Friday, 3 December 2010


IDEA: Politicians should have to pay for each word they use.

Each time I've heard a politician speak, I've gotten frustrated, confused, amazed at the low signal to noise ratio, or some combination thereof.

IDEA: People should have to get a religious license before they can choose a religion.

To get a license, people have to study each of the major religion, pass a simple test, and be above a minimum age. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of children joining religions before they can make their own choice, people joining religions without knowing much about their chosen religion, and other religions in general. I'm uncomfortable with religious groups actively advocating getting children while they're young.

The problem with this is that being non-religious is almost like being religious while waiting to get a license but that seems seems okay for the time being.

IDEA: School rankings should be based on the progress children make from the start of the year to the end of the year.

There's a intense debate going on regarding school rankings in Australia. The government and parents want it and teachers don't. It seems like there are only possible two choices. This is a good example where expanding your knowledge provides additional choices.

Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), wrote about a study on schools in different areas. As you might expect, schools in more affluent areas performed better but not for reasons that you would probably think such as having better teachers, facilities, or extra tuition. The study tested schools at the start of the year and at the end. Schools in more affluent schools ranked higher if you compared their results from the start of the year with other schools. The same if you compared their results at the end of the year. However, if you compared the difference between the start and end of the year, then there was very little difference among the schools.

The difference was what children did outside of the school year. Since most of the children in the study did not have tuition over the break, it was their environment that had the biggest effect. Children pick up habits from their parents. The children that did better had parents who read with them, had plenty of books around, and opportunities for exploration. The result was that some children came back ranking higher and others worse and this carried on through the year.

It's likely that teachers and schools are doing a fine job. The problem is likely what children can get up to during their break and that breaks should be more spread out instead of having one big one at the end of the year. Instead of blaming schools or expecting parents to do more, let's get little smarter.


  1. Are you submitting anything for the AGI conference?

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks for letting me know about the conference! I wasn't even thinking about it but I'm definitely going to try.