes on Wolff-Michael's book are here, which includes further references most of which I have yet to read or only skimmed myself.

life after Noel


An article about how and why my opinions about Noel Pearson changed based on 2 years teaching at Djarragun College, in Far North Queensland.
Alice: “I don't want to go among mad people”
The cat: “You can't help that, we're all mad here. I'm mad. Your mad”
Alice: “How do you know that I'm mad”
The cat: “You must be or you wouldn't have come here”
The full story is here: Life After Noel (4000+ words)

farewell speech


I had to think about what I have learnt from this place.

In the late 1960s Bob Dixon, a linguist, came to the Cairns areas.

At first he visited the TableLands, got to know some aboriginal people, and wrote down the Dyirbal language.

Then he travelled down to Yarrabah and found Dick Moses, the last Yidinji speaker. He sat down with Dick, under a fig tree, and wrote down the language.

After a while he complained to Dick. The green ants in the tree dropped onto him and were biting him. Would we be able to move to the verandah?

No way, said Dick. Those green ants are good for you. They are medicinal. When they bite you that will stop you from getting sick.

So, that is what I have learnt from this place. When things drop out of the trees and bite you then you have to understand that it is good for you!

beautiful cairns


Djarragun mountain: Djarragun means scrub hen. She builds her nest in a pyramid shape. I climbed her this morning, one quarter way, that is.

I will miss the beautiful natural environment of Cairns / Gordonvale. But one can't live by environmental beauty alone.

The plan is to continue teaching the indigenous in the NT. More, later.

moral philosophy: honest description precedes solution


Honest description of an issue / problem precedes any possible solution to that issue or problem.

The reason that Plato banned the artists from his republic is that he felt they would tug on emotional heart strings and sentiment would get in the way of truthful description.

The world is full of clever people who talk the talk but don't walk the walk

I encounter people coming up with solutions to problems before they have fully described or delved into the problem. For some hard to fathom reason they don't talk to people who might know more about the problem than they do. They are more concerned about looking good on paper to those above them in the hierarchy than an honest and open dialogue with those below them in the hierarchy. The lazy solution is accompanied by slogans. eg. "No child left behind" (reality check: we did leave quite a few behind)

Programmatic solutions often don't work even though they look good on paper. The nitty gritty reality on the ground, the tremendous suction generated by dysfunctional forces can tear the program to shreds. The makers of programs often hide in their offices and leave others to be the sacrificial lambs of their failed paper work.

As their failed solution spin out of control, they plan the next step in their career pathway.

I like the Iris Murdoch quote about the artists: "Rilke said of Cezanne that he did not paint 'I like it', he painted 'There it is.'"

In more detail the Iris Murdoch quote goes like this:
"One might start from the assertion that morality, goodness, is a form of realism. The idea of a really good man living in a private dream world seems unacceptable. Of course a good man may be infinitely eccentric, but he must know certain things about his surroundings, most obviously the existence of other people and their claims. The chief enemy of excellence in morality (and also in art) is personal fantasy: the tissue of self aggrandising and consoling wishes and dreams which prevents one from seeing what is there outside one. Rilke said of Cezanne that he did not paint 'I like it', he painted 'There it is.' This is not easy, and requires, in art and morals, a discipline. One might say here that art is an excellent analogy of morals, or indeed that it is in this respect a case of morals. We cease to be in order to attend to the existence of something else, a natural object, a person in need"
- On 'God' and 'Good', from pp. 437-8 of 'Existentialists and Mystics'

Bob Dixon "Searching for aboriginal languages"


I've finished Bob Dixon's "Searching for Aboriginal languages".

It's an amazing book. He manages to get inside the head of aboriginal people and report their life truthfully and eloquently. He achieves this through his love of language and over time that translates into a love for the people who were giving him their dying languages.

It's full of interesting anecdotes as well as a whole lot of of linguistics, most of which I didn't understand. It's available on line you can download the pdf from here: Searching for Aboriginal languages. This book will help you understand aboriginal culture, the positive, the negative and the interesting, more so than most.

My quick, very inadequate notes included:

60 talk in language about wanting to kill the author (see below)
99 language forms reflect the present mountainous environment
100 I'll walk in front of you because even though I like you I don't like white people; if I walk behind I'll be tempted to knife you in the back
115-6 making woman's sexual organs
157 different language used for talking near in laws, shame built into the culture, error is shame
166 the taboo on the name of a dead person leads to borrowing words from another language
212 test out the author by talking BS at the first meeting
238-9 Yarrabah depressed, aboriginal culture destroyed replaced by nothing
251 hunger 2 days before welfare cheque
298 green ants medicinal so don't complain when they bite you

I have worked with family of some of the people in the book, which made it special. Details not included here.
"Mabi bayingala yawangga malagangu jangganany nyinany," Maggie said. "he's like a tree-climbing kangaroo sitting high in a tree eating malagan vines, that white man there. I'd like to throw him to the ground," she continued, "hit him when he's down there and the dog might bite him. Then peel his skin off, cook him in the fire and eat him. I'd eat his liver first. Cut his hands off and his tail, and put him back in the fire to cook a bit more. Cut the carcass up with a knife and share pieces around to all the kids ..." (p. 60)
update: for an outline of Bob Dixon's remarkable life see here (James Cook Uni site)

Has the dream of cheap computers + FOSS for the disadvantaged evaporated?


