New curriculum: science to be taught in the context of the great challenges of our time

Written By: - Date published: 11:36 am, July 5th, 2023 - 211 comments
Categories: education, science - Tags:

The Ministry of Education has asked for some initial feedback from teachers on a new draft of the science curriculum. From RNZ,


… science would be taught through five contexts – the Earth system, biodiversity, food, energy and water, infectious diseases and “at the cutting edge”

Cathy Buntting, director of the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the University of Waikato, and one of the developers of the curriculum explained to RNZ the change in approach,

… they will be teaching the chemistry and the physics that you need to engage with – the big issues of our time – and in order to engage with the excitement of science and the possibilities that science offers

… What we are pushing towards with the current fast draft is more of a holistic approach to how the different science concepts interact with each other rather than a purist, siloed approach

Exciting stuff. It appears to be shifting science education into a more whole systems view. This view places an emphasis on the connections and relationships between things and how they operate as sets of interconnected systems, rather than looking at the things in isolation.

This is exactly the kind of thinking that is needed to solve the big issues of our time, because the problems we have with events like the climate and ecology crises come from seeing things in isolation rather than as part of whole systems. For example instead of looking at whole river catchments and all the life in and around them, we focus on mg/L of nitrates and search for the highest level we can get away with before collapsing the river ecology (if we are lucky to judge that right, otherwise, oops).

Obviously we need the science to measure nitrate levels, but we also need the philosophical framework to use that data in ways that serve the river catchment and human needs.

That’s not the only interpretation of the science curriculum news this morning. There are also people concerned if this means dropping fundamentals of science. RNZ appear to be stoking an alarmist, reactionary narrative based on little evidence. I decided to take what was in the public domain and present my own interpretation, gleaning the bits that had meaning for me. I’m reading between the lines like everyone else, so the question becomes why do we take specific positions on such a paucity of information? Does this serve the public in understanding what is happening?

I didn’t look any further than the RNZ piece and one of the audios, and a few tweets. I’m thinking about the people getting ready for work this morning who likewise heard the audio and maybe had time to check twitter and this is all they have to go on as another MSM instigated culture war battle over education breaks out. Nek minit, Richard Dawkins has a blog post about how wokedom is destroying New Zealand science and everyone starts entrenching their positions.

What I know from RNZ,

  • a new science curriculum is being developed (primary? secondary? tertiary? who knows?)
  • a ‘fast draft’ has been released to a small number of teachers for feedback as part of the curriculum development
  • this draft has been leaked to pro-free-market, public-policy think tank and business membership organisation, the New Zealand Initiative
  • RNZ have talked to a number of science educators who have seen the draft, but haven’t released the draft to the public. I don’t know if RNZ have seen the draft themselves.
  • There are concerns from some science educators that the new curriculum would exclude areas like physics, chemistry or biology
  • There are issues about the lack of ‘fine detail’ in the draft on those subjects
  • According to one of the draft developers, the current curriculum also doesn’t contain such fine detail

I’m not involved in education and I found the interview with curriculum developer Bunting frustrating. Both because RNZ didn’t explain how curriculums actually work (see, that’s the problem of looking at things in isolation), and Bunting seemed more intent on PR than giving clear explanations (it’s not hard to imagine why she might be defensive given the leak and the framing of the reactions)

My best guess is that curriculums are meant to provide the frame and then schools develop how they will teach subjects within that. I really hope someone gets round to explaining this before everyone goes off on one.

I’d also like to know why RNZ ran this story without releasing the leaked draft. How can we know what the draft actually is and form meaningful opinions without seeing it? How can we parse the various biases in the interpretations being presented?

It’s not hard to see this as another example of how poorly served we are in election years, where reactionary drama takes precedence over information and considered analysis and presenting the public with the fine detail on which to form their views and opinions.

I really hope the science curriculum is going to start teaching whole systems thinking in schools. That would be a game changer for the kind of climate action and transition that we need to save ourselves. There is no science education on a dead planet.

211 comments on “New curriculum: science to be taught in the context of the great challenges of our time ”

  1. Stephen D 1

    As someone who may well be teaching the new science curriculum, I’m excited.

    Of course the regular sciency stuff will be taught. In terms of the holistic approach you can’t avoid the chemistry, biology, physics etc.

    The whole argument reinforces what Weka has said. We are terribly poorly served by our mainstream media.

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    Just to check the concordance:

    The Green Party supports an education system that fosters lifelong learning for tamariki, and develops the skills they need to participate in society as we transition to a zero carbon future that is sustainable, equitable and peaceful.

    https://www.greens.org.nz/education_policy

    I’d also like to know why RNZ ran this story without releasing the leaked draft.

    Media report news with a bias toward sensationalism. Thus controversy becomes the default focus. Msm conditions employees into trivia as a result. For a positive alternative, go to the global view:

    The UN Secretary General’s Transforming Education Summit has confirmed that education must be transformed to respond to the global climate and environmental crisis. https://www.unesco.org/en/education-sustainable-development/greening-future

  3. Anker 3

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/493178/teachers-shocked-at-leaked-draft-of-science-curriculum-where-s-the-physics-and-chemistry

    so Stephen what do you make of these science teachers who are disturbed by this?

    will biological science be taught.

    I am not a teacher, but it looks to me like the depth of understanding will be lost

    • Stephen D 3.1

      Knee jerk reactions come from all quarters, and teachers are not immune.

      Just because the words "chemistry" and "physics" aren't explicitly mentioned doesn't mean they won't be taught. Of course they'll be taught. But in the context of

      "the Earth system, biodiversity, food, energy and water, infectious diseases and “at the cutting edge”

    • weka 3.2

      Let's look at what was said in that RNZ piece,

      Science teachers are shocked that an advance version of the draft school science curriculum contains no mention of physics, chemistry or biology.

      I listened to the interview with the women who is on the curriculum development team, and she said those subjects would still be taught.

      Teachers who had seen the document told RNZ they had grave concerns about it. It was embarrassing, and would lead to "appalling" declines in student achievement, they said.

      Why is it embarrassing? Why would it lead to appalling declines in student achievement? We are not told.

      One said the focus on four specific topics was likely to leave pupils bored with science by the time they reached secondary school.

      Why though? Isn't it up to each school to ensure that their students find the work engaging?

      But another teacher told RNZ the document presented a "massive challenge" to teachers and the critics were over-reacting.

      "It's the difference from what's existed before and the lack of content is what's scaring people. It's fear of the unknown," he said.

      This is probably true of people reacting to RNZ's piece, because it doesn't tell us much about the changes.

      Association of Science Educators president Doug Walker said he was shocked when he saw a copy.

      "Certainly in its current state I would be extremely concerned with that being our guiding document as educators in Aotearoa. The lack of physics, chemistry, Earth and space science, I was very surprised by that," he said.

      and yet the curriculum developer said those things would still be taught. What's the deal here?

      The MInistry of Education should now sit down with science subject associations to get some open, honest and constructive feedback about what the science curriculum should include, Walker said.

      This seems reasonable. The fast draft was released to a small number of teachers for initial feed back. Has RNZ told us what the rest of the process is?

      New Zealand Institute of Physics education council chairman David Housden said physics teachers were not happy either.

      "We were shocked. I think that physics and chemistry are fundamental sciences and we would expect to find a broad curriculum with elements of it from space all the way down to tiny particles," he said.

      Where is the evidence that physics and chemistry wouldn't be taught?

      Institute president Joachim Brand said he was worried teenagers would finish school without learning fundamental knowledge about things like energy and matter.

      He warned the draft was heavy on philosophy and light on actual science.

      "There is too little science content. Science needs to be learned by actually doing it to some degree. You need to be exposed to the ideas of how maybe atoms work, how electricity works, how electric forces and if that is not specified and you're only given these broad contexts, then I'm really worried there will be huge gaps," he said.

      Brand said if the draft went ahead, fewer students would specialise in science and universities might find themselves forced to teach basic science to new students.

      This seems more pertinent. However, it's predicated on the idea that the draft would prevent those things from being taught, and this hasn't been adequately explained.

      Secondary Chemistry Educators New Zealand co-chairperson Murray Thompson said after he read the document he was left asking where the science was.

      "The stuff in there is really interesting, but we have to teach basic science first. Where's the physics and chemistry and why can't we find words like force and motion and elements and particles, why aren't those words in there?

      "It's the same mistake that they made with maths and literacy. They said 'here's the system, here's the way' and the maths was all about problem-solving and written problems and all that stuff without the basic skills," Thompson said.

      This also seems pertinent, but again, we don't have much to go on. What we really need is an explanation of what is in the current curriculum and how the new one would different from that.

      Meanwhile,

      But one of the curriculum writers, director of the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the University of Waikato Cathy Buntting, rubbished suggestions key areas physics and chemistry would not be taught.

      Buntting said the draft was very high-level, as were curriculum documents for other subjects but it was clear it needed more clarity about where teachers should expect to teach various science concepts.

      So it's an initial draft of a curriculum still in development.

      The Ministry of Education said it was still finalising the draft document.

      "We are currently in the process of completing the draft science content based on feedback from fast testing, as well as being guided by national and international research such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).

      "We will then go out for wider sector and public feedback from August to late October this year, with a full draft, and sufficient time for people to give us feedback," it said.

      Cool.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    Hi Weka,

    I did hear this mentioned on the radio the other day.

