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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Will Artificial Intelligence Save, Replace or even Affect Education Practices? (a venture capitalist’s view)

Will Artificial Intelligence Save, Replace or even Affect Education Practices?
(a venture capitalist’s view)

AI, a.k.a. artificial intelligence, is a highly efficient artificial pattern recognition system (for recognizing patterns with a finite number of variations).
HI, a.k.a. human intelligence, is a highly efficient natural system for creating solutions to problems which have never been solved before; the central ability of the host of HI is an ability to create a solution to a new problem (this is what I teach my students, no matter what specific subject I teach at the time: http://www.GoMars.xyz/vvli.html; www.GoMars.xyz/vv.htm).
In short:
1. Various advances in AI are becoming a common place (the latest example is AlphaGo Zero: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24270).
2. Professionals know that there is still a huge distance between AI and HI. However, for general public, a competition between various versions of AI (produced be different companies: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/02/24/what-companies-are-winning-the-race-for-artificial-intelligence/#ffe12f0f5cd8) is seen as a competition between different sport teams: for example, self-driving cars = “race cars”; Chess, Go, Jeopardy winners = “sport champions”.
3. From the point of view of attracting public attention, i.e. marketing, the most promising actions should be based on more and more complicated competitions between AI and HI. Personally, I would like to see a human and an AI taking the same standard (commercially available) IQ tests (https://www.mensa.lu/en/mensa/online-iq-test.html).
4. Games like Chess and Go are not considered as popular as TV shows, but various competitions, like science subject Olympiads, may resonate with general public. That is why the next battle between AI and HI, which may attract wide attention of general public, should happen at the next Physics Olympiad (so far, excluding the practical/experimental part, and competing only in the theoretical part, solving problems similar to “F=ma” test; https://www.aapt.org/physicsteam/2016/exams.cfm). AI would be reading the same problems and solving them in real time. If AI will win the competition, that will be a clear proof of its actual power. That company which AI will do it first will win the marketing battle (at least for awhile).
Currently, no company can present AI which could solve physics problems, or math word problems, just by reading from a textbook. This is why so far rumors about AI replacing school teachers exaggerate the actual case.

