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26 June 2012



George, online training in enterprise wide procedures and policies is one thing, but I've yet to see any evidence that good books and effective study are in danger of being supplanted for serious study of academic subjects, They're good for imparting facts, which is important and necessary but not sufficient.

The Kahn Academy pieces are wonderful in the context of a state run educational system that has been deprecating direct instruction techniques in California for 25 years, and it isn't just California.

Michael Anderson

Last year I helped facilitate Kahn Academy sessions w/ 3rd and 4th grade math students in the computer lab at Grass Valley Charter and it was very enlightening. I thought it was a much better teaching process than just having the teacher write stuff on a blackboard and expect all of the students to be able to follow along.

The other facilitators and I were able to identify those who were struggling and push them along very easily, since they were already working in an individual fashion.

I think Kahn Academy-like learning is a great supplement to "good books and effective study."


I am guilty of doing everything within my power not to take on additional employees. I downsized during this great recession and I have no intentions of every using human labor (w-2 wages) to grow my businesses again. Those that celebrate "May Day" don't understand that their aggression destroys more jobs than it has/will ever save/create. The quickest way for an employER to lose their rights is to hire em employEE.

Our household loves Khan.

Account Deleted

This is a great opener for what I've experienced over the last few days. I'd been pondering the collection of the gen I'd gathered - did it have a connection? Remember Google's big hoo-ha where-in they would gift a community with ultra high speed connectivity? After NC citizens spent a great deal of time and money touting the wonders of our fair burg: http://95959google.com/ it transpired that Google never had any intention of going with any California town. As left wing and green as they are, they wanted to get something done in our lifetime and they knew that the California govts' anti-progress attitude would mean 20 years of paperwork and lawsuits.
OK, what next? I had a meeting with a man that did work in highway construction and heavy equipment operation. He related tales of folks (locally) caught in a tangle of trying to access their land and/or trying to clear their land of brush for purposes of fire suppression. What used to be a matter of common sense had been replaced with a morass of paperwork, permits and running the gamut of neighbors that can complain and leave your land worthless because they don't want govt agents snooping around their un-permitted houses and pot farms, or just generally don't want anyone to develop what they feel is their own personal park.
Next? How about a story in Oakland concerning a conference of good folks trying to co-ordinate govt, NGOs and law enforcement for the purpose of eradicating the child sex slave trade? Stay with me here - it all connects. It turns out that Occupy Oakland pitched a fit (literally) because everyone has the right to do what ever with their own body. Cue the rioting and smashed glass and scuffles with security at the conference.
OK - I have the right to do what ever with my body. It's mine? right? Well, that's the fascinating part because I always thought that applied to what ever I would do with my time and my body. Such as employment. Why the left believes it only applies to the sex trade is baffling. Here's a thought. Why not have a contract between myself and someone else be of no business to the govt? Why not have the govt have to prove (just as they would my guilt) that I'm doing something wrong rather than I having to prove my innocence beforehand? Question to the good lefties out there; Why should the govt stick their snoots into a private contract between two consenting adult parties? Why should govt vex and confound private citizens to the point of simply not wanting to go forward with a legitimate enterprise?
You lefties got what you wanted, and it doesn't work. If you want folks employed, then let the free market work. If someone wants to live in a tar paper shack and get 2 dollars an hour - isn't that better than no work at all and having them live in some govt run project hell-hole? Enterprise and progress and productivity will follow freedom, not govt run and managed markets. Technology has always had a bleeding edge. Always. But the number of good folk that want to work and have freedom doesn't always follow the same path. I appreciate George's post, but I can relate something far more mundane that illustrates the same principle on a far more mundane (tech-wise) level. I believe it was around the late 80's. I had given a friend a lift to a Sacramento Ford dealership. While waiting, I chanced on a "technician" servicing a car. He was doing nothing more than what George related, but was getting instructions from a B/W CRT instead of a retinal display. Not trying to put the guy down - he might be a crackerjack mechanic. But his job was nothing more than following instructions and he needed only to be trained to a very low level. So it's been in daily operation for over 2 decades. It's not new. And it won't be the salvation or boost in employment in any way, shape or form. It's just another way to be employed. I read a lot of old books and magazines about the mechanical trades and the old timers are constantly bemoaning the lack of training
and basic understanding of the trade in question by the newbies. Tech is not the answer to unemployment. The employed will use whatever tech is available and the most successfully employed will simply use the available tech most efficiently. Unemployment will solved by a free, motivated citizenry that endeavors to make themselves useful to a free society. Or we can have full employment ala Moscow circa 1963 - go sweep the streets with a broom while the large black limos whisk past (Obama and his buddies) and maybe we'll let you live a few more years in a cold drab room with barely enough to eat. It's our choice.