    My biggest concern with this approach is that there will be critical gaps in knowledge as a result. I understand that elements of biodiversity, energy etc do include aspects of core subjects such as chemistry and physics and biology. But, I think the proposed curriculum, from the little we know, is around the wrong way.

    I think it would be more reliable from an education point of view to cover the core science subjects, but cover the areas such as biodiversity, energy etc within those topics. So, that helps meet the objectives you have referred to without ignoring the basics.

    I see science education at secondary school as building the very basic concepts and principles. Hence, I would be quite alarmed if that fundamental education was going to be dropped.

    • weka 4.1

      we don't actually know because RNZ haven't told us.

      But let's explore the hypothetical. If you teach kids physics, biology etc within a reductionist frame you have basically socialised them into a way of thinking that is quite hard to later break out of. This is the fundamental issue with the climate and ecology crises, more fundamental even than the politics imo. The western mind is taught to see the world as parts, and this is why we treat the world like a machine instead of whole system composed of intersecting and interrelating systems.

      I can't see why the basics of science can't be taught alongside the holistic framework. So rather than a linear approach (basics first, philosophy later), teach the basics within the holistic frame.

      • tsmithfield 4.1.1

        Hi Weka,

        So rather than a linear approach (basics first, philosophy later), teach the basics within the holistic frame.

        That is not quite what I meant. I meant that the wider body of say biology is taught. But, within that, say when exploring cell biology, infectious diseases are covered as part of that. Or when teaching evolutionary theory, cover biodiversity within that framework.

        So, the two concepts work together rather than starting at a reductionalist level and then moving to holistic learning later.

        On the other hand, there is probably a lot of science learning I neither remember nor see as particularly useful.

        So, for instance, I see little point in memorising the periodic table, as I think we were expected to do back in the day. But, I see value understanding how atomic structures develop and how atoms interact as part of chemical reactions etc.

        I think one of the key things for effective learning is to keep the material relevant and interesting for students, so I am not totally opposed to the proposed approach. But, I don't want to see gaps in learning due to fundamentals not being adequately covered either.

        So, I am probably sayng similar to you, but the other way around.

        • weka 4.1.1.1

          That is not quite what I meant. I meant that the wider body of say biology is taught. But, within that, say when exploring cell biology, infectious diseases are covered as part of that. Or when teaching evolutionary theory, cover biodiversity within that framework.

          I don't think that's teaching in a whole systems frame though. That sounds like tacking on some bits to the reductions thinking frame.

          • tsmithfield 4.1.1.1.1

            I think one of the key things with learning is to keep it interesting and relevant. I think that is the key issue rather than trying to categorise as "reductionist"or "holistic".

            Teaching theoretical knowledge without seeing how it applies to the real world tends to make it dry and boring, unless particular students have a bent for that. So, making learning easy and interesting is one of the key things to do. For instance, this site provides a much more interesting way to learn maths and computer science.

            And, finding ways to apply it in the real world helps make the learning relevant. So, for instance, maths could be applied in an engineering context for those who are interested in engineering etc.

            If students see concepts being taught as academic, boring, and irrelevant to their lives, they will likely switch off.

            But, on the other hand, like maths, many ideas in science build on each other. So, not learning the basic building blocks can hinder learning later ones. So, I think it is important, whatever we do, to ensure the basic concepts are taught and understood, and that knowledge grows in a methodical way.

            • Dennis Frank 4.1.1.1.1.1

              finding ways to apply it in the real world helps make the learning relevant

              Yeah but a mentor can steer that. All that is required is to ask students to query the curriculum relevance themselves. Works for kids past a particular age when their identity morphs out of childhood.

              Teachers can ask kids to discuss prospective careers in relation to the curriculum imperatives, right? My education ('50s/'60s) was neocolonial – teachers wouldn't even dream of being that subversive then. But I suspect nowadays such relevance would be deemed acceptable?

            • Roy Cartland 4.1.1.1.1.2

              There is literally nothing more relevant than finding our way out of this climate catastrophe heading our way. Farming, pollution, wars, the world cup, ai, everything is meaningless if we don't.

              • tsmithfield

                Sure. But, lots of disciplines are needed for that. For instance, there is a lot of design and engineering involved in wind generation, or in designing a dam.

                And, there is a lot of science involved in designing more efficient batteries for motor vehicles or for finding a cost-effective way to generate hydrogen for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

                So, which ever way it is looked at, the need for effective teaching of sciences etc is essential.

                • Dennis Frank

                  True, but the danger lies in the default to tradition. To rise to the challenge of global threats, kids will have to hew towards learning that is clearly related to their future.

                  Are teachers taught how to help with that?? I suspect not. The education system is traditional & inertial – always recycling the past knowledge that mainstreamers believe to be important. Teachers are mostly mainstreamers & default to recycling the past. The merit of this new educational initiative lies in avoiding such congenital error-ridden thinking.

                  These same mainstreamers vote for parties dedicated to recycling 19th century economics ad nauseum. Chances of them being competent are zilch. They need to shift their paradigm.

            • weka 4.1.1.1.1.3

              I think one of the key things with learning is to keep it interesting and relevant. I think that is the key issue rather than trying to categorise as "reductionist"or "holistic".

              Did you just call systems thinking boring? lol

              Teaching theoretical knowledge without seeing how it applies to the real world tends to make it dry and boring, unless particular students have a bent for that.

              Who has said we should teach theoretical knowledge without seeing how it applies in the real world? I haven't, and I didn't see it in the small amount of information about the curriculum draft.

              • tsmithfield

                I am not sure what you mean by "holistic learning", which is part of the problem with our discussion. I assume it is along the lines of this definition.

                But, I have a niece who's parent's decided to put her through a school that seems to follow that philosophy": the Rudolf Steiner school here in Christchurch. She is thirteen now, and unfortunately is functionally illiterate, and is needing a lot of remedial learning to prepare her for high school.

                Other than that, she is a pleasant, seemingly intelligent, and well behaved.

                Maybe it works well for some students. But, from what I have seen, I am not at all impressed, sorry.

                That doesn't mean that there aren't elements of that that could be woven into teaching. But, I really don't think it is suitable for teaching science.

            • tWiggle 4.1.1.1.1.4

              This home-school curriculum site describes student-led science teaching which harnesses childrens' natural curiosity about the world. This sort of activity is what I was thinking would go on in a real-world, project-based curriculum. The site points out it's important to engage kids and to get them to think for themselves. Otherwise they will just turn to google for answers.

              "Don’t think of hands-on activities or experiments as cookie-cutter events — just follow the steps and get the result. This behavior may stunt the learning experience and inhibit the development of science skills. When we treat science activities as recipes to follow we teach kids that if something doesn’t work then give up or write it off as a bad idea."

        • Incognito 4.1.1.2

          So, for instance, I see little point in memorising the periodic table, as I think we were expected to do back in the day. But, I see value understanding how atomic structures develop and how atoms interact as part of chemical reactions etc.

          Oh boy, where to start? You seem to have zero understanding of the periodic table and what it represents. With so much ignorance on display – nobody asked you to say something so profoundly ignorant about the periodic system – you have effectively disqualified yourself from commenting under this Post, IMO.

          • tsmithfield 4.1.1.2.1

            My understanding has always been as described by Wiki. So, enlighten me on the gaps in my understanding?

            I was always more interested in, say, the atomic bonds that allow water to expand when freezing rather than contract. I saw little point in memorising the names of random elements with half lifes of fractions of a second for example that few ever get to encounter in their lives. To me understanding is a lot more important than being able to parrot off lots of facts.

            • Incognito 4.1.1.2.1.1

              I cannot fill an ignorance vacuum that is denser than a black hole.

              I’m highly surprised you found that Wiki page and seem to imply that you understand it [all?] and still write this comment!? This comment of yours simply reinforces that you know nothing about what you are talking about. Please stop this painful display of the Dunning–Kruger effect.

              • tsmithfield

                Ranting out insults like a child in a school yard is a bit below you isn't it?

                If you really don't think I have a clue, then it would be far more insulting and make you look much more wise for you to point out how I am so wrong rather than the way you are behaving here.

                Bearing in mind that the discussion hasn't been about the detailed specifics of any particular field, and neither have I proclaimed myself an expert in any of them.

                • Incognito

                  You joined in a robust debate and gave an example, off your own bat, to illustrate your point. Unfortunately, your example was based on and contained so much ignorance that it nullified anything else that you had said and were going to say in this debate; you were wasting people’s time. IMO.

                  I called you out on your obvious ignorance. Deal with it as a mature person and lift your game.

      • Wei 4.1.2

        "I can't see why the basics of science can't be taught alongside the holistic framework. So rather than a linear approach (basics first, philosophy later), teach the basics within the holistic frame."

        Frankly this is ridiculous, and I suspect you have never studied science or engineering. There are fundamental concepts and skills that have to be drilled and embedded into the mind before one can practice science. These skills have to be automatic. It's no different from footballers having to have basic ball skills and fitness before they step on to the pitch.

        " If you teach kids physics, biology etc within a reductionist frame you have basically socialised them into a way of thinking that is quite hard to later break out of."

        In fact the way of thinking of scientists is not 'reductionist'. You have wrongly used that term, and in a pejorative way (reductionist is ascribing social phenomena to a single narrow cause – that has nothing to with science). In fact the type of thinking taught in the sciences, in which we seek truth and answers from observable facts is exactly the type of thinking we should be teaching all kids, and reflects best practice, whether we are talking of building a bridge, flying a plane, or running a country and its economy.