As an expert in HI, I know that no AI can ever learn on its own (like AlphaGo Zero learned how to play Go) how to solve physics problems, or math word problems randomly taken from standard textbooks. This skill requires a high-level training which can be achieved only as the result of effective interaction with a good teacher. That automatically means that no AI can ever learn on its own how to be become a good teacher (i.e. a teacher who can teach beyond memorizing and repeating various – even very complicated – patterns (that is essentially no different from training animals doing tricks); a teacher who can teach how to create a solution to a brand new problem: http://teachology.xyz/general_algorithm.htm; http://teachology.xyz/sp.htm; http://teachology.xyz/mocc.htm; http://teachology.xyz/la.htm).
However, I know for sure, that some of the top AI developers disagree with the statement I just made.
Some time ago I had a meeting with one of the high-level executives and a businessman at one of large tech companies located in Cambridge, MA.
The mere fact that we met was already extraordinary for me; it was the first time I talked to such a person (BTW; I asked for a meeting three more companies, but only one decided to take a risk).
Even more impressive was the fact that we spent talking for more than an hour.
That conversation helped me to take a look into a mind of a person responsible for guiding multi-million projects.
Of course, we talked about education.
It did not surprise me that people like my opponent formed their view on education via reading or watching science fiction.
In their view, in the future a student will be interacting with AI via screens, speech, gestures, like a student does today when interacting with a teacher.
AI will tutor students, and will do it better than today an average teacher does.
Out conversation has clearly shown two facts: (a) business and tech leaders have a very overestimated view of the role AI will play in 10 to 20 years; (b) business and tech leaders have a very trivial (if not primitive) view on education.
Regarding the first fact I have been writing in the past, for example: http://www.GoMars.xyz/AI.htm
In part, I wrote: “People working on AI believe that they can make an “artificial brain”. This type of belief is nothing new. For thousands of years, people have been dreaming about flying like a bird. And finally, Wright brothers invented an airplane. At last, men can fly! Yes. But NOT like a bird! What we – humans – created is a device which replicates one function of a bird, i.e. flying above the ground, but to this day there is no device replicating an actual bird. The field of AI is NO different.”
The second fact, that business and tech leaders have a very trivial (simplistic) view of education, is no surprise at all. They have grown up within the same cultural framework as all regular folks have, with only one difference; since they have achieved staggering success in life, they have even less doubts in their abilities to make right decisions than regular folks have.
Let us ask a question, who is smarter, Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs; Elon Musk or Stephen Hawking? Who is smarter, the guy who was smart enough to write the first version of what had become MS-DOS (Tim Paterson? Gary Kildall?), or Bill Gates who was smart enough to buy it from Tim Paterson for $50,000 and make billions of it? Is IBM’s Watson really smarter than Garry Kasparov?
Different people may approach this question differently.
One may say that we would need to give all those people to solve some abstract (not based on a specific content) problems and see how would they do.
Another approach would be saying that this question does not make any sense, because there are multiple types of “smartness” (in the same sense Dr. Howard Gardner talks about multiple intelligences); i.e. there is “programming smartness”, “business smartness”, etc.
Both these approaches fit the field of cognitive psychology.
Many people, however, do not bother with coming up with a psychological definition of “smartness”; they just equate “making big money” with “being smart” (folk question “if you are so smart, why ain’t you rich?” is an indication of this attitude). And people who made big money in tech especially susceptible to this sentiment.
Self-made tech millionaires and people who made it in the tech world from the bottom to the top believe in paradigm: “If I made big money, that means I’m smart.”
And that might be even true.
But even the smartest person in the world cannot know everything. When a car, or a refrigerator breaks, even the smartest people call a professional.
“We have talked to many teachers”, I was told during our conversation.
“How do you select who to talk to?”
“What is the chance that those people are not as good as they present themselves?”
“How do you assess if those people are as good as they present themselves?”
“You told me that at least two thirds of school teachers are not good at teaching. How do you know that? How do you know who is good and who is not? How do you know that people you talk to are from another third?”
“What is the chance that you are so visionary and charismatic person that when you tell people your vision they accept it without giving to it any critical thoughts (the “Halo effect”)?”
“What is the chance that people are much smarter and cynical than you think, and just tell you everything you like to hear, as long as they keep getting from you free stuff (money, books, tablets, computers, etc.)?”
“What is your personal description, definition, of “good teaching”? How does the structure of good teaching look for you? What is the most important result of teaching – for you – and how do you know it was achieved?”
That type of questions I would like to ask my conversation opponent, but I could not fit it in our hour. If I had more time, I also would ask the same questions about “experts” who are usually hired to support the ideas of the influential “non-experts”.  Speaking about experts, there is one question to which I never could get a clear answer: “How did it happen that $200,000,000 spent in Newark, NJ with the help of many experts on “improving education”, didn’t really lead to improvement in education of Newark children?” The fascinating story of Newark can be found in book “The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?” by Dale Russakoff (https://www.amazon.com/The-Prize-Charge-Americas-Schools-ebook/dp/B00AXS6BIE). A similar question I asked in my open letter to Mss. Laurene Powell Jobs, but, also, without an answer (http://www.teachology.xyz/xq.htm).
At some point in our conversation, I was presented with a vision that in the future, when a student is struggling with a homework, AI would recognize the struggle, and would offer a hint, like “click on this link and watch a movie”, or something else, exactly like a human tutor.
