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Tim Wesson
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So, what's real news, then?
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Tim Wesson

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Spying on kids almost always does more harm than good.  An exception appears to be that when anxiety is justified, as when the family lives in a dangerous neighbourhood, children usually understand and trust isn't undermined.  In any case, better communication wins hands down.  Underhand behaviour on the part of parents really damages the relationship.
For the past two years, Mandie Snyder, an accountant near Spokane, Washington, has been “monitoring” her daughter. With a handy…By Kirsten Weir
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Well indeed. Underhandedness, more than the actual act of tracking, really undermines trust. According to the article, going through your son's messages would create far more of a transgression. Wanting to know where a child is is usually understood.
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Since the 'alt-right' don't like being called Nazis, we have...
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This, generalised, is one of the reasons why teaching philosophy at an earlier age would be a good idea.  If people start to think of politics as an exercise of reason as much as emotion, and method and argument as means to settle disputes, less of the popular political debate would consist in whether one is showing goodwill by demonstrating the right opinion on (say) climate change or the concept of the appropriation of cultures, and more on whether one's reasoning was sound.
 
In which I blame teachers for things

In light of recent news, and after a brief exchange I had when I shared this picture yesterday, I've been thinking a lot about science and science education. I blame teachers for this mess.

I used to teach science. I even taught Science, which is different than science, after one of my freshman biology students, a Christian and a creationist, asked to learn more about evolution. She didn't actually want to understand the theory, I quickly discovered. What she wanted to understand was how a seemingly educated and intelligent guy like me could be so completely duped by a patently false idea.

So I agreed to show her. But not by teaching evolution. I told her I wasn't going to do that. At all. Not even a little. As it happened, my graduate training was in Biology, but my undergraduate emphasis was on the history and philosophy of science, and I saw that what she really lacked was not FACTS. It was understanding. So I said I would merely teach her how to evaluate scientific reasoning and she could take it from there.

I went online to see what tools were available for students and teachers at the high school level. And there ain't much. Don't get me wrong. There are some. But it's pretty sparse compared to almost anything else. You'll find a great deal more teaching tools for something specific like molecular genetics, for example, than for teaching about Science itself, which is just insane. It does a student no good to learn about operons and their regulation, or the neutral theory, without a firm understanding of what science both is and ISN'T.

I had an epiphany just then. We don't teach Science in this country. At all. We teach its content. We teach science: Avogadro's number and coefficients of friction and chordate anatomy and the pH scale and sine functions. As if memorizing the citric acid cycle somehow teaches you to understand Science and why it's so powerful. Facts and tables can reinforce that understanding, but only if it's already there. If not, nothing you learn in high school or almost any college Gen. Ed. requirement will gift it to you.

Students come burdened with language. They learn passively from society that science is an occupation -- like accounting, or carpentry -- and also a collection of experimental outcomes organized into big tables that have to be memorized to get a job. They learn that a theory -- "Well, that's one theory, I guess" -- is just a hypothesis and a hypothesis is a shot in the dark. Educators spend about five minutes at the start of the semester correcting that and then launch right into the subject material. Is it any surprise then that voting citizens who couldn't come up with three sentences to describe the hydrological cycle will tell you with absolute certainty that human-caused climate change is a hoax?

If that distresses you, I would question how much you're paying attention. Asking students to draw conclusions from a list of facts they're required to memorize but are incompetent to evaluate isn't education. It's indoctrination. Science class is nine months of "Trust me. I'm right."

And so here it's the 21st century and Science denial is all the rage. We all know about the anti-vaxxers and their ilk. But it's not just a problem with the Right. It's not. The debate about GMOs, for example, has become so politicized, it's lost all connection to science and reason. So it is Bill Nye (the science guy) -- one of the country's foremost science educators and a more competent scientist than you or I ever will be -- reversed his opposition to GMOs after careful review, and rather than taking that as evidence of the scientific process, of free an open inquiry, he was pilloried for being a "tool of Monsanto" -- because part of his consideration included taking a tour of their labs to, you know, actually observe for himself what they were up to rather than just reading a second-hand account on Mother Jones.

Look, Science is potentially dangerous. It's always been potentially dangerous. And the public has always been just a little bit worried about that. The very first work of science fiction, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, captures that fear, and even seems to warn us that some lines of inquiry were just not meant for man, following the lesson of the earlier myth of Doctor Faustus that learned dudes in long robes will set loose monsters from their ivory towers and we'll all suffer. It's the plot of every Cold War-era sci-fi movie, in fact -- that an irradiated ant will eat Las Vegas, that the machines will become self-aware and kill us, that we'll become self-aware and kill ourselves.