What Rangan Srikhanta, who formerly distributed OLPCs in Australia is doing now:
  • Not a cheap laptop
  • Not free and open source software
One Education

Their infinity computer sells for $380 + GST. What happened to the dream to make a laptop for kids for $100?

His initial plan was to make a modular computer that kids could put together and to have multiple OS: Linux / Android as well as Windows. But then Microsoft intervened....
"What happened to the modular infinity?"

"... the short story is that Microsoft put us in touch with manufacturers that could make the Infinity:Concept a reality"

"We are currently working to get both Android and Linux supported on the Infinity:One! Our aim is to provide your choice of operating system, and Windows 10 is just the beginning"
- FAQs
Promises, promises ...
"We’re not there yet, but we’re working towards it. The road to Infinity begins with the Infinity:One - join us on our mission to make the world a better place for children through technology."
- Concept page
Contrast what has happened with this 2015 interview of Rangan:
This week, the Australian 15-employee One Education will announce its new generation low-cost computer. A Lego-like modular PC-and-tablet in one that can be assembled by a four-year-old, updated as components reach their end of life, and repaired in the last their primary years

Its main components - screen, battery, keyboard, CPU, camera, Wi-Fi connection - are separate parts of the puzzle, with the main bits concealed under a soft silicon cover. A trade scheme will allow schools to swap parts as the technology evolves and students' needs change.

The XO-Infinity is only a prototype thus far.The first working model is due in August, the first shipment early next year.
- Meet Rangan Srikhanta, the former refugee who wants to change the world one laptop at a time
Update (Oct 9, 2017)
Received this mail from Tony Forster:
I see the Infinity one in a similar light as OLPC's XO Android tablet as a bid to 'stay in the game' while cheap tablets and phones undercut the OLPC business model.

The smartphone is the hardware that now best fits the OLPC concept:
"provide educational opportunities for the world's most isolated and poorest children by giving each child a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop"
I think that Sugar's bid to control the OS or Desktop failed and the best thing to do is work with the user's choice of OS, be it Linux, Android or Windows and provide good free open source educational software to run on these platforms.

Specifically I would like to see a drag and drop programming app for Android that is optimised for a small touch screen.

a critique of Tyson Yunkaporta's cultural critique of western education


I've written a critique of Tyson Yunkaporta's cultural critique of western education, here. 6425 words.

Different authors have different opinions about what culture is, cultural change and how important culture is. I dismiss strong cultural relativism but argue there are deep reasons why culture is important.
Culture is the brain wiring that occurs in the first 5-7 years of a child's life. We forget how we learned that stuff, it just becomes part of us, part of our identity, more or less impossible to change. So, for example, a rural Aboriginal child will almost certainly grow up believing in the spirit world, whereas an urban white middle class child might well grow up being an atheist or agnostic. That early “brainwashing” can't be avoided in our current society and it's not going to go away any time soon.
Should indigenous culture be integrated into the school curriculum?

Tyson Yunkaporta's 8 indigenous ways are outlined:
  1. Holism: the Aboriginal learner concentrates on the overall picture before going into detail
  2. Visual: a concrete, holistic image serves as an anchor for the learner
  3. Community: for Aboriginal people the motivation for learning is inclusion in the community
  4. Symbols and Images: since learning styles are problematic reframe visual-spatial learning as symbolic learning, using both concrete and abstract imagery (it's not clear to me from Tyson's descriptions what this alleged reframing of problematic learning styles actually means – see later for a critique of learning styles)
  5. Non verbal: Kinesthenic, hands on, silence, imitation
  6. Land links: Aboriginal people have a deep connection to place
  7. Story sharing: Elders teach using stories, the lesson is contained in the narrative
  8. Non linear: the linear perspective of direct questioning, direct instruction is categorised as “western pedagogy”; contrast this with Aboriginal pedagogy where multiple processes occur continuously. But note that in the next paragraph Tyson says there are “excellent western non-linear frameworks available like De Bono's Lateral Thinking ” (p. 13)
Tyson does argue a common ground position, that in selecting the 8 Aboriginal pedagogies he has kept an eye out for “common ground” between Aboriginal and western ways

He sees positive synergies arising from interaction between cultures and rejects those who make negative comments about indigenous learners and their cultures.

My case against

I'll just list the headings of my points in response:
  1. Tyson's 8 processes of Aboriginal learning and reality.
  2. Traditional culture is a warrior culture
  3. There are negative (welfare dependency) as well as positive (open culture) indigenous cultures
  4. The complexity of the cultural interface defies attempts to simplify it. One effect of simplification is to promote a pressure to conform to a cultural stereotype
  5. There doesn't appear to be good evidence that different learning styles make a difference
  6. The cultural solution feeds into the ongoing Political Blame game
  7. The cultural solution is silent on what I believe ought to be the fundamental goals of the education system, the non universals
  8. Philosophy of harmony or philosophy of struggle?
I conclude with some historical context and my current position on the role of culture in the curriculum.

the indigenous imitation game


"Man is a creature who makes pictures of himself and then comes to resemble the pictures”
- Iris Murdoch, Existentialists and Mystics, p. 75
“the magical power of replication, the image affected by what it is an image of, wherein the representation shares in or takes power from the represented”
- Francesca Merlin (1998), p. 150 quoting Michael Taussig (1993)
Most of us, white fellas, have images of the indigenous “problem”. Some of us even have images of the indigenous “solution”.