I mentioned that there are already various tutoring systems on the market, and many students just hate them.
Of course, this company has extensively studied those systems and knows how to develop AI tutor which will be much better than the existing ones.
In case it was not very clear, the last sentence was sarcasm.
As a person with an extensive tutoring experience, I know that a human tutor does much more than just offering guiding questions, or hints (http://www.GoMars.xyz/vv.htm). As an example, I used an episode from movie “Sully”. In the episode, test pilots used a simulator to demonstrate that the airplane did not have to land on water, that it could have been brought back to an airport. And Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger said to the commission: “You do not take into account the human factor” (one of my favorites moments in this great movie). When I was listening to my opponent, I said exactly same words: “You do not take into account the human factor”; in short, learning and teaching is simply much more than maintaining the flow of information, or the sequence of physical actions – that would have been just training (https://www.animaltrainingacademy.com/how-to-animal-training/).
I also used an example from a science fiction story. Long time ago a red a short story about the future. At the age of 16 all children would be assessed with the use of a “mental machine” which would prescribe for each child his or her profession for the rest of their life. Then each child would put a helmet, and a technician would charge the machine with a tape holding all professional knowledge needed for the child, and in a minute everyone would learn everything he or she would need to do the work. Except some guys, who could not learn anything from the machine, because their brain was special. Turned out those guys would be going to a regular school to learn how to program those machines and to develop those tapes.
The vision of education presented to me by my opponent was of sort similar to the one described on the science fiction story.
Instead of machines with tapes – computers with AI.
For masses, teaching essentially would be no different from training animals to do tricks.
I admit, that many students – those who today do not have a good teacher – would be getting better knowledge from AI tutor than from a human teacher.
However, parents with resources would be lining up into elite schools where human teachers good at teaching would be teaching their children (of course, with the help from AI).
To answering my title question, AI will affect education, and it will affect it greatly.
Mass education will become less dependent on the quality of teaching cadre. Knowledge and skills of an average student will increase. Businesses will have better prepared workforce for doing more complicated but still mostly routine work. Teachers will not disappear. Most of them will be working in public schools using all technologies offered by AI (in a way, this will be similar to construction workers who replaced a simple shovel with an automatic trench digger).
The best teachers will be concentrating in elite schools where students will learn more than just a very specific set of skills. The will also learn how to use those skills to create knew knowledge.
At some point in our conversation I was told: “My child complains that it is hard to write with a pen on paper. But using a stylus and writing on a screen is easier!”
I said: “Easier does not mean better.”
My phrase resulted in a long pause.
For me, who has been teaching physics and math for many years to all types of students, it was obvious that in education “easier” does not always mean “better for students”. On the contrary, true learning happens via overcoming obstacles and difficulties we call “mistakes”. Another known fact is that learning how to manipulate with fingers (including writing) helps children’s brain development.
Overcoming mistakes is the essence of learning. Guiding through this process is coaching (training, instructing). Teaching includes instructing but also has more (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/665204).
But for my opponent, and many others, “easier”, “funnier”, “down to earth” automatically means “better teaching”.
Based on their view of education, they only support ventures which fit their view.
I was asked “Is the project method of teaching better than a traditional teaching?”
I said: “No”, and I was met with a bewildered glance, and an “attack”: “But when students do projects, it is fun, they are active”.
“OK”, I said, “I take my answer back. I change it to – there is no evidence for either to be better”.
That is exactly the situation.
I know that many so called “project based” approaches make it look like students learn more (students definitely look happier, though). But I also know that if the same students would be taught by a really good teacher who would use “traditional” approach, those students would learn even more. But I could never prove it; as well as no one can prove the opposite.
Today there is no scientific evidence that “project based teaching” is better than “traditional teaching”, or the opposite (http://www.GoMars.xyz/msm.html).
First, there is no commonly accepted definition of either type of teaching.
Second, there is no commonly accepted measuring procedures which would allow to compare the learning outcomes of students.
Third, there is even no commonly accepted list of the learning outcomes expected from students at the end of a school, or a given grade.
Today, measuring students’ learning outcomes is like measuring temperature using different devices and scales without any conversion factors.
The majority of the papers describe teaching “experiments” like – paraphrasing –
1) “We want our students to do better. For that we plan on trying this.” – if the project mostly involves faculty or teachers who directly teach students.
2) “We want our school teachers to teach better. For that we plan on trying this.” – if the project mostly involves faculty from a school of education.
Which leads us to a simple conclusion: nowadays, every single statement about how good or bad some form of teaching is, represents no more than a personal opinion and can be challenged by the opposite statement, and there is no scientific data to support either.
That means that today there is no such thing as science of education (the scientific field does exist, but there is no yet science).
Here we finally have come to the goal of my visit – to discuss the state of the science of education.
Only after the meeting, reflecting on our conversation, I realized that for more than an hour we talked about two different things (“apples and oranges”). I was talking about science of education. My opponent was talking about education. No wonder, we did not understand each other (which is completely my fault – I was not clear enough).
