The Great Man theory of social progress or art or anything is inherently colonialist and supports kyrarchy. It's a persistent idea in western culture and apparently nothing in a typical CS education ever challenges this. Computers are either invented by a series of great men or they exist in some sort of end-of-history eternal present. RMS is a great man. Therefore any toxicity in his actions is overlookable and toxicity in his defenders is at worst just over exuberance or at best necessary and therefore good.

I'm picking on CS here, but its hardly unique. I've been teaching a course this year that specifically invokes this model of history in the official design documents.

I sometimes feel that education specialises too soon. Being Scottish we could have up to 7 different subjects per year that got us our highers, 1 year courses. If we wanted to progress further (in theory to catch up to A levels) we had a 6th year studies cert. It meant we could study a breadth of subjects. You could study history, a science, language, and mix and match others. Whereas I gather in England and Wales at the time due to the 2 year lengths you could only study a couple.

@onepict Given how everything becomes more technical and complex, phenomenon of early specialisation is quite natural. One must understand the existing to dig deeper into the unknown.


I dunno if I agree with this, all problems are not solvable by increasing specialization. I meam, many are, its obviously effective but if everyone is trained to see the world through the lens of breaking the unknown down into tinier and tinier pieces it is going to create major blindspots.

This kind of approach rarely understands "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" phenomena since people only think about the parts.



@Alonealastalovedalongthe There is no one solution to anything. It just happens right now the society need specialists and so the "education" do its best to produce them. It surely comes with a cost of increased ignorance and missing out the big picture for many people; but it's not obvious to me how it could be otherwise. @onepict

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"it's not obvious to me how it could be otherwise."

Of course it isn't obvious, we were raised with those same blindspots!

Neoliberal, late-stage capitalist societies for the most part only reward extreme specialization of experts as more wholistic understandings would threaten the dominance of these unequal hierarchies.

Exhibit A: social issues like racism, inequality, environmentalism, indigenous & lgtbq people's rights when understood as unconnected become unsolvable


@joyager @onepict

Exhibit B: the massive amount of wasted brainpower poured into programming unethical and pointless software and the seeming lack of awareness of some incredibly intelligent programmers as to basic aspects of the ethics of their work. I.E. all the programmers who could run circles around me in many mental aspects but somehow believe an algorithm can be magically unbiased because a computer is running it.

That one in particular, there's also the danger of only seeing an issue to be fixed. When it's your job to encode and solve the problem there's a danger of not thinking about is this actually a problem that should be being solved? Or even is programming or designing a tech solution the best way for solving that issue.

@Alonealastalovedalongthe @joyager
It's why in the 2010s projects and movements like social innovation were interesting because it brought together coders and people who were actually on the ground looking for ways to help improve society, grassroots rather than a paternalistic patron point of view.

@joyager @onepict

It is basically commonly accepted knowledge that US culture values individualism to a destructive point, but we mostly think about it from an ego perspective, from the perspective of relations between people.

However, the insidiousness of this unhealthy individualism is far more fundamental to how US culture experiences reality.

@joyager @onepict

Those with power in US society atomize systematic processes into unrelated individual instances ALL of the time to create paralysis and confusion.

Just as darwin's theories of evolution were warped and weaponized into weapons of race and class warfare, so is the scientific pursuit of breaking down the universe into smaller and smaller particles in order to understand it weaponized to create intellectual confusion.

@joyager @onepict

When a white man commits a mass shooting the status quo atomizes it. Its about one man and his mental health period.

The denial of climate change itself is atomic, the connection between seemingly different phenomena is entirely denied.

The process of monoculture is an atomization of ecosystems and agriculture, the concepts of interrelated systems of plants and animals is entirely invisible to big agriculture companies. Agriculture = pick the best plant, grow it.

@joyager @onepict

US education does not prepare people to think critically about this, indeed to many these processes are basically invisible even when they are blatantly done.

(Sorry to be US centric, I think these issues apply elsewhere its just I am from the US so I only want to talk about what I know)

TBH I only know the Scottish system from my past and it's changed its was a bit better from a generalist point of view. I can't comment on England and Wales. I can say that in terms of history taught it was woeful and from a colonialist point of view emphasis on things like Churchill etc. So we have to acknowledge Education is a tool to forward a political point of view on the masses.

@onepict @Alonealastalovedalongthe @joyager

The English system is too specialised, IMO and we try to make up for it by covering critical theory, philosophy, etc in music classes, for example.

The US has a type of degree-granting institution called a liberal arts college. These are generally small and private, so the fees charged vary by college. Private and public student financial aid is available to people at them. These colleges have majors but a lot of classes are outside the major. So I actually took a philosophy class, in ethics, taught by a philosophy professor.

I can and do talk about ethics in the music classes i teach, but I cannot offer a systemic exploration of historical and contemporary approaches to ethics.

All but the poshest liberal arts colleges are in trouble. Silicon valley billionaires understand that over specialism is the key to their power.

The large university near me also offered a place on a electrical engineering/computer science course. I would have taken probably the same number of programming classes, but zero English classes. I feel like that should be the exception rather than the norm.

