We must democratize computational skill

We need to bring the fire down from the mountain. We are not on that project — we are still on the opposite project: keeping the wizards behind the curtain.

Too many of the wizards are male, and are busying themselves in playing petty economic and status zero-sum power games instead of recognizing the context they are in — we are all in — as an infinite game in which the enlargement of the participant group to include and, not just reluctantly tolerate, but to avidly welcome women in to the club will massively benefit all the players. 

Then there are the white wizards who create pseudoscientific rationalizations for wasting time obsessing over 18th century racial animus as a massive distraction from having to do the work of creating anything useful or contributing any value to the world. They’ve taken their centuries of evolutionary advantage and painstakingly developed economic pie to split hairs over who ought to be denied a few of the crumbs, as a cheap method of papering over the deep well of collective insecurity and ego fragility precipitated by a lack of meaningful individuation and their failure to create anything useful or contribute any value to the world.

We could be playing this game together. Instead, we furtively dart about in Plato’s Cave imagining we are still living in a world of scarcity, rather than leveling ourselves up to behold the vision of the new world of abundance we have the capacity to create.

Not Ready Player One.

Arguments for an open world

For friends of the Open Society who, like me, would prefer not to block the movement of people, ideas, and trade:

  • Trade agreements are net contributors to economic growth
  • Immigrants are net contributors to economic growth
  • Money spent on the security industrial complex economy has low ROI vs. education, infrastructure, and research spending
  • A diversity of ideas more likely leads to the best outcomes vs. a paucity of ideas
  • Companies with more women leaders are more profitable
  • The more the merrier!

Tests are not learning tools

Tests are evaluating tools that can only act as a diagnostic — they offer no improvement in the actual ability of children to learn. In the so-called “real world” we don’t take tests — we solve problems and tackle challenges that (ideally) resonate with us somehow when we manage to solve them.

Unfortunately one of the more important parts of that equation — the passion, and the interest that drives us to ask questions in the first place — is often absent in many a modern life.

In service of stability, in service of family, of practicality, of a grim sort of tradition — for whatever reasons, we find ourselves here. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Moreover, tests are supposedly a heuristic that stands in for “teacher performance.” But there are many quite consequential other factors that affect students’ performance on tests, most of which have nothing to do with the teacher and everything to do with the child and his or her life outside of school.

In other words, judging teacher ability by test scores alone is a very “lossy” way to make a judgment to begin with — and we’ve dramatically increased the number of tests, to the point where there are precious few *other* judgments allowable or possible about our teachers. Plus, we’ve tied test scores to teacher salaries and district funding more broadly — all based on the notion that one very lossy metric is able to tell us everything we need to know about what’s going on in our schools.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Missing from that metric is any factor that accounts for what arguably *is* the most salient predictor of student performance: poverty level. This makes intuitive sense to anyone who’s ever taken a sociology class, or has experience with poverty itself — when you design a feedback loop to punish the poorest students, who already have the most difficult time prioritizing school life over the very real concerns waiting at home, we shouldn’t be surprised that the loop keeps tightening and ensuring the black hole of poverty is harder and harder to escape.

There’s nothing common about the Common Core

The standards for Common Core sailed through reams of political due process in record time, right on a wave of $230 million from Bill Gates — a man who went to an elite private school, and has sent his children to the same type of education. No dogfooding, Bill? If the improvements you’re making to our system are so awesome, why not entrust your own family’s future to the power of the robust American public school system?

Or is it just another thinly veiled form of colonialism, under a new guise — much like Zuckerberg’s boondoggle internet.org. We’re giving our children a better chance at becoming great test takers, much like we’re giving the third world a few tiny drops of Facebook-gated internet. Go us! This is what Great Men do with all that money they fleeced out of the American economy: Give Back. We applauded them as they siphoned it — slack jawed, drooling fanboys — and later lauded them as they gave slivers of it back in exchange for the modern version of the pyramids: your name on an edifice, to live on through the ages and be recognized by future men. This is how one escapes dying — so the story goes.

There’s another story.

You can escape dying in another important way: by living. Just choose to live honestly and openly every day, in every moment, in every moment of decision.