Before the meeting, I sent a letter, which had this part:
“This book (“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn) is a very famous book. First time I read it about 20 years ago. It was a Russian translation. At the time, it was just one of many books I read on the history and philosophy of science. But recently I decided to read it again because I started seeing symptoms described in this book. Symptoms of a paradigm change in a specific area; in the field of education. The crisis is not here yet, but close, and the new paradigm has not been yet formulated, but it's in the air. The old paradigm, which is still the current one, is very simple. It says that learning is basically a process of imprinting the previously collected knowledge into student’s mind, and a teacher is a person who knows what students need and don't need to know.
There is however a feeling that the old paradigm might be outdated. More and more people write that students need to learn how to think critically. However, there is no common view on what critical thinking is, what is its structure, and more importantly how to teach it, especially on the massive scale. Different groups offer different approaches. And we can see the pockets of studies which, from my point of view, will lead to a formulation of a new paradigm. Right now we are in the transition from the old paradigm to a new paradigm, which has not been yet presented. We are in the pre-paradigm stage”.
My intention was to attract attention to the project which would help to advance science of education to a true science (http://www.teachology.xyz/chs.htm).
Only after the meeting I realized that my expectation was premature. I should have not expected from people of such status to think about science: “Hmm, what could we do to change things in science of education?”
I do not think this type of a question has ever popped up in the mind of my opponent before our meeting; due to a simple reason – those people do not think about advancing science, because they do not consider themselves scientists (http://www.GoMars.xyz/30uS.html). And also, because for many people any kind of a search is already seen as a scientific research; which is not actually a case.
In hindsight, I should not have been expecting from my opponent any attention to science of education. Unfortunately, many scientists in the field of education are not involved into scientific projects, too. Even a top-level official at a large research university told me once, that science of education is not possible. Even more, there is no need for science of education at all, because education is more like a craft; we just need more good “craftsmen”. And that was a person who ran at some point a teacher preparation institutional entity. Finally I understood, why my appeal to business leaders (http://www.teachology.xyz/MO.html) and my GoFundMe campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/teachology) were bound to fail.
In this paper, http://www.GoMars.xyz/nsf.html, I have shown that more than 90 % of NSF funded projects are not scientific, but social by their nature. For those projects, their primary goal is not producing new knowledge, but helping teachers teach better (http://www.GoMars.xyz/3pc.htm).
Almost all “experiments” funded by the NSF, or described in various magazines, fit the clear and universal law: “if we take two large groups of fairly similar students, and students in the first group will have a more extensive or diverse learning experience (for example, more contact hours with an instructor, or more time used for guided discussions, or more time spent on certain exercises, or training through more and/or different exercises, etc. than students in the second group), students from the first group, on average, will demonstrate better learning outcomes than the students in the second group” (the 1st Law of Teachology: http://www.GoMars.xyz/6lt.html).
In teaching, this law has the same explanatory and guiding power as the Newton’s Second Law has in physics. There is no need for trying to prove it again and again; it should be used for designing new teaching practices.
I have no doubts that the use of various technologies, including AI, will lead to better education – as a human practice.
To advance science of education someone would need to adopt a “Manhattan Project”, or “An Apollo Program” type approach (http://www.GoMars.xyz/30uS.html).
My hope was to find a tech business leader who would be interested in advancing science of education.
My search is still open (http://www.GoMars.xyz/YP.html).
Although, I doubt that this particular company will invite me back again; my talking style is too "confrontational" (I am not trying to be "smart", but when I know I'm right I just say it: https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/2017/04/polite.html; http://www.gomars.xyz/ppp.html; https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/; http://the3dforce.blogspot.com/2017/04/progressive.html). However, if for some people the tone of the conversation matters more than its substance, maybe those people should take a look in a mirror? (https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/2017/04/polite.html).
And speaking again about how self-made tech millionaires see  education - most probably, some of them just have not had a good teacher in their life (they may have had friends, advisers, professional role models, but not good teachers). That is why they do not know what a good teaching is, and how big is a difference between a teacher and a good teacher. And when a person has not met a good teacher, that person just cannot resonate with anything you would try to tell him or her about good teaching. It is like trying to describe the taste of chocolate to someone who has never tasted any sweets; or trying to describe hiking to a person who has never left a room. 
In the minds of self-made millionaires, being self-made may equate with being self-taught, and lead to being self-sufficient, or even arrogant. Unfortunately, even the smartest people in the world can let their arrogance to blind them. One of the saddest cases of arrogance is the death of Steve Jobs. When he learned he had cancer he did not immediately take care of it using a traditional medical approach, even thought the cancer was treatable. But Steve so strongly believed in his own power that he refused to follow doctors' advice. When he finally gave up and turned to traditional medicine, it was too late. No doubt Steve Jobs was not just smart, he was a genius. And he knew it. But he took it too far.
1. You may be surprised by the fact that many professionals in AI field do not have a definition of AI!

