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 Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?

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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 2:36 am

Go raibh mile maith agat, Ard-Taoiseach Surprised
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 2:39 am

cactus flower wrote:
Go raibh mile maith agat, Ard-Taoiseach Surprised

Ah, bhí sé tada, tá fáilte romhat!
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 4:58 am

Kate P wrote:
Hermes wrote:
Thanks for that CF.

I think classroom size is a very important consideration. A simple thought experiment illustrates this. Imagine increasing classroom sizes to 200. We could save loads of money on the number of teachers required. What if we reduced pupil teacher ratios to 1:1. If both types of school existed - which school would you prefer to send your kids to?

I'm not sure what this thought experiment proves, Hermes. 1:1 education fulltime is not a consummation devoutly to be wished - it might, in some cases, lead to better grades but it doesn't lead to a better education and it certainly won't lead to well-rounded, socially able young people.

I hear what you're saying Kate. And you're right. I think you've illustrated another area of education that's problematic, to put it mildly. Education covers two very broad areas: academic and social learning. In what I've had to say thus far, I've recognised the social aspect but have aimed solely at academic learning with regard to diagnosis of problems (as I see them). I think that our schools try to cover both areas. I disagree with this approach - mainly because I see the academic side as failing miserably. Social problems would be difficult to attribute exclusively to the education system. I think schools should exclusively concern themselves with the academic side of education - fair enough, it would be impossible to completely divorce the sociological influences from this - however, I feel that the sociological influences should be utilised to further the academic learning. When our education system exhibits the ability to produce students who generally exhibit excellent academic achievements, then and only then, may they consider crafting our youth with regard to being part of society. Like I said, it would be impossible to blame schools for the current state of society, though it's readilly observed that society is messed up, so it would be fair to say that the education system is not fixing the problem.

Kate P wrote:
Hermes wrote:
There is much to be made of classrom dynamics that has an effect on learning. The size of the classroom is the biggest influence on these dynamics. For example: big classrooms will more probably contain more diversity with regard to educational needs and indeed the methodologies required to meet these needs. In this example, teachers need to spend time addressing a multitude of needs which in turn means, that the teacher is not addressing the needs of the majority at any particular time.

Not so. Contrary to popular belief, teachers can actually be quite skilled in the way they manage the diversity of abilities and learning styles in a classroom but the research would say that while most students are kinaesthetic learners, most teachers teach in a visual/auditory way. The research also shows that most students learn best by doing - particularly by teaching what they have learned to another student. Teaching can be very multidimensional. For instance, it's possible to have peer teaching going on within a group work setting while students are doing something kinaesthetic and developing and using all kinds of skills. There are countless ways of practicing differentiation in the classroom. It boils down to having time for planning, as an individual and within departments. But those who practice chalk and talk are in general, not adressing the needs of the majority at any stage.

I couldn't agree more, particularly about teaching being the best method of learning. I don't agree though, that this methodology is suited to the current system, or more correctly, that the system is suited to the methodology. I think, that whilst little Johnny is teaching little Jimmy what the teacher just explained, that the teacher has moved onto another topic and that both kids have missed it. I realise that it's not as stark and as black and white as that and am just painting the extreme to make my point. I feel there must be some alternative to the current system that would eliminate the inefficiency I'm pointing to and I believe that the department of education is not attempting to address this, I'm not sure it even recognises it. The bootstrapping mechanism utilised by both Johnnie and Jimmy should be exploited but shouldn't serve to make the use of the teacher's time inefficient. In small sized classrooms, this problem can be managed - in large classrooms, the problem tends towards the chaotic without a solution. In a small sized classroom, the teacher could become much more actively involved in the bootstrapping mechanism and guide and maximise it.

Kate P wrote:
Hermes wrote:
Of course there's also the dynamic of the social grouping within a classroom. The bigger the grouping the more complex the group dynamic. The group dynamic can be and is a buffer to education (within a classroom anyway). An example of this would be class clowns. The bigger the group, the more class clowns (and the bigger the audience), this in turn introduces a new dynamic where the clowns will compete with each other to establish the supreme class clown (and make a teacher's life hell in the process) - whilst being very entertaining, this can have a very negative result on education.

Again I have to disagree in principle, because the smaller group can sometimes have a very much more difficult dynamic than the big one, where students are inclined to behave in recognisable groups displaying recognisable herd characteristics. What you describe above is actually a very important process in the development of the group dynamic, it's natural and to be anticipated.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that larger groups display the herd characteristic? If so, I agree. Herds are quite manageable, whereas a group of individuals is not so easy to manage. I think that this type of manageability comes with a very severe tradeoff. The herd as a whole might become very good at analysis and problem solving, with some individuals exceeding also. But I reckon that the weaker members of the herd, the majority, learn to expect the herd to do the work and at the same time develop a low self worth and outlook. This dynamic can bootstrap too and the consequences are not so desirable. I take your point, that in this instance, you are referring to the sociological aspect of education to a large extent. I must once again retreat to my earlier stated position and suggest that the sociological aspect of education should be dealt with elsewhere. Sociological education seems to me to be a form of indoctrination. I believe that such learning should occur naturally and apart from academic learning, except and again, where it's used as a tool to further academic learning.

Kate P wrote:
Hermes wrote:
The smaller the classroom size, the greater the possibility that the teacher will be able to bond with and reach individual kids in a meaningful way. Such a relationship is conducive to providing a very efficient and tempered education to kids and just as importantly, it is conducive to giving teachers job satisfaction, both of these experiences are currently missing from our education system.

