Ordinary World: Education

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Scott J Davies

Scott Davies is a freelance writer and tutor. He is currently studying a Master of Education. He is interested in education, economics, geopolitics and history. He's on Twitter and has a Medium page.

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  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk
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    EDU2: extrapolating from my own experience with fire drills and especially tornado drills as an anxious, literal-minded kid: I thought, until about age 10 or so, that doing tornado drills meant that a tornado would eventually strike my school. (I was also smart enough by then to know that the “kneel down in this long hall with glass doors at either end, and put your hands over where your brain-stem is” probably wouldn’t be much protection in the case of a direct hit). I think active-shooter drills would have had me developing psychosomatic stomachaches and not wanting to go to school – ‘cos I would expect the shooter.

    I mean, if we’re preparing children for an eventual police state or something, go on then, but I don’t think the fearmongering is good for them. I’m not even sure it’s justified on college campuses like where I teach: we have had conversations about “hardening the campus” with security experts, and yet, there is no money EVER found to change out the stupid doors in my building to ones where the faculty member would not have to risk their life in an emergency like that to step out in the hall, lock the knob with their key, dive back in the room, slam the door, and hope that it didn’t unlock itself. (We were also told “Use your belt around the door handle to help hold the door closed!” I don’t usually wear a belt…)

    I also suspect shooter situations are different enough (some have the person taking hostages, another, the person is looking for the one individual they have a beef with, others are just some sick person randomly spewing bullets) that it would be hard to prepare. Sadly, I think the way things are now, the answer is: realize these are rare, but also be grateful when your loved ones get home safe at the end of the day.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to fillyjonk
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      Drills are good so that kids understand what they need to do in the event of an emergency. As long as they are clearly drills. We were never scared during Tornado and Fire drills. Annoyed and bored, but never scared, because we knew they were drills.

      Active shooter, on the other hand, should require nothing from the students. The teacher should lock the door and be able to effectively bar it, and then move the kids away from the door, and maybe close blinds. Teachers should undergo training, but ASDs are otherwise just a way to scare kids, or to avoid having to spend the money to upgrade doors such that they could stop a shooter.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        Fire drills worried me the least, because they had a clear path (at least as I saw it) to getting yourself safe: line up with your class, go out the nearest door, walk away from the school until you are at a safe distance.

        Tornado drills a bit less so; I had seen coverage as a small child of the 1974 tornado outbreak and I was well aware that even people sheltering could have been killed.

        But your point about “don’t make kids do active shooter” is a good one. And schools, if they’re not thinking about how to make it easier for teachers to make the rooms safe, are near-criminal. Yes, I get that “it takes money” but….I’m sure that many people would be willing to pony up for that.

        Something comparable here: the idea of constructing “safe rooms” in schools that would withstand a pretty strong tornado, after some kids were killed in a school during a tornado outbreak in 2013 or so. (We have “safe rooms” in my building, but it’s more how it was originally built – part underground and with reinforced walls – so at least in the event of a tornado I know I’d be pretty safe)

        But I think the article author makes a good point: we are dumping totally adult fears and expectations on kids who are not mature enough to deal with it. In some ways I wasn’t mature enough to deal with the idea of tornado drills until I was a junior high student. Active shooter drills would have undone me.

        I’ve also heard of some TEACHERS having to do counseling after active-shooter drills that got a little too real, and I can understand that.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        Yea, I’m not necessarily against training teachers but the drills for kids are absurd. They’re both useless and probably frightening for the younger ones. Maybe I’m being overly cynical but I see them as having more to do with building a particular political case on the guns issue than anything to do with safety.

        I remember my high school had a series of bomb threats. It was right after the Columbine shooting so every little thing resulted in an evacuation. The process was to march us all outside the way they would for a fire drill while the county police walked around the school with a dog. Most people saw it as a joke while a few seemed legitimately freaked out. Even then I remember people saying ‘on the off chance something is actually happening isn’t clustering together in open fields the stupidest thing we could be doing?’ And of course the answer to that is ‘yes’ but bureaucrats need to look like they’re responding in the face of a percieved crisis and so it goes.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    EDU3: I think the majority of women do not tilt towards corporate leadership. It’s a personality thing. And this has been proven by the Nordic Paradox of Scandinavian countries which are arguably the most gender equal in the world and yet women are still not taking leadership jobs and they are actually seeking American women to help them meet hiring goals.