2. The future of AI heavily depends on the progress in learning how to develop HI (Human Intelligence), a.k.a. teaching!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

“Being Polite” versus “Being Nice”; what is the difference for a debater?

“Being Polite” versus “Being Nice”; what is the difference for a debater?
I would like to add my two cents to the debate about “party unity”, “censorship”, “Facebook rude posts”, etc.

1. People keep confusing “being polite” with “being nice”.
“Being polite” means – no any physical encounter, no offensive words, no name calling, etc., and REQUIRED by the law.

“Being nice” means – “do not tell me what might upset me”. And there is NO law which requires people to be nice.
An imaginary conversation.
"You should not tell me this".
"Because it makes me feel sad".
"You should not tell me this"!
"Because it makes me feel sad"!!
"Why should I care about how you feel?"
"Because ...
you need to be nice!"
"Because! ... I'm leaving! You are impossible!"

If someone gets so easily upset, that one just should not go even close to politics (or management, or any professional field, really: for more follow to http://www.gomars.xyz/op.html#stag).

2. The more debates take place the better. Censoring posts on the ground “I disagree with it”, or “this makes me feel bad” only leads to pushing people out of THIS place of the debate, but not out of the debate.  
People will not stop thinking what they are thinking, but will find other venues to express it (for example, by voting for Trump). 
In the long run, that is exactly what we need these days – we (democrats, progressives) need to get separated ("give each other a space"), give time to different groups to get a better, clearer understanding who wants what and who is who, and what they really want. Then those different factions, groups, "cliques", would be able to find a common ground.
To the advocates of censorship "because it cuts fake news" - (a) if you cannot see which news is fake, you should not go into politics; (b) if you afraid people would be influenced by fake news you should offer your counter-opinion; (c) make sure that for you "fake news" is not just something "I don't like it".

3. At some point, everyone will need to make a decision: am I BY the movement, or IN the movement (does not depend on what movement)?

BY the movement means – providing types of support – verbal, monetary, etc.

IN the movement means – allocating a certain amount of time on various political actions. Among those actions, #1 is education themselves on the laws governing social changes.

For better or worse, Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” became the theoretical foundation of the following social revolutions (many!).

For a "progressivist", the theoretical foundation is “Saving Capitalism” by Robert B. Reich.

Read, think, discuss, plan, act.