Teaching, at the end of the day, is all about the quality of the relationships, not just with the students but with the various groups and groups within groups and I agree wholeheartedly that good relationships are extremely important. They are not missing from our education system however partly because teachers give so freely of their time to get involved in extra-curricular activities.

I agree that teachers are not the problem. They're the blamehounds. It's not fair. But the very need to have blamehounds illustrates that there's a serious problem, particularly so, when teachers are constantly being cast as blamehounds. I don't blame teachers for the problems within our education system, at least not personally. They are passengers in a failing machine. And the machine does not need to be fixed or tweaked, it needs replacement. The science of teaching is an old one and new advances occur every day, yet the education system remains a constant.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 11:02 am

Quote :
by Hermes Today at 2:58 am
Kate P wrote:
Hermes wrote:Thanks for that CF.

I think classroom size is a very important consideration. A simple thought experiment illustrates this. Imagine increasing classroom sizes to 200. We could save loads of money on the number of teachers required. What if we reduced pupil teacher ratios to 1:1. If both types of school existed - which school would you prefer to send your kids to?

I'm not sure what this thought experiment proves, Hermes. 1:1 education fulltime is not a consummation devoutly to be wished - it might, in some cases, lead to better grades but it doesn't lead to a better education and it certainly won't lead to well-rounded, socially able young people.

I hear what you're saying Kate. And you're right. I think you've illustrated another area of education that's problematic, to put it mildly. Education covers two very broad areas: academic and social learning. In what I've had to say thus far, I've recognised the social aspect but have aimed solely at academic learning with regard to diagnosis of problems (as I see them). I think that our schools try to cover both areas. I disagree with this approach - mainly because I see the academic side as failing miserably. Social problems would be difficult to attribute exclusively to the education system. I think schools should exclusively concern themselves with the academic side of education - fair enough, it would be impossible to completely divorce the sociological influences from this - however, I feel that the sociological influences should be utilised to further the academic learning. When our education system exhibits the ability to produce students who generally exhibit excellent academic achievements, then and only then, may they consider crafting our youth with regard to being part of society. Like I said, it would be impossible to blame schools for the current state of society, though it's readilly observed that society is messed up, so it would be fair to say that the education system is not fixing the problem.

Now we've moved into a very interesting area; academic v social/sociological learning. There is a difference between the latter, isn't there where one focuses on relationship building but the other on societal issues, to put it broadly.

Our schools do try to cover all of these areas and I disagree that they are failing miserably at the academic - while there is a body of evidence that shows there are huge weaknesses, we are also credited with having some of the highest standards of education in the world - in terms of achievement and access. That is not to say that we have the best or a perfect system, evidentially we don't.

Education is, and ought to be about far more than academic achievement; it's not enough that we expect well informed, academically able students. In order for our society to function we need them to be well-rounded, socially adept, good at relationships, familiar with a broad range of relationships and skilled to a certain extent in dealing with people.

We also want to foster creativity, questioning, a variety of capabilities such as team-work, public speaking, the ability to take the initiative, be compassionate and understanding of others, be they of different race or ability, or indeed of disability.

We cannot, nor should we attempt to educate our children in a social vacuum and, moving on, I'd argue that we shouldn't educate them in a sociological vacuum. 905 may come along (I hope, and clarify the distinctions here a little more).

When you talk about sociological learning, I assume you're pointing to the education system as a means of dealing with the ills of society - drugs, violence, teenage pregnancy, crime... As part of a rounded education, we need to create a space where these issues are dealt with, but remembering that the parent is the primary educator and remembering at the same time, that not all parents are able for various reasons, to carry that responsibility. Many people would argue that far from divorcing the 'sociological' aspect of education from the academic, in order to have a better society and better better educated students, we need more, not less. So CSPE should be given more time and importance, likewise SPHE for social development.

Quite apart from all of that, so much social and indeed sociological learning is done outside of the classroom and these agendas are set by numerous factors, from the ethos of the school to the role-modelling of the teachers, to the social context of the cohort and the demands and nature of the broader society in which those children are growing up.

If we don't make some attempt in the schools to grasp the nettle of social issues and their sociological impact, where do we do that? Research shows that in social terms, the greatest influence on young people is not their parents or their teachers but their peers, so it makes sense to harness that group energy and try to do some work in this area, to provide at the very least the information that young people need to make non-academic decisions that will have an impact on the wider community and society at large.

Education could fix the problems of a messed-up society - isn't educational intervention the catch call of those who want to see society improved? Just because our system doesn't do an ideal job doesn't mean that the process of informing, enabling, encouraging and inspiring doesn't do it.

Quote :
however, I feel that the sociological influences should be utilised to further the academic learning. When our education system exhibits the ability to produce students who generally exhibit excellent academic achievements, then and only then, may they consider crafting our youth with regard to being part of society.


I absolutely could not agree with you less.

For a start there are a large number of students who will never exhibit good academic achievement, never mind excellent achievement and that is through no fault of their teachers. The range of ability out there is breathtaking. The job of education is not only to teach the sharpest and brightest and those with the most potential.

Only the other night I was talking to an ex-colleague about a particular student who sits in a mainstream class and really needs an SNA but because one was not recommended for him, he doesn't have one. He's in third year now and cannot read his own handwriting. He can hardly write or spell or read because he has borderline ability/IQ. He's at the extreme end of the scale, really. Academically he will never perform and he has huge social needs too. He will pass a slimmed down junior cert and probably will do a very slimmed down leaving cert and probably be frustrated all the way through.

