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Childhood

Recently there has been some discussion and controversy about a 15yo boy being allowed to perform a Caesarian operation on a woman (without her consent). Don Marti seems to think it’s OK and gives some examples of what 15 year old people used to do in past times. However he misses a couple of significant points, one is that the knowledge of surgery was much lower a few hundred years ago and the expectations of the patient were a lot lower, the other is that the patient in this case did not consent to being operated on by a 15yo. If the boy’s mother thought that he was capable of doing the job correctly then she could have allowed him to deliver a younger sibling…

Given a choice I would rather have someone like Doogie Howser operate on me than a random surgeon – but I would be extremely unhappy to discover after an operation that it had been performed by a different surgeon than planned who didn’t have a medical license and who’s motivation was to invade my privacy by making a movie of the event!

Don cites the interesting essay Against School by John Taylor Gatto which makes some really good points about the state of the education system in most first-world countries. An interesting point that John Gatto doesn’t mention is that in Japan school-boys wear uniforms that are based on Prussian military uniforms. From all the evidence that I have seen the Japanese school system is more Prussian (IE worse by many objective measures) than most countries.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting article comparing education systems which claims that a major cause in lack of academic performance is unjustified praise. I first became aware of the extent of this problem when discussing education with a misguided university lecturer. He told me that he felt that his purpose was to make the students believe that they had achieved something and that this was much more important than actually teaching them. My response was to point out that heroin and cocaine are both good options for people who would rather feel successful than succeed and to enquire as to whether he thought that they should be advocated for children. The conversation ended soon after that and he requested that I not name him or his university when blogging about it. I take this as an admission of guilt, if you act decently in public then you should not be afraid of appearing on a blog – decent actions will either be too boring for a blog entry or things that you are proud of.

3 comments to Childhood

  • More links here on related subjects — good article on not telling a kid that he’s “smart” all the time, and a related Jonathan Coulton song.

  • even if that kid was able to perform that operation he shouldn’t do it. I’m an educational sciences student in the last phase of my studies and there are quite a few things I know about education that strongly disapprove such an event. first of all: a child is a child is a child. postman tells us in his book on the disappearing childhood that only quite recently in history people acknowledge that childhood is different from being an adult. up till the 20th century the perception of children was more like: here’s an incomplete adult but lets see what he/she can do.
    why can’t parents of (in one way or the other) gifted children just let them be? let them play with dolls if they want to and give them surroundings that qualify them more for social life instead of preparing them for competitive systems like capitalism where there is almost no space for being unique and friendly.
    schleiermacher claims that the world needs visionaries, why do we have to turn our children, especially when they are more capable of changing this world into a better one than others, into the same immoral assholes we’ve disliked all our lives?!

    the second thing is: there’s more to work than just knowing the theory. to really do exceptional work that others can profit from you have to have found peace and happiness, first of all in youself.

  • etbe

    Alex: I agree with you in regard to surgery (in terms of the inability to stop the procedure once started and the fact that another person’s life is potentially at risk).

    http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/16616
    One of the posts related to this discussion is Paul McNamara’s above post in which he compares the situation to allowing a child to configure a router. The comparison is quite awful. As a general rule no-one dies from a misconfigured router (NB I’m not talking about corner cases such as routers on medical networks in hospitals), you can take a break if a router configuration job isn’t going well – if the network is serious you have an outage window and if it’s a small network then users won’t notice a few extra minutes.

    I would not be strongly opposed to a 15yo configuring a company’s router. It’s a far less serious procedure than surgery.

    Before anyone flames me, I’m not advocating 15yo’s working on corporate computers, just stating that I don’t think it’s a very bad thing.