Or, offer another book!
Your (and mine, many of us) twits and Facebook posts do NOT represent a solid logical theoretical foundation for the actions needed to do "Our Revolution".

Let us be clear – without deep understanding of the true reasons for the country getting to the current social, political, economic state, the fate of any movement (all movements) will be the same as the fate of the “Occupy Wall-Street” - gradual decline and dissolving.

4. Bernie Sanders said It wasn't that Donald Trump won the election, it was that the Democratic Party lost the election”

BTW: he said it five month after the election day; I said the same right after it (https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/2017/04/clinton.html), but the difference is – no one cares what I say, Bernie’s every word gets scrutinized from right and left.
After Sanders said it, there is no turning back. Now everyone inside and outside of the Dem Party has to express his or her position toward the statement: agree, disagree, not sure, or ignore (acting like he has never said it).Arguing about the meaning of this statement is just useless
This type of a statement cannot be logically proved or disapproved; it is a belief-based statement - like "aliens, a.k.a. ETs exist". One can say that the universe is so vast, and there are signs of aliens visiting the Earth, so they exists. Or one can say there are no facts (bodies, machinery) proving the alien existence, hence they don't.

5. Politics needs knowledge and logic; political actions need time, effort, and SLOGANS!

6.  An ice cube in a freezer remains an ice cube as long as it remains in a working freezer. What will happen if one cuts the power cord, or just opens the door and keeps it opened for a long time? Ice turns into water (hopefully, no one has doubts about this). This is just an example of how external conditions, a.k.a. environment, affects properties of a system. It works for any system and any environment.
Four words:
describe the drastic change in the social and economical environment of all countries in the world. 
That is why all countries now are "melting".
What will they turn into?
(a). no one really knows
(b). everyone has a chance to push it in a direction one likes - and eventually the melting social and political structures will take the new stable form. 
What form?
No one really knows.
Can be ANYTHING (democracy, fascism, you name it).
7. Confusion between "polite" and "nice" is not confined by politics, one can see it in science, in business, basically everywhere where people talk. In politics it is called "political correctness", in other spheres it may be called "rudeness", or "cynicism". Unfortunately, this confusion presents a huge obstacle to forging an effective collaboration.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016? The Answers Is Rooted In The State Of Education In The U.S.

Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016?

The Answers Is Rooted In The State Of Education In The U.S.