Ever since Whitlam, 45 years ago now, indigenous self determination has been on the table. The indigenous will determine their own future. Old style, immoral, coercive assimilation into white culture will be a shameful thing of the past.

Into this power vacuum step indigenous thought leaders who map out the requirements for self determination.

Is this real? Or is it more an imitation of an image of what aboriginality is meant to be. An attractive delusion for the guilt ridden white middle classes down south. (Please, please someone fix this problem, this terrible shame in our nation's history)

The reality is that aboriginal culture was never a unity but divided into more than 100 different tribes with differing language and cultures. Those different cultures are now positioned in a complex limbo somewhere in between their old partly forgotten, partly degraded traditions and western culture, the good, the bad and the ugly.
“Representations of Aboriginality as made most powerfully by others come to affect who and what Aborigines consider themselves to be. The imitative relation as lived out in Australia has rested on the assumption that Aboriginal cultural production continues to be autonomous from what previously sought to encompass or displace it. Further, the relation often requires from Aborigines demonstrations of the autonomy and long standing nature of what is seen of their cultural production.”
- Francesca Merlin (1998)
Caging the Rainbow by Francesca Merlin (1998)



mimesis: an attempt to imitate or reproduce reality

Imitation is inferior to the real thing. In imitation we select something from the coninuum of experience. We create boundaries that don't really exist.

Humans create texts, poetry. We have a strong urge to represent reality. Imitation may approach reality but is not quite real.

Plato distrusted art and poetry. Divine madness. It may persuade by rhetoric rather than truth. It is seductive.

mimesis₁: actual praxis (ethnomethodology), real life, day to day drama. Marx called this sensual human activity. What people in real life actually do.

This makes ethnomethodology a radical alternative to all other forms of research

mimesis₂: a created world, a world of text. This world works well on paper using abstractions from the real world. If it describes practice then that description is not really practice but a formalisation of practice. This is not an argument against abstraction as such. But abstraction should only be introduced when it has a clear empirical use and can be verified in actual human behaviour.

mimesis₃: a theorisation or reconfiguration of mimesis2 by academics or bureaucrats three steps remote from the actual praxis.

We hear complaints from teachers who often state that what they learn in university courses is of little use in their actual praxis; and that their praxis is little if at all captured is the theories that they encounter in their university courses. The same point applies to education department documents such as the new national curriculum, which is meant to act as a guideline for teaching practice. Teachers end up turning themselves into knots trying to make their more realistic programmes conform to the supposedly higher level theory.

Reference: The Mathematics of Mathematics: Thinking with the late, Spinozist Vygotsky by Wolff-Michael Roth (2017), p. 22 and pp. 30-32. The link goes to a pdf of Chapter one.
Wikipedia: mimesis

Greens should just shut up and listen by Jacinta Price


width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>When elders from the communities of Kununurra, Wyndham and Ceduna travelled to Canberra last week with a video revealing the appalling violence on their streets, they delivered a strong message. Those streets are war zones of drug and alcohol-fuelled assaults and child abuse — and they want it to stop. The video, supported by West Australian mining businessman Andrew Forrest, proves the desperate need for the cashless debit card system that quarantines 80 per cent of welfare recipients’ payments to limit access to alcohol, drugs and gambling. These elders are crying out for the lives of the children being assaulted and abused. In one of these communities, 187 children are victims of sexual abuse with 36 men facing 300 charges, and a further 124 are suspects. I know all too well the deep frustrations these Australian citizens feel as they are desperate to save their people from the crisis being played out day after day in their communities. They have long fought for our political leaders to recognise the need to take the tough — sometimes unpopular but necessary — steps to make meaningful change that will save the lives of Aboriginal children, women and men. So why do large numbers of our media and our political leaders (including some indigenous ones) fail to respond to such clear evidence of assault, child abuse and violence at the hands of our own people but are prepared to call for a royal commission when the perpetrator is a white person in uniform or when institutionalised racism is perceived to be at play? A television report on the horrendous treatment of juvenile inmates at Darwin’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre swiftly sparked a royal commission. Yet footage of an Aboriginal man stomping on an Aboriginal woman and various other vicious acts — which in my view are far more shocking than that of the Don Dale footage — draws criticism by the Greens that the video was simply propaganda for the cashless welfare card. This is not propaganda; it is proof. We hear regularly that we should be listening to Aboriginal people on the ground to understand the complexities of the problems and to encourage us to find solutions for our horrific circumstances. Well, here is a video created by Aboriginal leaders in conjunction with the wider community, including the police and a mayor, pleading for the implementation of a practical measure to help curb the purchase of alcohol and drugs so the lives of the most marginalised Australians may be improved. No, it is not a magic bullet, but it is a start towards improving the lives of Australian citizens in crisis. Forrest has been criticised for telling the world that he has been approached by minors willing to sell sex. A 14-year-old I know who roams Alice Springs streets at night regularly witnesses children selling themselves to “old” Aboriginal men for alcohol and cigarettes. We pass such information on to the police, who already know it is happening, yet the authorities responsible for these children tells us they have seen no evidence of it. Just as there was a conspiracy of silence to deny the reality of frontier violence, now there seems to be a conspiracy of silence on the left to deny what is happening openly in our streets. The evidence of deep crisis has never been so blatant. This trauma is inflicted on our people by substance abuse and violence fuelled by a taxpayer-funded disposable income. However, if a rich white man throws his support behind a group of frustrated and desperate indigenous leaders living with this trauma their plea simply is dismissed as perverse by the politically correct without offering any effective alternative solutions. The Greens call Forrest paternalist[...]

