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Lies in education [was Re: The "loop and a half"]


On Thu, 5 Oct 2017 01:21 pm, Stefan Ram wrote:

> Steve D'Aprano <steve+python at pearwood.info> writes:
>>At various stages of education, we teach many lies-to-children, including:
> 
>   Many of those lies can be perfectly true in some sense.

Well of course, that's the whole point of them being "lies-to-children". In
fact, only one of them (to the best of my knowledge) is an outright untruth
that should be wiped from the education syllabus: the myth that the Egyptian
pyramids were built by slave labour.

And even that has a tiny kernel of fact. Of course there were some slaves who
would have worked on the pyramids, probably on medial jobs, but the bulk of
the work was done by free labourers and craftsmen, who were not only
well-paid but were organised enough to go on strike when their pay was late.


>   I pick some examples:
> 
>>- "AEIOU" are the English vowels;
> 
>   One is free to define this term this way. This is just
>   a definition. Definitions cannot be false. 

Yes they can.

I can define the letter M as a vowel, but the meaning of the word "vowel" and
the sound of the letter "M" are in contradiction. One or the other can be
correct, but not both.


>   The definition 
>   use by phoneticians is not "more correct" than the
>   definition used in everyday life.

Yes it is. Even in everyday life, there are clear, simple and obvious
counter-examples to the claimed "AEIOU" vowel rule.

In fact, mY mind boogles at the mYsterY of whY people insist that AEIOU are
the onlY vowels.

It is, I think, an example of a stupid English language folklore that people
repeat unthinkingly, even though the counter-examples are obvious and common.
Like "I before E except after C", which is utter rubbish.

It gets worse: sometimes W is a vowel too (although mostly only in archaic
spelling, or in loan words like "cwm", from Welsh, pronounced "coom"), or at
least *part* of a vowel.

But vowels and constonants represent types of *sounds*, not letters, so we
shouldn't even be talking about letters being vowels at all. (Nevertheless,
the practice is probably too ingrained to ever completely stamp out.)

The A and E in the word "are" are not vowels, since they are silent. The U
in "unicorn" and "university" are not vowels either, and if you write "an
unicorn" you are making a mistake.


>>- you cannot subtract a larger number from a smaller;
> 
>   In a certain theory one cannot, indeed. In another, one can.
> 
>>- mass is conserved;
> 
>   This also depends on the theory.

Forget theory, in *reality* mass is not conserved.


>   (Ok, the theory where it is /not/ conserved better
>   describes our world. [But the theory where it /is/
>   conserved might be more useful in everyday life.])

Of course it is useful. Its just not true. That's the whole point of calling
it "lies to children".


>>- Germany was the aggressor in World War 2;
>>- well, Germany and Japan;
>>- *surely* it must be Germany, Italy and Japan;
> 
>   This listing style reminds me of of a listing style used in
>   ?Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names?:

Yes.

For the record:

The USSR and Germany invaded Poland simultaneously, and the two countries
divided Poland between them. Churchill himself wrote about having difficulty
convincing people to care, since Poland had earlier invaded Czechoslovakia
(opportunistically while the Germans were seizing the Sudetenland) and many
people in England thought that Poland deserved their fate. Likewise the USSR
had invaded Finland.

The UK invaded and occupied neutral Iceland in 1940, handing over control to
the USA in 1941. Despite signing an agreement in 1948 to leave within 6
months, US military forces actually did not finally leave Iceland, and return
full sovereignty to the Icelander government, until 2006.

In the East, while Japan did take the first overtly military action against
the US, the US had (in some sense) first engaged in hostile behaviour against
Japan by unilaterally imposing, and enforcing, sanctions on Japan.

(I make no comment on whether such sanctions were justified or not, only that
they can be seen as a form of aggressive economic warfare.)


-- 
Steve
?Cheer up,? they said, ?things could be worse.? So I cheered up, and sure
enough, things got worse.