The debate shouldn't be about prohibitions and controls. It should always be about transparency and oversight (such as peer review). I take it as an axiom that before too long the world is gonna need a stable, tested, drought- and pest-resistant source of food. I take it as an axiom that we should be looking for ways of curing childhood genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs. I take it as an axiom that we're going to do a lot more damage to the environment before things get better, and that breeding a strain of Deinococcus radiodurans that could clean up nuclear waste would be awesome.

All of those lines of inquiry carry risk. And a not insignificant amount. So it is we have people on both sides of the political spectrum arguing that Science should be curtailed or prohibited because they've decided -- as laypeople, in advance -- that some problems are just not soluble, and anyway it's just not worth the risk.

Because, you know, there are monsters.

("Just Say No" has never been an effective strategy to curb anything, by the way. All it does is drive it underground, where there's even less visibility and control. The surest way to ensure a rogue gene makes it into the wild is for industrialized nations to place such steep roadblocks on GMO research that it's driven to the Third World, where there's no oversight at all.)

I blame teachers for this mess. I really do. I know that's not popular. But it's true. Don't get me wrong. Science educators fight valiantly -- and that's not sarcasm; I mean it -- against efforts to gut science education. They fight valiantly to continue teaching the content of evolution. But never the vessel. And then we wonder why, year after year, a majority of Americans -- high school-graduates all, and even a high percentage of college grads -- doubt climate change. Or evolution (roughly the same percentage as Islamic states like Turkey, by the way). We ask them to drink from a well they're being told is poisoned, and then we wonder why they refuse. Regardless of anyone's best efforts, that's the actual, real, practical outcome of science education in this country.

And my student, by the way -- the one who wanted to understand how it was I got duped by science -- totally came around after just a couple months, and all without me ever even saying the word evolution.

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1) I eventually settled on Ronald Giere's "Understanding Scientific Reasoning" as the textbook for my sessions. I'm sure there are others, and I'm sure there are people out there who can steer you appropriately.

2) And if you're one of those people who's chest spasms at the thought of stem cell research or GMOs or whatever, read David Deutsch's "The Beginning of Infinity" and repeat the following to yourself every time you get nervous: "Problems are soluble. Problems are soluble. Problems are soluble."

3) Edit to include the comment: All of this is because the purpose of the system is not to educate but to serve the power structure, which means the purpose of compulsory, state-sponsored indoctrination is to churn out skads of minimally compliant, technically-competent office workers to feed the post-industrial economy. It's important that they know how to memorize and regurgitate, how to pass tests and certifications, how to follow rote instruction, such as what is required to service machines made from interchangeable parts. It resembles education sometimes, but only enough to make sure people won't realize what it actually is.

(re-sharing this art by Beeple)

www.RickWayne.com
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Pay attention

The basic trick in stage magic is to distract the audience.  While we were staring at Trump's antics, Republicans in the House of Representatives did something outrageous.  They prohibited the Congressional Budget Office from estimating how much it would cost to repeal Obamacare.   They just don't want us to know.

The new Republican rule “specifically instructs the CBO not to say how much it will cost taxpayers to repeal Obamacare.” The reason Republicans have officially prohibited the CBO from reporting how costly repealing the ACA (Obamacare) is because the last CBO “cost analysis of repealing Obamacare” (2015) found it would increase the deficit by $353 billion. It is an important point because besides unnecessarily stripping healthcare from tens-of-millions of Americans and increasing the deficit, Republicans will use “budget reconciliation” to repeal the healthcare law that requires any legislation that increases the deficit to expire after 10 years. It is precisely why the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich had to expire after 10 years; they blew up the deficit and Republicans knew it was going to happen just like they know that repealing the ACA will.

For details read this article.  Thanks to +Russ Abbott for pointing this out.
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On freedom of movement as part of a strategy for addressing global inequality.
Last April, an economist named Branko Milanovic published a proposal to reduce global economic inequality in the Financial Times. The best way to help the world’s poor, he wrote, is to encourage movement of labor and get countries to open …Continue Reading…
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Arrogant Neoliberalism elected Orange Headed Fool.
⭕️💨💨💨💨
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And this, DNC, is why I do not trust your judgment and am not a member of your party. 
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Scottish paper @newsundayherald's TV preview of the inauguration:
https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/820720634267373568
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In the name of limiting propaganda, Obama sets up the infrastructure for a de facto Department of Propaganda.