        "The western mind is taught to see the world as parts, and this is why we treat the world like a machine instead of whole system composed of intersecting and interrelating systems"

        That is its great success, and it produces societies that everyone prefers to live in. And by the way, of course a machine is of course composed of "intersecting and interrelating systems"

        Science is broken down into different areas because we all have to operate at various levels of abstraction. So to put it simply, physics deals with the most fundamental realities, chemistry abstracts some of that knowledge and operates at a higher level, and biology operates at still a higher level above that. This is not siloing, and chemistry references the findings of physics and biology references the findings of chemistry.

        These different subjects are absolutely critical to be able to get anything done at all. As an analogy, I can cook without having to understand all the physics and chemistry underlying what I am doing. I can walk without having to have a perfect understanding of dynamics.

        In the end these barmy ideas of teaching science ‘holistically’ will be tested and imposed on poor disadvantaged students, who will end up without the skills and knowledge to get into engineering or medicine etc, while of course the rich kids will go to private schools, get the best education, and get into the most lucrative careers.

        • weka 4.1.2.1

          You clearly don't understand what whole systems thinking is. Not to worry, not everyone has to get it.

          I can't see any reason for a whole systems thinking frame being incompatible with "fundamental concepts and skills that have to be drilled and embedded into the mind before one can practice science", and no-one has been able to explain why the might be yet.

          I suspect it's because you see [insert preferred word choice to replace 'reductionistic'] as in binary opposition to whole systems thinking. It's not.

          I don't consider reductionist to be a pejorative and certainly didn't use it that way here. It's a very useful way of thinking for specific endeavours. It's not a good way of thinking to embed in the dominant world view across a society though, esp where it's pretended that it's the only way of thinking (or the most valid).

          • Wei 4.1.2.1.1

            So you can carry out 'whole systems thinking' without first a solid understanding of its parts?

            At the moment there is a huge deficit in students understandign of basic maths concepts, and appalling literacy skills, for what is supposedly still a first world country.

            Students come into engineering now without even the basics of trigonometry embedded in their minds, as they use to.

            I'm marking a first year engineering exam now. It is at a lower level than the School C physics we use to do two or three decades ago. And the pass rates are still shocking.

            And you think "whole systems" thinking is going to help here?

            Lets concentrate on the basics first eh?

            • Dennis Frank 4.1.2.1.1.1

              So you're acknowledging the trend towards failure in the education system and yet wanting it to do more of the same. What's rational about that response?

              Wouldn't it be more sensible to credit the escalating aversion to the system amongst children to their perception that it lacks relevance to real life. I formed that view in college in the 1960s so am not surprised by the trend since. Seems cruel to deny their survival instincts.

              • weka

                no, I think they're saying that the current education system is broken and that what they think of as whole systems thinking is going to make it worse. I don't think they know what whole systems thinking is though.

            • weka 4.1.2.1.1.2

              So you can carry out 'whole systems thinking' without first a solid understanding of its parts?

              Not sure about that, I'd need an example. But I think you can educate people in both at the same time.

              Maybe we should talk specifics, because there's a big difference between a ten year old, someone going an apprenticeship, and someone doing an under graduate degree.

              I completely agree with you that basics need to be learned (to varying degrees depending on context) and have no problem accepting that there are people in higher education who don't have the basics. That's a different problem and one that it sounds like needs to be addressed urgently.

              I left high school in 1983, and feel I had a pretty good education with some notable gaps. I'm reasonably old school on that stuff (I remember when calculators were allowed in exams and I just didn't get it, why would you not want students to know how to calculate with their own brains).

              It's almost impossible to assess the proposed changes, because we don't know what they are. I started talking about whole systems thinking in the post in part because I wanted to demonstrate that this debate is full of bias.

              But as an example, if someone studying agriculture is being taught about nitrates, I want them to be taught about river catchments first. If they are learning about growing crops, I want them to be taught about the soil food web.

              At the moment people are taught within frames that are harming the planet. That's a choice and it's a choice to keep those frames rather than adopting ones that serve us better. Nowhere in that am I saying don't also learn the chemistry of nitrates or the practicalities of growing wheat.

          • Shanreagh 4.1.2.1.2

            Are we able to explain the benefits of the new curricula without using the words 'reductionist', 'holistic' or 'whole systems thinking'.

            In particular I am a little sceptical of the framing of systems thinking as it is being used, as some new almost magic bullet thinking.

            In the olden days the aim of education and science education was to turn out people who were able to explain, work, live and improve in the system we have now. Some people were so interested they wanted to make a career others just wanted to know when they use lime to best effect in their vegetable garden. And if you want to do the latter don't you just need to know about vegetable growing and have a list of the vegetables that like lime, need lime and hate lime as has served my family for three generations now?

            The words reductionist, holistic or systems thinking seem either new jargon (NB one of the functions of jargon is to keep 'non-believers' out) or too buzzy to be included in a discussion about the fundamentals of education.

            While you say that you are not using 'reductionist' in a pejorative way the point is that many have seen it used this way as a means of criticising the thinking processes of others (detail V big picture). I have seen the most detailed sparkling analysis back to principles pooh-poohed as 'reductionist'.

            Many are familar with the concept of breaking it down to component parts and then putting something back together slightly differently. Many are familar with delberate rule breaking as a process (NB we have to know the rules before we can competently break them.)

            You just have to look at the actions of yeast in bread making or beer making and to follow what happens when free yeasts get in the picture and make some thing new happen – good or bad.

            Systems or detail thinkers 'reductionsists' will break the process down to the component parts and try again to eliminate or try to capture the change and replicate it. It is learning plus putting specifc learning into practice following a system/recipe.

            If you do it this way it is clear where additional learning has to take place

            1 children need to know about what ingredients do and when they are put together

            2 they need to know about measurement

            3 they need to know anout cleanliness and hygiene as it is no good making something that is going to poison us

            4 they need to know about heat applied to mixtures, which of the components are activated by heat and which are activated by moisture

            5 they need to know about kitchen safety

            6 they need to know about spoilage after the cooking so we know how long to keep some thing,

            I see all of these as a mixture of basics or reductionist, plus using a system that all interlink and go from basics to improver all the way through.

            People who are taught to enquire, which is learning at it most basic, won't keep putting bread mixtures out to spoil, if that is the problem.

            One of the best things about 'reductionist theory is the clear exposition/hypothesis with reseach backing up so we now just what the problems are.

            Have we had studies showing this ie so we are not engaging in the process we saw so often in the neo lib era of fixing something that was not broken.

            As Wei says below

            At the moment there is a huge deficit in students understandign of basic maths concepts, and appalling literacy skills, for what is supposedly still a first world country.

            Are we sure that the new curricula is actually going to help here? Bearing in mind we are not talking of 16 year old school leavers in Wei's example.

            If the focus on climate change etc is going to work like the recipe example then fine, reduce, learn, put together or change and use this as a model of how sciences interlock so we need basic learning all the way through.

            I can see though that unless it is tightly controlled we will find students with the 'what do I do now' look when my niece learning in fashion tech at age 17, about 'fabric draping' (very trendy and an example of teaching the end result) without pattern making anywhere in the background. This lead to a huge wastage of fabric when she cut the surplus fabric off the mannequin.

            • weka 4.1.2.1.2.1

              lots of good questions there. Let's break it down a bit (ha!).

              None of us know what the proposed curriculum is, nor what was in the early draft. We do know that the draft doesn't contain fine detail, and there is some indication that the current curriculum doesn't either.

              So it's not really possible to talk about it. We can talk about the politics surrounding it.

              The first part of my post was a reaction against pretty much that, that we were being thrown into another culture war without any real information upon which to form opinions so I thought I may as well just interpret the sparse information to suit my narrative. Get the point?

              I happen to like my narrative though and will use most opportunities to talk about whole systems thinking. Two things about that: one is that no-one, myself included, has bothered to give a definition of what whole systems thinking is (maybe Dennis? I haven't read all his comments). The other is that I would guess most people here reacting against the discussion of whole systems thinking don't understand what I mean when I use the term.

              Some people appear to be thinking it's about interdisciplinary teaching of subjects (perhaps because Buntting referred to that kind of?). Might be some comments from this evening that go into that but mostly we didn't talk about what that is either.

              I hear what you are saying about how some people use the term reductionist, but usually you can tell from the context and so I don't think it's reasonable to assume I was using it in that way. A better criticism is I was being lazy. I'm sure there are better words to convey what I mean, but also the people that don't like my usage could tell me what the better words are. We need to be able to talk about the view that sees the world in mechanistic terms (there you go, I'll try and use that one instead although I'm sure that will get me into trouble too). But again, we should probably try and make sure we know what each other is talking about.

              • weka

                I used the term whole systems thinking because I wanted to talk about that. I don't think Buntting or anyone else whose seen the draft used it.

              • Shanreagh

                We need to be able to talk about the view that sees the world in mechanistic terms (there you go, I'll try and use that one instead although I'm sure that will get me into trouble too).

                I like this term better though it may not exactly hit the spot

                Is it more like silo-ed thinking where linkages between subjects/life are not seen, explained or explored?

