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What do QRMers, professors, and terrorists have in common?




 
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Author Topic: What do QRMers, professors, and terrorists have in common?  (Read 7857 times)
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AB2EZ
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« on: February 03, 2006, 08:54:04 AM »

What do: 75 meter QRMers, school yard bullies, drill sergeants, professors who insist on teaching 19th century calculus courses to 21st century undergraduate electrical engineering students, most politicians, most corporate executives, most trial lawyers, terrorists, and religious zealots have in common?

They all driven by: an insatiable, and uncontrollable need to impose their will upon others… initially as children and young adults… in order to alleviate their own painful feelings of inadequacy (to “prove” themselves or just to “get attention”)… and eventually as an addiction.

In the case of SSB operators trying to drive out the use of AM… we call it a “rule-making proposal” or we call it “malicious interference”, depending upon the method they choose to employ to achieve their objectives. 

In the case of corporate executives who endeavor to drive their competitors out of business, and/or to drive their products into the marketplace… we call it “competitive free enterprise behavior” and/or “cut-throat competition” and/or “criminal anti-competitive behavior” (i.e., in violation of anti-trust laws)… depending upon our perception of the details of what they do to achieve their objectives.

In the case of political leaders we call it “leadership” or we call it “dictatorship” or “terrorism”… again depending upon the details of what they do to achieve their objectives… as we perceive those details.

In the case of professors who argue endlessly with each other… we refer to the “insatiable need to prove that they are right” [“Question: Why do professors argue so much?  Answer: Because the stakes are so low.”].  (Yes… I suffer from this… as is obvious from the fact that I took the time to write this… and from my on-air behavior… as well as the fact that I came out of semi-retirement to take on the job of managing a research program at a university).

This appears to be an innate characteristic of our species… that probably has significant natural-selection survival value.

Under the current 21st century rules of engagement… you can drop a bomb on a terrorist… but you have to pursue malicious ham radio operators through the tortuous and largely ineffective FCC enforcement process. This is an unavoidable consequence of our moving away (thankfully) from “frontier justice”.  It is great for the “nuts” but an unavoidable nuisance for the people they prey upon. Of course, in the corporate world, we have other tools for dealing with “nuts”… which we use or don’t use…depending upon how rare their skills are in the marketplace.

Best regards
Stu
AB2EZ

 


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John Holotko
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« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2006, 01:05:58 PM »

I say no more teaching of 19th century calculus. Teach 21st century calculus only. Or better yet teach probability instead.
 
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Tom WA3KLR
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« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2006, 01:49:40 PM »

Hi Stu.  I hope that your new job is going o.k.

What's different between 19th century calculus and 21st century calculus?

For 25 years, I have been hearing co-workers who are night-school students complain that X college doesn't accept their old college's calculus credits.  This is 300 year old technology.  I would think that it would be easy to standardize nationally a subject like this.  This sort of B*S* is killing America.  No wonder the Asians are better educated ( only one reason why).

We need to have our young people get through college as efficiently as possible, not as difficult as possible.

I hope we're not getting too political for the AM Forum.
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AB2EZ
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« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2006, 02:18:16 PM »

Tom
John

Hi!

My point is that we shouldn't be teaching multiple semesters of calculus (19 th century calculus or any modern variation of calculus) to people who will never, ever, use calculus in their careers.

I could teach advanced calculus on a moment's notice... and I have actually used it extensively in my prior research career. I still use it in my research work. But I was not / am not a typical engineer... I did highly theoretical research. On the other hand, I know from experience in industry that 95% of electrical engineering graduates have never used it,  will never use it, will never need to use it... and, furthermore, any objective test would demonstrate 85% of electrical engineering graduates of US universities never learn it.

It should be taught from the perspective of what it is, and how it is used... rather than from the mis-guided perspective of a technical skill that students will need to learn in order to meet the job requirements of their future employers. I.e., it should be viewed as something that you need to be aware of, and understand the usefulness of... like a liberal arts course ... not as a required skill for being admitted to the profession of electrical engineering.

Why do most engineering faculty like to teach things like: calculus, or how to solve for the electromagnetic modes of a dielectric waveguide (a.k.a. an optical fiber)? Because they know that no student in their class will be able to ask them any questions they can't answer... and because topics like that don't change... so they don't have to keep up with the changing technological world around them.

