Examsmanship, Cattle, and Deep Springs

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Paul D. Fernhout

May 6, 2008, 7:44:44 PM5/6/08
to OpenVirgle
This is following up my comments on "bull" and "cow" and "pasture" and the
mention that I had read a related essay in college.

I found that essay online finally, and it is still funny after all these
years: :-)
"Examsmanship and the Liberal Arts: A Study in Educational Epistemology"
"I must beg patience, then, both of the reader's humor and of his morals.
Not that I ask him to suspend his sense of humor but that I shall ask him to
go beyond it. In a great university the picture of a bright student
attempting to outwit his professor while his professor takes pride in not
being outwitted is certainly ridiculous. I shall report just such a scene,
for its implications bear upon my point. Its comedy need not present a
serious obstacle to thought."

And here is a way to fit free licensing and reputation into the analogy. If
cow is Wiki articles, and bull is thinking about metadata and Semantic
tagging and an ontology (via RDF or whatever), and the Wiki is the pasture,
then what is free licensing and the reputation of the licensor? They are
analogous to statements like "certified organic" or "certified humane
slaughter" (oxymoron?) or "certified free of mad cow disease". So, when you
get the materials, you know the cows and bulls were well fed, well treated,
well killed, and are safe to eat (use in derivative works).(*)

I have long thought some sort of formal certification process might be
useful for free software developers. That is, being "certified" by a place
like, say, the Free Software Foundation would indicate that you had a basic
grasp of copyright, trademark, and patent law as it applied to writing free
software and free content and that you understood the ethics of free
software. Major Free Software projects might then decide only to accept
contributions from "certified" developers. Each contribution might be
digitally signed somehow related to the certification. (Sort of like
Debian's Maintainer keyring, but centralized in this case.) This idea is
probably no surprise coming from me considering I spent a year as the
NOFA-NJ Organic Certification Program Administrator back around 1990 or so. :-)
So I see the greater value in "brands" versus copyrights and patents, which
is what organic certification mostly is, a "brand", like Harvard or Yale are
essentially brands (of cement and locks, respectively :-).
But organic certification is a funny sort of communal brand -- at first
non-profit maintained and now state maintained. As no doubt free software
and free content certification might be someday, same as perhaps a
professional engineering license. But the political dynamics of licensing
and certification is always complex (and I have no wish to relive wrangling
over what to include in the "standards". :-).

By the way, for those interested in literal instead of metaphorical cattle
ranching experience, this organization provides a free first two years of
college at a ranch raising cattle: :-)
"Deep Springs is an all-male liberal arts college located on a cattle-ranch
and alfalfa farm in California’s High Desert. Electrical pioneer L.L. Nunn
founded the school in 1917 on the three pillars of academics, labor, and
self-governance in order to help young men prepare themselves for lives of
service to humanity. The school's 26 students, along with its staff and
faculty, form a close community engaged in this intense project. Deep
Springs operates on the belief that manual labor and political deliberation
are integral parts of a comprehensive liberal arts education. Each student
attends for two years and receives a full scholarship valued at over $50,000
per year. Afterwards, most complete their degrees at the world's most
prestigious four year institutions."

"Self-governance is an important part of Deep Springs. Students play a
dominant role in decisions about admissions, curriculum, and faculty hiring,
and every student serves on one of three committees during his time as a
student: Applications (ApCom), Curriculum (CurCom), or Review and
Reinvitations (RCom). In the early 1990s, a new committee, Communications
(ComCom) was created and charged with shaping the policies that define the
college's relations with the world at large. (Physical isolation is a key
aspect, philosophically as well as geographically, of life at Deep Springs.)"

