15 June 2010

what's it good for

Education.

"Although the GED establishes cognitive equivalence on one measure of scholastic aptitude, recipients still face limited opportunity due to deficits in noncognitive skills such as persistence, motivation and reliability. The literature finds that the GED testing program distorts social statistics on high school completion rates, minority graduation gaps, and sources of wage growth. Recent work demonstrates that, through its availability and low cost, the GED also induces some students to drop out of school."

That would seem to indicate that the attainment of a set of skills and common knowledge base is less relevant than the method of attainment of those skill sets (and the knowledge can be thrown away at the earliest opportunity anyway). Which means we probably don't do a very good job educating for a set of skills and knowledge.

More here.
The bloggingheads segment, as usual, has some interesting discussion. The highlight is the discussion of the mandating of students taking algebra II in high schools all across the country. Followed by the fact that less than 10% of jobs actually use anything at all from algebra II coursework. I use some of it for my statistical normalizing, I think. But it's more the logical framework of algebraic formulas that I use than conducting log functions and so on.

That naturally brings forward that we probably should be educating people with more practical skill sets and letting people with a genuine interest in something somewhat esoteric like higher end algebra and mathematics pursue those interests on their own initiative. Forcing people to study things that they intuit that they probably won't ever use or need, and that they don't take to either is probably not a very good way to get people to complete a rudimentary high school education. I agree that sounds like "dumbing it down" to take it out as a requirement. But I'd argue that if it's not useful even for a supposedly growing technical economy like ours, what difference would it make? And if it seems like basic socialising, real job skills, and the non-mandated subjects but potentially equally interesting like history or civics are abandoned to set a standard of "everyone takes this course and must master it's skill sets" it is probably self-defeating standard and should be abandoned. We have only limited resources to provide a primary education as it is. It might be better if we tried to understand student perspectives and occupational incentives than to continue using a rigorous liberal arts set top-down imposed by educators. I certainly like rhetoric and history and so on, but that doesn't mean everyone else does.

If we are going to use the educational system to standardise the educational materials, then we should really have to argue over the standards being used to decide what material gets used. If that material doesn't actually conform to a perceived goal of imparting necessary skills, then what good is it actually serving and for whom?
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