But put him in a mixed ability class as he was in when I taught him in first year and you'd be amazed at the process of learning that happens there. Initially there was enormous resentment, anger and confusion - the other 23 children did not know what to make of him, couldn't understand why he seemed to get special treatment re his behaviour (he hadn't a lot of self-control) or his homework. I taught him German and while he loved the subject he had virtualy no ability. He couldn't write, had poor memory and did his bits of tests for me orally. He could learn things by rote with a lot of practice. He had learned the days of the week and the numbers from his older brother however and when I discovered this early in the year, I got him to teach the class. I sat in his seat and he got the students to repeat the words after him and he tested them verbally. It changed the dynamic in the class completely. He no longer felt as inadequate, the others saw something in him to admire and respect, he had a variety of peer tutors over the year who did a little work with him, wrote down his homework for him in the last few minutes of class when the others would start their homework (peer teaching doesn't happen while the teacher is teaching). Everyone learned from him - both academically and socially though he will never, ever achieve academic excellence, nor should we expect it of any but the very tiny minority within whose grasp it lies. He learned the months of the year with the rest of the class - and the cheer that went up when he got through all twelve with huge effort, is not something I'll forget. In your vision of education, Hermes, these moments would never occur. There was very little that he was objectively good at, but we have to celebrate that very little otherwise we commit an unforgivable crime.

By the end of the year, the resentment and anger had been replaced - across most of his classes, I have to say, by acceptance and understanding and a deal of compassion that each of those 23 students will be able to draw on again in life. Every class has its own dynamic and those students from whom we learn. Stories like the above happen in almost every class and they are things teachers deal with as a matter of course. Those are the situations we find ourselves in every day, and a system that would favour the kind of academic achievement whose uses are relevant in a very narrow sphere over the kind of social education that we need in every moment in which we, as social beings, have contact with other social beings is not the kind of system we should aspire to have.

Could the other 23 have moved at a faster pace, achieved more were it not for him? Possibly, though they sat the same test at the end of the year as all the other first year classes and their results were just as good. In terms of lifeskills, across all subjects I imagine that the 23 are better educated and society will be better off for them having had that experience.

Quite apart from all that, I'd be interested to know where and when you think that sociological education of students regarding rights, disability, equality, compassion, respect should take place if not in and if not in conjunction with - or indeed before - academic education.
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PostSubject: Dúthgaois - Perfection in Education   Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:23 pm

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Is treise dúchas ná oiliúint,


Is treise oiliúint ná oideachas,

Is treise oideachas ná dianteagasc.


Anyone feeling kind and teacherly enough to translate ?

Here you go cactus!

Instinct is stronger than skill.

Skill is stronger than education.

Education is stronger than hard tuition(I think this means grinds)

Slightly at variance Ard-Taoiseach.

The adaptation of dúchas, can prove problematical at times. In Article 1 of the Irish Constution it is adapted as genius. However when I refer to dúchas, depending on context I may intend dúthgaois, where gaois refers to intelligence, and dúth, can mean deep, inner, dark, unknown. Dark in this context does not refer to a malefic intent, simply that it exists and has not seen the light of day, it has not been enlivened. I also beleive that dúthgaois would be a more natural term for individual consciousness, rather than the constructed term comhfhios.

So with this ammendation we would have.

Is treise dúthgaois ná oiliúint,

Is treise oiliúint ná oideachas,

Is treise oideachas ná dianteagasc.

Deep inner intelligence is stronger than skill.

Skill is stronger than education.

Education is stronger than grinds.

Kate P wrote:
But you still haven't explained below the 'ethos of perfection in education for all'

Given my experiences down in P.ie I am a little reluctant to expose my full sources initially. However in this instance I will. I borrowed the term perfection in education, from the title of Maharishi's book, Celebrating Perfection in Education. This is a wonderfull book and I beleive the most important on education for a very long time. And, by the way, just in case you think I am prostelysing(sp?), I have no association with the TM organisation. I do meditate, and do more advanced techniques, but that is my own private affair. One interesting aspect of the book is that I used it extensivly during my research into the development of Gaelic Physics, and Gaelic Science. In a sense I began the process of adapting it to our own culture and traditions. An important aspect of the book is its description from the perspective of modern science of the 40 qualities of the unified field, which is correlated with the 40 branches of the vedic literature. By the time I had finished with my research I had developed a chart representing these 40 qualities as they would be represented in our own literature, I entitled it Daichead Cáthóir Ríogda Cú Rí. A friend of mine at the time was working in the Old-Irish department at UCC, and when I showed it to him, he suggested that it must be very old, it reminded him of the 40 boons of Cuchullan.

I don't know if any of the practical techniques Maharishi refers to in the book are still extant in our culture, but it is really well worth a look. For instance one word immediately springs to mind. One of the more advanced programs which I practice, sometimes, is the TM-Sidhi program. This is based on knowledge from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Of course we also have a similar word in our culture, namely the Sidhe. From some of the research I have done, it suggests that the Sidhe, were perfected beings capable of extraordianry powers. The intent of the TM-Sidhi program is to develop the ability of an individual to perform action from the level of the most refined level of existence, from the level where mere desire accomplishes the result. In this context I am intrigued by one word with two different meanings. The word is dúil. Subjectively this word implies the most refined level of subject existence, where desire alone exists. Objectively the phrase Déithe na nDúile, suggests the Lords of Creation, or the most refined level of the laws which govern the objective universe. It can be no coincidence that modern scientists who also studied the vedic literature found many similar correlations. It is my opinion that by further developing the correlations between Vedic science, Modern science, and our own tradition of knowledge, we could restore the fragmented knowledge of Gaelic science. For instance, it must have been an extraordinary feat of computation to precicely align Brú na Bóine, or in fact it could have been very ordinary. Very Happy

I will deal with grinds in the context of multiplication tables during my next visit down from the realm of Higher Geometry. By the way if anyone wants to contact me up there they can do so brian ponc higher ponc geometry ag gmail ponc com.