maths facts speed and fidget spinners


Good article by Dan Willingham and great comments: On fidget spinners and speeded math practice
I teach Direct Instruction maths and timed maths facts practice and testing is a significant part of that program. Some kids are good at maths facts and complete their sheets easily in the time provided. Others are not good, I can see them counting on their fingers and they can't complete the sheet in time. Over time the pattern repeats. Those who are good breeze through; those who count on their fingers struggle and I don't see a lot of improvement happening despite all the practice we are doing. Does that give them maths anxiety? Possibly. It does give me teacher anxiety. I wonder how can I help them improve?

The main part of Dan's article covered an issue that I think is obvious. Speed in maths facts helps build conceptual understanding.

The comments discussed the issue that concerns me in more detail.

The first commment (Michael Persham) stresses that you have to be clear on the goal of maths facts practice. The goal is for the kids to memorise the facts, to achieve automatic recall.

So, those kids who count on their fingers are not working towards that goal. So, how can I get them to stop counting on their fingers and work towards the goal directly?

Well, I could talk to them about the goal of memorising facts and how counting on fingers works against that. I've never done that! Why? Because I wasn't really clear about the goal and in the back of my mind I was thinking it is better if they get some correct answers by a method that works for them.

Now I'm thinking it would be better to say to them give it a quick guess rather than count on fingers. I'm not suggesting they will all follow my advice - getting the right answer is a strongly, conditioned goal - but a few will give it a go. It's important then that they are not penalised for a quick guess, that it does not become part of their formal assessment.

The second comment (John Golden) suggests some particular strategies to improve maths facts recall. After handing out the worksheet:
  • ask the students to circle the ones they know by memory
  • ask students to identify 5 they want to know by memory but don't
  • give out the sheets like a word search, "find all the computations that sum to 8?"
The third comment (educationrealist) raises some broader issues which are important for my practice as well but I won't go into them now. One issue of concern which he/she raises is that some students never get good at maths facts but that doesn't mean they can't do other, more conceptual parts of maths well. I can see it is really important to identify those students so they don't get discouraged by their lack of ability in one small area of maths.

So, why will I buy a fidget spinner? Because a good teacher uses drama, one of the real secrets of teaching. And I'm also thinking they would make a great prize for those who improve a lot in their maths facts speed.

the persistence of invisibility of really important aspects of indigenous reality


Summary and some thoughts about Ch 3 The Trouble with Culture of Peter Sutton's The Politics of Suffering (2009)Where I can learn from this chapter is that Peter Sutton has a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of indigenous culture, its negatives as well as its positives, than most commentators. He also blows the whistle on the willful blindness of official government reports and some other commentators / authors, including some who are well intentioned and have done the hard yards. Nor do indigenous leaders escape from his critique although he treats them with respect. The invisibility of reality appears to operate at several levels and he goes some of the way to unmasking that. I feel that Peter has become pessimistic about indigenous futures as a result of his life experiences but that his analysis is fundamentally correct and serves as an essential starting point for those committed to continuing to try to solve the problems that many have tried to solve without success. Personally, I prefer pessimism that lives in the real world to the phony optimism of those who draw a veil over the truth. I prefer to face the dark side of life than to live in the false light of self deception. Can we accept the reality of the dark side and still remain optimistic and energetic about positive change for indigenous people? That is the challenge. The radical historical shift in government approaches to dealing with indigenous affairs which occurred in the Whitlam years (1972-75) forms part of the backdrop to this analysis. As government policy became more humane, open hearted and liberal the actual on the ground situation for aboriginal people became worse. Welfare poison led to drug addiction, dysfunction and death. That is what Peter experienced and has driven him and other commentators to document, analyse and explain this seeming paradox. “In my time with the Wik people up to 2001, out of a population of less than 1000, eight people known to me had died by their own hand, two of them women, six of them men. Five of them were young people. From the same community in the same period, thirteen people known to me had been victims of homicide, eight of them women, five of them men. Twelve others had committed homicide, nine of them men and three of them women. Most of these, also, were young people, and most of the homicides occurred in the home settlement of both assailant and victim. Of the eight spousal murders in this list, seven involved a man killing his female partner, only one a woman killing her husband. In almost all cases, assailants and victims were relatives whose families had been linked to each other for generations. They were my relative, too, in a non biological 'tribal' sense ...” (p. 2) Remote communities are shattered. If you google Aurukun, Doomadgee, Koyanyama, Elcho Island or Wadeye and poke around you will see what I mean. Those who have avoided foetal alcohol syndrome or arrested development through malnutrition still end up less educated (illiterate) and less socially mobile (emotionally immobile) than their grandparents who were raised on the mission. Paternalistic benevolence was more successful than self development. Various authors, indigenous and non indigenous, have blown the whistle on this devastating reality. The cat is out of the bag but nevertheless still remains invisible to many at the official government level where policy is made. After reviewing the evidence Peter asserts that the value and power of traditional indigenous culture as a recovery agent is over rated. He agrees with Noel Pearson that economic relations are a more effective method of driving change. (65) For me, this is the main take away message. White people have to take indigenous culture on[...]

