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Technology and Understanding

  1. Jun 25, 2004 #1
    The standard mode of education in the United States, and I assume everywhere, is didactic. A teacher with a classroom full of students scatters knowledge about and the students absorb this knowledge—teaching by telling. I would say that it is an osmosis form of education—effortless often-unconscious assimilation.

    The great advantage of this system is that the students assimilate knowledge quickly and efficiently. Our great success in the development of technology is evidence of this reality. A high technology society is dependent upon a citizenry with a large knowledge base.

    Another feature of such a system is that society determines just what knowledge the citizens need and supplies that to them without wasted interference.

    A much less efficient teaching method that is almost never used is the Socratic or dialogue method. This is a dialogue method because a group of students engage one another in dialogue. A teacher tries to keep the dialogue moving and on track.

    In a dialogue the students interact, attempting to move a thesis forward in a dialectic method—thesis, antithesis leading to synthesis that becomes the following thesis etc. Students uncover bias and poor assumptions within the group and must remain alert and involved continuously.

    The dialogue system is very inefficient in the student’s assimilation of knowledge. The great advantage of the dialogue method is that students are very involved and learn quickly the fact that we all have bias and unconscious assumptions. The most important characteristic of the dialogue system is that students develop understanding skills that receive little attention in the didactic mode.

    All this is probably why we are great technicians but lousy at the art of understanding. We can go to war with great skill and high technology but we seem incapable of not constantly going to war.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2004 #2
    I understand exactly what you mean, first hand. I spent the last year and a half at a liberal arts college with a Great Books Program. The classes are basically a tutor (read teacher), 10-15 students, and the theories of great thinkers. We read a work and then spent up to 2 hours discussing, analyzing, and interpreting the author's intent, motives, etc. It's a good environment to teach yourself how to learn and to learn how to analyze arguments and then to finally understand what your findings imply and how this information is useful for further explorations. I did feel that there was not enough real work which does hamper the actual absorption of knowledge. I think a good balance between the two is beneficial. I definitely remember and use more of what I learned with the Socratic system than the normal system of my high school. Granted, I did absorb more at the time at a quicker rate, but I had no immediate reason to remember it so I forgot it just as quickly.

    Still, the Greeks went to war an awful lot. They just had sophists to convince them. We don't even get that!
  4. Jun 26, 2004 #3
    I wished to make three points in this posting.

    1) Our school system is very good at producing citizens capable of developing a hi tech society.

    2) Our school system is very bad at producing citizens capable of the understanding necessary to manage this hi tech capability.

    3) The result is a society in the fast lane to perdition.

    I think understanding is model building. Understanding is the house you build and knowledge is the lumber, nails and hammer needed for the construction.

    This is my model of knowing and understanding and is no doubt different than yours. I bet that, even though our models are different, there is a recognition of similarity.
  5. Jun 26, 2004 #4


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    it would seem to me that PF (and other forums in general) is a great place of understanding as well. ironically, these forums were developed by technology :smile:
  6. Jun 26, 2004 #5

    We cannot get along without our technology. We will ride that horse right in perdition.
    Our ability at technology is outstanding if only we understood what and why we are doing it.
  7. Jun 27, 2004 #6
    We can get along without our technology. Humans have done without our modern advancements for thousands of years. More specifically, I would say we can't do without progress. Now what kind of progress we pursue depends on people's opinions and values. That, in turn, is formed by our present environment, needs, and interests. Obviously you value something else, something having to do with religion or morals. When used perdition, did you mean spiritual perdition, moral degradation, loss of what part of humanity?
  8. Jun 27, 2004 #7
    I mean goin to hell in a handbasket!
  9. Jun 29, 2004 #8
    It is a fact that for humanity in 1500s, the use of gunpowder must have seemed as much as a breakthrough as for humanity in 1900s the development of a-bomb.

    but that is humanity and it's appaling ability to think non-objectively.

    Perhaps to first gunpowder eyewitnesses, it's destructive capabilites seemed unlimited, as we see a-bombs now.

    but it is also a fact, that right now, a-bomb actually does have unlimited destruction capabilites, perhaps it can't destroy entire cosmos, but americans and russians and others have certainly made sure that we now have enough a-bombs to almost completely devastate the planet we're still stuck on.

    Now the scenario i'll put here is NOT so unprobable;

    terrorists, pissed off at the west for meddling into their business on their lands, get a hold of a-bomb from one of Russia's secured (yeah right) stocks. And they blow up New York city.

    the last thing the rest of the world would see before nuclear mayhem is probably Bush's face, filled with old testament's righteouss rage, explaining the "fr(yed)ee world" about the arxis of evil.

    I SINCERELY (you bet) hope that don't happen. But while we have on one side Allah's followers, who perhaps really believe in their religion and their ways, trying to get a hold of a nuke, and on the other the western world, already sitting on thousands of nukes, and who is ready to switch from modern thinking to Samael's handywork in a very short time...

    doh i think i'm going to buy that parcel on mars.

    i put here this scenario because it's currently the most popular, but did you see Dr. Strangelove?...brrr:-) just use your imagination.
  10. Jun 29, 2004 #9
    I loved that movie. I loved all of Peter Sellers movies. Especially Being There. Every time I see that movie I think of Ronald Reagan.
  11. Jun 29, 2004 #10


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    of course we can! there are millions of people on this earth who do not rely on anything electrical for their day to day living!
  12. Jul 1, 2004 #11
    i don't think that he meant that, kerrie.

    let's analyze:

    1:-) we de facto have the potential to eradicate almost all life on our planet with nuclear weapons as much as we have them now, and most certainly the cultures and civilisation as we created it. So, we have the power to ride into our...perdition?:-)

    2:-) there is NO SAFEGUARD MECHANISM, neither in our environment, nor in ourselves, that could actually prevent such a thing from happening (nuclear war let's say).

    3:-) intelligence and our education systems do NOT guarantee responsibility, human relationships, empathy, understanding, or, from another post, *critical thinking* etc.

    As a matter of fact, it can be rather opposite (students and humans generally are encouraged to study and thus develop technology in order to establish their position in society, to be better able to satisfy their needs...so the only thing differing us from a group of apes is the scientific method we use to peel bananas)

    4:-) Why do you think we must survive? Or that we are "meant" to survive? Or that we are capable of continous survival? Or that we WILL survive?

    Do you think our brains cheated evolution, the cycle of birth and extinction, by being our tool to be better able to shape our environment in order to satisfy our own needs, and perhaps, be able to survive natural disasters?

    Perhaps the nature that created our brains in the first place, made sure that when we achieve a point where environment is no threat to us, we become our own threat and thus end another cycle in the aeons of our cosmos, join the dinosaurs?

    A tricky extinction plan?

    5:-) Did you see Dr. Strangelove??????????:-)
  13. Jul 1, 2004 #12
    Everything Sellers does is great.
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