by James Bailey |

Obsolete habits of thought were out in force last week, starting with Lucas Kello's new book The Virtual Weapon and International Order. He assumes that the top-down STEM toolkit is fine for understanding today’s bottom-up cyber issues. Good luck with that, as we will see in an upcoming following post. Then came two items in the New York Times Sunday Review.

First there was Jordan Ellenberg's update on The Math of Gerrymandering. He notes that the designers of Wisconsin's controversial district map used Markov chain Monte Carlo techniques. No surprises there. Nobody today would try to work this problem with algebra or calculus, although that's what the accompanying image asserts. He makes, however, no effort to actually teach the reader anything about these new bottom-up maths or even to point out the importance of knowing about them. Today’s students face the choice:


Do data or be data.


They can either learn the methods of extracting patterns from data (including the ones in Wisconsin) or they can just let themselves be swept up by that data.

Then came Manil Suvi’s riff on the intellectual property rights of zero. A huge amount of energy is wasted every year thinking up ways like this one to make old mathematical ideas seem "relevant" to today's students. All this effort is in violation of School Rule Number One:


It is not the job of the teacher to make the subject matter relevant. It is the job of the subject matter to make the teacher relevant.


Nobody needs to motivate students to acquire the art of, for example, deep learning. We just need to make it accessible in the K-12 years. Same with ecologies. Instead we gin up gimmicks, or worse yet video games, to try to get students to engage content they have no use for.

It's a serious matter, albeit nowhere near as serious as cyber warfare. To be continued.


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