Michael Anderson

Nice rant, Scott. Full points.


There's nothing revolutionary about elementary and secondary mathematics procedures being described by an adult competent in the subject, but a problem in K-12 has been a general lack of competence. A number (in this case, 3) of CSU math professors I know, fellow veterans of the Math Wars, have described their elementary math education classes as taking students with a 4th grade knowledge and bring them up to a 7th grade level in the quarter. Meaning, many college students at the CSU who intend to become elementary teachers arrive at the class that is supposed to teach them how to teach K-7 math find it is instead a remedial effort to get them to understand K-7 math.

Kahn is fine, but it still needs to mesh with the given curriculum to be effective. Having parents with a clue to help kids with it is certainly reasonable, during class time or during homework sessions, but a good text can be used by a child to learn it themselves and learning how to learn from a book is perhaps one of the greatest skills that can be acquired.

MA, what is the math program being used by the charter school?


Scott, you may have misunderstood the function of the CRT driving that automotive tech; let me use an aviation story to illustrate that I recall from an article on taking passengers on general aviation flights... a supposedly true anecdote. A woman who had been on a handful of small airplane flights with a few different pilots confided to a professional pilot that they were uncomfortable with pilot B. Asked why (the pro being an instructor concerned about safety), she confided that pilot B had to read the instructions every time, while A and C remembered how to fly.

Of course, she then was reassured by the pro that those weren't instructions, that was a checklist, all pilots, private and commercial, were expected to use them and it was pilots A and C that she should be concerned about.

Automated checklists are a powerful tool, and the shop may well have found that defects in the service were greatly reduced. Being able to operate with a wider range of mechanic skills was just one benefit.

George Rebane

Re Gregory's 754am - To substitute a computer driven CRT for a cardboard checklist seems a bit far-fetched for private enterprise. I have yet to see one of those used in such a limited manner. My experience, when looking over the mechanic's shoulder, has always been to see a system that not only displayed the car's status, but also led the mechanic through a branched interactive diagnostic, and then displayed one or more sets of corrective/repair procedures depending on the final diagnosis.

As BF Skinner showed in his classic introductory text on programmed learning, it is possible to put the entire set of branched diagnostics (including checklists) and repair procedures into a stapled sheaf of paper. Of course, the state of the car would have to be presented on other instruments. The dedicated interactive system in today's modern shop obviates all that, and can indeed walk an experienced or apprentice mechanic through the whole maintenance process.

Michael Anderson

Harcourt School Publishers Math California.

Ryan Mount

Thanks for the R&D George. You've given me a couple of ideas for my line of work, which in the past I've described as "Service Science."

The gist of your piece, which I take seriously, is that we have no work for the spot welder anymore. So his/her options seems to be:

1) Work for the government, which despite some may think, is a finite employer
2) Do nothing, collect entitlements
3) Do nothing, collect entitlements and protest out in front of Bank of America
4) Use human augmenting technologies [kinda Star Trekkie] to fill in the skills gap. Eye gear, decision support systems (that's what we call them), etc.

What did I miss?

Account Deleted

re: Greg's and George's last posts. I have seen the type of check list programs Greg refers to, both professionally and in repair manuals sold for automotive, aviation and electronics, etc aimed the DIY audience. I was watching what George described - an interactive program drilling down through all possible options and scenarios. At least, those known to the computer program. The point I was trying to make was that the technician himself was making almost no decisions of his own. And this was 20 years ago. Modern tech has brought the display or info transmitting device itself down to something very tiny and inexpensive. And the computer programs' knowledge base is vast compared to what was available just 5 years ago. Fewer and fewer mechanics and "old timers" can out do that newer and bigger data base. I'm not a luddite - modern tech in cars is a good thing, but it's just the new way to work, not a salvation from high unemployment. Right now, I see govt education as being the biggest laggard in employing new tech.

George Rebane

Regular readers here know what I believe to be the employment situation in the developed world during the coming years. My estimate is north of 70M un/der-employed by 2020 in the US if we do nothing differently than now. The first chart in the post tells the story of how we are getting there. IMHO only new approaches like non-profit public service corporations, and those involving new technologies will provide (temporary) solutions.

The bottom line is still that there will be too many of us needed to create the necessities of living. So the distribution of the wealth to pay for those necessities will be the big problem - through revolution or reason.

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