Check out any typical engineering course on optical fiber technology. You'll probably find the curriculum focused on stuff that was important to researchers in the field 25 years ago (I published my first textbook on the subject in 1981). You probably won't find any coverage of the engineering aspects of the subject that are important to engineers working in industry today... and which will help students in their careers (if they happen to go into that field). You won't find any coverage of the interesting and subtle challenges of building ultra-long-haul fiber systems. You won't find any coverage of the tough techncial challenges of optical networking. You'll find the focus entirely on stuff that you can read in a 25 year old textbook... because that is the stuff that is easy for a professor to teach, and hard for a student to question.

Best regards
Stu 

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W1RKW
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2006, 03:01:14 PM »

Some of what Stu said....
... because that is the stuff that is easy for a professor to teach, and hard for a student to question...

One complaint I had while going through college and doing calculus was the lack of a practical application for what we were required to learn.  Not one of the professors i had could ever give one. Had I seen some practical applications I might have found calculus less arduous and unexciting.

Many of the common and known equations in use are integral parts or derivations of other equations.  For example the equations for position, velocity and acceleration are integrations or derivations of each other.  Since these equations are  known what's the point of using calculus to get said equation if the equation of interest is already know.  Why reinvent the wheel so to speak.  Maybe the point was to understand how the equations were created.
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Jim, W5JO
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2006, 04:22:10 PM »

Almost all the time, this is driven by two things.  First is the college is funded by a formula based on attendance.  So if a department head denies credit for a transfer course, then the student is in their classes and more money in the till. 

The other part is ego, need I say more?  There was an effort in Texas back in the mid 90s to stop this practice and force Community Colleges to teach the lesson plan of the 4 year bunch, then egos stepped in from the BS people saying the quality of instruction was not as good as the 4 year people provided.  Pure foolishness!






For 25 years, I have been hearing co-workers who are night-school students complain that X college doesn't accept their old college's calculus credits.  This is 300 year old technology.  I would think that it would be easy to standardize nationally a subject like this.  This sort of B*S* is killing America.  No wonder the Asians are better educated ( only one reason why).

We need to have our young people get through college as efficiently as possible, not as difficult as possible.

I hope we're not getting too political for the AM Forum.
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John Holotko
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2006, 01:31:11 AM »

What is the "pre-med"curricula like ?? From what I understand (and I might be wrong)  it is usually some science like bio or chem. If a student is majoring in a science (be it part of pre-med, pre pharmacy, etc) or engineering curriculum they should bne required to take  and pass at leat 3 full semesters of the calculus. That is really not much to ask for and, if it cannot be dealt with then perhaps the student is at the crossroad where his/her future academic plans should probably be reconsidered. In addition to the calculus there should alsio be required semesters of numerical analyis, complex variables, set and group theory, linear algebra aqbstract algebra and probability. Each of these courses requires only a semester on average and students will have a more well rounded mathematical background to complement their major subject.


In my opinion I feel  the adcademic requirments have become too lax these days. Toomany schools are graduating people with sub average skills  and background these days. Working in the IT profession I routinely encounter young programmers fresh out of college who don't understand simple concepts such as pointers and memory adressing, hashing algorithms,  and data structures such as lists, trees, recursion, etc. Maybe it's too many beer parties, booze cruises and extended spring breaks. It's time the schools tighten up the curriculum and make some of these punks do some damned work these days. Curriculums have gotten too easy and the schools are too busy marking everybody on a curve. Maybe it's absout time they start handing out a few F's for a change.
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Tom WA3KLR
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2006, 10:54:16 AM »

Stu - I believe that one semester of Calculus is needed as a minimum.  You do need to understand what integration is at the mechanical arithmetic level even if all integration will be done for you in the future by your test equipment and computers.  Learning to do some simple integral and differentiations of equations is fundamental to understanding science - physics, etc., even if it's arithmetic skill is not used later on.

John - What percentage of the young programmers can't do binary math?
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The Slab Bacon
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2006, 12:19:19 PM »

Well guys, here is another angle to ponder. Courses like calculus and other strange curricula that you will never use, but needed to graduate were the reason that I never finished college 33 years ago. However, I have had the God given gift to be able to work with my hands and mind together. This has provided me with a very good living for many years as a skilled craftsman. Due to my increasing age and deteriorating physical condition I am no longer able to do the physical work that I used to do. This has forced me to take a desk job in the field that have developed much of my expertise in.

I now work as an estimator and project manager in a specialized field of commercial construction. I am good enough at what I do that I am also an officer of the company and have a major say in all of company management issues. I also do most of the interviewing in the hiring of new employees. Because of this I have noticed a rather odd turn of events in the people that applying for employment.

Nowadays we seem to have a large amount of young people applying for work that have no "mechanical" skills. That is people that are totally unable to work with their hands. Many have long lists of educational accomplishments, college credits, etc, but are totally lost with any kind of tool in their hands. Some are almost so bad that they dont even seem to know what is the business end of a screwdriver. We had one who literally did not know what an electric drill was used for. It is literally that bad and I feel that it is pathetic.