Slán
TGOC
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:54 pm

I'd be interested in taking part in some on-line practical maths / computation learning, if we can do it on the I can't stop laughing thread maybe?
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PostSubject: Table Magic and Grinds   Sun Sep 07, 2008 2:02 pm

Ok! I will do this while it is still fresh.

Some years ago I wrote a paper with a title such as Table Magic-How to do away with rote learning. The essence of the paper was that it demonstrated how children could be taught to compute any multiplication based simply on a set of 5 times tables, and even those could be developed in such a way that no remembering of 5 times tables was required. In a sense learning tables by rote is the first grind that children experience. The tables are ground into their awareness to such a degree that they never consider the possibility that there may be another approach.

From my own experience in writing computer software, I know that there is another approach, and that is to teach it programatically, or computationally. And that is that we lead the children from one step of a calculation gently to the next step so that they can perform the calculations with ease. Sometimes mentally, sometimes with pen and paper, perhaps sometimes using the computer in their hands. If you are interested in this you should check out funwithfigures ponc com, which is run by my good friend Kenneth in the UK. You may also find a reference to my paper in the back issues of the newsletter on his vedicacademy ponc org. I no longer have a copy of the series of papers I wrote at that time, and my web site at the time has winked out of existence.

At the other end of the educational process grinds have become a virtual obsession. I recalled this morning that in fact therre was one other person whom I helped with his mathematics. He was a fellow Cadet when we were doing our first year in UCG. But in fact it was more of an exchange, as he also helped me with my Chemistry. Other lads in USAC used to get together to form study groups, most notably the Engineers, who had quite a heavy workload. In their context one member of the study group would become expert at some facet of the course and teach the others in the group. This has a very beneficial effect, as the teacher learns by teaching and his fellow students could really quiz him without fear.

I really fail to understand why schools do not implement a similar policy. We did it naturally because that was how we did projects in the Cadet School, but most schools, although they may have study sessions there is little or no emphasis given to unmoderated
group study, as far as I am aware. I feel that a much better system than 1-1 tuition is a 3-3 discussion group perhaps with a teacher monitoring 3 groups in case there are any queries, or issues which cannot be resolved. In this sense then all of the students would benefit, at little or no cost to the educational system. Teachers who participate in such a scheme would of course be compensated. At present teachers who participate in study sessions receive little or no compensation, as far as I am aware.

Well Kate p, I hope that answers some of your queries. It's all a matter of using existing resources a little more wisely.
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PostSubject: Secure Server   Sun Sep 07, 2008 2:07 pm

cactus flower wrote:
I'd be interested in taking part in some on-line practical maths / computation learning, if we can do it on the I can't stop laughing thread maybe?

If someone can get me a secure server to locate some of my animations, I have some lessons already prepared. I posted some flash animations on one of my blogs, using a free server, but all the links were broken. Also if I remember cf you suggested that my animations were quite valuable, and would need copyright protection. If anyone here has expertise in that area, I would like to know where I stand before publishing them again.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 2:11 pm

TheGeniusOfCork wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I'd be interested in taking part in some on-line practical maths / computation learning, if we can do it on the I can't stop laughing thread maybe?

If someone can get me a secure server to locate some of my animations, I have some lessons already prepared. I posted some flash animations on one of my blogs, using a free server, but all the links were broken. Also if I remember cf you suggested that my animations were quite valuable, and would need copyright protection. If anyone here has expertise in that area, I would like to know where I stand before publishing them again.

Can you not copyright them TGOC ? I don't have any expertise on copyright, but I guess you could then release them or not as you chose. There are images on the internet that are protected from being copied - if you try uploading them here you cant do it. I don't know how that works. Perhaps there are other posters here who do.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 3:15 pm

cactus flower wrote:
TheGeniusOfCork wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I'd be interested in taking part in some on-line practical maths / computation learning, if we can do it on the I can't stop laughing thread maybe?

If someone can get me a secure server to locate some of my animations, I have some lessons already prepared. I posted some flash animations on one of my blogs, using a free server, but all the links were broken. Also if I remember cf you suggested that my animations were quite valuable, and would need copyright protection. If anyone here has expertise in that area, I would like to know where I stand before publishing them again.

Can you not copyright them TGOC ? I don't have any expertise on copyright, but I guess you could then release them or not as you chose. There are images on the internet that are protected from being copied - if you try uploading them here you cant do it. I don't know how that works. Perhaps there are other posters here who do.

Well I normally put a copyright notice discreetly into the animation itself, that will take a few days. I dont mind if people use them once they acknowledge their source, and if they are used for profit, then I should get an author's royalty.

I won't be developing anymore though, because I have books full of designs, and without proper support it goes nowhere. I have done the design work, I know the person I want to put in charge of production. He has been with me on and off for fifteen years, but despite approaching every development agency in the country, briefing the current Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Development, nothing happens.

I could go through the sorry history of my continued rejection by various establishments in Ireland, but I won't. Crying or Very sad

Instead, I'll go someplace where I'm going to do some real damage. bom
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 3:28 pm

TheGeniusOfCork wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
TheGeniusOfCork wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I'd be interested in taking part in some on-line practical maths / computation learning, if we can do it on the I can't stop laughing thread maybe?