Sorry to everybody it is not co-ed. :-(

I received an invitation to apply way back when (probably based on PSAT
scores) but I foolishly did not pursue it (having my heart set on MIT who
dumped me anyway for some person with SATs when I had only taken PSATS. :-).
I think if I had gone to Deep Springs, I might have had a happier life,
since I think a place like that may help undo a lot of the damage inflicted
by regular (unbalanced) schooling. I met one other transfer student who had
gone there at PU and he seemed happy overall. But I guess the supposed
"smart" people who need such an experience the most are also generally too
stupid to go there. like me. :-) Maybe Bryan, too. :-) Mike probably doesn't
need it but would be more likely to go, I expect. :-) Too late anyway for
current seniors without taking a year off, plus it is pretty competitive to
get in -- ironically. :-) Thus the school faces the same problem Google
faces perhaps? My research lab lunch table comment on competitiveness:
Or, maybe the point is to disarm at least even just a handful of these
hyper-competitive soldiers conventional schooling is designed to produce?
People like me. :-)

I'd like to suggest, though not from first hand experience, that attending
Deep Springs might be excellent preparation for future Mars Habitationers.
:-) From above: "The flip-side of the isolation policy is the notion of
self-sufficiency and due care latent in Nunn's notion of "stewardship." The
college tries to support itself in food and more recently in energy, with a
small hydroelectric power station built in the late 1980's and a solar power
array finished in 2006. During peak periods, the college sells surplus power
to Pacific Gas & Electric. The community has increasingly taken care to
minimize its ecological footprint. Whether isolation or self-sufficiency,
students have to wrestle with appropriate compromise, given the
impracticality of complete isolation or self-sufficiency."

--Paul Fernhout
(*) Incidentally, that is why I have more and more trouble going out to eat.
Beyond the embarrassment of the whole master/servant thing, I don't know how
the animals and plants and farmers and farmhands and waters were treated.
:-( Of course, that has to be traded off against the cashiers' always
obvious disdain for organic food in the checkout isle of any supermarket we
shop in. :-( At least we raise our own chickens (for organic eggs). And
unlike probably most mailing lists and corporations at this point, they like
to see me coming. :-)

Paul D. Fernhout

May 7, 2008, 10:39:02 PM5/7/08
to openv...@googlegroups.com
Sorry to have fallen behind keeping up with the other threads; I'm doing
full-time Dad stuff this week (wearing Doram's shoes :-) as my wife is
working full time this week.

I did want to mention I reread the (old) Examsmanship essay yesterday and a
few issues jumped out at me, which I felt important to put down into
external electron patterns since I recommended it.

These issues include:

* taking as a given the failure to educate children in K-12 to think
critically or at least not destroy any such pre-existing facility
as well as per Gatto examining why it is that way intentionally,

* ignoring the many types of intelligence (musical, kinesthetic, narrative,
compassionate, 3D visualization, spiritual, existential, ethical, etc.) and
diverse related skill sets
to dwell narrowly on mining a certain linguistically and analytical type of
intelligence to produce a few "gems" of a certain sort
as to define what makes an "liberally educated" person,

* ignoring the importance of failure and ambiguity and uncertainty in
creating certain necessary aspects of a good life and good education and
good mentoring relationships by the essays unexamined focus on the grading
process -- which among other things poisons mentoring relationships, even
potentially turning the most peaceful quakers
into bureaucratic villains following orders,
(see also how "The Prisoner" stress tests organizations and individuals :-)


* simply accepting as a given the academic cultist institutional pressures
to conformity in various areas (including the first two points) in molding
new minds the same as the old ones, which, for example, according to Hogan
led physicists like Carl Sagan to vilify Immanuel Velikovsky,
and led others to deny Halton Arp telescope time to continue to explore an
electric universe and related quasars and jets etc.
because their proposals did not fit the standard astrophysical model of an
electrically neutral universe that too many academic careers were built
around (whether Velikovsky or Arp were right or not).

Or: "First they came for Velikovsky but I said nothing as I did not care for
ancient texts, then they came for Arp but I said nothing as static cling
never bothered me, etc. etc." :-(

So while I think it's a good essay on the difference between "facts" and
metadata about them, as I reread it, its age shows.

Or maybe mine does. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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