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coberst

Twinkies & Chips—Sound Bites & Bumper Sticker

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Twinkies & Chips—Sound Bites & Bumper Stickers

A steady diet of Twinkies and chips will give us a fat gut while a steady diet of sound bites and bumper stickers will give us a fat head.

Political parties and television commercials often depend upon well-crafted sound bits and bumper stickers to motivate a naive population while the opposition tries to use rational argumentation; one need not be a rocket scientist to recognize which side will generally win this contest.

Early in our institutional education system we learn arithmetic. We learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. We learn to calculate without understanding.

This mode of education follows us throughout our formal education system. We learn to develop answers devoid of understanding. We do this because, in a society focused upon maximizing production and consumption, most citizens need only sufficient education to perform mechanical type operations; that is perhaps why our electronic gadgets fit so well within our culture.

If we think about this situation we might well say that this form of education best serves our needs. It is efficient and quick. However, beyond the process of maximizing production and consumption we are ill prepared to deal with many of life’s problems because we have learned only how to develop answers that are “algorithmically friendly”.

In grade school we are taught to manipulate numerals (symbols) not numbers (concepts). We are taught in grade school not ideas about numbers but automatic algorithmic processes that give consistent and stable results when dealing with symbols. With such capability we do not learn meaningful content about the nature of numbers but we do get results useful for a culture of production and consumption.

We have a common metaphor Numbers are Things in the World, which has deep consequences.

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