Personally, I like the ring of The Ministry of Truth.  Anyone with me?
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That is a perfect article for Troll Tuesday. ;) Sadly, it's also true.
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Marine Le Pen spotted at Trump tower yesterday.
https://twitter.com/anneapplebaum/status/819657702288883716
Trump has made clear that he no longer wants to promote and protect democratic institutions around the world.
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Because Trump claims that only reporters care about this.
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The petition is live on www.dailykos.com
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This is a valiant effort, but this article demonstrates nicely the limitations of the scientific mindset.  It is informative to analyse this problem with an eye to Plato.  This is a repost, as I realised that as a reshare, people couldn't share my commentary.

Those who are influenced (directly or indirectly) by Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies ought to know that reading Plato naïvely is to almost wilfully misunderstand him.  Texts were not read then in the way that they are read now, and some of the terms (notably 'democracy') have a very different meaning.

Plato's republic presupposes a free society.  Granted, Athens was supported by a body of slaves, and Plato's Socrates saw slavery as a 'natural' solution to the problem of handling people who couldn't look after themselves, but The Republic doesn't concern itself with slavery, and doesn't require the institution of slavery for its argument.  The construction of The Republic is a guide to a people for how to self-organise so as to form a successful city-state.

Returning to the question asked in the linked article, the best electoral system, the article considers that the real problem is how to best represent the people in all of their diversity.  While I agree that this analysis is valuable, and I have preferences for Condorcet and Instant Runoff, also known as Single Transferable Vote (STV), this analysis fails to identify the real top level, which is not the ideal voting system, but rather how to have a sustainable and free society that pursues meaningfully good activities.

Book VIII of The Republic concerns itself with The Parable of the Cave.  What is this epistemological parable doing in a text upon self- and city-governance?  The answer to this is that a well-ordering of qualities is essential if such a society is to sustain itself, and these qualities induce social organisation.  These qualities represent degrees of knowledge or ignorance and, in order of worthiness are Tyrannical desires, non-lawless desires, money-loving desires, desire for honour, and desire for truth.

The unordered free society is broadly anarchic with votes for everything (Plato's 'democracy'), but without a police force, it is tricky to impose law, and society can go two ways:  straight to tyranny, and toward oligarchy.  The oligarchic solution is roughly anarcho-capitalist, and although Plato sees that the discipline induced by entrepreneurship is an improvement upon chaos, that is far from the highest good, and needs to be regulated by honour in turn.  For Plato, social norms do not sustain themselves without law, and hence the policing of the Guardian class becomes necessary.  Whether that is true or not, what is clear is that love of money cannot be the highest good.

If this were a normal election, with normal candidates, or else if Hillary had lost the popular vote, Nature would not have invested quite so many column inches to the question of correct representation.  But having Trump as president would still have been just as bad an outcome.  Intuitively, we are letting ourselves be ruled by money, and and moving still more towards an oligarchy, but the immense and growing power of corporations seems acceptable within American politics.  All the same, there is a widespread feeling that the deliberate setting aside of anti-corruption laws for Trump's family and cabinet, and for Congress, is a step too far.

Although this previous election would have come out differently were the electoral system different, this does nothing to address the real question of how to institute democratic norms.  When society is healthy, democracy yields the right result.  By observing the objects in the cave as lit by the fire therein, one can acquire true opinions, but the fire is a model of the sun, and we need to get out of the cave and observe the sun and its effects if we are to tend the fire so that the opinions are true.  Democratic values are in decline (see below link), and it is increasingly clear that voting is not enough for democracy in the fuller sense.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/world/americas/western-liberal-democracy.html

So, what is the missing ingredient?  For Plato, it is love of the truth.  In modern parlance, the non-financial values of education itself, ie. not only as work-training.  The seek the form of truth motivates the mathematician, whilst the engineer tends the fire.  The form of the good that motivated the Platonic philosopher is harder to discern and contains the form of truth.  As I have linked an article in Nature magazine, I should not neglect the scientist.  Roughly, the scientist observes nature outside and within the cave and so informs the likes of the engineer.

Yes, we should certainly look to fixing the electoral system, not least because a decent electoral system actually helps to shape the voter's temperament:  ordering one's preferences so as to keep out the truly egregious prevents us from seeing the mere opposition as the enemy, and this helps make norms that regulate political behaviour possible, but the real prize is education in its fullest sense, for an educated populous constrains what is possible in a political system in a good way.  The rulers are more likely to be wise and are valued for their wisdom.

Democracy is necessary for people to feel part of society in the larger sense, but without education, they will vote for tyrants or oligarchs.  The best electoral systems are those with an educational side-effect:  ones that motivate people to take part, to be informed, and to respect those who disagree with them.
Research is needed on how groups make choices in real situations, write Guruprasad Madhavan, Charles Phelps and Rino Rappuoli.
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