If someone can get me a secure server to locate some of my animations, I have some lessons already prepared. I posted some flash animations on one of my blogs, using a free server, but all the links were broken. Also if I remember cf you suggested that my animations were quite valuable, and would need copyright protection. If anyone here has expertise in that area, I would like to know where I stand before publishing them again.

Can you not copyright them TGOC ? I don't have any expertise on copyright, but I guess you could then release them or not as you chose. There are images on the internet that are protected from being copied - if you try uploading them here you cant do it. I don't know how that works. Perhaps there are other posters here who do.

Well I normally put a copyright notice discreetly into the animation itself, that will take a few days. I dont mind if people use them once they acknowledge their source, and if they are used for profit, then I should get an author's royalty.

I won't be developing anymore though, because I have books full of designs, and without proper support it goes nowhere. I have done the design work, I know the person I want to put in charge of production. He has been with me on and off for fifteen years, but despite approaching every development agency in the country, briefing the current Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Development, nothing happens.

I could go through the sorry history of my continued rejection by various establishments in Ireland, but I won't. Crying or Very sad

Instead, I'll go someplace where I'm going to do some real damage. bom

TGOC, talk to a/your solicitor. Tell him about the designs etc. that you want copyright protection on and mail them to his office in a registered letter. The registration certifies the date. Your solicitor will NOT open the letter/parcel. he will keep it for safe-keeping (presumably for a small fee). If you see that one of your designs is being reproduced without your permission or plagirised by bearing a remarkable similarity to one of your designs, your solicitor can swing into action with an infringement case.


Last edited by Slim Buddha on Sun Sep 07, 2008 3:39 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : punctuation)
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:48 pm

Kate P wrote:
Hermes wrote:
I hear what you're saying Kate. And you're right. I think you've
illustrated another area of education that's problematic, to put it
mildly. Education covers two very broad areas: academic and social
learning. In what I've had to say thus far, I've recognised the social
aspect but have aimed solely at academic learning with regard to
diagnosis of problems (as I see them). I think that our schools try to
cover both areas. I disagree with this approach - mainly because I see
the academic side as failing miserably. Social problems would be
difficult to attribute exclusively to the education system. I think
schools should exclusively concern themselves with the academic side of
education - fair enough, it would be impossible to completely divorce
the sociological influences from this - however, I feel that the
sociological influences should be utilised to further the academic
learning. When our education system exhibits the ability to produce
students who generally exhibit excellent academic achievements, then
and only then, may they consider crafting our youth with regard to
being part of society. Like I said, it would be impossible to blame
schools for the current state of society, though it's readilly observed
that society is messed up, so it would be fair to say that the
education system is not fixing the problem.

Now we've moved into a very interesting area; academic v
social/sociological learning. There is a difference between the latter,
isn't there where one focuses on relationship building but the other on
societal issues, to put it broadly.

Our schools do try to
cover all of these areas and I disagree that they are failing miserably
at the academic - while there is a body of evidence that shows there
are huge weaknesses, we are also credited with having some of the
highest standards of education in the world - in terms of achievement
and access. That is not to say that we have the best or a perfect
system, evidentially we don't.

Education is, and ought to be
about far more than academic achievement; it's not enough that we
expect well informed, academically able students. In order for our
society to function we need them to be well-rounded, socially adept,
good at relationships, familiar with a broad range of relationships and
skilled to a certain extent in dealing with people.

We also
want to foster creativity, questioning, a variety of capabilities such
as team-work, public speaking, the ability to take the initiative, be
compassionate and understanding of others, be they of different race or
ability, or indeed of disability.

We cannot, nor should we
attempt to educate our children in a social vacuum and, moving on, I'd
argue that we shouldn't educate them in a sociological vacuum. 905 may
come along (I hope, and clarify the distinctions here a little more).

When
you talk about sociological learning, I assume you're pointing to the
education system as a means of dealing with the ills of society -
drugs, violence, teenage pregnancy, crime... As part of a rounded
education, we need to create a space where these issues are dealt with,
but remembering that the parent is the primary educator and remembering
at the same time, that not all parents are able for various reasons, to
carry that responsibility. Many people would argue that far from
divorcing the 'sociological' aspect of education from the academic, in
order to have a better society and better better educated students, we
need more, not less. So CSPE should be given more time and importance,
likewise SPHE for social development.

Quite apart from all of
that, so much social and indeed sociological learning is done outside
of the classroom and these agendas are set by numerous factors, from
the ethos of the school to the role-modelling of the teachers, to the
social context of the cohort and the demands and nature of the broader
society in which those children are growing up.

If we don't
make some attempt in the schools to grasp the nettle of social issues
and their sociological impact, where do we do that? Research shows that
in social terms, the greatest influence on young people is not their
parents or their teachers but their peers, so it makes sense to harness
that group energy and try to do some work in this area, to provide at
the very least the information that young people need to make
non-academic decisions that will have an impact on the wider community
and society at large.

Education could fix the problems of a
messed-up society - isn't educational intervention the catch call of
those who want to see society improved? Just because our system doesn't
do an ideal job doesn't mean that the process of informing, enabling,
encouraging and inspiring doesn't do it.