dysfunctional community syndrome in remote Queensland


The situation has been like this for decades and no one knows how to fix it:

A typical cluster of violence types in such a dysfunctional community would be, male-on-male and female-on-female fighting, child abuse, alcohol violence, male suicide, pack rape, infant rape, rape of grandmothers, self mutilation, spouse assaults and homicide ...
Memmott et al., 2001, Violence in Indigenous Communities, p. 51
The remote community of Kowanyama has issued a desperate cry for help following a horrifying run of youth ­suicides.

A senior frontline staffer in the town has told how the community has descended into a deep sense of despair since the public tragedy in ­October when a car rammed into a house full of mourners, resulting in a 48-year-old woman being killed and 25 others injured.

The staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there had been more than 20 suicides or attempts in Kowanyama, which has a population of about 1200, since the shocking event in ­October
- The Cairns Post, June 24, 2017
Update (June 28): Similar situation in the Kimberley region of West Australia.
In what will be one of the largest inquests in Australia in recent years, coroner Ros Fogliani will examine the suicides of 13 young Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region.

In his opening address, counsel assisting the coroner Philip Urquhart said five of the deaths involved children aged between 10 and 13.

They had all been exposed to alcohol abuse and domestic violence in the home, had poor school attendance and most had not sought help from mental health services.

There was evidence six of those who died had been sexually abused...

Over the next three months, the coroner will travel to Broome, Kununurra, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing to hear evidence about what drove the young people to take their lives and what could have been done to prevent their actions.

She will also examine whether recommendations from a similar inquest 10 years ago had any impact.
- Indigenous suicide inquest told rate of deaths in WA's north has 'reached disturbing proportions'

Teaching algebra using some visual and cultural features


Teaching algebra using some visual and cultural features 8 = 6 - 2(t - 3)CM (indigenous helper who is studying to become a teacher) was having trouble solving this equation. So, I thought of a different way to teach it which incorporated some conventional elements with some new ideas. The conventional element was a seesaw. This was mentioned in the text but only in passing. The way to use the seesaw is that one side needs to balance the other side. As we move items around from one side of the equation to the other the seesaw is not allowed to become unbalanced in the process, both sides have to remain equal.                               8                      6 - 2(t - 3) CM's difficulty was figuring out which things to move to the other side first. So I suggested that the brackets represented a nest and the t stood for a turtle inside the nest. Since there was a 2 times outside the bracket that meant there were two nests. The nest was hard to get at so it was best to move those items outside the nest first. That meant move the 6 first. How do you get rid of +6? The opposite is -6. So subtract 6 from the right hand side (RHS). But that unbalances the seesaw, so you have to subtract 6 from the left hand side (LHS) too.                                 8 - 6                 6 - 6 - 2(t - 3)                                    2                    - 2(t - 3) The turtle nest is multiplied by -2. To get inside the nest we have to deal with that issue next. How do we get rid of a multiplication by -2? By doing the opposite which is dividing by -2. But this will unbalance the seesaw so we have to divide both sides by -2.                                 2 / -2                     - 2(t - 3)/ -2                                 -1                         t - 3 Now at last we can get inside the turtle nest. Just finish up by adding 3 to both sides in order to get rid of the -3 on the right hand side.                                -1 + 3                         t - 3+ 3                                  2                             t t = 2 [...]

direct instruction and indigenous education (version 5)


I've published an annotated contents page of my research outline at the learning evolves wiki. This has chewed up a lot of thought and time since I had hundreds of bits of paper with rough notes that had to be organised into something coherent. Well, sort of coherent. With this version I think I'm ready to look for a supervisor, to bounce ideas off, and it will provide a more focused guide to future reading / study.


