Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

The Comprachicos

These are my comments on The Comprachicos, an essay by Ayn Rand found in http://www.amazon.com/New-Left-Anti-Industrial-Revolution/dp/0452011256

This will make a lot more sense if you read it first. It is not a summary, and it leaves out a lot of good ieas from the essay.

I agree with Rand's pro-children attitude, as opposed to the usual more hateful one. Rand says young children should start learning abstract ideas, and I agree with her.

I agree with her criticisms of "the pack" and conformity and collectivism, and her view that the "problem children" often have the best chance to get through school with their reason in tact.

I agree with many of her specific examples about how some methods of teaching are nonsense, or contradict the educational philosophy the teachers claim to follow. I disagree with her apparent assumption that most of the effects and meaning of teaching methods can be discerned by looking at them and reasoning about them. I think that the bulk of what's done to kids is more subtle than that. And I think kids are resilient and such blatant methods, alone, are not enough to have the affects schools do have.

Rand only mentions parents briefly. She says mistakes of this size aren't made innocently. I don't agree with that logic. I do agree with her assessment that many parents want to get their kids out of their hair, and don't think carefully about what sort of place they are sending their kids, and also don't have thoughtful, rational discussions with their kids.

Rand takes a fairly nature oriented position on some aspects of the nature/nurture debate. She does talk a lot about how education matters, but she also seems to think being more or less intelligent is innate.

Rand sometimes appeals to "the evidence" or "scientific research" but fails to cite it or explain what research was done and how it is capable of reaching the conclusion it reaches. This is scientism, but it's mild and she provides arguments for all her conclusions.

Rand overestimates how much teachers hurt children *intentionally*. She thinks they somewhat plan for it. Alright, some do, but they don't actually know how to plan for things and then make them happen, so their planning hardly matters. Rand makes a comment that if they cared about the children they'd notice certain policies are harming children and stop or revise them, and concludes they don't care about children's well being. I disagree with that. I don't think they know how to evaluate what works and what doesn't. Doing that takes skill which they don't have. They have no idea if they are doing harm or not. I don't want to absolve them of all guilt, or even any guilt -- they do see crying children, and they definitely know that many children dislike much of what they do -- but let's not assume they know, plan, or intend more than they do. They are clueless and helpless, and have a mix of callous disregard; superficial, tender love and caring; some meanness; and for many teachers, especially the younger ones, only occasional hatred of the children. Many teachers have given up and don't think about what they are doing.

Rand says schools and culture used to be better and more rational, and the comprachicos only gained control quite recently, and the current educators had a better education themselves. I disagree. Rand doesn't go into detail here. It's true that schools have changed in some ways, and their explicit rhetoric has changed, but I see no reason to think their basic effect has changed. Perhaps Rand is going too much on the schools' explicit messages. If anything, school has gotten better. People are smarter now, and more capable; we can tell because they deal with more complex lives, have more possessions which are more complicated (like computers), there are more knowledge workers, and GDP per capita is much higher. And schools have had reforms, e.g. with corporal punishment. And we now have more and better sources of information (TV, internet, more books, etc).

Rand does a good job of emphasizing how much of a child's learning is inexplicit, and how much of what is taught is inexplicit (for example, she discusses the emotional vibe of the pack). And I agree with her comments on whim.

I agree with Rand's mentions of the *boredom* of school.

I agree with Rand that the primary way to do well in the pack is to learn to manipulate human beings, and this is disgusting, and not something an individualist would want to do. I agree that "socializing" and "fitting in" are wicked.

I liked Rand's comment that non-conformist children have *no one* on their side. Not even themselves, because they don't have much understanding of the nature of their battle. However, she's slightly mistaken: they have Rand on their side! She does indeed sympathize with them. Good for her. And I do too.

I don't agree with Rand's assumption about the developmental status of children being very strongly tied to age. She even mentions that is false at one point by saying children of the same age and intelligence can be at significantly different levels of development if one is educated well and the other isn't. Yet she still refers to what three year olds need, what five year olds need, and so on. (And it's not even clear if these age numbers refer to normal children or properly educated children.)