                Thinking about rote learning as well…..I think it has its place too. Even if we think of it as a way of remebering so we can move forward to a time when we can use the table/figures in a more thoughtful (exciting/interesting) way. As well tips and tricks for remembering things are useful……i before e except after c

                • PsyclingLeft.Always

                  i before e except after c

                  Except Science…..and… the other ones : )

                  A measure of Critical Thinking would be great if incorporated in any "new direction" . I'm sure most Scientists would agree. It would help our Earth greatly.

                • weka

                  Mechanistic thinking as a world view sees things as made up of parts. The whole is made up of those parts.

                  Whole Systems Thinking (WST) as a world view sees the world in terms of the relationships and connections between things and systems. The whole is more than the sum of the parts.

                  In my experience, most people raised in the West have to go through a learning curve (and probably a kind of decolonisation process) in order to grasp what WST is. But once you get it, everything changes. It's why I and others can see a way out of the climate crisis when so many people are mired in despair and believing it can't be solved.

                  I take your earlier point about jargon creating barriers and cliques. But the inability to understand WST, that it even exists, is a consequence of some heavy duty socialisation, I'm not sure there is any easy around that. I suspect that humans are hardwired to think in systems despite that, and probably there are easier ways than others of getting there. I would count learning te reo in a kaupapa Māori setting as a big part of how I got there, because some languages are much closer to that than others.

                  But there are lots of other ways. When I talk about women's culture I'm also talking about women's reality, and that's an experiential system that women know inherently but men don't. When we try and talk about it, many men think it's nonsense because they literally don't experience it and therefore don't see it. There are cultural differences there too though.

                  I mention this example, because I see your GC politics as in part coming from your understanding of women's reality. I don't know if you think about it that way, but you seem to just get stuff in this area that other people have to have explained to them.

                  So, back to education. Yes we need to teach fine detail of specific topics. eg chemistry, what nitrates are, how to measure them. At the moment, this gets taught in a Western mind non-holistic frame. This leads to scientists, institutions, research and funding that focuses on the parts and how they fit together in the whole in a reductionist way (sorry but that is the most useful word I can find), rather than the whole and all connections and relationships.

                  When we see the water in the river as part of a whole set of interconnected systems (the valley, the adjacent farms, the water cycle, the soil food web, climate, weather etc), then we stop seeing nitrates in isolation and thus subvert the idea that controlling nitrates is the solution to river pollution. The solution lies in holistic management of the whole catchment and it's not possible to do that from the mechanistic frame.

                  reductionist focus is a subset of the whole picture (how can we measure nitrates), and in our current world view we elevate it to being the most important. This is how we are literally killing the planet.

        • weka 4.1.2.2

          Science is broken down into different areas because we all have to operate at various levels of abstraction.

          Wait, do people think that whole systems thinking means mashing everything together? that's daft, but it would explain some of the arguments being made.

      • Nick Matzke 4.1.3

        "This is the fundamental issue with the climate and ecology crises, more fundamental even than the politics imo. The western mind is taught to see the world as parts, and this is why we treat the world like a machine instead of whole system composed of intersecting and interrelating systems."

        This is, I'm sorry to say, stoned-humanities-major-dorm-room-conversation-about-science, rather than the way science actually is. All of the "whole system" and "intersecting and interrelating systems" things you are talking about were all revealed by Western science — the carbon cycle and many other biogeochemical cycles, the relationship of obscure trace gasses to heat retention of the atmosphere and resulting climate change, various feedbacks and forcings between ecosystems, human activities and the dynamics of global change, etc.

        • weka 4.1.3.1

          in the bit you selectively quoted, I wasn't talking about science, I was talking about the way Westerners think.

          And many peoples have engaged in whole systems independently of Western science. Western science has indeed given us some fantastic knowledge, practices and advantages. And yes how we have applied science has brought us to the brink of destruction. Because of how we think.

          If we consider science to be a set of tools and practices, they can be used within different frames. I'm saying science isn't the problem, it's the way we think and use science that is.

          Hence my example about relying on nitrate measurements to maintain the health of whole systems like a watch catchment. It doesn't work, because the nitrates are a symptom. The problem is the humans and the ways we relate to the river catchment, and those are determined by culture and the way we think.

          • LawfulN 4.1.3.1.1

            Because of how we think.

            This tired old rubbish again. Countless historical human communities have undermined themselves and almost all of them did not practice 'western modes of thought'. Ignorance, superstition, motivated reasoning, shortsightedness, and greed are just part of the human condition. As the man once said:

            The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

        • Dennis Frank 4.1.3.2

          Two different groups of scientists, Nick. Big-pictures types did what you describe. Never all that many of those! The vast majority were & still are as Weka described. I've lived a long time watching this divide & see younger generations trending toward the holistic view increasingly.

        • LawfulN 4.1.3.3

          Exactly.

      • LawfulN 4.1.4

        This is just woo.

        I spent an awful lot of time in academia and met and worked with some extraordinarily smart people over that time. In that time I learned over an over again that 'holism' and 'systems' are buzzwords most often used by the sophistic and the not-very-clever to cover up a basic lack of theoretical rigour. I mean why bother actually trying to make a logical case for your view, when you can just throw out meaningless generalities that confuse listeners sound clever…

        Of course there is respectable holism, such as Donald Davidson's semantic holism (a classic of dull theory), but that's a far cry from the mystical BS that it usually refers to.

        • weka 4.1.4.1

          not sure if this will penetrate past your prejudices, but worth a shot

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_thinking

        • Dennis Frank 4.1.4.2

          lack of theoretical rigour

          There is that, but it is case-specific. It is relative to the user's intention. Users with that mental discipline will focus on specific tasks in science and be satisfied with completion. Relevance of the outcome will then be assessed by others.

          If a significant discovery occurs as a result, it will extend the big-picture view of others, and merit will be acknowledged accordingly. That seems to be the basis of the Nobels. So you get a cascade of meaning from single discoverer or team investigation into the wider community of science & thence into the public arena.

          Which is the focus of the holists & paradigm shifters. Collective expression of knowledge requires generalising to a greater or lesser extent depending on the audience. This is contrary to the natural inclinations of specialists. No surprise that they often see a wall between `us & them'. Then there are those who perform a medial function, relating learning from a specialist community into a broader view to make it accessible to others. Like electron tunnelling…

    • Scott Osprey 4.2

      Absolutely 100% tsmithfield.

    • Hunter Thompson II 4.3

      I agree with your second point. Teach separate science subjects but also show how they relate to each other, along with some broader concepts.

      After all, we started with biology and chemistry and then moved to biochemistry.

      The litmus test is whether the teachers can actually work with this new system and get good results.

  5. Anker 5

    https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2023/04/30/a-new-paper-that-presages-the-death-of-science-in-new-zealand/

    not about the new curriculum, but relevant I think to the arguments about science in schools. And if people think why should we listen to an American biologist, just remember Jerry Coyne receives a significant volume of communication from NZ scientists and academics too scared to speak up.

    and thanks tsmithfield for your comment above @ 4. You explained very well what I was trying to say
    This new curriculum looks to have the potential to teach what to think, rather than how to think (concede I could be wrong about this)

    • weka 5.1

      I think you are almost certainly wrong on that. My guess is it's teaching how to think holistically. Which I guess is in a way teaching what to think. But then the frame we use now is the same. We are taught to think through a reductionist frame. Why do we want to keep doing that?

      • weka 5.1.1

        to give you an example. Gender identity ideology suggests things like 'born in the wrong body', we can change sex, identity is far more important than material reality.

        My view is that underpinning that is a desire to escape our physicality, and this in turn is based in the mind/body split of the Western mindset that arose in the 1600s. This was influenced by the culture and politics of the time, emerging science and the power of the church and reactions to that. It also tracks with patriarchal religions that see spirituality as a quest to transcend the body.

        Whereas many gender critical people want say teen girls to be seen as whole people who have a history and life that impacts on their mental/emotional selves as well as the way they think about the world. This GC view is more congruent with embodiment and the belief that we are part of nature and that seeing the whole is an imperative for health.

        they're different philosophical frameworks. I'd like to see both taught (and others). But I want to be clear here, we can do reductionist science within a holistic frame. It's not an either/or. Some scientists need to be free to think in a reductionist frame, but society needs to hold the holistic view and make sure that it is maintained.

        • Nic the NZer 5.1.1.1

          Your example emerges from post-modern philosophy which doesn't even seem to believe reality is independent of belief. In practice it seems to depend on how out of this world the author thinks they can get away with for how much fiction is part of the argument. Obviously this just collapses in most social contexts because most people don't want to go around larping everything, it's not worth the effort.

          I'm not convinced holistic thinking is a particularly meaningful term either. The kinds of people who can connect different subject areas together effectively are usually also on top of the details in each specific area as well. There are fundamental reasons why detail people are stronger in science subjects and my suspicion would be that if you can't master the details you can at best gain a certain rote learned inflexible understanding of that subject at best. With new discoveries this understanding could well fall out of date.

          • weka 5.1.1.1.1

            case in point. Tweep apparently does astroparticle physics.

            'planet' and 'atmosphere' are social constructs. They're useful ones, for sure, but if someone wanted to talk about the contents of different layers of gas around the earth, I wouldn't condemn them and claim that 'the atmosphere is material reality'

            https://twitter.com/wekatweets/status/1676392735425859584

            If you want some pleasure read philosopher Jane Clare Jones' response to said astroparticle physics doer, and a great demonstration of why philosophy matters in relation to science and reality (thread)

            https://twitter.com/cateother/status/1674787486504210433?s=20

            • Nick Matzke 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Planet and atmosphere are social constructs? This is just postmodern relativist twaddle, which scientists have seen to be silly since at least the 1990s. For some reason postmodernism is still popular in NZ, it's like people never heard of the Sokal Hoax or the fact that Bruno Latour, in the end, publicly gave up on trying to use critical theory to deconstruct science, concluding (a) it only helped the right-wing climate-change deniers, and (b) saying something like the tools of critique lay in ruins when they got used against subjects with some solid objective basis, like physical science.

