Post by Kevrob Post by default
On Thu, 5 Apr 2018 14:10:52 -0700 (PDT), Cloud Hobbit
Post by Cloud Hobbit
The thing about education is that the benefits are not always obvious.
We learn math not so much for being able to work out the problem but also because learning it causes our brains to be able to think in ways it couldn't before.
Sure there are things we learn that have less value than others but they help us to realize HOW to think, how to approach a problem and sometimes just to help us be better people.
We learn history to hopefully learn from our mistakes.
Some fields require lots of practice and memorization, such as law.
The message may not always be obvious but they do tend to make us better people.
Colleges are good for dispensing facts. Learning to think is harder
But learning is the active role. Teaching is wasted if there's no
desire to learn; that takes curiosity, something grammar schools and
high schools don't often encourage and nurture.
As an engineer I can honestly say that taking "shop" in high school
would have been better than a curriculum of "college prep." Typing
turned out to be very useful (who knew?) Mechanical drawing might
have been useful too, there's nothing so satisfying as handing over a
drawing and having what you want made right and no questions asked.
My "college prep" high school - we didn't even have a wood or
metal shop, let alone classes in those - did offer mechanical drawing
precisely for students who were interested in taking engineering
in college, or wanted to be architects, or any kind of designer.
What would one do, nowadays, teach drawing, or teach how to use
some sort of software [CAD/CAM or a "cousin"?} or both?
That shits fun!
My first (personal $2K) computer came with Word Perfect and while not
a drawing program per se, had a drawing module in it that was asking
to be played with. I started making a schematic of a surplus module I
bought to tinker with and was bored out of my skull doing it.
So I decided to have fun (if it ain't fun why are you doing it?
philosophy). I copied a square-rigger from a greeting card, and that
took me all day. But the next day I was really starting to have fun
with it. I went through a boat period (sloops schooners ketches
paddle wheelers), then aircraft (fighters, helos, biplanes) then
engines with cutaways showing internal parts, and boats and engines,
and finally steam locomotives, and was getting more creative with 3D
views and perspective etc..
That was a hell of a lot of fun for about 2 months. Now I have Corell
Draw with WP-N and can make stuff out of dimensional lumber on paper,
drawn to scale, and see how it will look long before I buy the first
stick of wood. When I build it, there's no waste, and I'm just on
cruise control watching my hands do the work looking at the drawings
now and then, with my mind free to ruminate.
I did eventually make the schematic. Then a month later found a
"schematic capture" drawing program that "rubber bands" so every time
you move a section of drawing the "wires" stay connected (you don't
gotta re-draw whole segments) Now I'm hooked on that technology.
Post by Kevrob
Under the rubric, "learn how to use a slide rule AND a calculator"
that was popular when modern tech was starting to nose its way
into classrooms, "learn both" would have been encouraged.
One of my former co-workers was on staff as a part-timer at
my job, but days he was teaching math at a local Catholic high
school, where almost all students would be going on to college.
He was wondering if it was OK to let students use calculators
in the tests he was giving, or if it would be harmful to their
development for them to rely on them too much.
I told him to make up a "driver's test" for the functions on
the calculator he wanted them to know how to do with paper and
pencil. Those who passed would be able to use the electronic
tools. Those who failed would be coached up until they could pass.
He told me that it worked fine. The kids understood that they had
to know what the calculator was doing, and what kind of answers
would, for example, be out of range, so they could recheck their
inputs and avoid the GIGO problem.
I imagine one benefit of taking shop would be, even if you
never built anything yourself, you might be able to converse
with a tradesman whose services you needed to hire without
being totally clueless?
If you have to think about, and do it, you learn a lot better than
listening to someone tell you about it.
In the Navy electronics school (one of the advanced modules with 12 in
a class) the instructor had a problem with me. I'd be sleeping in
class, but not really totally asleep, he'd try to surprise me by
calling on me, but it was like I had a tape recorder, I wasn't really
paying attention, but could play back his last statement and conjure
up some kind of answer. This infuriated him. Then when I asked a
question he thought I was "sharp-shooting" (trying to put him on the
spot) Anyway he got pissed off, told me if I was so smart maybe I
should teach the class, and stormed out. Five minutes went by.. no
instructor, ten, ditto. So I got the book read it, and started in
teaching. A half hour later he comes back in and sits down watching
me. The next day he invited me to teach - and by then I'd read ahead
and really understood what they were about.
I aced the test, and the other guys just nudged past the average (for
that module) a few points higher. (that's what really had me worried
- OK to screw around with this for my entertainment, but a whole
different thing to think I was fucking with someone else's career.)
The interesting thing to me is that was the only test I ever "aced"
all through electronics school. (electronics was a hobby since I was
five, so I had a big head start) The class was called "synchros,
selsyns and servos" - WW2 technology to compute numbers electro
mechanically, and produce a signal that could be used to control the
"amplydynes" or hydraulics used to train the guns on ships. (takes
into consideration aim-point, powder charge, temperature, air density,
roll pitch, and yaw of the ship etc. but that's another specialty in
the Navy "Fire Control Technician" I was a Communications Technician -
ET with a security clearance)
I learned on the slide rule - and I think that gave me a unique
outlook. For years after I could attend meetings where I worked and
when they were bandying numbers about (usually about cost/benefit) I'd
automatically start keeping track of it in my head the way you would
for a slide rule, three places, one number is proportionate to
another, without resorting to paper, and they'd reach a point where
want to make a decision and I'd blurt out the various numbers and math
answers I was tracking, while some geek in the department would be
busily scribbling away on paper with a calculator only to find my
numbers within a few percent of exact.
Then the first calculators weren't very useful, you could still get a
square root from a slide rule when there wasn't a key for one on the
calculator. That and reciprocals...
We'd have these calculations for power transformers where you'd start
with your best guess, based on the manufacturer's specifications for
iron in the core, calculate it over again and again as you'd get
closer to a final optimal turns ratio, resistance, wire size, etc..
Today that is child's play with a spread sheet and computer. In fact
with computers, today's engineers can pretty much plug in the numbers
and let the computer tell them what to do, with no hands-on
appreciation (and probably much less satisfaction) for what they've
It sort of rips the soul out if life, if you will excuse the