Judith Curry on the current state of climate science


Judith Curry STATEMENT TO THE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE AND TECHNOLOGY OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVESHearing on Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications and the Scientific Method29 March 201714pp pdf, quite inspirational IMO, read the whole thing Science is an iterative process of multi hypothesis formation, collecting data and testing that data against the variety of hypotheses Beware of dogmatic claims (alarmists, deniers), be sensitive to the uncertainty and complexity of the climate science issue Explanation of the how and why we have got to a bad place in climate science (page 11, extract below) There is a war on science - not from Trump but from within the science establishment itself (page 12, extract below) How and why did we land between a rock and a hard place on the issue of climate science? There are probably many contributing reasons, but the most fundamental and profound reason is arguably that both the problem and solution were vastly oversimplified back in the early 1990’s by the UNFCCC, who framed both the problem and the solution as irreducibly global in terms of human-caused global warming. This framing was locked in by a self-reinforcing consensus-seeking approach to the science and a ‘speaking consensus to power’ approach for decision making that pointed to a single course of policy action – radical emissions reductions. The climate community has worked for more than two decades to establish a scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, prematurely elevating a hypothesis to a ruling theory. The IPCC’s consensus-seeking process and its links to the UNFCCC emissions reduction policies have had the unintended consequence of hyper-politicizing the science and introducing bias into both the science and related decision making processes. The result of this simplified framing of a wicked problem is that we lack the kinds of information to more broadly understand climate variability and societal vulnerabilities. The politicization of climate science has contaminated academic climate research and the institutions that support climate research, so that individual scientists and institutions have become activists and advocates for emissions reductions policies. Scientists with a perspective that is not consistent with the consensus are at best marginalized (difficult to obtain funding and get papers published by ‘gatekeeping’ journal editors) or at worst ostracized by labels of ‘denier’ or ‘heretic.’ Policymakers bear the responsibility of the mandate that they give to panels of scientific experts. In the case of climate change, the UNFCCC demanded of the IPCC too much precision where complexity, chaos, disagreement and the level current understanding resists such precision. Asking scientists to provide simple policy-ready answers for complex matters results in an impossible situation for scientists and misleading outcomes for policy makers. Unless policy makers want experts to confirm their preconceived bias, then expert panels should handle controversies and uncertainties by assessing what we know, what we don’t know, and where the major uncertainties lie.... War on Science With the advent of the Trump administration, concerns about ‘war on science’ have become elevated, with a planned March for Science on 22 April 2017. Why are scientists marching? The scientists’ big concern is ‘silencing of facts’. This concern apparently derives from their desire to have their negotiated ‘facts’ – such as the IPCC consensus on climate change – dictate public policy. These scientists also fear funding cuts and chal[...]

Obama and Trump both lied


Barack Obama said he was going to do something about Assad's chemical weapons and he didn't.

Donald Trump said he wasn't going to do anything about Assad's chemical weapons and he did.

In this case, like the Syrian resistance, I prefer Trump's lies.

ambiguity is deeply writ


AMBIGUITY IS WRITTEN DEEPLY INTO KNOWLEDGE STRUCTURESWhat puzzles me most about Direct Instruction is that it is good practice but poor theory. Part of what I mean follows. Zig Engelmann starts with the great idea that instruction should be tidied up and made very clear but then takes that too far into the claim that in general instruction can be made unambiguous, “I didn't realise how radical the single interpretation principle was ...” (Teaching Needy Kids in our Backward System, p. 3) We can strive for clearer instruction, that is a worthy goal, but it is not possible to achieve unambiguous instruction. For example, when teaching the subtraction sixty two minus fifty seven (62 – 57), the DI teacher asks the students “Can we subtract 7 from 2” and the students are taught to say “No”. They then go onto rearrange 62 into 50 + 12 so as to be able solve the problem. This is good teaching, but there are other ways to solve it as well. Two take seven equals -5. Sixty take fifty equals 10. Ten – five = 5. My aim here is not to improve DI by making it more complicated. DI works, in part, because it simplifies things. I don't deny that. But the complexity and multiple pathways are written deep into the knowledge domain of mathematics. The claim of unambiguous instruction fails. We can subtract 7 from 2. The answer is not "No". Many more examples of such oversights in DI scripts can be cited. This is not against DI as such (which in certain contexts works better than anything else in my experience) but against the over simplified arguments often presented by advocates of DI. The idea that data provides the ultimate scientific certainty is mistaken because it is impossible to separate out data from concepts developed internally in the mind. Ambiguity is written into educational theory as well as practice. These observations are presented here as a stepping stone towards developing a better theory of why DI often works than the unsatisfactory theory (uncritical acceptance of JS Mill's Logic) developed by Zig Engelmann and Doug Carnine. I speculate further that this seems to tie into a critique of JS Mill, initiated by John Dewey and further developed by Hilary Putnam. JS Mill thought that a perfected science of individual psychology would be able to deliver social laws to solve social problems. This reminds me of the Zig Engelmann cult, which promotes him as the one true educational visionary amongst a sea of deceivers: "Like Copernicus, who proofs were rejected by the church for 300 years, Engelmann remains a scorned revolutionary, anathema or simply unknown to most people in the field"- Barbash, p. 8 I can't go along with the way that Piaget, Bruner and Dewey are rubbished in this cult war. I think they have all made valuable contributions to educational theory. Some positives, some negatives, some ambiguities. There is not one true way. These thoughts were crystallised in thinking about these comments from Hilary Putnam about empiricism: “Empiricism … thinks that the general form of scientific data, indeed of all empirical data, can be known a priori – even if it doesn't say so in so many words! From Locke, Berkeley, and Hume down to Ernst Mach, empiricists held that all empirical data consists of “sensations”, conceived of as an unconceptualised given against which putative knowledge claims can be checked. Against this view William James had already insisted that while all perceptual experience has both conceptual and non conceptual aspects, the attempt to divide any experience which is a recognition of something[...]