Why Did Russian Cyber Forces Beat Their U.S. Adversaries in 2016?
Why eleven World Chess Champions came from the USSR/Russia and only one came from the U.S. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Championship)?
It might not seem obvious, but the answer to both question is the same, which is: “Because Americans do not value intelligence (a.k.a. intellect)”.
Just Google “Americans values”. The list would always include things like freedom, entrepreneurship, persistence, practicality, generosity, and others, but nothing related to “being smart”.
The highest recognition a smart person can have is to be called a “geek”, or a “nerd”, which stands for “a harmless idiot who helps a “school king” or a “school queen” with his or her math homework”.
I know that this is an exaggeration, which however is not too far from the realty.
Statistically speaking, three hundred million Americans should have twice more smart people than one hundred fifty million Russians.  But we didn't  see that in 2016!
Does it mean Russians are smarter than Americans?
The answer is – no!
The difference is not in the people.
The difference is in the approaches the two governments choose towards the youth preparation.
During the time of the Soviet Union Empire, almost every city and town in Russia had at least one chess club, funded by the government. Chess matches of various ranges, starting from a middle and high school levels, were a common place. Almost every paper and a magazine had a chess section. If sports like a football and a hokey were naturally popular, the popularity of chess had been promoted by the government.
In 1975 Russia’s TV launched a show called “What, Where, When?” where a group of six people, called “knowledgeables”, had to solve a number of problems (the number varied from a dozen to a couple of dozens, depending on the script). To solve each problem “knowledgeables” usually had one minute; during this time they could have a discussion to reason toward the solution, and then had to provide their answer. The show quickly has become very popular. Since 1986 the show is being translated live (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%3F_Where%3F_When%3F).
A similar show was launched on ABC in 2011, but was canceled after the first season.
American popular shows like “Jeopardy” or “Who wants to be a millionaire” do not require any reasoning; they based solely on the ability to memorize a large number of facts.
Many Russian movies have a character whose internal reasoning is presented to the audience. One of the most popular mini-series “Seventeen Moments of Spring” regularly depicts a Russian spy analyzing various scenarios. In American movies even “geeks” do not think, they just already know what to do (lately, however, some companies have launched criminal TV shows where some analytical work is being presented to the audience).
The difference in the approaches the two governments choose towards the youth preparation leads to the difference in what the youth considers to be “cool”, and in the end to the difference in the youth preparation.
Because the society in general does not value logical reasoning (or at least does not demonstrate that it does), schools are not required to promote it as well, and school teachers are not required to use methods leading to the development and advancement of logical abilities of students.
The conversation about “teaching students to think critically” has been taking place for at least twenty years (for example, look up “Proceedings of the 1996 international conference on Learning sciences”; http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1161135&picked=prox&cfid=748024299&cftoken=68199815), but still has not moved beyond the initial statement that “we need to teach students to think critically” (for example, look up “International Conference on Learning Sciences; 2016 Proceedings”; https://www.isls.org/icls/2016/).
What does “thinking critically” mean, what is the structure of “critical thinking”, what are the elements and stages of the process of development of “critical thinking”, and why would “teaching students to think” be not enough, unless “thinking” is named “critical”; all those questions have not been answered, but even more importantly, all those questions have not been even raised – at least from a practical point of view, i.e. from a point of view of teachers helping students to advance their reasoning abilities.
However, the question “what to do in order to advance the development of reasoning skills?” has a very simple answer.
We know that in all human practices, to advance a development of a certain skill, one needs to use that very skill, and needs to use it on a regular basis (not episodically). For example, to get better at swimming, one needs to swim, and needs to do it as often as possible. To get prepared to run a marathon, one needs to do the running on a regular basis. That’s what is called a “training”.
Similarly, for developing reasoning skill students need to train that skill, meaning, students need to reason, and they need to do it on a regular basis, preferably under the guidance of an experienced “trainer”, a.k.a. a “coach’, a.k.a. a teacher.
All well-developed sciences like mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and other have a very clear, well-established, and well-known internal logic of the knowledge development. This makes these sciences a perfect instrument for the development of reasoning skills. However, we all know that this is not happening in our schools.
The fact that many school students lack interest to study STEM subject has become a common place. But as a common remedy for treating this attitude teachers are advised to either “make math/science fun”, or “connect math/science with a real world”. These two recommendations, although slightly differently worded, have been presented in numerous papers, conference proceedings, books, speeches, popular TV and radio shows.
There is a vast amount of publications on STEM education, but the most of them do not dig deep enough in the structure of the teaching and learning processes, and usually just repeat the same advises, which have been well known for a long time and ; like get students excited, increase rigor, start early (i.e. from the elementary school), work together (i.e. teachers and administrators)” (https://is.gd/EEuvuV). However, authors do not discuss reason which for many years have been preventing school and teachers from implementing these “simple” advises in their everyday practice.
It is time to ask a question; if twenty years of trying to apply all these recommendations to a teaching process have not led to a significant improvement in students’ success in STEM subjects, maybe they do not present the actual reasons for the lack of interest to study STEM subjects?
I’ve been teaching – mostly physics – but also mathematics, problem solving, logic, for almost twenty years (not mentioning my professional work with teachers and administrators). My students always appreciate a good joke, or an interesting story about how we use some of the physics discoveries for our everyday benefits. But most of all they love the clarity, and understanding of what and why is being done in the class. That is why I have no doubts that all students would appreciate the same, if all teachers would be guiding them through the logical steps required for understanding of all important logical connections of the subject they teach.
The discussion of why it is not a case is outside of the scope of this paper (http://www.teachology.xyz/3pc.htm).
The statement I make is simple: people who during their school years do not learn how to reason, will not be able to reason when the need for logical reasoning will be knocking on the door (The 11th Law of TeachOlogy; http://www.teachology.xyz/6LT.html).
The most important use of a logical reasoning in the everyday life is making predictions about possible events (The 33rd Law of TeachOlogy; http://www.teachology.xyz/6LT.html). Those predictions allow us to make preparations to face those events, or to alternate their results.
A person who cannot reason, cannot predict what will happen, hence, that person can only react to what already happened.
This is exactly what is happening right now (April, 2017) within the U.S. intelligence services – a reaction to the “unpredictable” Russian cyber “invasion” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?utm_term=.­­3931175fa11f).

