The ideas reported in this article pose a challenge to the beliefs underlying a lot of progressive education theory. In his new book, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are, Robert Plomin argues that most of what makes up our personality is based on genetic, not environmental, factors. "Plomin’s argument is that, in a society with universal education, the greatest part of the variation in learning abilities is accounted for by genetics, not home environment or quality of school – these factors, he says, do have an effect but it’s much smaller than is popularly believed." Given the impact of nutrition on cognition, I would assume Plomin would assume a society with universal welfare as well. The objection to this view is stated by Oliver James "believes that if, as a society, we accept the heritability argument, then it will lead to blaming the poor for their own plight and privileging the rich for their good fortune. There's some really good discussion in this article, which should be read to the very end.
Jenny Mackness writes in this article of "the necessity, as expressed by both Ghandi and Nietzsche, to recognise that human beings can only know partial and contingent truths and perspectives; there are a multiplicity of truths and perspectives." And she points out that we've lived through "post-truth" eras before (one of which was the one that started with the first newspapers). "This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to seek truth or a multiplicity of truths," she writes. "For Gandhi this requires action in every day practices of altruism, humility, compassion and self-evaluation. For Simon Blackburn it requires sifting out descriptions that really matter and sources of information that are more trustworthy."
On Saturday Fast Company broke the story that Tim Berners-Lee was launching a startup to develop and distribute his SoLiD application (which stands for Social Linked Data; I've covered it here before). There was also a Medium post the same day. This is a part of his plan to restore the web to its original decentralized vision. His new company is called Inrupt (which will be way easier to search for than 'solid') and is launching this week. "Solid is guided by the principle of 'personal empowerment through data' which we believe is fundamental to the success of the next era of the web. We believe data should empower each of us.... With Solid, you will have far more personal agency over data - you decide which apps can access it."
Another post notes, "For developers who haven’t dug in yet, you should start with the Solid Developer Portal, beginning with the Getting Started page. We just put this online two days ago, so the documentation you’re seeing today is only a small subset of what we’ve got planned." I have dug into it, and found it complex and messy - but that was a while ago, and I'm hoping (and expecting) it's a lot easier to get started now.
I've been considering the use of badges in my upcoming MOOC and so this article resonated with me. Some of the key things to avoid: making the issuing of badges a manual process (imagine having to click on a button 3,000 times (let alone fill out 3,000 forms)); don't require students to 'apply' for badges (because the data suggest that they won't); make badges usable (locating them inside an LMS is not 'usable'); and make sure they actually measure something meaningful (which make it doubly hard to issue them automatically; I won't issue a badge for passing a multiple-choice test). Note: Forbes uses a spamwall, which will block access for many readers; I use UBlock Origin on Firefox to access this article without having to whitelist Forbes (you should not whitelist Forbes).
This is an important paper for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the authors are deeply involved in blockchain technologies (Vitalik Buterin is the founder of Ethereum) and economics. The principle being advocated is a mechanism whereby members of a society 'vote' for public projects (including, presumably, education) by contributing to that project; the funding ultimately received is a function of that vote designed to maximize efficiency. The problem, of course, in making decisions this way is that people with more money get more votes, and they tend over time to vote for measures that make them richer still, even if they are paying the square of the value of the votes. This paper simply elides over that problem ("we assume that an equitable distribution of basic resources has been achieved in some other manner, such as an equal initial distribution of resources").
There's a nice summary of the paper available from an anonymous author on Medium. It draws the connection between this proposal and that of the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), also an outcome of Ethereum. The difference is "how they intend to achieve near optimal provision of public goods out of this organisation, which is something the DAO didn’t cover." The difference is in what the mechanism would fund (and it's not clear everyone would define 'public goods' in this way), and the mechanism for voting - "Quadratic Voting (QV) is a concept Weyl has previously put forth... QV sees a voter purchase the square of the number of votes they wish to buy per issue."
I am not opposed to the idea of people voting for the public policy measures they wish to see supported financially; I have long been a supporter of some form of direct democracy. But pegging these votes to dollars they actually have is something I resolutely oppose. I think a better method would be to allow people to vote with percentages of their tax contributions, so each person receives 100 votes to allocate as they wish, and where people taxed progressively increasing percentages of their income.
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