The stranger part is that they also seem to have no aptitude to even learn anything "hands on". If by sheer chance you find someone with any kind of "hands on" skills they seem to have no ability to make a rational decision in a given situation.
If things are not going properly they cannot asess the situation and take the appropriate course of action to correct it. I am kept constantly on the phone making simple decisions for my field crews, some as simple as "what size screws should I use?"
We recently hired a very intelligent young man with a BA in education, he was so lost with a drill in his hand that it was absolutely pathetic. We all liked him so much that we found a position for him: he is now our delivery driver. This is a shame!

Anyway what I am leading to is this: As time is progressing on I am seeing a need for skilled "hands on" craftsmen, and no one to fill those positions. My company (and others) are now willing to pay serious money for skilled mechanics and craftsmen. With current education trends favoring I.T. skills and other high end techno stuff, there is an accute need for "hands on" people. For many years in recent times we have strived for more highly educated people that we have forgotten what it takes to keep our basic world turning. If my gut feelings are correct somewhere in the not so distant future, the lowly guy who has the gift to be able to work with his hands will become a scarce commodity and be able to command the money that he is really worth! I am already starting to see this happen in construction. Just my rant!!!!

                                                                    The Slab Bacon
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John Holotko
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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2006, 01:48:20 PM »

Stu - I believe that one semester of Calculus is needed as a minimum.  You do need to understand what integration is at the mechanical arithmetic level even if all integration will be done for you in the future by your test equipment and computers.  Learning to do some simple integral and differentiations of equations is fundamental to understanding science - physics, etc., even if it's arithmetic skill is not used later on.

John - What percentage of the young programmers can't do binary math?

I don;t know what percentage  cannot  do binary math but I do  know that I have met a few recent grads who cannot do (or have a great deal of trouble doing) simple arithmetic operations in binary, or who don't know how to  convert between different bases such as decimal, binary,  and hexadecimal. and who are unfamiliar with the logical operators.  Now don't get me wrong. Anbybody can get a bit rusty and can get stumped on some of these ideas,particularly when we don;t use them regularly. . But when stumped one should at least have the skill to know how to use references in order to refresh ones memory regarding how these things work  and how to do them. Unfortunately I am seeing more  and more people who for whatever reasons seem to lack the ability to be able to reference the concepts or ideas they may have forgotten.  Why I don't know,perhaps it is laziness or,perhaps they were never taught the value of having readilly available  references  and how  to access and use them. Maybe the idea was never stressed in school.  Then again it's not surprising, case and point, the Internet  and the World Wide Web is probably one of the most robust and powerful reference resources available  to mankind and yet it seems so few  people  know how to use it to reference and to gather information.

Regarding the math I agree, at the very minimum a fundimental understanding of the techniques  of the calculus (including multiple integration and partial differentiation) should be required of all students of  the sciences  and engineering. But I cannot stress enough that the calculus is not the only thing that should be focussed upon. Other branches of mathematics are also of great (and sometimes greater) value and  yet  are  often neglected in many science and engineering curriculums. Case and point, a  good solid working understanding of probability  theory is often invaluable yet  seldom stressed in the curriculum of engineering programs.
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2006, 02:03:09 PM »

Turn about is fair play.  Why did I, a mathematics and computer science major, have to read, analyze and write long papers on books like "Waiting for Godot" ?  I say make all English majors differentiate.  Revenge is sweet.


Jon

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Steve - WB3HUZ
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2006, 01:05:17 PM »

Many engineers won't use field theory, Maxwell's equations (speaking of 19th century), newtonian or quantum physics, process control, microprocessor design, Laplace. Poisson, Thevenin, Norton, or friggin Ohms law,  .......  Arguing for or against a particular course on whether it will be used or not could allow one to eliminate the entire curriculum. I had to take Art Appreciation (or some such), hardly an engineering course. But earning a BS or BA should be about more than direct application of learned skills. That's what trade schools are for.

The problem with most engineering schools is the math (and theory, which generally boils down to nothing but math), is taught without imparting what that math means in the real world or an actual physical system. I've worked with many freshly minted engineers who had never even heard of the superheterodyne principle or could even draw a basic block diagram of a superhet receiver. How someone can make it through a communications course and not get this illustrates the problem. What century the math is from is irrelevant, if it is the best tool to describe how something works. But it only can be applied when it has some tie to the real world, vice only the scribbling of the prof in the chalk board.
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