The ABCs – Abdicate, Blame, Capitulate

Date:         26 Jan 16

By:             Frank Gue B.Sc. MBA, PEng.,
                  2252 Joyce St., Burlington L7R 2B5  905 634 9538
For:            Editors Macleans
Re:             “Who’s the adult here?”  Feb. 1
Dear Editors:
There is a threatening thread weaving through six of the Letters in the February 1 issue of Macleans.  It is best captured by Mr. Watts, who identifies the ABCs of 21st Century parenting: Abdicate, Blame, and Capitulate.
Sadly, these ABCs infect far more than parenting.  Example:  Education.  Teachers are now just helpers and coaches while 10-year-olds “discover” what they need to know and learn it themselves.  The presence among us of some  well-educated kids is thanks to the dedication of some teachers who know and do better.  Failure is blamed on parents, the environment, socio-economic status, and so on.  Schools capitulate when they push unqualified students onward into a world of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
At the national level, we hypocritically assure our allies that we are with them in the fight against ISIS when we in fact have no plan at all to be there and indeed are pulling out our little token force.
And so on.
We could  add an acronym to Mr. Watts’s thesaurus of such, viz: FSB, Find Someone to Blame, which is becoming our national pastime.
Cheers,
Frank Gue

Chasm between high school and university

Filename:       Chasm between high school and university
                          708 words
Date:                20 Jan 16
By:                    Frank Gue B.Sc. MBA, P.Eng., Burlington
                          905 634 9538
For:                  The Spec, Hamilton ON                   helliott@thespec.com
Re:                    “The chasm between high school and university”,
                          Jan. 18 Spec
Education for failure
Columnist Ken Durkacz accurately identifies reasons for “the chasm between high school and university”, Spec. Jan. 18.  Unfortunately for our students, parents, employers, and other stakeholders, this invisible “chasm” from Grade 1 onward suddenly becomes visible – and, tragically, mostly irreversible – when students try to cross it to enter university.
This is because the Ontario public school system leans heavily on  “Constructivist” teaching.  Constructivism has been widely adopted, without research-based evidence of its effectiveness, and now dominates our system.
Reading the Ontario curricula, one begins to wonder whether their developers set about perversely to guarantee that our students will fail their subjects; because despite decades of authoritative debunking, Ontario clings grimly to this long-discredited method of teaching.  Only one of many such debunks, from the Educational Psychologist, 2006, is quoted below:
“Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not
Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist,
Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and
Inquiry-Based Teaching
Paul A. Kirschner
Educational Technology Expertise Center
Open University of the Netherlands
Research Centre Learning in Interaction
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
John Sweller
School of Education
University of New South Wales
Richard E. Clark
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California”
“Evidence for the superiority of guided instruction is explained in the context of our knowledge of human cognitive architecture, expert–novice differences, and cognitive load.”
– following which is a long and authoritative article in support of the above headline statement.  To summarize: Ontario’s teaching methods don’t work.
“Guided instruction” is traditional teaching, in which the teacher teaches and the students learn.  Perhaps you think this is what your kids are getting.  Well, they’re not, save for those lucky enough to have the benefit of the dedicated labours of some teachers who still use the traditional methods despite the diktats of the Ministry of Education, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (IOSE), and the teachers colleges.
Inquiry Based Learning, or Constructivism, or one of the several other names by which “Progressive” education is known, expects students themselves to identify, study, and master each of their subjects.  The teacher is no longer “the sage on the stage”, but merely a coach or helper.  Many folk* cannot bring themselves to believe that; but there is, unfortunately, plenty of evidence to support it.  We might  note a few – only a very few – pieces of this evidence spanning English, math, and science:  
*  Two University professor, on-air on the CBC, were heard to begin sentences with, “Me and him was … “
*  Clerks in stores, some of which sell technical goods like radio parts, may not be willing even to try to count, say, 75 cents lying on the counter.  One comment: “I’ll take your word for it.  Math never was my best subject.”  (Math?  Counting 75 cents is math?).
*  A science student was assigned to design and build a working model of a highly technical apparatus.  (As a Professional Engineer, owning  several thick textbooks on his subject, and having built many such models, I hold my head in horror.)  This teacher not only didn’t know, he didn’t know he didn’t know.
This last, about science, is particularly tragic.  A student undertaking such an assignment will assume the teacher knows what he is doing; that therefore he (the student) should be able to do it; and that, because he cannot do it, he must be stupid.
In a long career I’ve been both a teacher and a student, sometimes both at the same time, and have seen the scholastic abilities of my College and University intake students deteriorate year by year.  I have also had occasion to study Ontario public school curricula in depth.  This study (during which amazement gradually developed into anger) enables me to say authoritatively that no one, operating entirely from these or similar curricula, could master any subject, where to “master” means to get a correct answer to a problem and express it in coherent English such that the bridge does not fall down (or buckle in its first cold snap as one did recently here).
And so Mr. Durkacz’s correctly identified “gap” does indeed exist, is getting wider, and needs to be addressed by the Ontario public school system 12 years earlier than at University entrance.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Filename:     EconomistReCSRJan2