I generally agree with Rand's comments about how people automate large parts of their thinking. For example, Rand says you have to learn to focus your eyes, or to coordinate your muscles to walk. And this isn't obvious or trivial. Rand says we learn a huge amount in our first two years, and if any adult could learn as much, as quickly, or as well he'd be a genius. But adults have automated the process so much it seems easy.

I agree with Rand that fakers -- for example people who pretend to agree with the pack when they don't -- often become fakers by habit, and then live that way without thinking, and it becomes a major part of them, and the "real" self gets lost and forgotten.

Perhaps my favorite part is on page 197:
At the age of three, when his mind is almost as plastic as his bones, when his need and desire to know are more intense than they will ever be again, a child is delivered -- by a Progressive nursery school -- into the midst of a pack of children as helplessly ignorant as himself. He is not merely left without cognitive guidance -- he is actively discouraged and prevented from pursuing cognitive tasks. He wants to learn; he is told to play. Why? No answer is given. He is made to understand -- by the emotional vibrations permeating the atmosphere of the place, by every crude or subtle means available to the adults whom he cannot understand -- that the most important thing in this peculiar world is not to know, but to get along with the pack. Why? No answer is given.

He does not know what to do; he is told to do anything he feels like. He picks up a toy; it is snatched away from him by another child; he is told that he must learn to share. Why? No answer is given. He sits alone in a corner; he is told that he must join the others. Why? No answer is given. He approaches a group, reaches for their toys and is punched in the nose. He cries, in angry bewilderment; the teacher throws her arms around him and gushes that she loves him.
I like the "Why? No answer is given." theme.

I think Rand's comment that loneliness is only for people who have something of value to share, but can't find any equals to share it with, is insightful. She says the emotion that drives conformists to "belong" is fear. I'm not so sure about that. I think fear plays a role, but there are many other issues, such as not knowing what else to do, and thinking non-conformity is morally wrong.

Rand hates: Kant, John Dewey, Marcuse, Hegel, Logical Positivism, and Language Analysis.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (7)

Popper vs The World

Popper/Feynman/fallibilists/etc: Mistakes are very easy to make. In addition to imaginative conjectures, we need relentless criticism. If we don't have that criticism, we'll constantly be fooled by mistakes.

Others: Stop dismissing everything so easily. It's good enough. No one is going to be fooled unless they are an idiot. Imagination is more important than criticism. And anyway, the way to avoid mistakes is this: proven or supported ideas are not mistakes.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Problem of Consciousness

Here are some formulations of the "problem of consciousness" from Wikipedia with comments:

"Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?"
What do you mean by a "rich inner life"? And why shouldn't it?
"How is it that some organisms are subjects of experience?"
Snails get to be subjects of experience by crawling near humans.

I think they meant to say something else. But it's not very clear what.
"Why does awareness of sensory information exist at all?"
This assumes there is "awareness of sensory information". That is a bad place to start for the problem of consciousness!

It doesn't make any sense to assume X exists and then get stuck on saying X is. If you can't say what X is, then you should reconsider whether it exists in the way you think it does.

This shouldn't be a *why* question. A *what* question would be better. But it shouldn't be "What is [some string of letters]?" It should give some specific facts or evidence or something and present some problem with them. Which this doesn't.
"Why do qualia exist?"
Assumes qualia exist and that we know what they are. Bad starting point.
"Why is there a subjective component to experience?"
Assumes there is a subjective component. Doesn't say what that is.
"Why aren't we philosophical zombies?"
Why aren't we rocks? Or snails?

Better question: how do we learn? How can we do philosophy?
"Phenomenal Natures are categorically different from behavior"
That's not a question, it's a very vague assertion.

I'm not saying there is no such thing as a legitimate problem that could be called "the problem of consciousness". But the people pursuing *these* questions A) don't know what the problem is and B) aren't doing anything to solve it.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)

Temper Tantrums

Quotes from Feb 2000:
Could someone help me? How do you discipline a child that has got in the habit of throwing temper tantrums, when she doesn't get her way?
Well, why doesn't she get her way?
Exactly. Classic TCS.
What is it that she wants? How does it conflict with what you want? How could you create a situation that worked for both of you?
Unfortunately, this does not answer the question. The poster did not ask how to find a solution. He asked how to discipline his child. He's already decided A) they aren't both going to get what they want B) whose going to lose out.