I agree, this is getting very interesting. Social learning is a very broad subject. It is about group relationships and learning about society. More than that, there are areas of it that cannot be divorced from academic learning, nor should we try to divorce them. I think I might be coming across as someone preaching the virtues of eugenics, when in fact my aim is the exact opposite. Allow me to point to an example where group dynamics are utilised to further the academic side of education. As you very probably know, the Sol Fa method is a technique that is used to teach sight reading for music and it facilitates the bridging of the gap between what is taken in visually and what is processed into aural recognition. It's a very simple method that lends itself to the group dynamic. Simply put the kids substitute the lyrics of a song with the names of the notes and sing them. A class can be split into two or three groups and can be asked to participate (Row Row Row Your Boat being a very popular choice for younger kids). One group starts singing and the next group jumps in a few beats behind, starting anew. By getting one group to sing louder or softer (or whatever) you trigger the group dynamic where all the kids start to analyse what they're doing, and what the other kids are doing. Now, not only are the kids learning about sight reading, they're learning about harmony, rhythm, performance and a plethora of other good things to know, and they're having fun, which reinforces the lesson. Of course the peer teaching aspect is subtley employed here too, with the teacher directing and moulding it. We have many lessons being taught here for the price of one, and as is obvious, they're not all academic. However one must consider the root purpose of the lesson. If it is to teach music then we cannot let the lesson get out of hand, whereby the groups set up a social dynamic where the social facet takes over at the expense of the music lesson (where the kids mess with each other by trying to left foot each other for example). If the teacher sees the group dynamic as the lesson, then this is the very baby that'll teach it, but at the expense of the academic side. This is what I mean when I say the group dynamic should be used as a tool to further the academic. I think we agree to some degree on this in view of the example you gave about the special needs child.

I shudder when I hear things like, "We're doing well if you compare us to the Jones familiy." We must not allow a standard to be set by someone who is not exceptional. We aspire to failure and procrastination if we do. I disagree strongly too, with the idea that the vast majority cannot aspire to and achieve excellence. The fact that they don't is not a proof of impossibility, it's a proof of a flawed belief (in my opinion). In the link I initially gave in my first post on this topic, I point out that the vast majority of children have an excellent command of the English language by the time they see their second birthday (some much earlier than this). That's no mean achievement and it is conclusive proof of an inbuilt mechanism within the vast majority that can achieve academic excellence (there's a sociological and a psychological aspect to this too of course).

I agree with you to an extent about wanting to produce young adults who are well rounded, creative, compassionate, etc. Where I'd disagree, is where you imply, if not suggest, that this should be part of the curriculum. You cannot teach these things, you can but encourage them and, indeed you should. To agree with what I'm saying in this point is not to promote the idea of teaching in a social vacuum. I believe, that to argue otherwise is to assume that one is teaching in a social vacuum and to try and compensate for this by attempting to teach what which will arise naturally of its own volition.

With regard to teaching social morals: One most certainly is not acting in a vacuum here either. There are also social rules enforced by example and dicipline. But, in an educational environment, they, for the most part, should exist primarily to facilitate the school's agenda. I think that morality is a very touchy subject, similar to religion and I think that schools should refrain from deciding what's in and what's out, excepting the obvious ones that are self-evidently correct. As you said, the parent is the primary educator and for the most part, this is their exclusive property (it'll obviously be tempered by social interaction too). Fair enough, there's a fair number of kids, that have parents that are not fit to educate dogs and a good teacher can and will attempt to compensate for this. But that's human nature and should absolutely not be legislated for. The education system cannot be everything to everyone, the assumption that it can is pure arrogance on the part of the education authority and is one of the main reasons it can and is failing. More importantly, it's teaching a very flawed lesson to our youth, it's teaching that arrogance on the part of authority is infallible or at least, that it's actions whether correct or not are coupled to some moral authority that is not based on evidence. The lesson of sheepification. I'm being very extreme in my description of something that's much more subtle in its actions. I put it in such a fashion to contrast with the honourable goals you aspire to: social self worth, creativity, caring, etc.

We agree that with regard to social and sociological education, that the primary teachers are peers and peer groupings. To attempt to harness this with the intent of social engineering will trigger the 'us against them reflex.' Peer groups are incredibly intelligent and perceptive, and are a direct product of the encompassing society. Example is the only lesson these groups will accept.

I see that in my verbosity (i'm an awful chap for rambling on), that I've somewhat addressed issues that have arisen in the rest of your post, to a small degree. I'll shut up at this point, so as not to muddy the waters. I'm enjoying our talk and hope we can continue to discuss these issues, I'm afraid that if I say much more at this point, I'll widen the goalposts and the important stuff will get lost in the flow.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:24 am

Quote :
I agree with you to an extent about wanting to produce young adults who are well rounded, creative, compassionate, etc. Where I'd disagree, is where you imply, if not suggest, that this should be part of the curriculum. You cannot teach these things, you can but encourage them and, indeed you should. To agree with what I'm saying in this point is not to promote the idea of teaching in a social vacuum. I believe, that to argue otherwise is to assume that one is teaching in a social vacuum and to try and compensate for this by attempting to teach what which will arise naturally of its own volition.

Hello Hermes,

I don't think it's possible to deal with several hundred students in a single location and not engage in some 'teaching' of social morals, responsibility, etc. A lot will depend on your definition of 'teaching' - it doesn't have to be preaching or part of the lesson plan in the way that it happens everyday as an important part of the subtext of academic teaching, but it does appear in a more structured way in SPHE and CSPE and, indeed in religion.

Is it part of the curriculum? Explicitly it is in those subjects mentioned above, but implicitly it forms part of the syllabus in every other subject and in every classroom, and there are moments in the teaching of a subject, where some kind of understanding and discussion of social issues takes place - English (and history, to name the obvious ones) is great for that, and Shakespeare, while ibis was a little dismissive of him only dealing with the known human sphere, provides opportunities for kids to develop and shape their ideas about the role of women, revenge, racism, filial relationships because students really have to get to grips not just with characters but with prevailing attitudes, their own attitudes and the intricacies of social problems or issues.