              Yes, the gender stuff also derives from the postmodern end of academia also. Now, it's also true that there is a connection to mind-body dualism as well, which is an old idea, but tying mind-body dualism to reductionism is just…nuts. A real reductionist would say mind-body dualism is silly, there's just bodies, and the mind is part of the body. The scientific tendency is more towards materialism and monism than towards dualism. The people who like dualism: some philosophers, idealists, Christians & other people (e.g. gender ideologues) with a strong commitment to a disembodied "soul", etc.

              Many scientists would say: You can't be "born into the wrong body." You are your body. Whatever you call yourself is up to you, but it doesn't change the objective material fact that humans, like all other mammals, are a species with two evolved sexes, complete with developmental programs, behavioral tendencies, substantial morphological differences, etc.

          • weka 5.1.1.1.2

            I'm not convinced holistic thinking is a particularly meaningful term either. The kinds of people who can connect different subject areas together effectively are usually also on top of the details in each specific area as well. There are fundamental reasons why detail people are stronger in science subjects and my suspicion would be that if you can't master the details you can at best gain a certain rote learned inflexible understanding of that subject at best. With new discoveries this understanding could well fall out of date.

            I suspect this it where the real debate should be and that it's getting lost in the culture war.

            I agree that details people make better hard scientists as a generalisation. My concern is that the current educational system (and how we do science in the human world) inhibits the development of the people that can do both details and systems thinking. Which are the people we really need right now.

            I also think that the general population needs both detail thinking and system thinking, especially in science, and schools play a crucial role in this, that is distinct from creating good scientists.

            I still don't see why details can't be taught within a holistic philosophical frame starting a primary school.

            • Nic the NZer 5.1.1.1.2.1

              "I still don't see why details can't be taught within a holistic philosophical frame starting a primary school."

              You're just not understanding the philosophy of science. There is no holistic philosophical frame, you can look at a subject on a macro or micro scale, but neither of these arises from a different philosophical frame anyway.

              More relevantly for science there is in some sense a hierarchy of sciences. Particle physics composes to form Chemistry which composes to form Biology. The point is if any of these models of the subject are incompatible then at least one of them is invalid. This is different to the ideas which arise from post-modern subjects however because to some extent these subjects are quite happy to include fiction to their arguments. That's an actual difference in philosophy.

              In terms of this application the holistic thinking part is likely more an approach to practice of education than anything else. It probably is a good idea to teach relevant science to secondary school students but might be a lot easier to explain to parents if your not using so many MoE buzz words to explain your intent.

              • Dennis Frank

                It's more helpful to frame the relation of philosophy to science on the basis of the prospective operational arena of the student.

                Which societal context they are trending towards is the key to their prioritisation of learning. Thus education as a cultural endeavour ought to replace neocolonial abstract shit with relevance to real life.

                With physics, that means tech applications mostly. If a student has a yen to get the big picture that informs and propels tech, give them the antiquated physics world-view – which is nowadays mostly history actually & perhaps ought to be re-allocated as such in the curriculum!

                However, operational holism has to get tooled up so kids can see the relevance of it easily. That's being done in network/systems science, and multidisciplinary collaboration contexts have been the hot trend the past 30 years. Can't expect physics practitioners to grasp holism – it's like expecting a computer to use two different operating systems concurrently. Hence AI instead of computers, to encompass systemic overviews & integrate them.

                So the abstract principles of how systems work transcend physics and that 19th century division of knowledge is simply inadequate now.

                • Nic the NZer

                  "It's more helpful to frame the relation of philosophy to science on the basis of the prospective operational arena of the student."

                  Not convinced of this, especially as I have approximately zero idea of what your entire comment means.

                  • Dennis Frank

                    Well, education ought to prepare students for participation in society. Each student upskills on a combination of chosen subjects & core subjects – the former for specialisation, the latter for common ground.

                    The closer they get to exiting the education system, the more keenly they will see the relevance to their future. Developmental trajectory must therefore enter the system as a design factor.

                    A smart student will monitor the relevance of what they are being taught to their future path. Their current social context (student) and future social context (career) are both societal arenas in which they operate. Therefore framing the relation of philosophy to science becomes meaningful to them relative to these two contexts/arenas.

                    This relativity produces their pragmatic evaluation of the relevance of what they are being taught. When a teacher is sufficiently in tune with a student to generate resonant meaning, they can share their grasp of this relevance. That's what I meant by `more helpful'.

                    Relation to context, and the relativity inherent in their how they relate to their operational arena, are fundamental to ecosystemic relations. They are linked to, and derive from, biological signalling. Think bacterium/food/detection. Often encountered in science books via causal logic explanations, it's a triad in metaphysics because it produces organic process (travel to food source plus feeding plus digestion producing energy, regeneration, and form). This is the deep Green view of life.

                    • Nick Matzke

                      This passage just gradually descends into vague New-Agey thumb-twiddling. Not everything has to do everything. Basic science education is not an appropriate place to attempt to bring about a revolution in consciousness to bring about a new age of Aquarius, or whatever. Just teach the science basics and how to think critically.

                    • Dennis Frank

                      Too evasive, Nick.

                      Just teach the science basics and how to think critically.

                      Trying to get away with denial of right-brain natural function is just being silly. One can't think critically without reference to context (Holism 1.01) and the basics of science don't do so usually.

                      Factoring in context is metaphysical thinking. Holism. Far as I know the education system is still too scared to go there. I mean, they've had 23 centuries since Aristotle pointed them in that direction, how much longer do they need?? sad

  6. Peter 6

    Two thoughts occur:

    Is the major problem that somewhere in the initial part of the draft there is not a specific statement saying, "The curriculum will include physics, chemistry, biology, and … (a list of other areas)."

    And recent experience shows that you don't have to have or do physics, chemistry and biology. You simply say "There is a pandemic" and more certainly and quickly than you can declassify confidential US papers by thinking about it, you're an expert in those and any other scientific things.

  7. ianmac 7

    We learn better within a context. In the past some educators believed that you learned by having the "bits" drummed in. Then expected to expand into context.

    For example just learn times tables off by heart. Or figure out how numbers relate to each other within the context of meaningful problem. Then the value of times table makes sense and is meaningfully willingly learnt.

    • Dennis Frank 7.1

      Yeah, exactly. We got told what to think. Why to do so hardly ever showed up. Teachers, in consequence, became robotic. sad

    • tsmithfield 7.2

      I think great teachers are those who are able to make the areas they are teaching interesting and inspiring for students. If we could bottle that and inject it into all teachers it would be great.

  8. Gareth Wilson 8

    For example instead of looking at whole river catchments and all the life in and around them, we focus on mg/L of nitrates and search for the highest level we can get away with before collapsing the river ecology (if we are lucky to judge that right, otherwise, oops).

    Under this curriculum, would a student be taught what nitrate was?

    • tsmithfield 8.1

      "…would a student be taught what nitrate was?"

      Who knows. But to truly make sense of it, they would have needed a basic grounding in chemistry first.

    • weka 8.2

      part of the point of the post was to show that we've just been thrown into a debate about this with very little information. Unless someone publishes the leaked draft document I think we will have to wait until August to have a proper conversation about it and hopefully answer questions like yours. Not too far away.

      • tsmithfield 8.2.1

        Although I disagree with you in respect to holistic learning being applied to science, I think this is a good discussion. So, glad you raised it, even though you are getting a bit of push back from some of us.

      • Gareth Wilson 8.2.2

        Fair enough.

    • Incognito 8.3

      Nitrate is what nitrate does.

      A canary in a coalmine doesn't know what carbon monoxide is but the miner knows that it does kill if you don't get the fuck out of there. Now that's holistic thinking!

  9. tsmithfield 9

    I think one of the main issues with Holistic Learning with respect to the likes of Maths, Science, and even basic reading and writing, is the self-guided learning aspect.

    Self-Guided Learning: In self-guided educational environments, teachers allow students to learn at their own pace in the style that best suits them. The self-guided culture allows for personalization to mitigate the inadequacies of one-size-fits-all learning models. Low-stakes assessments are used to adjust the curriculum’s content and pace. Classrooms may be smaller and contain students of different ages and ability levels.

    I think that is fine if the student is wanting to learn photography, or history or similar.

    But, in maths and science there is principles that have to be learned before the higher level principles can be understood. If teachers just let students wander around and pick and choose the stuff they feel like learning in those areas, they will find it very difficult to progress.

    • Dennis Frank 9.1

      Fair enough but we can only speculate – we would be better informed if those with operational experience of such learning could comment. Stands to reason some kind of dynamic interplay between student & class ought to be happening.

      I expect autonomous learning will usually blend with collective learning. Think how a forum operates: individual opinions generate shared views, out of which a consensus of opinion will often gel. So the role of the teacher in steering the class would have to focus on generating common ground. You can't prescribe that in a curriculum. Such insights into operational holism in education may not be sufficiently articulated.

