Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Predestination and Free Will

I made mention a while back about my belief that predestination was not real and gave evidence to support this. I used a logic based argument to explain that if there were infinite choices in life that there would be no possible way for predestination to exist. Likewise, I theorized that there were infinite possibilities and therefore predestination could not exist. However, now I would like to take another approach to the subject and perhaps thicken it a bit.

Predestination can exist even if there are infinite choices. Look at it this way... You are only what you are made of. There is no external or "other-worldly" part of you. You are solely what your DNA makes you regardless of what religion tells you, without evidence I might add. Far be it from me to stick clear from speculation and stick to evidence-based scientific fact. Therefore, even if we have an infinite number of choices, we will always choose the one that we choose.
Like I said, we are what we're made of. Therefore, there is no exterior force deciding what we do. Our actions are our own and they are internal. This is free will.

However, you cannot break your own free will. That is the restriction on it. You are free to do exactly what you think is the best (consciously or subconsciously) and nothing more. Free will is your internal decision-making process and no external forces can impact that decision-making process in the grand scheme. Therefore, the decision made will be singular in intent, that of free will, and nothing more.

You are restricted in this way. You cannot interfere with free will. Therefore, your free will is predestined by the content of your internal decision-making process. This is predestination. Predestination and free will are the same thing. You are predestined to chose a course of action but it is of your own free will that it occurs. Free will and predestionation can co-exist and do because they are the same thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I've Got It!

Talk about a brain wave... I was sitting around here reading past posts and it came to me finally... and as most things do... right out of thin air...

Predestination is real. The butterfly effect is real. From the beginning, everything was planned and everything was going to happen, even in infinity.

The sole realization however is that we WANT it to happen. People see predestination as what we don't want or are forced into, but it's the OPPOSITE. It's EVERYTHING that we want! Predestination is the physical manifestation in our actions of things we based on our genes and our interactions predetermined with others' genes whose result is also predetermined and WE WANT IT. It doesn't matter if it's predetermined so long as we want it.

I'll have more on this later... I have to think it over some

Also- Gun Laws Logic and a little something else.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Would You Rather Know Something about Everything or Everything about Something?

Mr. Benson, a secondary school history teacher, comes across a significant problem when reviewing his syllabus. He has simply too much to teach. History is different than most other subjects in that way as it is always being written and always changing. Two plus two and the square root of x always have and always are going to remain the same, but interpretations of history change greatly over time.

For much of the twentieth century, history was traditionally taught from the macrocosmic view, whereby for instance America would be studied by actions of the figureheads and events that created it: Washington, Lincoln, the Vietnam War, etc. However, by the end of the twentieth century an entirely different view of history had emerged based heavily on the ways that these figureheads and events impacted the common man. Now we speak not of Washington exclusively but of Washington and his troops at Valley Forge, not of Lincoln, but of Lincoln and his supporters and detractors, and not of the Vietnam War as a conflict supplementing the Cold War but of the lives of working class America that were impacted by fighting in it. Of course, the “traditional” view has not been forgotten, it has merely been connected with a second, bottom-up, view.

In addition to the changing views on how history will be seen, taught, and understood, there is the mere fact that history is being made every day. To take a personal example, I marvel at the fact that I now see history text books including the events of September 11th 2001 as part of the curriculum. We don't always see what happens today in the context of “history” as it is taught in schools. This in itself is evidenced greatly even in the case study prompt. A quote reads: “We all know that history teachers never do make it to the Twentieth Century. They always get bogged down somewhere in the boring stuff and never make it to the modern history part.” To this affect, I also agree. Much time is spent on the formation of (in this instance) the United States, its struggle with slavery, and perhaps its entrance into two world wars. Yet, rarely do teachers have enough time to focus on the material from only a single generation ago. It is this that impacts us the greatest and should be taught.

Herein lies a problem. Everything should be taught, but everything can't be taught because there isn't enough time in the semester. Option A would have the teacher breeze through the material making sure to encapsulate everything into the syllabus. But, honestly, how much could a student retain from this method? Studies show that students only actually are learning approximately one third of the time that they spend in class. In addition to that, one has to assume that they won't remember everything taught during that period. If you have fifty minutes of class time a day, five days a week, for 36 weeks, and students are only paying attention and you are only teaching one third of that time, one can certainly understand how difficult it would be to squash everything into that time.

First, the teacher needs a plan. Unlike Mr. Benson, who didn't seem to understand that he didn't have the course material under control, good teachers need to recognize the scope of material that needs to be taught. In addition to the syllabus, a teacher must also have a structure plan. They must first have a set of classroom guidelines. They must understand their students' capacity to learn and to retain knowledge. In addition to this, to be effective, teachers must install a punishment and reward system, punishing students who make poor choices (i.e. disrupt the classroom, cheat, verbally or physically abuse other students, etc.) and rewarding students who turn in their work on time, are courteous to others, and help foster a good learning environment. With this plan set in place, teaching and learning will both occur more smoothly.