Apart from that, teachers teach students, not subjects and for that reason the student should always be at the forefront, not the material - otherwise they're not actually learning anything of value. And in the secondary system, we begin teaching children and end up teaching adults. They need guidance, encouragement and teaching - they want it and sometimes they'll even ask for it.

Some issues do arise naturally of their own volition but many don't, and it's through teasing out the issues in discussion and in the practicalities and pragmatics of daily interactions as well as dealing with issues specifically, that our students get a social education. I've a colleague, for example, who has chosen to teach The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime with a Junior Cycle class that has a student with Asperger's Syndrome.

And apart from all that there may be Meitheal groups, prefects, a buddy system between first and sixth years, fundraisers, group excursions where students have individual responsibilities, playing the Trading Game in class - in every way that we acknowledge that these young people are growing into adults then we are contributing to their understanding of their responsibilities and their rights.

Quote :
With regard to teaching social morals: One most certainly is not acting in a vacuum here either. There are also social rules enforced by example and dicipline. But, in an educational environment, they, for the most part, should exist primarily to facilitate the school's agenda. I think that morality is a very touchy subject, similar to religion and I think that schools should refrain from deciding what's in and what's out, excepting the obvious ones that are self-evidently correct. As you said, the parent is the primary educator and for the most part, this is their exclusive property (it'll obviously be tempered by social interaction too). Fair enough, there's a fair number of kids, that have parents that are not fit to educate dogs and a good teacher can and will attempt to compensate for this. But that's human nature and should absolutely not be legislated for.

It's only legislated for in part.

But the very fact that we expect kids to behave in a certain way when they enter the classroom, is evidence that we are teaching them a certain way of behaving in social groupings. My godson has just started school and he's finding it tough - he'd rather be outside, barefoot, working on steam engines with his daddy (or on steam engines while his daddy works) and finds himself having to wear shoes (an chéad bróg riamh ar an gcoisín meala, an chéad chosc freisin) and sit for hours. Hours.

I think there is a view among those who don't teach, that what happens in the classroom can be broken down into discrete stages consisting of 'now I'm teaching the value of respecting the disabled' and 'now I'm teaching the character of Christy Brown and 'now I'm disciplining the students' and 'now we're doing group work' - all of those things and more can happen in the same breath.

Quote :
The education system cannot be everything to everyone, the assumption that it can is pure arrogance on the part of the education authority and is one of the main reasons it can and is failing

But, Hermes, to assume that it should not is to misunderstand the very nature of dealing with young people and to disgracefully absolve ourselves as adults of our responsibility towards them. True education, someone once said (and I remember the quote from my own public speaking days as a student, when I learned the importance of being able to speak up for those who could not) is what survives when all that has been learned has been forgotten. We have to remember that much of the information our students leave school with, is of relatively little value to them when they leave -they may never care again what kind of clouds are in the sky or what magnetic north means, but the very least we can do is equip them to be useful and productive and decent citizens. To not do so would be a travesty.

The education system is not failing. We are producing thousands of well educated students every year, the vast majority of whom succeed in the workplace or in further education.

Could it do a better job? Raise standards and achieve higher grades? Of course - but that shouldn't happen at the expense of creating rounded and able individuals, which is difficult enough to achieve at present.

Quote :
More importantly, it's teaching a very flawed lesson to our youth, it's teaching that arrogance on the part of authority is infallible or at least, that it's actions whether correct or not are coupled to some moral authority that is not based on evidence. The lesson of sheepification. I'm being very extreme in my description of something that's much more subtle in its actions. I put it in such a fashion to contrast with the honourable goals you aspire to: social self worth, creativity, caring, etc.

Again I think you speak from a place outside of the system where you don't really have a clear view of how it works. Life has changed a lot since we were in school, Hermes and authoritarianism doesn't work any better now than it did then, but it's less tolerated. Students question the decisions of their teachers, in fact, one of the top complaints from students about teachers whom they don't like is that they are unfair - not that they give too much homework but that they don't behave consistently or logically or justly. Certainly there is a degree of conformity, an element of pushing the herd in a particular direction (with big numbers it's hard to tailor everything to the individual) but more and more it is being realised that successful classroom management and therefore successful teaching depends not on the teacher stamping his authoritarian rule on anything, but on a process of negotiation. You'll find that many classes negotiate their class rules with their individual teachers and they are posted on the wall after they have been agreed, have a class rep to speak on their behalf and they have some say in how their class is run. That's a vital part of their social/sociological education and in a classroom where there is no respect, no learning takes place. It is not possible to put academic achievement before social progress unless you want to return to the dark days where students were bullied and harrassed and even beaten in the name of knowing their catechism or tables by heart.

Quote :
We agree that with regard to social and sociological education, that the primary teachers are peers and peer groupings. To attempt to harness this with the intent of social engineering will trigger the 'us against them reflex.' Peer groups are incredibly intelligent and perceptive, and are a direct product of the encompassing society. Example is the only lesson these groups will accept.


Did you leave out part of your opening sentence? I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at...

Again I'd suggest that teachers are not all Miss Jean Brodies,
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Mon Sep 08, 2008 1:57 am

Quote :
...and Shakespeare, while ibis was a little dismissive of him only dealing with the known human sphere...