        • Dennis Frank 9.1.1.1

          I suspect online learning tools are helpful up to a point but would rather researchers discovered how helpful students find them. Humans have evolved by learning experientially from real life situations. Mostly those involve other humans, other creatures, ecosystems and changing times.

          Their minds must therefore naturally be adapted to that operational tetrad. Metacognition factors in self as 5th element to ramp it up to an operational pentad. Thus metaphysics can inform our view of contextual learning. Online learning isn't that rich a system: You have person/software/hardware/network – only a tetrad and no adaptive requirement producing survival. Schools are microcosms of social darwinism & kids constantly must adapt to herding, status signalling etc.

    • "Self-guided learning" seems to be correlated with big drops in student performance in NZ and elsewhere. What if it's just a feel-good fad that become doctrine on the Left for some silly reason?

  10. tsmithfield 10

    I wonder if this would be the result of the holistic style of learning being applied to medicine. Sorry for those who argue in favour of this style of learning, but this is just too funny.

  11. RP Mcmurphy 11

    what a lot of twaddle. whoever dreamed up this load of old cobblers has been reading too much carl sagan and not enough basic instructions on how to educate chidren.

  12. AB 13

    Who gets to determine what "the great challenges of our time" are? I happen to agree that they are climate change and so on, but what if a political consensus emerges that views the world completely differently? For instance, one that sees the great challenge as combating 'wokeism'? Is science teaching them put in the service of this supposedly great challenge? I think it is safer to leave science alone in its methodological purity. Solving the "great challenges of our time" requires the building of a moral vision, not tinkering with how kids learn basic science.

    • Dennis Frank 13.1

      Yeah but who does the building?? I haven't noticed any attempt to do that in schools. Nor in society at large. I suppose, from a market-driven perspective, one could claim that the existing 40,000 christian sects are having a go at it. One could perhaps suggest that followers of Allah are also, not to mention Zoroastrians.

      Speaking of which, the BBC website currently has a feature on the land that has been burning for four millennia, the fire god that was produced when humans encountered it, and subsequent competition from the Syrian deity Mammon.

      The Greeks did morality plays instead, though the oracle at Delphi came from Gaia prior to the Bronze Age when it switched to a foreign import (Apollo). Scientific evidence eventually showed that two quake faults in the mountain intersect there, creating a cardinal cross pattern in the rock, and a fissure. Up from that percolates the gas ethylene, which gave the shepherd (who discovered it originally) raptures. Subsequently the locals formed an institution (centuries long) featuring the Pythia, who sat in audience inhaling the fumes and replying to questions from those allowed to visit.

      This advisory channelling of catalytic insights ran the geopolitics of the region for quite a while. Riddles were the technique applied, and morality was in the mix. Later, coming out of the middle ages, Shakespeare used morality plays.

      Then novels, then cinema, then tv soap operas. Has it all built anything? Inasmuch as folks act morally much of the time, maybe yes, but I doubt anyone could demonstrate that it has been articulated. All tacit, seems to me. Which is why Polanyi wrote his book Personal Knowledge, to explain how the tacit part of the psyche plays the main part in our life. As far as I know, psychology is not yet taught in schools.

      That would be due to nobody having faith in psychologists perhaps. Or we could be more pragmatic and suggest that their discoveries can be distilled into teaching simple enough for most people to comprehend (Nigel Latta did a tv series to demonstrate that) but psychologists have been too lazy to do it. Or perhaps they prefer social status as an arcane priesthood and would be aghast at the idea that they could teach morality to kids? I dunno. So back to the original question…

    • Incognito 13.2

      Can you please elaborate on what you mean with “methodological purity” of science?

      • AB 13.2.1

        Probably not very well Incognito. It is a sloppy phrase. I meant the belief that science is a disinterested examination of the nature of reality through the postulation of hypotheses and then running experiments to try to disprove them.

    • Shanreagh 13.3

      Solving the "great challenges of our time" requires the building of a moral vision, not tinkering with how kids learn basic science.

      We saw the failure of both ends of this statement on display with some of those at the parliamentary protest. In a discussion on TS and some of the solutions were around how socieities work ie 'systems' like democracy, civics, discernment in seeing the message/propaganda . How science works could have helped the ones who felt nano bots were being injected while knowldge of democracy could have helped in the idea of helping the majority keep healthy and riding out the short term pain of movement control etc,

      But we are commenting without knowing the nitty gritty.

  13. adam 14

    So if we are talking a holistic system. It would seem that flu jab and the covid jab are more a short term inoculation, rather than longer lasting vaccines that have been effective in so many areas.

    Maybe for our whole health, we look at these short term jabs and their potential to freak people out with wild conspiracies. Not putting aside the very real fears of being just another piss poor drug/product in a highly commodified medical system. Some would say excessively commodified. Other still, OTT into the realms of stupidity in the commodification of medicine.

    I really hope we really start to talk about the health of the whole community, and its component parts. Sooner, rather than later.

    • Dennis Frank 14.1

      Yeah, I agree. However I still think Labour got the pandemic handling basically right – nobody knew how contagious it was gonna get so the precautionary principle applied.

      As a public health strategy, govt's regulatory management was holistic on the face of it. Those who don't believe in immunisation did get excluded though and discriminated against. That's the consequence of the common good modelled on bell curve thinking.

      Your point, I suppose, is the application of science as holism in public operation. However the essay is about teaching it to kids so a generational focus is inevitable instead of the broader view. Teaching holism as a survival skill will require a systems view of life and experiential lens through which to examine and discuss it.

      Traditional imposition would be a fatal error for the reform. Topicality would likely provoke kids to relate the nebulosity of holism (as it's usually presented in the media) to the pandemic response of govt anyway. Teachers just need to take advantage of such natural curiosity & steer it into discussions…

      • adam 14.1.1

        Have nothing wrong with the governments basic approach. Apart from a plan to deal with a outbreak of some kind, being woefully underfunded before it happened.Even when we knew it was over time something like this was going to happen from a historical perspective. Usual Tory stupidity comes to the fore on that one, cost cutting, cost lives.

        The application of mandates, was in retrospect heavy handed and produced a backlash we will have to live with for a very long time.

        Teachers just need to take advantage of such natural curiosity & steer it into discussions

        Great comment Dennis Frank. I'm all for teaching the scientific method by any means necessary. Any chance we could get the kids to do one hour a day on a tablet so they learn at their level of learning?

    • Incognito 14.2

      Ignorance breeds & feeds fear. Fearful people spread ignorance. People need sleep to help them think clearly & cognisantly.

      • adam 14.2.1

        Ignorance breeds & feeds fear

        Yeah like all those people spreading misinformation about ivermectin and saying it was not a human drug. And refusing to accept it has saved hundreds of thousands of peoples lives, dealing with gastrointestinal roundworms, lungworms, mites, lice and hornflies. The hatred of trump and his stupid utterances, made some people push some really fearful ignorant shit.

        As for sleep, mines good, are you having problems incognito?

  14. newsense 15

    More destroying ideas rather than engage in them! Good on ya RNZ.

    Will the chemistry teacher be able to throw potassium into the swimming pool? That’s the only way to teach science. It might help the discussion if half the commenters here were swimming at the time…

    They don’t want us learning chemistry through a unit called wtf is in the rivers? And why we have a higher incidence of bowel cancer…to add to the costs and transgressions of our progressive rural friends…

    • tsmithfield 15.1

      In my day I think it was sodium they chucked in. And that was one of the best parts of chemistry seeing that stuff react in water.

  15. newsense 16

    Reminds me of the scene in Maurice Gee’s The Champion where the spiteful teacher shows how to analyse the percentage of water in the milk from various local farms…

  16. tsmithfield 17

    An interview last night at around 6.07pm with Kathy Bunting who has been involved in preparing the draft curriculum. Make of it what you will. Someone who knows how to do this better may like to link exactly to the interview.

    https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-demand/week-on-demand/

    I do agree with her that science needs to be made relevant to students to spark their interest and motivate them to learn. Whether the areas covered enable that to happen adequately is another matter.

  17. tsmithfield 18

    I understand the need to make science relevant to students. One problem with that approach is that, in order to make the study in a particular area comprehensible, it is necessary to limit the amount of time devoted to specific areas.

    For example, in my field, psychology, we studied the interaction of neurotransmitters at synapses in the brain, and chemical interactions that enabled signals to be transmitted through nerves. So, it could be said that aspects of chemistry were included in our study.

    However, that didn't inform us much about the basics of chemistry. And to try and include that in the course would have made the course very wieldy and convoluted.

    If it had been required to have more detailed knowledge of basic chemistry, then we would have been required to do a first year course in chemistry as preparation, or have adequate background in that area already.

    So, that is a point that would need to be addressed in the curriculum.

    • weka 18.1

      what point?

      Afaik, the 'curriculum' is a higher order document that doesn't give the kind of detail you are talking about. That's true of the current curriculum.

      Also, afaik, the whole hooha this week is a beat up, because of the fact that the curriculum is already a higher order document that doesn't give fine detail of course content.

      I'm still unclear what level of education the draft was for (primary, secondary, tertiary?), but here is the current curriculum,

      https://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Science

      • tsmithfield 18.1.1

        You have sort of validated my concerns.