Date:               11 Jan 16

By:                   Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,

Burlington, ON Canada L7R 2B5   905 634 9538

For:                 Editors, The Economist, London, UK

Re:                   Corporate social responsibility, Jan. 2 edition

Dear Editors:

Yet again, politics and populism stand squarely in the way of economics when means are sought to reconcile Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with tax inversion (the practice of moving corporate income to low-tax countries).

The most efficient, fairest, and transparent tax is on consumption, accompanied by a progressive income tax regime in which “a buck is a buck” regardless of its source. This has evolved into proposals such as zero tax on corporations (since corporations don’t pay taxes anyway, their consumers do), progressive taxes on consumption, and near-confiscatory taxes on “the 1%”, a la Piketty. This would eliminate the powerful incentives for inversion.

But, in this real world, many politicians hate the accountability that comes with transparency; and so don’t hold your breath until some national entity invites riots by imposing, say, a 30% consumption tax and a zero corporate tax. Some other way will have to be found to comply with the principle so famously stated by Louis XIV’s Finance Minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who declared that, “the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”

But, I say again, don’t hold your breath.

F.

John’sAirplane

Filename:         John’sAirplane(Documents)Word

Date:                9 Jan 16

By:                    Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,

2252 Joyce St., Burlington, ON L7R 2B5

905 634 9538   frank.gue@cogeco.ca

For:                   SQE group and whom else it may concern

Re:                    Help me tear out my hair

 

GE, all.

 

I write this asking for help to tear out my hair.  This is too big a job for one person.

 

I have a friend whose son  –  call him John – is in Grade 11 in a somewhat distant school.   His science teacher assigned him to build an airplane to carry an egg without dropping or damaging it.  The teacher gave John a 12-day deadline.

 

He asked me for help and sent me his preliminary design.  It was, of course, utterly hopeless, altho he had used a surprising amount of ingenuity.  Since, by hand-gliding one of my models he had demonstrated a good hand, eye, and instinct for how to hand-launch it (which is a non-trivial skill), I decided I would help rather than discourage him.

 

Hmmm.  Where to start?  There are 300-page books on the subject, such as Perkins and Hage, Airplane performance, stability, and control,  and Langweische, Stick and rudder.  One would have to be familiar with most of their contents to answer the question.

Well, having built, over 80 years, any number of aircraft, some of which I designed, I was able to specify for him, straight out of my head and without burdening him with theory, a simple airplane that I know would fly – just the dimensions, wing and tail area, where they should be located, where the egg would have to go, and all that.   I gave him this info three days ago.

 

I told him also that during the tests (where have I seen that word “tests” before?) he would crash at least one of his trial designs, and that he would need at least a month of his spare time, which he had better tell his teacher.   He should also ask her to make it a glider, since power and radio add two whole other complex and expensive dimensions miles beyond the scope of a highschool project.

 

Today he told me that the teacher has withdrawn the project “because the gym is not big enough for an airplane”.  This, of course, is a face-saving cop-out: someone has told her how stupid her assignment is.  Too bad no one told me how stupid I was to volunteer.

 

This woman lives, not on another planet, but in some other galaxy 100 million light-years from here.  People like this teach our kids science and math?!   And when Canada’s (poor) innovation record and our everyday existence depend on science and math?!

 

I’m speechless.  I haven’t any words to say what needs being said, and they wouldn’t do any good anyway.

 

Say a prayer for the kids in the Ontario school system, cuz the good Lord is the only One who can help them.

 

No cheers,

 

F.