Friday, March 23, 2007

Aymmetric motivation

Man in a Shed often reads and receives commentary from an engineer called Jim Pinto, who's expertise in the automation industry - where MiaS has a passing interest also. But he also comments on wider issues, and this one struck me when I was reading it this morning.

Its the concept of Asymmetric motivation - basically saying you can't simulate hunger - in relation to a lack of motivation. A lot of the things in his description of the US policy of 'no child left behind' sounds a lot like current UK government policy.

So the same key question could be asked of our education system - where is the motivation for our children coming from ?

Anyway - over to jim's article below: ( link to his full email here ).


    The US education system continues to fall behind. America ranks
    16th among 27 countries with democratic governments when looking
    at the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who complete college.

    US students have become soft when compared against those of China,
    Russia and India. This is yet another twist on the old "asymmetric
    motivation" theme - "You can't simulate hunger".

    With the "No Child Left Behind" policy, the US has tried to correct
    the situation by forcing schools to meet performance metrics. A few
    years have been spent trying to bring students' math and reading
    skills up to basic levels by having them pass standardized tests.
    Failed schools may be restructured, while non-performing students
    may receive free tutors and be moved to new schools. No one sees the
    basic point - motivation is not there. Many students are more
    interested in MTV and iPods. They'd rather be rock-stars and sports
    heroes; few want to be "nerds" or "geeks".

    India and China can't be ignored - they are like elephants in
    the living room. They have 40% of the world population, have rich
    cultures and histories, and aspire to superpower status. They have
    growing middle classes that are major global market, and are major
    producers. Both have made information technology and the Internet
    their high priority.

    The proliferation of software companies in India, and high-tech
    manufacturing in China, is a key demonstration of rapid human
    development through technology. At the same time millions in
    Eastern Europe and the Far East are also waking up, and they
    are giving the rest of the world a run for their money.

    America's salvation is its eclectic population, the winning
    drive of its entrepreneurs, plus the upward mobility of hungry
    immigrants who are building a place for themselves in the
    American dream.

    Related Links:

    US students lack hunger:

    Is the U.S. really falling behind China and India in education?

    U.S. falls behind in education:

1 comment:

The Shaved Ape said...

A word of caution here...

I live in Southern California, as does Mr. Pinto. I've met him at networking events. He's everything people say he is -- highly intelligent and a gifted writer (he's also a good orator).

However, he's an anti-Bush guy, and his comments about No Child Left Behind must be taken in that context. I hesitate to call him far-left or even liberal; I don't know him well at all. I've only met him.

In a general sense I would say that NCLB is not working, though at its heart the idea is sound.

The real problem with education in the U.S. is very simple: liberalism run rampant in schools.

Liberal ideology supports social promotion (a fairly moderate Bill Clinton took a lot of heat from his own base of liberal voters for standing against it); the liberal teachers unions have made it impossible to fire bad teachers (and that is no exaggeration); and prior to NCLB there were few, if any, methods of monitoring school performance.

Most liberal Democrats were against the very idea of expecting students to pass performance evaluations to advance to the next grade, or to graduate high school. They say it will damage children socially.

The performance of American students has waned because of the wholly liberal taint -- one that actually wants to stop marking errors on student papers with red markers in favor of purple -- because red is "offensive".

Students are not being prepared for the real world.

Though I blame liberalism for much of the failure here, I would certainly not advocate a purely conservative model, either. Creationism and religion doesn't belong in public schools, for instance.