        Notice that the current curriculum is very specific about the building blocks of science to be of studied. For instance, I have no problems at all with how the current curriculum under "material world" defines how chemistry is studied:

        The material world strand involves the study of matter and the changes it undergoes. In their study of chemistry, students develop understandings of the composition and properties of matter, the changes it undergoes, and the energy involved. They use their understanding of the fundamental properties of chemistry to make sense of the world around them. They learn to interpret their observations by considering the properties and behaviour of atoms, molecules, and ions. They learn to communicate their understandings, using the symbols and conventions of chemistry. Using their knowledge of chemistry, they are better able to understand science-related challenges, such as environmental sustainability and the development of new materials, pharmaceuticals, and sources of energy.

        Maybe the new curriculum will be similarly specific. But, the way it is proposed at the moment doesn’t suggest that to me.

        • weka 18.1.1.1

          the way it is proposed at the moment doesn’t suggest that to me.

          the way it is being shit stirred by the NZ Initiative at the moment doesn’t suggest that to me.

          FIFY

          None of us in this conversation know what the draft says or what the intentions are beyond what Buntting is saying.

          • tsmithfield 18.1.1.1.1

            I don't know why the draft hasn't been released. I understand it has been sent to RNZ? Surely, the best thing to do would be for this to be publicly released by whichever media organisation has it, rather than release bits and pieces.

            I agree, that it isn't ideal for discussion not knowing this.

            • weka 18.1.1.1.1.1

              have you seen anything that says RNZ have actually seen the draft? As opposed to going off what NZI and scientists have said?

              I initially thought the draft should be released, but now I think we could wait another month until the public consultation document is released and then we can have an adult conversation instead of being manipulated by NZI.

              • tsmithfield

                have you seen anything that says RNZ have actually seen the draft?

                Actually, it looks like Newshub has the full thing. I thought I had seen that a media organisation had it.

                Newshub has obtained the document, which was sent to a few teachers for their feedback.

                but now I think we could wait another month until the public consultation document is released and then we can have an adult conversation instead of being manipulated by NZI.

                I disagree with you on that. I think now this topic is out in the public and generating such a lot of public interest, it would be good to know what actually is in the document at this stage. And, then we will be able to assess what, if any, changes have resulted from the public and professional comment on the document.

                • weka

                  I just think the conversation, on TS at least, would be way more satisfying if we had not just the draft but the full document, its purpose clear, and the details of the proposed science curriculum.

                  • Nick Matzke

                    I’ve seen it, I imagine hundreds of academics have, it was making the rounds a few weeks ago. The problem with waiting for the final version is the bureaucracy will consider it a done deal and a fait accompli, shifting the direction of the MoE’s various weird decisions in the science education space has been like turning an aircraft carrier.

                    • weka

                      would you be willing to email it to me? As an author I can send you my email address via the email you use to comment.

    • Incognito 18.2

      Did you, by any chance, study the mechanism of action of monoamine oxidase inhibitors as anti-depressants? If so, you have needed or learned some basic (bio)chemistry. Similarly, why do they give L-DOPA (but not the chemically identical but biologically inactive D-DOPA) to Parkinson’s patients? What are those chemical interactions of neurotransmitters that somehow lead to signals in the nerve cell endings and signal transmission along the nerves? As you have a degree in Psychology you are an expert, relatively speaking, so let’s hear it.

      I don’t get your point; are you arguing for or against teaching (basic) chemistry as part of the school curriculum?

      • tsmithfield 18.2.1

        Did you, by any chance, study the mechanism of action of monoamine oxidase inhibitors as anti-depressants?

        Yes, I believe we touched on that in a third year paper on Abnormal Psychology, or Brain and Behaviour, or both. But, I don't think we went deeper than that into specific treatments for specific conditions.

        If so, you have needed or learned some basic (bio)chemistry.

        Fairly basic. It mainly involved the imbalance of ions across semi-permeable membranes and the like, and how various neurotransmitters can modulate the action of others etc.

        Similarly, why do they give L-DOPA (but not the chemically identical but biologically inactive D-DOPA) to Parkinson’s patients?

        My masters was in Organisational Psychology rather than clinical, so I didn't get into the use of theraputic drugs. I did a paper in Abnormal Psychology at the 3rd year level. But again, that didn't get into the detail of specific drugs for brain conditions. So, I can't answer your questions there, sorry.

        What are those chemical interactions of neurotransmitters that somehow lead to signals in the nerve cell endings and signal transmission along the nerves?

        From memory, the level we got down to so far as electrical transmission related to polarisation due to an imbalance of sodium and potassium ions at a semi-permeable membrane at the nerve synapse. But, that was 20 years ago now since doing that.

        As you have a degree in Psychology you are an expert,

        I would never proclaim myself to be an expert, regardless of my qualification which, I don't actually rate as very much.

        I don’t get your point; are you arguing for or against teaching (basic) chemistry as part of the school curriculum?

        Very much for the teaching of basic chemistry. I was trying to make the point that the fact elements of chemistry may be included in an area of study is not necessarily sufficient for conveying the more basic ideas. Hence, I think it is still required to ensure the basics are taught.

        • Shanreagh 18.2.1.1

          Very much for the teaching of basic chemistry. I was trying to make the point that the fact elements of chemistry may be included in an area of study is not necessarily sufficient for conveying the more basic ideas. Hence, I think it is still required to ensure the basics are taught.

          I agree with this point….for all the sciences.

          But we do not know what the problems are that the new curricula may see itself as fixing.

          As Weka says we need more info.

          On the discussion thus far I think a focus on the basics augmented with modules heavily on real world examples will be useful. How people learn and adapt in every field is one of the most interesting fields.

          For me knowledge of the rules for artists say is fundamental too. It is when artists deliberately and competently break the rules say for perspective or light and shadows that advances come.

          Artist manipulate the rules, to do this they need to know the rules…..(i'm leaving out naive or instinctive/untrained painters)

          See Georges Bracque and the advent of cubism

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Braque

          Braque's paintings of 1908–1912 reflected his new interest in geometry and simultaneous perspective. He conducted an intense study of the effects of light and perspective and the technical means that painters use to represent these effects, seeming to question the most standard of artistic conventions. In his village scenes, for example, Braque frequently reduced an architectural structure to a geometric form approximating a cube, yet rendered its shading so that it looked both flat and three-dimensional by fragmenting the image. He showed this in the painting Houses at l'Estaque.

          My underlining.

      • Anker 18.2.2

        As tsmithfiled said he studied psychology he would not have to understand too much in depth about biochemistry. Psychologists can't presribe medication.

        Psychiatrists, GPs and pharmicists all need an indepth knowledge though

  18. PsyclingLeft.Always 19

    I will watch this with Interest. And hope that any initial problems become…through interested and engaged Teachers…a great NZ answer to this : Consequences.

    Tauranga's 1.7km highway link cost blows out to $300m

    The 1.7km stretch is shaping up as one of the most expensive and longest-running ever of highway projects.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/493202/tauranga-s-1-point-7km-highway-link-cost-blows-out-to-300m

    Study suggests New Zealand is the most car-dependent country in the world

    It was discovered that our access to public transport and its efficiency were two of the main factors when it comes to Kiwis favouring their cars.

    The study suggests this is because transport funding is more skewed towards roading projects rather than a focus on buses or trains.

    https://www.autocar.co.nz/study-suggests-new-zealand-is-the-most-car-dependent-country-in-the-world/

    There is much Scientific (and personal) evidence of the consequence of our Earth heating…here in NZ. Cyclones,Flooding, Droughts,Fires.

    But…this is really getting way more intense.

    Climate change: World's hottest day since records began

    US researchers said the new record was the highest in any instrumental record dating back to the end of the 19th century.

    Scientists believe a combination of a natural weather event known as El Niño and mankind's ongoing emissions of carbon dioxide are driving the heat.

    Last month has also been confirmed as the world's warmest June yet recorded.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/493195/climate-change-world-s-hottest-day-since-records-began

    I think a lot of Kids are already aware and on this. Climate Marches etc;..

    And this is really..all about their Future. I hope it gets more light…than heat : (

  19. Dennis Frank 20

    Bateson pointed to the map/territory thing. Correspondence is useful as a mental strategy & the tool helps us find our way around. When we correlate, our minds transcend that binary: correlation is a mental function joining two elements, extracting meaning.

    From a systems perspective, it's the 3rd element that creates mental process. So students learn to use a theory to map reality. The map/model/theory is a learning tool.

    Details in the map/model/theory are the work of the devil, which is why they drive users to distraction. Metaphysics allows one to relativise learning better, putting those details into a user-driven operational context. Users no longer obsess on details, knowing they are merely big-players in the big-picture view of life.

    https://thesystemsthinker.com/what-are-mental-models/

    So, to teach kids holism in class, show how theories guide the enterprise of science – in a blending with experimental discovery. If metaphysics scares you, due to traditional incompetence around the usage of it, you can apply it without actually using that word. It works well regardless.

    • Incognito 20.1

      Way too much woo-woo in your comments to be useful in (this) debate.

      • Dennis Frank 20.1.1

        Folks do live & learn though. Just takes some longer than others. angel

      • nick matzke 20.1.2

        Yeah most of it is either platitudes or uninterpretable. Sadly not so far from the flavour of a lot of MoE productions.

    • Shanreagh 20.2

      I agree with this point

      Correspondence is useful as a mental strategy & the tool helps us find our way around. When we correlate, our minds transcend that binary: correlation is a mental function joining two elements, extracting meaning.

