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Learning styles, and the fallibility of grown ups - Sally's Journal
December 12th, 2005
10:40 am

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Learning styles, and the fallibility of grown ups

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From:feanelwa
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC)
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I think the non-agressive way to do things has to be the quickest way to arrive at good knowledge. If science is like going on an expedition to Coton, then there are two ways to do it:
1) Some pushy idiot grabs the map and does the navigating and whenever anybody else points out that we're actually not facing west at the moment and maybe we should be, he shouts at them and calls them a useless girl with no spatial awareness who should just shut up and follow everbody else, and we end up very quickly and efficiently in Aberdeen and have to go all the way back on the train with sweaty people eating smelly food
2) Everybody reasons it out calmly, and we set off in the right direction and just about get there with a couple of minor mistakes along the way, although we don't quite get there in time to catch the shop and buy some teabags.

I also think that people who come across as aggressive don't always know it. I thought that supervisor #1 really thought I was stupid at first, but now I think he just doesn't think about what he's saying. I decided that supervisor #1 was like a border collie, jumps around and barks and barks, and gets to the end of the obstacle course and EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT IT BECAUSE HE'S BARKING VERY LOUDLY, and supervisor #2 is like a cat and just gets on with it with small gaps for running away whenever people come in and try to endear themselves by making stupid noises. And sure enough, whenever they're both in front of the same microscope, cat-supervisor stands quietly by the door while dog-supervisor tries to get the technique to work with a lot of joking around and drawing big diagrams on bits of paper, then dog-supervisor goes out for a pee, and cat-supervisor sits down, draws a small diagram, and makes it work before he comes back. Dog-supervisor is much more ept in front of a large group of people than cat-supervisor or in front of other doggy people, but when there's only a small group and you need to concentrate, dog-supervisor is too easily distracted by there being people to show off to. I think I like cat-supervisor better, and the other first year PhD student in the group seems to have been taken under dog-supervisor's protection, being certain, male and more ready to make silly mistakes in front of him.
From:feanelwa
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
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Sorry. I will at some point actually phrase this so it says what I mean it to say...

In that last sentence, I mean "being male" in that he's been taught since birth to be more confident and less scared of the consequences of doing something wrong, and been taught that his main good feature is his intelligence and not some part of his body. Obviously there's the usual disclaimer there about it not applying to 100% of the population because there are some people who were brought up in a television- and teacher-less cottage in the middle of the Yorkshire moors and taught that people should all be taken just as they are, but I've never met them.
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From:pjc50
Date:December 12th, 2005 03:32 pm (UTC)
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Your cat-dog analogy is fantastic. Do you mind if I quote it to other people?

However, having been brought up as a male I disagree that we're taught that our main good feature is intelligence. It doesn't make one popular with other kids, or indeed adults, outside of the very narrow social sphere of academics.
From:feanelwa
Date:December 12th, 2005 03:47 pm (UTC)
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Good point. Maybe I mean personality. I think it's generally considered less heinous for a man to be ugly, and less heinous for a woman to be crass or inconsiderate, although I think the general opinion is changing toward both things being equally heinous for both sexes. I do think that the disapproval gap is closing faster for women though; although maybe that's because being inconsiderate is a far worse flaw than being physically ugly, so it makes sense that if one flaw is to be excused in anybody of either sex, it ought to be ugliness.

You can quote the analogy to other people, as long as they're not in my group :) It was at least partly inspired by the_alchemist and yvesilena and friends' bose/nug thing, though, so I can't take all the credit.
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From:robert_jones
Date:December 13th, 2005 09:35 am (UTC)
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If science is like going on an expedition to Coton

Is this based on any actual orienteering experience? Because I fear that my own experience is nothing like that. Navigation by consensus is doomed to fail, or at least be impractically slow. We will get to Coton fastest if we give the map to someone who knows how to use it and leave them to it. It can be me if you like, or it can be someone else, I don't mind, but let it be only one person.

Actually science isn't much like an expedition to Coton, because we can only get to Coton by walking together along a linear route, whereas science works by different people doing different things so as to contribute to the larger whole. So it does actually need some mutual cooperation, but it still doesn't proceed by consensus. What I suggest is needed is vigorous, informed and extremely polite debate.
From:feanelwa
Date:December 13th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC)
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Yes, in all my orienteering experience (or anything that involves reading a map), some prick always grabs the map from my hands muttering something about women not being able to read maps and loudly takes us several miles in the wrong direction. Invariably the person who monopolises the map is somebody who's bad at map reading and good at shouting, rather than somebody who is good at map reading and also good at shouting, leading me to believe that you can only be a good navigator if you're bad at shouting. I wouldn't mind if I or one of the other non-shouty people in the group had the map, as long as we got it right.

I am very good at reading maps and navigating, and if I ever go on a walking expedition again, I'm going to bring my own secret map and go off on my own when somebody houty grabs the map. This will however lead me to be the person who ends up making the tea when everybody else arrives home some hours after me having walked round in circles several times, shouting, but never mind.
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From:robert_jones
Date:December 13th, 2005 03:09 pm (UTC)
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If I ever go walking with you, I shall place myself entirely in your hands.
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