    There is a small but building counter-movement that is seeking to voice these realities instead of being afraid to talk about them. Nursing and teaching, for example, are majority female fields and yet we don’t get too worried about it (and we shouldn’t) but everyone assumes the lack of women in corporate leadership or STEM is evidence of gender bias and not choice.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      But that isn’t what the article is asking about. It’s suggesting that we emphasize skill competence in girls, but emphasize personal confidence in boys.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        You can teach whatever you want, but you can’t change personalities. Women are not avoiding corporate leadership because of a skills gap. I work with plenty of women that run circles around our current leadership, but they have different goals and priorities.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        A darker take is that the fake it till you make it ethos is encouraged in boys in a way that it isn’t encouraged in girls. We have movies about male charming rogues without the necessary backgrounds or skillsets rising to the top through a combination of bluff, luck, and maybe a bit of work. In the real world, a lot of self-help advice aimed at men is fake it to you make it. You see this in dating advice a lot.

        Girls are generally not told to fake it to you make it even by feminists. Girls are taught that they should work hard and be it. Anybody advising girls to fake it till the make it is going to get a cold reception across the political spectrum. Such advice would be viewed as horribly cynical and maybe even sexist because it suggest that not all girls could be it.

        So one reason why men might have more success in the work world is that boys are raised to fake till the make it more than girls are. This means that men feel less shame for going for positions they really shouldn’t go for based on their actual skills. Women might generally not take such risks because they weren’t socialized to do so.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to LeeEsq
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          I’ll just note that not-for-nothing is there a saying among women in academia (and perhaps elsewhere): “God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.”

          No, it’s not entirely true, of course, and it’s stereotypical. But I’ve known enough people of questionable skill or credentials but OUTSTANDING confidence for the statement to have a little sting in it for me.

          I do think boys and girls are socialized very differently, despite all the Free To Be You And Mes of the 1970s. I know my self-confidence is lower and I tend to work harder (and do less trying to fake my way through) than a lot of people.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to fillyjonk
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            “I have just one question, well, more of a comment really–“Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to fillyjonk
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            There is also an element of consequences. If a guy ascends on bluff and bluster, and gets called out on his BS and lack of competence, he will probably at most get knocked back a peg (Peter Principal in action). I’ve seen women who try that get driven from the workplace, or the profession. Women are not as consistently given the opportunity to professionally fall on their face and get back up to try again, while men are.

            Obviously, #NotAllWhatever, as I am sure there are fields where women do get multiple attempts at success, but I’m willing to bet that those are fields dominated by women.Report

            • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon
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              No, absolutely true. Which may be why a lot of smart women get a fear of failure inculcated into them early. I don’t make any claims as to high intelligence but I have a very big fear of failure, enough to stop me from trying things or taking risks.Report

            • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon
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              ^This. 1000x this.

              100000x this is very male dominated professions.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon
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              We even see this in the entrepreneurial world. Failing a few or many times while you fake it till you make it is seen as normal for male entrepreneurs. Often it is treated as a badge of honor. This is true even if there were legal consequences stemming from the faking it. A woman who gets caught once, is treated as a persona non grata.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to LeeEsq
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                Does anyone want to actually address the Nordic Paradox? Why is it not okay to say that genders are (generally) more naturally gifted at certain things more than others? Or is this another case of blaming the system instead of asking the harder questions?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                The Nordic Paradox is not the be all, end all in the discussion.

                Yes, it is entirely possible that women tend towards professions and positions that fit their personalities, all professional opportunities being equal.

                But why are their personalities like that? Is it nature, nurture, or a combination thereof?

                Why do you resist people kicking the idea around?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                I have no issues with a nature vs. nurture conversation. Lee seems to be implying that business culture enforces a certain code, which is a bit different.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                So does the article you link to on the Nordic Paradox. The author isn’t arguing that women are somehow less temperamentally inclined to take leadership roles. He is arguing that Sweden’s system – it’s political and business culture – are holding women back.

                “Generous maternity leave encourages women to take long breaks from working life, at the same time that high taxes make it difficult to buy services to alleviate household work.”

                We are back to the personal being political here in a lot of ways on this. Despite the generally more egalitarian culture in Nordic countries, the bulk of housework and childcare responsibilities are still seen as belonging to women. That’s endemic to Western culture, and yes, it does affect both ability and desire to climb the corporate ladder. In the latter case b/c there is only so much time and energy any person – male or female – has for to devote. Getting into top management positions usually means working a lot of unpaid overtime. It is exceptionally difficult to do that and be the one primarily responsible for both children and housework, especially before earning enough to pay anyone else to help out and when you face the burden of serious social judgment if the domestic areas of your life are seen as not up to par.

