onsdag 22 december 2010

Why Students Fear the New

From the movie Hets (Torment) 1944, after a screenplay Ingmar Bergman.

KTH-gate concerns an undercover operation in the name of students to prevent BodyandSoul to be used in the new Bachelors program in Simulation Technology to start at KTH in the Fall 2011. Students were stimulated by the School of Engineering Sciences to approach the President of KTH and media with a protest against BodyandSoul in order to "save new students from the dangers of BodyandSoul".

The fact that BS contains some analysis of mathematical models used in climate science, was then used as a pretext, because in Sweden climate hysteria rules, to stop the reform of BS. Students never protested against the old trivial numerics course of little relevance, only against the new non-trivial course of high relevance.

How can we understand that students protest against the new and relevant and support conservation of the old and non-relevant, rather than the opposite as the natural expression of a youthful drive to reform?

How can we understand that older students suddenly become very concerned about the well-being of younger students? That older students want to protect younger students from new material, which the older students have not met and thus cannot judge?

My understanding is that this is a consequence of the fear transmitted to the students from the educational system:
  • fear of failing in the studies,
  • fear of not getting a job after the studies,
  • fear that the younger students may learn new more useful material
  • fear to miss something essential of the old when replacing it with the new.
The fear is enforced upon the students by the system with the motivation that it will help the students to perform well and succeed with the examinations.

The fist message by the math teacher is that students who fail in math will fail with everything else in life as well. The math teacher sends this message to inspire the students, knowing very well from experience that half will fail in the math exams, despite the inspiration.

A drawback of fear is that it produces adrenaline which blocks the mind. Another is that students are pushed into a conservative attitude viewing novelties as a threat to be met by resistance, rather than as a possibility to find a place in society to be met with enthusiasm.

I believe that the student engagement in KTH-gate can be understood from this perspective.

A good (non-scared) teacher can help students to open their minds to the new without fear. A bad (scared) teacher does the opposite.

9 kommentarer:

  1. "A good (non-scared) teacher can help students to open their minds to the new without fear. A bad (scared) teacher does the opposite."

    So your conclusion is that this year the numerics course was taught by bad teachers who failed to make the students open their minds?

  2. No, the teachers were good, but some of the students apparently had a preceonceived plan to destroy BS, which interfered with the good intentions
    of the teachers and BS and disturbed the education for the other students.
    Are you one of the students who participated in the mobbing?

  3. No, just à bystander not involved in any way with KTH.
    My impression is that the students became unhappy with the course while they were taking it, not that there was some pre-made plan to destroy something. A thorough revision of the course material, with an emphasis on the pedagogical issues, would probably be a good idea

    Another piece of constructive criticism is that it would be easier to achieve an acceptable pedagogical standard if the book was shortened to only include the material thaught in the course.

    It would also be good to leave out your own views on issues which are not part of the course, such as climate and physics, since they are obviously distracting the students from your main goal, i.e. to teach numerics well.

  4. My role as scientist is to have views on scientific mathematical
    Issues. The material is written to cover a complete program and not a single

  5. Having views is good, but expressing them in a textbook will make the material unfocused. Over the years I have seen numerous examples of textbooks which have failed because they have tried to do too many things at the same time.
    My impression is that you have wanted to teach numrical mathematics in your own way for a long time. Now you have to ask yourself if the opportunity to express all your other views in the same book worth the risk of having your textbook fail because of the other issues?
    With that I take my leave and wish you a peaceful holiday.

  6. Claes, I mentioned you in my blog. I hope I got it about right.

  7. Yes you got the main idea. Glad you take up the discussion.

  8. The discussion on your blog post is a bit confused as to what I show mathematically: I don't disprove Plancks radiation law, but prove it from a wave mechanics model. The classical proof by Planck is based on particle statistics, while my proof is deterministic. Statistics is used when something is impossible to understand. What my model shows is that there is no "backradiation" and this is cumbersome for the proclaimed "greenhouse effect" underlying AGW since it is
    based on massive backradiation.