Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Little Lies

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/uefg3 .  Terry Pratchett uses the phrase "Lies to children", a concept which also crops up in Wittgenstein, Plato and Zen Buddhism - the ladder of falsehood you have to climb to reach the ultimate truth.  I reject this strategy completely.

There are situations where someone would not understand the full complexity of a concept, certainly.  However, there is a difference between presenting or wording something in such a way that it is simple and putting it in such a way that it creates a misleading impression and is effectively false.  For example, nobody nowadays should ever be confronted with the belief that electrons are like billiard balls travelling round an atomic nucleus or that atoms themselves are like solar systems as if it's actually true.  This needn't mean something can't be presented simply, but it should not be presented as true when it's false.  I can think of three reasons why this should not happen.

Firstly, lying is obviously wrong.  White lies might be more justifiable, but these are not white lies.  They're outright falsehoods told repeatedly to students, pupils, children - whoever receives this information.  This creates an atmosphere of distrust between the participants, and i would expect it to be a good thing to be able to feel confidence in the truth of what someone is saying, particularly if one is reliant upon that person to help one learn.

Secondly, lying is inefficient.  It means that there is a kind of "sawtooth" learning curve, involving the need to unlearn the falsehoods wherewith one has been burdened - atoms are like solar systems, acids make hydrogen ions which then float about freely in water, people in mediaeval times thought the Earth was flat.  If you see knowledge (and i realise this is incorrect but haven't got time to deal with that right now) as a set of facts to be learnt by people, that means you have to spend a lot of your time "unlearning", which is inefficient.

Finally, it creates distrust in education and the information one currently has.  Whereas "facts" may be true or false and it's even conceivable that everything one thinks one knows is true, what one actually believes is even more open to doubt than it would be otherwise.  This leads to a lack of confidence in one's beliefs.

So we shouldn't lie to children.  Although it may not be a good idea to overload people with information, that's not the same thing as the constant and witting stream of falsehoods which make up many curricula and syllabi.  What we need to do is present things in such a way that people are not misled into thinking that something other than what we believe ourselves in good faith is true.  That can be done without lying.

Another thing:  "you don't need to know that at O-level".  I don't care whether i "need to know", i'm just interested, which is why i'm doing the bloody course in the first place!  But that's another story.

More graphs for you.  Here's a comparison of "Groundhog Poop" and the antepenultimate (to overuse a word) video on the Other Channel.  The two are not to scale:

This was of course sketched hastily in a conversation i had earlier.  The reason it's not to scale, of course, is that the scale would have to be logarithmic to fit both graphs in.  The second graph is three times longer on the X-axis, which is a resolvable problem, but also ten dozen times higher on the Y-axis.  However, one thing which is clear is that the first graph reaches a plateau after a few days and the second just keeps climbing, presumably due to the re-watch value of the latter.  However, as i ranted this morning:
Other Channel - 8 second vid, no work done at all, uploaded on a whim - 51 views in 12 hours. Nineteenthly - 2 days spent making a video, meticulously planned, carefully SEOed, link posted everywhere, introed and outroed - 50 views a month, then gone without trace. HUH? Facepalm!

(I'm sad now.  I was expecting a massive great pair of inverted commas.  Could make some i suppose.)

People are just fickle.  Another point about this is that although the first video has "poop" in the title and therefore attracted the scat crowd, few stayed to watch, which is not terribly surprising considering it's just a loop of me saying "Groundhog Day" over and over again.  So sex doesn't always sell, or at least the tease of titillation (titivation?  Not sure).

I'm quite happy with the thumbnail, although i considered putting rimfall round the flat Earth.  However, as it stands it might as well have been me balancing an astrolabe on my head:

In other news, this has provoked an adverse reaction, which was as i feared and is why i didn't post it to FB:

Then again, i did ask for criticism and i'm trying to find out what people find offensive.  Apparently, this is.  Maybe it belongs somewhere else or needs context.

I'm also now close to a hundred subs and although i realise people have an unhealthy obsession with the number of fingertips they have, i suppose i could make some kind of concession, so that's what i've done.  The next two people to subscribe with channels containing videos will have a showcase and a shout-out.  It would've been three but the last person didn't even have a channel.