                I’m not sure of the extent to which it applies in Sweden, but I know that a German friend had told me back in the 90s how her career advancement was limited because it was assumed that once she and her husband had children, she would be the one taking the 6 month parental leave. (Men could, but back then and possibly still, it was assumed that no man with any sort of drive or ambition ever would).

                So, before you leap from this data point to a claim that ‘women just do not want to be leaders’, maybe use that sociology training and actually examine the other factors in play, eh?Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                I think its American culture in general that encourages boys and men to fake it till you make it. Not just business culture. If you look at dating advice aimed at men, the entire spectrum from PUA to allegedly feminist stuff like Doctor Nerd Love, a lot of it boils down to fake it (insert whatever the author believes will attract women) till you make it.

                Girls and women receive an opposite message, that they should exceed through their skills rather than the audacity of faking it. People might make fun of Sandberg’s Lean In type of feminism but Sandberg is clearly very skilled as a business woman. She encouraged girls and women to get the skills to succeed. A book where a woman tells other girls that they should bluff their way to success is not going to be well-received.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to LeeEsq
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                * Preface, all remarks below are generalizations

                I have talked to several female coworkers who, when they speak up at work and don’t get the right reaction, say something to the effect of, “Well, I won’t do that again.” In my experience, guys shake it off a little faster and decide to vary their approach next time. I suspect this mirrors the way many teens behave. Guys don’t hold grudges in the same way. It’s the old idea of getting in a fist fight and then having a beer afterwards. Succeeding at work has been, for me, a lot of setbacks that become learning experiences and a determination to not make the same mistake again.

                I have also gotten really good at moving past slights because I still have to work with these people. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard women at work say they are going to discuss some incident with someone to clear the air. That often makes things worse IMO. Guys are better at moving on.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea that there might be deep cultural reasons or even biological reasons behind what exists. I’m definitely not a gender is an entirely social construct person. I’m too much of a materialist for that. However, this is a poor basis for policy decisions.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to LeeEsq
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                You are right, but I think gender-based policies are sometimes doomed to fail moreso than race-based because I think biology IS a very powerful factor. Basically, I would be more apt to question why there were less black men in corporate leadership than women.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                On point:

                DAMOUR: Well, so what I initially suggested is that she might act as a pillar – right? – to stand up for herself while being respectful. And that’s under the headline of if you’re going to have a conflict, please try to avoid the less healthy forms – the bulldozer, doormat and doormat with spikes. Try to be a pillar.

                But she came back and said, I didn’t even do that. And I said to her, you have another choice, and that is emotional aikido.

                KELLY: Emotional aikido, OK.

                DAMOUR: And this is where – this is taken from the martial arts form aikido. And I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I do know it’s true that the first move in aikido is that if somebody comes at you, you actually step to the side and let them go past. And emotional aikido is when we make a tactical decision to not engage a conflict.

                And one of the things I have really watched happen is that in a well-meaning way, adults tend to urge girls to respond to every slight or annoyance. I think that it’s sort of often in the name of empowerment – like, you need to let her know you were hurt…

                KELLY: Yeah.

                DAMOUR: …Or you need to ask her what happened. And I do – I think it is with the best intentions. But no functioning adult engages every annoyance. And we need to extend to our daughters the choice of deciding, is this a conflict that I care about? Is this a relationship that I really care to repair? And if they answer, no, to all of those questions, it is not being a doormat for them to decide to just let it drop.

                Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq
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                Makes you wonder how much of that played into the failure of Theranos?

                You must succeed at the wild idea, or no one will ever give you any venture capital ever again, because you are a woman.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                Who would be best to use as a comparison? Shkreli?Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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                That could be a good comparison. It is hard to think of specific examples because the concept Lee is discussing is so apparent in daily life to me. You hear about the cult of failure in Silicon Valley all the time.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
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                Shkreli is an interesting comparison even though he was not involved in Silicon Valley. It was apparent to a lot of people that Shkreli was full of it but managed to get a couple of schemes in before the Feds got him. Another interesting aspect is that the Theranos woman got a lot more sympathy initially despite her fraud being greater by playing to gender expectations and acting innocent. Shkreli never really tried to hide who he was and people really hated him for it.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                With Theranos its hard to say because the claims of Elizabeth Holmes were really outside the scientific mainstream. It was literally too good to be true. Other wild ideas and outright fakery tended to be more realistic in its’ claims.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                She was given many dozens of millions of dollars, FAR past sanity for a wild idea and technology that didn’t work. If gender played a role then the problem was that she was given far too much rope, not too little.

                In theory she should have failed at this much earlier and then gone on to try again. It’s too late after she’s done things like burn Billions of dollars by misstating the profitability of her company by a factor of 1000x and the accuracy of her technology by a similar amount.