@celesteh @onepict @Alonealastalovedalongthe @joyager

since mid 2000s there have been attempts to make University less specialised here in England (the University of Suffolk has tried this) but we are still stuck with the wider social problem that employers consider liberal arts subjects to be "soft options" and that has been an issue even 35 years ago when I was a teenager and hasn't changed much (the "boom" in the UK "creative industries" is illusory as stats count the IT industry in this) >

@celesteh @onepict @Alonealastalovedalongthe @joyager

by those figures I have worked in the "creative industries" for 20 years (reality is I got laid off from a paid broadcast engineering job in 2001, since then I've worked in the Civil Service and subsequently in finance management and tech for healthcare - I did do /some/ design/creative work (mostly design of documents/forms) but it was never a core part of my job and even broadcast engineering is just like normal tech support work...

@joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict

there is so much I nominally 'learned' in my formal education that really only sunk in after I had more experience of, and out in, the world beyond the classroom

and that's acknowledging the experiences I did have that others may not have

access to formal education as a universal, lifelong opportunity, rather than as a Veblen good marketed chiefly to the young and perforce usually naive: we could do *much* better with that

@deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict I'm a mature student. I find the networking opportunities valuable, but the course itself? I have learned very little so far. I hope I can learn something at some point, but a lot of it is stuff I didn't know at 18 but do know at 35, and I feel like I'm wasting my time.

Even some lecturers have said "you would probably be wasting your time turning up to this session on How To Work In A Group" or whatever to me

I think with uni, it's more a case of proving you can work towards a goal and in theory you have learned skills to enable you to work somewhere. Work with people, code, write reports etc. But it's the start, learning doesn't stop with uni. The trick is to broaden your education so that you can intelligently bring your specialisation to bear. Which means identifying the pros and cons beyond your spec. We aren't taught that aspect in education in CS
@deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe

@ak @deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe
Which is worrying when you consider the, consequences and ramifications for the world. Especially with the Internet and our systems of surveillance.


a great example of an opportunity to do better

for instance, you'd be a great contributor to discussion on that topic, I expect.

Ideally, then, you wouldn't be shunted aside from a "material delivery" episode, but invited to review and re-evaluate the material in light of those experiences.

or, at least, be given credit for your experiences and allowed to skip lower-level intro courses?

@joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict


(and by "do better" I mean, not to fault your efforts, but structurally, including doing better for you and others in your position with regard to the academy)

@joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict

@deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict I'm largely invisible - there are an awful lot of generalisations used by lecturers that don't apply to me ("none of you will remember this thing that happened in 2002 but...")

As a mature, working-class, transgender student, statistically I don't exist and I feel like I spend more time saying "hey! I'm here!" than I do learning about urban planning, and I find myself getting more out of non-uni planning events than the course


how large are the lectures?

as much as I love to blather on, lecture-style, at my own students, I have to concede that the centuries-old general lecture format meant to be passively consumed in real time has a rapidly shrinking niche of applicability.

like any live performance, done well, they can be satisfying. But a reliable staple, with our needs and aspirations and opportunities? Not so much.

@joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict

@deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict I got a bollocking the other day for watching someone's pre-recorded lectures on a Sunday afternoon when there's not much going on, rather than in the "timetabled slot" on a Friday

When I queried this, I got the "you're a full time student and should be available full time" schtick that tutors have been using since the days of the student grant

It's classist BS that takes no consideration of personal circumstances

@deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict My Russell Group university breaks down into middle-class white English students, mostly from the south, and Chinese international students, everyone else is statistically insignificant and has to yell 10 times louder to be heard

@ak @deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe @onepict

Wow, I just realised i don't even know if I have any mature students this term. Everyone who shows up synchronously leaves their camera off. Normally, I would just look out over the class.

My uni's policy is to mark people absent if they only watch later. My policy is that they can sign in. This legally doesn't impact British or Irish students, but everyone else has their student visa imperiled.

@celesteh These are entirely pre-recorded lectures, they are published one week and then there's a live Q&A/discussion the following week - I just watch them on Sundays instead of Friday afternoons when I'm "supposed to"

I haven't missed any content, and I haven't missed any live sessions, I think the lecturer just wanted to take their bad day out on someone

Sadly there are alot of educators out there like that and they do contribute to the drop out rate in STEM, which is how we get to our pretty crappy culture in tech and elsewhere.
@deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe

@onepict @deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe Even in this pandemic year, the university's first thought is that any problem with engagement must be caused by lazy bum students rather than anything else

To some extent I suspect familiarity breeds contempt. Every year they have students and there isn't much of a continuous relationship with them. So it's easier for them to believe that. Doesn't make it right though.
@deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe

@onepict @ak @deejoe @joyager @Alonealastalovedalongthe

This attitude also fits in directly with mindsets of Desi/East Asian parents in Britain (who already have a reputation for being "pushy" though to an extent its a genuine attempt to help offspring fight institutionalised racism), the psychological effect of this is exactly how we end up with politicians like Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel (TBH had it not been for the 90s party scene I could have gone down same Tory supporting route myself)

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