It has not occurred to him that, say, he could be mistaken about whether temper tantrums are good or bad. Or whether "discipline" (punishment) is good or bad. Or that there is a truth of the matter about how they should proceed, which he and his child disagree about, and that they should try to find out what this truth is.
It's becoming a common practice for my daughter to fallout wherever she is(public, home or daycare), which is very embarrassing. HELP!
His daughter is greatly upset, and his concern is his own embarrassment?

His daughter is being hurt frequently, and he wants help for himself?
Help her get what she wants. If you just crush the behavior, she may be less embarrassing, but won't be any more happy. Get rid of the problem, not the symptom of it..
The idea that "tantrums" have reasons or problems behind them is rare.

The whole point of calling it a temper tantrum is to deny the child is using reason in any way. And to deny the child is expressing a preference or want of any kind. It's to deny the child exists at all. All that exists is the temper, the genes, the childishness, the parent's embarrassment, and so on.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Children Don't Exist

Most bad parenting can be said to assert that children don't exist.

For example, spanking a child in order to improve it's behavior is treating a child like a donkey at best. It thus denies the child exists as a person.

The idea of temper tantrums denies the child exists, and says instead that other things exist such as 'temper' and 'childishness'.

The idea of aspies denies the child exists and replaces him with a syndrome.

The preferences of children are very commonly denied to exist. He doesn't really want that toy, just an ad told him to pester his parents. Ads exist, and pestered parents, but not children who agree with ads or who would benefit from toys.

Sometimes children are asked to pretend they don't exist: be seen but not heard, or go to bed before the guests arrive.

When a child doesn't want a vaccination, all parents acknowledge to exist is irrationally fear and irrational demands that life consists absolutely entirely of love and unicorns.

When a child doesn't want a medication, all parents acknowledge to exist is the absolute necessity of administering the medication.

When a child doesn't like school, it certainly never occurs to parents that they are dealing with a person who has a preference and a life, and perhaps should have some control over his life. Instead, all that exists to them is a ball of clay which has the potential to be an adult with the skill to run its own life, and will get there not by practicing doing that but by molding.

And it goes on and on.

Despite all this, I think it'd be highly inaccurate to say the primary problem with parents today is they haven't realized children exist.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (9)

Foreign Love Song Lyrics


These lyrics, translated from Korean, have a somewhat different style and emphasis than American love songs. I've edited parts out to condense:
Boy My First Love Story

You're so so handsome
My eyes my eyes are blinded
I can't breathe because I'm trembling

Oh I feel so embarrassed
I can't look at you
I feel shy because I've fallen in love

What should I do? (What should I do~) About my trembling heart (My trembling heart)

(Thump thump thump thump) My heart kept thumping
So I couldn't fall asleep at night

My close friends tell me
That I'm really a helpless fool
But as I look at you~~

So tingly tingly my body is trembling gee gee gee gee gee
Oh your glittering eyes (oh yeah~) Oh this sweet aroma (oh yeah yeah yeah~)

I can't even say anything
I'm too embarrassed

Do I not have any courage?
What would be the right thing to do?
Thump thump my heart is anxious as I'm looking at you
I don't think Americans songs are so openly shy and embarrassed.

In any case, how can you be in love with someone you're "too embarrassed" to "say anything" to? In other words, how can you be in love with someone whom you do not have a relationship with at this time?

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Broken Hearts Per Day


- there are 6 billion people.
- people average 5 broken hearts per lifetime due to a breakup.
- people worldwide live 60 years on average.

Then the number of broken hearts due to breakups per day is:

>> (6 * (10**9) * 5) / (60*365.25)
=> 1368925.39356605

That's 1.37 million broken hearts happening every day.

That is a lot of pain. :(

Perhaps there is a better way.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (7)