                It’s very easy to paint her as a con-woman and put a big villain hat on her. Another possibility is she started this at the age of 19-20 and painted herself into a corner.

                Reading her wiki I can’t tell how much of what I’m reading is “genius go-getter” and how much is “lying/spin”. Did she really start her first business selling C++ compilers to Chinese universities as a high schooler, or did she simply claim that?

                Similarly “In 2001, Holmes applied to Stanford University and studied chemical engineering, working in a lab with Ph.D. candidates and Channing Robertson, dean at the School of Engineering.[14]

                What does “working in a lab” mean in this context? Washing glassware? She would have been a freshman or sophomore.

                Theranos ultimately failed because it didn’t have the technology to do the impossible and their founder doesn’t seem to have realized what was feasible. With the benefits of hindsight, she did NOT drop out of school to found Theranos because she had vast technological insights. Another reason to drop out is Chem Eng is really hard and she wasn’t up to it.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        I don’t think we emphasize personal confidence in boys, so much as we de-emphasize it in girls. And it’s women who buy into this as much as men.

        Because in America it really seems like when a woman asks for something it means she’s a grabby greedy picky bitch. Like, the diner scene in “When Harry Met Sally”. It’s overplayed to be a joke, but all jokes have truth in them.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck
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          That’s a fair thinking about it.

          And I don’t think for a minute this is some overt bit of evil patriarchy. It’s just social inertia. One of those things that once identified, can be worked against over the course of generations.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        I don’t know if it’s so much that we emphasize it in boys, as that we emphasize that there’s only one kind of personal confidence that girls can have. There doesn’t seem to be an “I am quietly exceptional, competent without being loud

        Like, in media, when a woman asks for something, it’s often part of showing how she’s greedy/grabby/picky/bitchy. Even when it’s a good protagonist doing it for reasons we cheer, it still often comes across as “she’s a ball-buster” or “she doesn’t take anyone’s shit”. There can’t be a woman who’s just good at doing things, she has to be a man with tits in order to be allowed to ask for what she wants and expect to get it.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain
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    EDU9: When I hear Big Science, I tend to think in terms of dollars, and projects where the equipment is so expensive that it requires government(s) to fund it: operating costs for CERN’s large hadron collider run to about a billion US dollars per year; the Hubble space telescope cost about $1.5B, plus five space shuttle servicing missions; ITER, with its ever-lengthening schedule and cost overruns. Most nanotech research requires access to a very expensive set of equipment. Lots of projects require supercomputer time to finish on a reasonable schedule. Perhaps an experiment on the LHC designed by a team of one will be more productive than an experiment designed by a team of three. But neither experiment could be conducted without the team of hundreds/thousands who designed and built the LHC.Report

  4. Avatar InMD
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    ED10 Notes by hand is best because at the very least it eliminates the distraction of glowing sceeens. In law school I was one of very few who took this approach. Being the back row spud that I am, I could see what everyone else was doing on their laptops. Even when they were taking notes/outlining their web browsers were always open too.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to InMD
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      I went to a scientific conference once where I was late getting to a session, and had to sit in the back, and oh, all the laptops open. Even though it was a talk I wanted to hear and I cared about the subject, it was harder to concentrate when people in front of me were updating on FB, or checking the weather, or shopping.

      I tend to be pretty anti-laptop but I’ve also given up the fight in my classes after being excoriated by someone for being “invisible disability unfriendly” (I permitted laptops only if someone had an accommodation for one, but was told “But what if someone has a low-level LD that a laptop helps but they don’t have an accommodation.” So whatever. But I do ask the laptop people to sit off to the sides or in the back, and would call out anyone obviously watching videos or some such with the sound up, or distracting their seatmates).

      I dunno. I take notes by hand myself because I KNOW I remember better the stuff I write, and I don’t like dragging a laptop everywhere. But I’m in the minority these days.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to fillyjonk
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        Unfortunately it’s the way of the future. Letting people use them for taking tests is an improvement IMO but otherwise, if there was a way to throw them out of the classroom, I’d be all in.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to InMD
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          oh gads. If people used them to take tests, how would you prevent cheating? I mean, short of a Faraday cage that would prevent linking up to the internet to look stuff up?Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to fillyjonk
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            There is software that secures it. I very ambitiously did my first semester law school exams by hand. I thought I’d handle it just fine the way I did as a history undergrad. However, two things happened. First, my wrist hurt so bad I thought my hand was going to turn black and fall off. Second, I realized there was a premium neater looking responses were getting due to being typed.

