Monday, March 5, 2007

Bias in the classroom, part (iii): The Beatles

The Beatles - I Want To Hold Your Hand Lyrics

Oh yeah, I'll tell you something,
I think you'll understand.
When I'll say that something
I want to hold your hand,
I want to hold your hand,
I want to hold your hand.

This is one view of university education. The textbook one. You have an unbiased textbook, which brings the truth to the masses, a professor who must hold a student's hand for them to actually learn anything, and students that need to follow the textbook and the professors' explanation, in order to learn stuff.

It may suit community colleges quite well. Students get trained to do some repetitive job.

But it's not for research universities. Students don't learn to think. They don't learn that every single text is bound with bias, limitations, useless information, and loads of crap errors, not to mention outdated. Worst of all, since every single person on this planet is convinced that they really think, they never learned that it is actually a real effort to think through issues. It's like Descartes used to say: "everyone thinks that they have maximum common sense, when related to others". In this view of the system the analogies are: profs are like tutoring guides, holding the hands of students, which are like customers, getting "served". I think you'll understand...

A friend of mine was just telling me the other day (she's a sharp mathematician with a great PhD thesis, but works in a place more like a community college instead of a proper research university):

The problem with using a (particularly famous) textbook is that, when I point out the errors and shortcomings to students, they side with the book! They'd rather take the authority of a printed document than actually going through the damn sweaty process of thinking through an issue and perceiving that, regardless of its prestige, a book is as faulty as a good wikipedia entry such as this or this or this or this or this or this or this.


How can you reply to that?
Oh yeah, I'll tell you something,
I think you'll understand.
When I'll say that something
I want to hold your haaaaand,
I want to hold your haaaaaaaaaaaaand,
I want to hold your hand!

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