Cyber threat is only one of many the Country is facing these times.
When politicians and experts discuss what is the biggest threat to the national security, they also name climate change, mass migrations, Russia, ISIS, federal debt, income inequality, and many others (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/09/02/whats-the-greatest-threat-to-us-national-security).
However, what we all need to accept is a simple fact, that whatever threat the Country faces, whatever problem the Country needs to solve, that threat is not going to go away on its own, that problems will not be resolved on its own; only people who have sufficient knowledge and adequate skills – including reasoning skills – will be able to grasp, design, and enact the needed, effective, and efficient actions and counteractions.
That is why the most important capital any country can have is the human capital.
That is why the biggest threat to the national security is presented by the decline of the human capital; both, quantitatively – a negative birthrate, or qualitatively – intellectual stagnation.
This is why the intellectual heal of the nation should be treated with the same important and urgency as the physical health of the nation.
Unfortunately, the facts show the opposite.
“Nearly a half of PhD aerospace engineers, over 65% of PhD computer scientists, and nearly 80% of PhD industrial and manufacturing engineers were born abroad.”
“The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents earning graduate degrees in science and engineering fell 5 percent from its peak in 2008. At the same time, the number of students on temporary visas earning the same degrees soared by 35 percent.”
“According to a 2016 survey of 400 employers from across Massachusetts, 75% said that it was difficult to find people with the right skills to hire in Massachusetts.” “Respondents find deficiencies in the readiness of new hires, not just in “applied skills” like teamwork, critical thinking and communications, but also in simple reading, writing, and math.”
It has become a common place to present interviews or surveys where business leaders and business owners complain on the low level of skills of domestic workforce.
Numbers say that, essentially, the U.S. education system does not produce the domestic work force with the adequate set of skills and the sufficient volume of working knowledge.
If this issue will not be addressed forcefully and in time, the various U.S. services, including the intelligent services, will be predestined to play a catch-up every time after the next anti-American attack, which may happen in the economic area, cyberspace, or within the American territory.

P.S. Russian (or, for that matter, any other adversary's) intelligence forces saw an opportunity to use Facebook, Twitter, and Google to influence 2016 elections. This whole post has been based on the assumption that American intelligence forces did not see that coming and did not prepare the counter activities. But logically speaking, there are also other versions of the events.
(a) American intelligence forces saw it but was not able to do much about it. Or,
(b) American intelligence forces saw it but decided to do nothing.
Of course, I prefer thinking that the real reason is the state of the general education.

Some links on the matter:
What Would Businesses Do if No Foreign Students Could Come In the Country Anymore? https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/2017/02/nostudents.html
Who and why should learn physics? https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/2016/12/onphysics.html
ow much of the NSF funded “fundamental” scientific educational research is really fundamental? https://teachologyforall.blogspot.com/2016/12/wnsf.html
There are at least two versions of the famous quote
“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
“Every nation has the government which it is fit for.”
I would like to offer a modification.
“Every democracy has the government which is as smart as the most of the people”.
© Valentin Voroshilov (Nov. 2017)
That is why good public education is crucial for a democracy.
That is why everyone who is against good public education is automatically against a democracy, hence against the Constitution of the United States.