In the case of Mr. Benson, the teacher must access the amount of knowledge available versus the amount of time they have to convey it. The syllabus must have realistically achievable goals. It seems that Mr. Benson spent much too much time on textbook reading and yet oddly enough didn't seem to know how many chapters the book had (hinting towards improper planning). Teachers cannot spend the entirety of class rehearsing knowledge from the textbook and neither can students spend all of their homework time reading textbooks. The classroom must encourage engagement

In other words, Mr. Benson should rework his syllabus to include activities that will interest his students. Clearly based on the responses that he had been getting from his class(es?), they are not finding textbook reading to be interesting and based on my own experience, if I don't find something interesting, I'm not going to worry about concentrating on it.

Mr. Benson needs to incorporate activities into his lessons that get students to think about the topic discussed that day. His examples of the Sistine Chapel pictures and the National Geographic articles are a good start. However, the way he connects it to the actual course material will be vital. He could give them all the activities that he wanted and they would still not learn anything if he did not significantly tie it back to the subject being discussed that day.
Through the use of these activities, he should also incorporate different methods of teaching such as group work which promotes independent discovery or class discussion which promotes the exchange of ideas and the building and maintaining of a sound working and learning environment. In the case of world history, perhaps Mr. Benson can have his class come up with a list of classroom rules and guidelines when they are talking about the Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights. This would serve three-fold to give students a perspective on how hard the creation of such a document can be, the experience of actually having a voice in how the classroom would be managed, and the promotion of a frank discourse between students and teachers so that everyone can understand what they want out of each other and the class. Likewise, Mr. Benson can use the last two weeks of class for group projects where each group will get to choose one topic that they find interesting from the semester and research it in greater depth for presentation to the class. By this, they learn about something they find interesting, learn how to find information on future topics of interest, and get to teach their classmates about something they find interesting in the hopes that they too will find that it piques their interests.

With these new activities and this new classroom environment, learning will be easier and students will be more apt to retain information presented. This method, or “Option B”, will make it possible for students and teacher to enjoy a positive working environment as well as allow for real learning to be accomplished. It is the sounder of the two options, where the student is actually interested in his or her own learning and has a voice in how it occurs. The biggest difference between this option and Option A is that it will be impossible, especially in Mr. Benson's case, to cover as much as you would otherwise. Of course, class must still contain some lecture-like format, simply to connect the activities together into a cohesive timeline, but for the most part, real learning will take place with in depth looks at small events along the long timeline of history.

In a perfect world, in my opinion, Option B would be implemented in all classrooms. Students would know above all that they are learning because they are interested and not because the teacher told them to. But, the world is not perfect (in my opinion) and Option B is certainly not implemented everywhere. As with Mr. Benson's case, two factors limit the usage of Option B: time and standardized tests. A teacher will not cover as much material in Option B than they would in Option A. Likewise, if a standardized test will be administered, such as the MCAS is in Massachusetts, teachers are instructed to “cover” all material that might appear on the exam. In both Mr. Benson's classroom example and all schools in Massachusetts, how well students do on those exams parallels with public funding and accreditation. If the school were to do badly on the test because they simply did not learn a wide enough breadth of information, regardless of whether they soundly grasped all that they did learn, those bad test scores could severely detriment the funding of that school or its accreditation. Why is this so? In my opinion, standardized tests as we know them today do not reward knowledge known but rather punish facts that are not known. A student may know everything that there is to know about the American Revolution, but know nothing about Industrial or Post-Industrial America and therefore fail the exam miserably even though what they did know was exemplary. This is a flaw within the test and it is this flaw that needs to be fixed.

Yet, as the flaws of standardized testing have not been fixed, classes must to some extent “teach to the test” merely for the good of the school. If they do not get funded, then they will not have the materials they need to teach adequately and their future students will not have as good of an education. Therefore, the best mode of teaching in the real world is something of an Option A-B, a combination of both techniques. Teachers must “cover” everything for the exams so that students do well and the school is seen as having exemplary students. And, the teacher must use group activities, discussions, and independent work to actually create these exemplary students that testing claims to find.

Mr. Benson was right, or at least more right, when he decided to go back and look at his syllabus again and reflect on what message he was sending his students by using an Option A method in class. He is also right to say that depth matters. Students will not get anything from glossing over dozens of subjects. Each subject must be given some meaning to the student for the student to care to learn and retain it or for him or her to even show the most general interest in the class. Depth fosters interest and interest fosters learning whereas glossing over fosters frustration and that certain haze that students seem to get about ten minutes into a lecture. While there are drawbacks to depth (i.e. you cover less) I'll argue that quality is far greater an asset than quantity.

What commander would rather take a thousand civilians into battle over five hundred finely trained soldiers? Who would prefer inane chatter to language? Who would take a handful of coal over the pristine beauty of a diamond? Then who would value someone who knows a little about everything over someone who knows everything about something?