We have to rethink what “educated” means in a post-truth world — Quartz

Source: We have to rethink what “educated” means in a post-truth world — Quartz, by Stavros N. Yiannouka

RE: his forthcoming book What it means to be educated: Ideas for rethinking education for a post-truth world

In a world where knowledge is growing exponentially, the tools for acquiring and interpreting that knowledge are at least as important as the actual knowledge itself.

If we as individuals are to keep pace with the ever-growing accumulation of knowledge that makes and is in turn made possible by advances in technology, we need to engender within ourselves the desire to remain educated in the same way that we want to remain fit and healthy throughout our lives.

To do that we need to adopt a set of core values chief amongst them being respect for the substantiated truth. Through the scientific method, good education elevates fact over opinion. But it also acknowledges that the search for the truth can be never-ending and often involves a contest of competing ideas, a contest that is best resolved through open enquiry and rational discourse.

Non-Expert Explanation | Slate Star Codex

Source: Non-Expert Explanation | Slate Star Codex

Some knowledge is easy to transfer. “What is the thyroid?” Some expert should write an explanation, anyone interested can read it, and nobody else should ever worry about it again.

Other knowledge is near-impossible to transfer. What about social skills? There are books on social skills. But you can’t just read one and instantly become as charismatic as the author. At best they can hint at areas worth exploring. … even after reading the best, most perfect-fit social skills book in the world, it’s still not going to be enough. People need to ask questions. … And questioning requires mental fit at least as much as straight information-transfer does.

the process of coming to understand a field at all has to involve this pattern of back-and-forth questioning, approaching from multiple sides, devil-advocating, etc. Lots of the process will look the same whether you end out ultimately rejecting or accepting a truth; you’ve got to go through the same steps just to understand what you’re considering.

The Internet seems like an increasingly hostile place for this sort of thing.
… This is a shame. The authoritative-lecture format works for facts, but isn’t enough when you’ve got any subject more complicated than thyroid anatomy. Collaborative truth-seeking where people are throwing out ideas, trying to reconstruct arguments themselves, asking questions, and arguing – these are more promising, but they leave you open to accusations of reinventing the wheel, arrogantly dabbling in fields you don’t understand, or being too insular. When some of the topics involved are taboo, add the sins of “just asking questions” or “thinking it’s my job to educate you”. But unless you’re such a good lecturer that everybody will understand you on the first try, this is a necessary part of communicating hard things.


More: Extensions and Intensions – Less Wrong, by Eliezer Yudkowsky

You can’t capture in words all the details of the cognitive concept—as it exists in your mind—that lets you recognize things as tigers or nontigers. It’s too large. And you can’t point to all the tigers you’ve ever seen, let alone everything you would call a tiger.

The strongest definitions use a crossfire of intensional and extensional communication to nail down a concept. Even so, you only communicate maps to concepts, or instructions for building concepts—you don’t communicate the actual categories as they exist in your mind or in the world.

If people could understand what computing was about

If people could understand what computing was about, the iPhone would not be a bad thing. But because people don’t understand what computing is about, they think they have it in the iPhone, and that illusion is as bad as the illusion that Guitar Hero is the same as a real guitar.

The War on Public Schools – The Atlantic

Source: The War on Public Schools – The Atlantic, by Erika Christakis

The current debate over public education underestimates its value—and forgets its purpose.

Our public-education system is about much more than personal achievement; it is about preparing people to work together to advance not just themselves but society. Unfortunately, the current debate’s focus on individual rights and choices has distracted many politicians and policy makers from a key stakeholder: our nation as a whole.

Ravitch writes that “one of the greatest glories of the public school was its success in Americanizing immigrants.” At their best, public schools did even more than that, integrating both immigrants and American-born students from a range of backgrounds into one citizenry. At a moment when our media preferences, political affiliations, and cultural tastes seem wider apart than ever, abandoning this amalgamating function is a bona fide threat to our future.

We ignore public schools’ civic and integrative functions at our peril. To revive them will require good faith across the political spectrum. Those who are suspicious of public displays of national unity may need to rethink their aversion. When we neglect schools’ nation-binding role, it grows hard to explain why we need public schools at all. Liberals must also work to better understand the appeal of school choice, especially for families in poor areas where teacher quality and attrition are serious problems. Conservatives and libertarians, for their part, need to muster more generosity toward the institutions that have educated our workforce and fueled our success for centuries.

The political theorist Benjamin Barber warned in 2004 that “America as a commercial society of individual consumers may survive the destruction of public schooling. America as a democratic republic cannot.” In this era of growing fragmentation, we urgently need a renewed commitment to the idea that public education is a worthy investment, one that pays dividends not only to individual families but to our society as a whole.