            Every subsequent exam I typed and took the bar that way. They make you install a software that locks you out of everything other than the test module. They also issue numbers that are tied specifically to you and your account and have some other identity verification tools. When you’re done you click submit and it goes to a secure mailbox and you can no longer access or edit it. Leaving the module forces you to either submit or lose your work. This was over a decade ago and I assume it’s even smoother and better secured now.Report

      • Avatar jason in reply to fillyjonk
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        Our comp classrooms were built with the computers on the perimeter of the room, the screens facing out. During discussion students face forward, and when the students are working, I can see what they’re doing. It’s easier for me to see what they’re writing on a screen than what they’re writing in a notebook. This is the most effective kind of computer classroom, IMHO.
        Behind the screens, the temptation to do other things is just too strong.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to InMD
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      Allegedly someone in my Civ Pro class would play video games. I had a few professors who outrighted banned laptops from their class rooms.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw
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        I remember one of my research students complaining bitterly about how the person who sat next to her in her chem lecture would watch YouTube videos *with the sound up* and the prof never did anything to police it.

        (I was actually surprised that that student – who was not a reticent person – didn’t tell the person to shut the sound down or move. Maybe she did and they refused).

        Anyway. I reserve the right to call out people for making noise or being disruptive in my class. If they’re silently checking out – as some of them do -t hat’s on them.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Saul Degraw: Allegedly someone in my CivPro class would play videogames.

        How else are you going to get good enough at the Civilization games to go professional?Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to InMD
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      Taking notes by hand is best also because, unless you know shorthand, there is no way you can simply transcribe what the professor is saying. This forces you, to summarize, which if you are any good at this means you are summarizing and organizing the material as you go along. The linked piece essentially agrees with this, but argues that it is possible to do with on a laptop. How exactly this would work wasn’t real clear. As for the distraction issue, the author ruled it out of bounds, thereby making it go away.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Richard Hershberger
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        I’m on jury duty this week. Fairly straightforward case. They gave us small legal pads for notes. Two people have requested second notebooks. I think they are literally transcribing the trial. I have two pages filled and feel like a total slacker.

        But I agree that written notes in general are good. I’m a prolific note-taker usually.Report

      • I was always take hand taking notes was part of that theory of multiple layers of engagement; you are reading and writing at the same time for a overlapping effective. I don’t know the science of it but I take notes all the time, not just to remember but also to keep my thoughts straight in real time as I’m doing things. so for me it’s a staple.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    My view on homework is that the amount and kinds we assign often reflect the anxiety of parents and policy-makers more than it does educational best practices. The main drivers of this are upper-middle class professionals whose can provide opportunities for their children but also know their children need to work hard to maintain that level of success. These are income-wealthy families.

    It has been a few years but I remember a freak out about a Hong Kong pre-school that had the Dow Jones Industrial Average and NASDAW averages displayed (in a cutesy form) in their school. This caused lots of pundits to be concerned about why weren’t we turning our little tots into Wall Street slayers from Day One.

    There was another article more recently about how Nordic parents can focus on child happiness because those societies have less income inequality and the consequences of being meh at school are not so dire.Report

  6. Avatar CJColucci
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    I’m old enough to remember nuclear attack drills in school. You don’t want me to get started on them.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to CJColucci
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      The high school my sister and I graduated from is seven miles off the end of the main runway at Offutt Air Force Base, SAC headquarters during the Cold War. Given the number of warheads US intelligence guessed were targeting Offutt in order to compensate for the largish margin of error, we were with high probability inside the total destruct radius. The schools didn’t bother with nuclear attack drills. Nobody built fallout shelters.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Michael Cain
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        The house I grew up in was on a small hill with a driveway leading to a garage in the back. My family decided to build a ground-level garage with an entrance to the basement. Several of our neighbors thought we were building a fallout shelter.Report

  7. Avatar J_A
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    says:

    EDU4 Grade inflation

    From kindergarten to graduate school I was always graded on an objective scale: every correct answer was worth X points (and in college you would always focus more time on the valuable questions), with credit given to partially correct answers. It was theoretically perfectly possible for everyone in class to have a grade of 100, or a grade of 0. The concept of grading on a curve was totally foreign.

    Once the top grades HAS to be an A+++++, no matter how poor the actual work is, and the bottom grade must be an F—–, you no longer are able to rank students from different classrooms, and you have to create alternative, subjective, and less fair, methodologies, like “well, this is a harder school, so their Cs are more like B+”, or “this is a poor school district, so their As are more like B-” .

    Also, objective grading is better at allowing you to identify problem schools or districts. If top grades are in the 50s, that school is failing big time. You can’t see that if 50/100 is A because there is no 60/100Report

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