Not dismissive at all - few have dealt with it better or more memorably. I only wished to make the point that we all understand to at least some degree what it is to be human, whereas there is an awful lot of science that simply confounds our expectations.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:41 am

ibis wrote:
Quote :
...and Shakespeare, while ibis was a little dismissive of him only dealing with the known human sphere...

Not dismissive at all - few have dealt with it better or more memorably. I only wished to make the point that we all understand to at least some degree what it is to be human, whereas there is an awful lot of science that simply confounds our expectations.

Are your AI credentials slipping Ibis? Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 10:07 am



I I love you ibis...

(who couldn't?)
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:38 am

Aawww. I am most moved.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:13 pm

Kate P wrote:


I I love you ibis...

(who couldn't?)

Indeed Kate, it is impossible not to have warm feelings towards our number 1 AI, ibis.

ibis, you are;

Intelligent
Brilliant
Insightful
Strong

Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:23 pm

All true, Ard-Taoiseach, but don't say it too loud in case he hears you. It might go to his hard drive.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 10:40 pm

Quote :

Ireland is spending proportionately less on education that it did 10 years ago, according to the latest figures from the OECD.
A report from the organisation out today also shows that just two
countries, Greece and the Slovak Republic, spend a smaller proportion
of their GDP on education than Ireland does.
While spending on education here has increased in recent years, when it is taken as a proportion of GDP it has actually fallen.
RTE News
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:01 pm

johnfás wrote:
Quote :

Ireland is spending proportionately less on education that it did 10 years ago, according to the latest figures from the OECD.
A report from the organisation out today also shows that just two
countries, Greece and the Slovak Republic, spend a smaller proportion
of their GDP on education than Ireland does.
While spending on education here has increased in recent years, when it is taken as a proportion of GDP it has actually fallen.
RTE News

The Universities are in desperate straights. If we had some strategic thinking going in Goverment, we would at least have an education plan and an energy plan and we would fund them no matter what.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:18 pm

cactus flower wrote:
johnfás wrote:
Quote :

Ireland is spending proportionately less on education that it did 10 years ago, according to the latest figures from the OECD.
A report from the organisation out today also shows that just two
countries, Greece and the Slovak Republic, spend a smaller proportion
of their GDP on education than Ireland does.
While spending on education here has increased in recent years, when it is taken as a proportion of GDP it has actually fallen.
RTE News

The Universities are in desperate straights. If we had some strategic thinking going in Goverment, we would at least have an education plan and an energy plan and we would fund them no matter what.

If we had strategic thinking in government, we'd be in a different country. Mind you, if we had an electorate who could recognise or appreciate strategic thinking, we'd also be in a different country - probably one with a strategically thinking government.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:30 pm

ibis wrote:
If we had strategic thinking in government, we'd be in a different country. Mind you, if we had an electorate who could recognise or appreciate strategic thinking, we'd also be in a different country - probably one with a strategically thinking government.
You're on the ball there, I think. I was thinking today that we don't think long-term or seriously about anything at all really. Here's a local disastrous example:

The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre was built for €37 million and they began to charge €8 for the carpark there probably to cover the costs of the development which should be around 200k per annum interest on a loan like that. Now a private park and ride facility has been approved nearby where customers can avoid the criminal €8 charge by supporting a private bus operator. This service will be up and running in 2010 or so and I will go and use that service twice a month in order to support it against the obscenity of charging 8 quid to see a drop of 200 metres into the sea from a field.

Now the visitor numbers at the Cliffts are down by 100,000 already this year and both FF and FG are at each other's throats on the council about where to get the money to keep the Visitor Centre afloat ...

ha haa ha haa haa haaaa
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:54 pm

Auditor #9 wrote:
ibis wrote:
If we had strategic thinking in government, we'd be in a different country. Mind you, if we had an electorate who could recognise or appreciate strategic thinking, we'd also be in a different country - probably one with a strategically thinking government.
You're on the ball there, I think. I was thinking today that we don't think long-term or seriously about anything at all really. Here's a local disastrous example:

The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre was built for €37 million and they began to charge €8 for the carpark there probably to cover the costs of the development which should be around 200k per annum interest on a loan like that. Now a private park and ride facility has been approved nearby where customers can avoid the criminal €8 charge by supporting a private bus operator. This service will be up and running in 2010 or so and I will go and use that service twice a month in order to support it against the obscenity of charging 8 quid to see a drop of 200 metres into the sea from a field.

Now the visitor numbers at the Cliffts are down by 100,000 already this year and both FF and FG are at each other's throats on the council about where to get the money to keep the Visitor Centre afloat ...

ha haa ha haa haa haaaa

And they laughed at the Jeanie Johnston. At least it floats.
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PostSubject: Re: Ireland - An Educational Disaster Area for Maths and Science ?   Wed Sep 10, 2008 12:14 am

Yeah there's no joined up thinking, no planning, no long term or medium term ideas, feck all. Next election, that's it - who gives a fuck if Claire O'Donnell down in Tralee IT gets her grant in June? She's lucky to be getting anything at all.

I think it may be starting to dawn on Clare people now and I'm looking forward to seeing the local elections to see FF get a hammering. Actually I don't care about FF anymore, it's good to see even the local paper the Clare People coming out in full tabloid colour with all these little stories and data and info which hopefully will contribute to people starting to look at policy not politics.

We need a good big disaster in each county in order for us to wake up to the reality that our country is being run from month to month and from election to election. It'll take forever afterwards for something to be done either even though the realisation sinks in.

The latest distraction here now is that families from danger places like Moy Ross are going to end up polluting Clare. As someone who had some of those people in a class, they are evil to deal with.
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