The Origins of Modernity


Giordano Bruno (1548-1600, burnt alive by the Church) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626) put forward a clear program of domination or conquest of nature around about 1583-85, the time that Bruno visited England.
“The gods have given man intelligence and hands, and have made them in their image, endowing him with a capacity superior to other animals. This capacity consists not only in the power to work in accordance with nature and the usual course of things, but beyond that and outside her laws, to the end that by fashioning, or the power to fashion, other natures, other courses, other orders by means of his intelligence, with that freedom without which his resemblance to the deity would not exist, he might in the end make himself god of the earth … providence has decreed that man should be occupied in action by the hands and in contemplation by the intellect, but in such a way that he may not contemplate without action or work without contemplation …. when difficulties beset them or necessities reappeared … they sharpened their wits, invented industries and discovered arts … by force of necessity, from the depths of the human mind rose new and wonderful inventions.”
- Bruno, The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast
Albert Schweitzer points out that an optimistic view of a modern world where knowledge, standard of living and health could all be improved (as compared with passive acceptance of ignorance, poverty and ill health) met considerable opposition from historical forces. Plato's ethic is world negation., Plato and Aristotle accepted slavery and so did not envisage the liberation of Humanity as a whole. The Epicureans and Stoics preached resignation.

Bacon took the moral stance that real charity involved meeting peoples needs in the full Christian sense of brotherly love. He contrasted this with the tendency of the Greeks to quarrel about opinions.

After dabbling in politics, initially without much success, Bacon took the view that invention was more useful than politics because it is felt everywhere and lasts forever.

Invention required the use of both intellect and labour, the head and the hand. The “mechanical arts” became central to Bacon's vision, he wanted the concepts spread far and wide to a thousand hands and a thousand eyes.

Bacon persistently criticised the influence of Aristotle and Plato on contemporary thinking because their mode of thinking (dialectical argument) did not support the rapid development of the mechanical arts.

The Philosophy of Francis Bacon by Benjamin Farrington (1964), Ch 4, 5 and 6

natural selection and Direct Instruction


Now for a pithy one liner which also happens to support Direct Instruction:
"Before there can be comprehension, there has to be competence without comprehension"
Dan Dennett, Intuition Pumps and other tools for thinking (2013), p. 105
Comprehension is a latecomer to the evolutionary process.
"Bacteria have all sorts of remarkable competences that they need not understand at all; their competences serve them well, but they themselves are clueless. Trees have competences whose exercise provides benefits to them, but they don't need to know why. The process of natural selection itself is famously competent, a generator of designs of outstanding ingenuity and efficacy, without a shred of comprehension.

Comprehension of the kind we human adults enjoy is a very recent phenomenon on the evolutionary scene, and it has to be composed of structures whose competence is accompanied by, enabled by, a minimal sort of semi-comprehension, or pseudo-comprehension - the kind of (hemi-semi-demi-) comprehension enjoyed by fish or worms. These structures are designed to behave appropriately most of the time, without having to know why their behaviour is appropriate."
- p. 105
Compare with my pithy one liner which critiques Direct Instruction:
"In Direct Instruction there is no script for those who depart from the script or who desire to write their own script"
- fork in the road options and Direct Instruction
You can't begin to write your own script until you have achieved at least a basic competence in whatever domain you are attempting to master.

