On Education

I used to not see education as much more than a tool for learning. Thinking more generally, I have come to the conclusion that education offers many more benefits than just learning. I have also found learning done in the form of education only forms a small subset of that there is to learn.

First off there is the prevalence of school. Why does it exist? School can be thought of as a large form of baby sitting. If teaching didn’t exist there would still be a need for collective childcare simply to reduce the burden on working parents. Secondly if adolescents are to be looked after so they don’t harm themselves, they may as well learn something. In fact, education can form as a protection against poor care. If the students aren’t learning they are more likely to injure themselves or break other rules their own parents would not allow.

Education is a great way to network. Think of the people you have met in your life. Chances are it was in some form of educational environment. Although possibly not the best way to arrange people, it seems hard to find a simpler way to allow people to network than to make them all learn something similar.

Education usually involves tests. These can be an indicator of good will. If people were given unlimited time to make there way though life and education was not valued, there would be more time for people to cheat systems and ultimately corrupt interpersonal endeavors.  Education chews up a lot of peoples time giving them less time to come up with deceiving communication.

Education also seems to be somewhat essential in communication. Communication is very often arbitrary and two words can be very much as good as each other. Education seems to help normalize language so that it doesn’t fracture into the mess that can be seen in less educated disciplines.

Education is not without its downsides. Firstly it takes an awful lot of time. Much of it is learning words for concepts you could of explained yourself using simpler language. Also, I have found there is a lot of things that is not so good at teaching.

Just think of how much maths you did in school. Many people hate it and try to avoid using it.Try for instance actually counting the change you receive at cash registers. I once tried it out of curiosity and I was shocked to find how often people charged incorrectly for orders. Even more embarrassing is when you tell them of their mistake and they proceed to make another one. I know they are not all being dodgy because many people undercharge which can only reasonably be explained by a mistake.

Moving back onto the subject of maths in general. The reason I believe there is so much of it in education is because it formalizes so well. Great mathematicians have built grand theories accurate to every properly made objection. This has meant that the core of maths had to be rigorous and also tight in it’s abstractions. Learning maths forms a basic IQ test but it is not without the criticism that it only measures peoples abilities to follow instructions and less things like creative abilities or empathy.

The real world is cluttered with things that are difficult to formalize. Sometimes this is because they are too new. Sometimes it is because they change too often. Other times they rely on abstractions that just haven’t seeped well into societies subconscious. Whatever the reason they are there. Where is the manual for example on playing the stock market?

The stock market has a strange tendency that if an idea becomes widespread enough, people try to game it by using financial instruments. Something similar can be can said about socializing.

If you give too many gifts to someone they may be liable to think you are trying too hard to win favor and become labelled creepy.

Sometimes knowledge falls under the dominion of philosophy and if a culture excepts the idea too well it can become victim to other cultures. Sometimes ideas are politically incorrect or just too difficult to measure. Remember for example that psychologists are not allowed to conduct fully isolated studies on humans as this would be inhumane if not just really expensive and time consuming.

My point I’m trying to make is that unlike what some say there is knowledge outside of google. I also think given the number of things there are to learn there are things that know one else knows. Another point is that if something can be learned from educational material, it’s probably not very sought after as there are already many practicing what is taught. To be paraphrased, Oscar Wilde once said:

Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

Site specific stats are a bad for deciding browser support.

Say you have a site and 0.01% of people use IE8 that is not a good reason not to support it because those people that don’t use the site won’t show up as often.

Even if you do use The Unique visitors option this is still a misleading statistic because most people don’t use static IPs. If they use mobile devices, those will be even more likely to use dynamic IP’s. There is more to this however.I speculate that people using old browsers exists in clusters of old browser networks, so a bottleneck has been created.

Lastly, I would like to say that people using the browsers that came with their operating system are probably the least likely to be able to install a new browser and so the importance of browser availability is only more important.

The plight of graphical programming languages

In the old days. like around the time of Euclid, it was popular to do maths geometrically and not so much using algebra. There is much to say about the intuition that can be easily obtained using graphical aids. As time progressed this fell out of favor to algebraic which is a more code based solution.

Some things are just harder to express graphically. Geometry involving 2 dimensions is not so bad, but as you start adding more dimensions it quickly becomes a mess.

Likewise programming languages could be given more graphically oriented aids. For example consider a language that looks like this

lang2

If calling functions within the file follows the line method then misspelling a function is impossible. (In this example multiply is assumed to be  primitive)

The problem is that there are other non-graphical solutions to achieve similar results. Static analyzers can check if variables are in scope for you and print line numbers where code is defined. The non graphical solution scales better as well. Imagine a program with a lot of variables. Keeping track of where each value is coming from would become like trying to follow a poorly laid out switch cabinet.

Also, consider a really big number like 12345. I could draw a whole heap of lines with crosses but that wouldn’t get you very far quickly. The shortest way to summarize it with something close to its binary representation.

Graphical programming has to not just overcome the convenience of text based coding, but it also has to overcome any amendments that might substitute for the same techniques.

As an analogy, consider a piano. It might be easier for players if a crank was installed to perform a key change. This however might make the piano much more expensive to manufacture and repair. Cars too could be fitted with pedestrian light sensors but they may not work very well in the all cases like in a snowstorm or when the words walk are replaced with a picture of a green man.

In the same vein. it may be easier in the short term to change the minds of developers than recreate the text interfaces which are used to code.