philosophers timeline


FIRST ENLIGHTENMENTPythagoras 560 BC - ? Heraclitus 535 BC-475 BCZeno of Elea 490-430 BCDemocritus 460 BC-?Socrates 469-399 BCEuclid ? - 366 BC Plato 429-347 BCAristotle 384 BC-322 BCEpicurus 341-271 BCArchimedes 287 – 212 BC Chrysippus 280-206 BCCicero 106-43 BC Ovid 43 BC-17 AD Seneca 1-65Plutarch 45-120 Lucretius early to mid 1st CNOT MUCH PROGRESS YEARS Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274William of Occam 1285-1347 SECOND ENLIGHTENMENT Nicolaus Copernicus 1473-1543Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592Giordano Bruno 1548-1600 (burnt alive by the Church)Francis Bacon 1561-1626Galileo Galilei 1564-1642Johannes Kepler 1571-1630 Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679Rene Descarte 1596-1650Gerrard Winstanley 1609-1676Blaise Pascal 1623-1662 Robert Boyle 1627-1691Christiaan Huygens 1629-1695 Baruch Spinoza 1632-1677John Locke 1632-1704Robert Hooke 1635-1703 ENGLISH REVOLUTION / CIVIL WAR 1642-1660Isaac Newton 1642-1727Gottfried Wilhelm Liebniz 1646-1716Jonathan Swift 1667-1745Christian Wolff 1679-1754George Berkeley 1685-1753Montesquieu 1689-1755Voltaire 1694-1778Carl Linnaeus 1701-1778Thomas Bayes 1702-1761 David Hume 1711-1776John Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778Étienne Bonnot de Condillac 1714-1780 Claude Adrien Helvetius 1715-1771 Baron d'Holbach 1723-1789Adam Smith 1723-1790 Immanuel Kant 1724-1804Georg Lichtenberg 1742-1799 Nicolas de Condorcet 1743-1794 Johann Gottfried Herder 1744-1803 Jeremy Bentham 1748-1832 Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749-1832Joseph de Maistre 1753-1821 Henri de Saint-Simon 1760-1825Johann Gottlieb Fichte 1762-1814 Pierre Maine de Biran 1766-1824 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831Charles Fourier 1772-1837FRENCH REVOLUTION 1787-1799Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860Richard Jones 1790-1855 Charles Babbage 1791-1871 John Herschel 1792-1871 William Whewell 1794-1866 Auguste Comte 1798-1857John Stuart Mill 1806-73Charles Darwin 1809-1882Soren Kiekegaard 1813-1855 Karl Marx 1818-1883Friedrich Engels 1820-1895Ernst Mach 1838-1916Charles Peirce 1839-1914William James 1842-1910Frederick Nietzsche 1844-1900Georg Cantor 1845-1918Gottlob Frege 1848-1925Henri Poincaré 1854-1912Emile Durkheim 1858-1917 Giuseppe Peano 1858-1932 Edmund Husserl 1859-1938Henri Bergson 1859-1941John Dewey 1859-1952Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941 George Herbert Mead 1863-1931 Vladimir Lenin 1870-1924Arthur Bentley 1870 - 1957 Marcel Proust 1871-1922Bertrand Russell 1872-1970GE Moore 1873-1958 Albert Einstein 1879-1955Moritz Schlick 1882-1936 Otto Neurath 1882-1945Aldous Huxley 1894-1963 Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889-1951Martin Heidegger 1889-1976Hans Reichenbach 1891-1953 Rudolf Carnap 1891-1970 Mao Zedong 1893-1976Mikhail Bakhtin 1895 -1975 Lev Vygotsky 1896-1934Gilbert Ryle 1900-1976Aron Gurwitsch 1901-1973 Herbert Feigl 1902-1988Karl Popper 1902-1994Georges Politzer 1903-1942 George Orwell 1903-1950 Alexei Leontiev 1903-1979 Gregory Bateson 1904-1980 BF Skinner 1904-1990 Jean-Paul Sartre 1905-1980 Raymond Aron 1905-1983 Carl Gustav Hempel 1905-1997 Kurt Godel 1906-1978Emmanuel Levinas 1906-1995Nelson Goodman 1906-1998 Maurice Merleau-Ponty 1908-1961 Willard Van Ormon Quine 1908-2000Isaiah Berlin 1909-1997 A. J. Ayer 1910-1989Alan Turing 1912-1954Wilfrid Sellers 1912-1989 Paul Ricoeur 1913-2005 Harold Garfinkel 1917-2011 Iris Murdoch 1919-1999John Rawls 1921-2002Imre Lakatos 1922-1974Thomas Kuhn 1922-1996Michel Henry 1922–2002 Evald Ilyenkov 1924-1979 Paul Feyerabend 1924-1994Gilles Deleuze 1925-1995 Michel Foucault 1926-1984Hilary Putnam 1926-2016Klaus Holzkamp 1927-1995 Marvin[...]

The genuine refutation


"The genuine refutation must penetrate the opponent's stronghold and meet him on his own ground; no advantage is gained by attacking him somewhere else and defeating him where he is not"
- GWF Hegel, Science of Logic: Subjective Logic or The Doctrine of the Notion
Both the critics and supporters of Direct Instruction do not refute from within the others respective strongholds. That is why this quote has been playing on my mind for sometime.

fork in the road options and Direct Instruction


An attempt at a pithy critique of Direct Instruction:

In Direct Instruction there is no script for those who depart from the script or who desire to write their own script.

I'd rather be a Robert or a Lauren, than an Alice.
Alice in Wonderland

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
- Lewis Carroll
The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost
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the pitchfork solution to world inequality


Each year Oxfam delivers a report about how the inequality in the world is getting worse and how this needs to stop. This year, I was encouraged by a marginal note from Nick Hanauer, one of the Super Rich, who warns his fellow billionarie's that:
‘No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out.’
- the pitchforks are coming ... for us Plutocrats
Now, what did that Oxfam report say?
  • Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet.
  • Eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world.
  • Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $2.1 trillion to their heirs – a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people.
  • The incomes of the poorest 10% of people increased by less than $3 a year between 1988 and 2011, while the incomes of the richest 1% increased 182 times as much.
  • A FTSE-100 (Financial Times Stock Exchange 100) CEO earns as much in a year as 10,000 people in working in garment factories in Bangladesh.
  • In the US, new research by economist Thomas Piketty shows that over the last 30 years the growth in the incomes of the bottom 50% has been zero, whereas incomes of the top 1% have grown 300%.
  • In Vietnam, the country’s richest man earns more in a day than the poorest person earns in 10 years.
more details here

Oxfam report: AN ECONOMY FOR THE 1%
the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism
Land of the Free, Home of the Poor