      From a systems perspective, it's the 3rd element that creates mental process. So students learn to use a theory to map reality. The map/model/theory is a learning tool.

      We need to learn theory plus knowledge of how this fits in the world we live in to extract meaning. Once we have done this we have a point of debate. Once we have a point/s of debate we can engage with others to find a way forward.

      My simple, and possibly unrealistic, from the point of measuring point of view is that if the new upper level science curriculum does this then it may be on the right track.

      After many years of work I think that people are wired to be detail oriented or big picture oriented. How this wiring occurs is probably nurture/nature/learning. I don't think an ideal system should try to make people both detail oriented and big picture.

      The people I worked at who fell into these catgeories were at the top of their game mentally and brought lots to bear on a problem with their different ways of looking at things or making sense of the world.

      With problems the concept of being able to tease out options is a preferred one, for me anyway.

      The big point they brought with them, their knowldge, was that theirs was not the only way of looking at the world. So somewhere along the line they had been taught or made aware that there were different ways of extracting meaning. So an awareness of different thinking and the views of others. And this must have been using older curricula.

      Good teachers know this. Even at very junior levels learners are asked to explain concepts to other learners

      • Dennis Frank 20.2.1

        After many years of work I think that people are wired to be detail oriented or big picture oriented. How this wiring occurs is probably nurture/nature/learning. I don't think an ideal system should try to make people both detail oriented and big picture.

        The consensual view that has emerged amongst neuroscientists is that the left hemisphere of the cortex does parts & sequences, and the right does wholes & contexts. The corpus callosum is the brain structure that links both conducts liaison between the two via an astronomical number of conduits for signals.

        So what you have noticed seems to be a natural imbalance in which some folks exhibit a leftist tendency (more analytical) & some a rightist tendency (more holistic). Western civilisation, since Roger Sperry won his Nobel 4 decades back, has been rectifying the societal imbalance produced by science, which is why the education initiative we've been discussing is appropriate.

        On a cautionary note, folks must not equate the left/right divide with the one in politics! That doesn't work as analogy. wink

  20. Dennis Frank 21

    Early this morning on the AM Show, a defender of the citadel was complaining about the barbarians at the gate. Think it was this guy: https://www.nzinitiative.org.nz/reports-and-media/opinion/the-ministry-of-ignorance-strikes-again/

    In Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four there were four Ministries – Love, Peace, Plenty, and Truth – which respectively promulgated hate, war, scarcity and propaganda. Our Ministry of Education, which seems determined to promulgate ignorance, would be right at home amongst them.

    His paranoia stems from a valid concern:

    It seems that everything in science, from early primary school through to Year 13, will be taught through just four contexts: climate change, biodiversity, the food-energy-water nexus, and infectious diseases. These are all important topics, but they do not comprise the general science education that is our young people’s birthright. In fact, to understand these things with any degree of sophistication, a solid understanding of basic science concepts and theories is required.

    No doubt Ministry officials think that young people will find these topics attractive. They may be right. But if they are not systematically taught the basic theoretical content upon which study of these matters depends, they will never understand them. Initial attraction will turn to frustration. Just as disturbing as what is absent from the new science curriculum, is that the curriculum writers don’t appear even to know what science is. The document reads as if it was written by bureaucrats, not scientists. It opens with a ‘purpose statement’, outlining three overarching things that students are supposed to learn.

    The first reads, “science is developed by people being curious about, observing and investigating the natural world.” That is true – curiosity is an important attribute of scientists. Observation and investigation are key elements of scientific methods. But these are not the things that make science unique as an approach to understanding the universe.

    What makes science unique is its highly refined, methodical, approach to investigation, linked to the logic of theory testing. The experimental method is preeminent in this regard. But ‘experiment’ is another word that is absent from the Ministry’s new science curriculum.

    Mental disciplines in the practice of science are mostly standardised, and tradition has made them formulaic. It would indeed be a mistake to eliminate them from the curriculum – but does he really have a realistic basis for such a critique?

    The leaked proposal is flying an intellectual kite to signal the formation of a new educational strategy. It isn't that strategy. He's jumping to a premature conclusion.

    • weka 21.1

      I think they're mischief making, probably for political reasons. There is no evidence that that students won't be taught basic science.

      Just as disturbing as what is absent from the new science curriculum, is that the curriculum writers don’t appear even to know what science is.

      Cath Buntting, currently fronting the media on this issue, and one of the developers of the draft, background,

      PhD (Science Education)

      MSc (Biochemistry)

      BSc (Biochemistry)

      Full bio https://profiles.waikato.ac.nz/cathy.buntting

      Johnston either knows who she is and is being a patronising arse who is ok misleading the public, or he didn't bother to find out.

      • Dennis Frank 21.1.1

        Yeah. However, when it comes to propaganda, it's all in how you design the framing. Would have been better to include a sentence to signal their intent by anchoring that in the context of tradition.

        We build on tradition as our basis more often than demolishing the tradition. So you get a formula: problem-solving = what has worked ok previously plus experimental technique attempting progress.

        Using metaphysics, I'd frame that formula as past + future = solution. Mathematicians would use x+y=z. As Bateson pointed out, the metapattern is where the basis of everything gets formed.

        So when the ministry gets hit with a pr challenge, just wheel out the formula to show how progressives & conservatives are catered for simultaneously in the blend. That's how framing works in the psyche: like a magic portal into another realm.

        • Nic the NZer 21.1.1.1

          Kindly leave mathematics out of your nonsense. Just because you can state a variable x represents the past and y represents the future that is completely insufficient to make x or y part of an additive group, let alone x and y be part of the same additive group.

          • Dennis Frank 21.1.1.1.1

            I'm pointing to the metapattern, using analogy to do it as per Google:

            Analogical reasoning is a kind of reasoning that is based on finding a common relational system between two situations, exemplars, or domains. When such a common system can be found, then what is known about one situation can be used to infer new information about the other.

            Here's how that fits into science:

            Abstract: Analogical reasoning is a kind of reasoning that is based on finding a common relational system between two situations, exemplars, or domains. When such a common system can be found, then what is known about one situation can be used to infer new information about the other. The basic intuition behind analogical reasoning is that when there are substantial similarities between situations, there are likely to be further similarities.

            https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/analogical-reasoning

            Here's why it has always been a fundamental part of language use:

            Analogical reasoning is common in everyday life. Analogies can serve a variety of functions. They may provide us with an opportunity to form new inductive inferences about a novel situation. Such is the case in scientific studies.

            Analogies can also be used to help, convince, clarify, or to inform us. We frequently use analogical correspondences to make speech more memorable, colorful, and interesting. Furthermore, analogies come in many forms and regularly rise to the level of making national news or being included in political speeches.

            • Nic the NZer 21.1.1.1.1.1

              Much better. Just stick to the furious hand waving of its all just an analogy I'm making and stay away from those plus'es and equals'es and were good.

            • Shanreagh 21.1.1.1.1.2

              Using metaphysics, I'd frame that formula as past + future = solution.

              While I don't get Nic the NZer's objection to Dennis Franks mathematic analogy ie not fact, not error but a figure of speech or language.If we restrict certain parts of the universe from being used in analogous learning/teaching we deprive ourselves of a way of seeing or explaining the world….

              I have no problems with this though from Robt F Kennedy as something to aspire to in the results of our curriculum update

              Some men see things as they are and ask, ""Why?"" I dream things that never were and ask, ""Why not?""

              The point is though not every person will ever be in the 'Why not' category. Every person can be in the category of the 'Why'. So making meaning of the world by asking questions and reflecting on the answers.

              • Nic the NZer

                Probably an over reaction to a previous comment, which went on to claim (incorrectly) equality it a ternary operator.

                • Dennis Frank

                  Well I was writing as a physics graduate who was required to pass uni maths exams to get there. You seem to feel the need to defend the conceptual terrain of mathematicians for some obscure reason. No problem. Other readers will likely grasp the way equations operate in the psyche – I could cite a principle of equivalence as a rationale…

            • Incognito 21.1.1.1.1.3

              Nope, it is not an analogy but a metaphor, i.e., apples & oranges. The mathematical formula will and must always give the same result for ‘z’ for the same input values of ‘x’ & ‘y’, as it follows strict mathematical rules, i.e., the outcome is determined/deterministic. Reality is not (determined) like this.

              • Dennis Frank

                Good point. yes

              • Shanreagh

                Yes that is the actual formula apples plus oranges = fruit salad but as I understood it DF was using it as an analogy ie it is 'like' the concept/formula of X+Y not that it was the formula X+Y = XY.

                This is one of the traps/pitfall etc of analogous thinking and why it is important to check, as you do, both sides of the equation or all the inputs as if you do not people will miss the analogy and concentrate on how you are 'wrong' to use this or that as part of it.

                • Incognito

                  1) it was not an analogy
                  2) it was a misleading and inappropriately used metaphor
                  3) it was lazy & sloppy
                  4) it added nothing to and diverted away from the debate and topic of the OP
                  5) apples + oranges = bowl of fruit or fruit juice or fruit cake or fruit drink or fruit salad or fruit puree, et cetera

                • Dennis Frank

                  You're right & he's wrong, but let's not labour the point further since anyone's emotional attachment to their subjective view will always separate them from reality… angel

                  • Shanreagh

                    You're right & he's wrong, but let's not labour the point further since anyone's emotional attachment to their subjective view will always separate them from reality… angel

                    Who is this rather supercilious comment directed at? Who is the 'he' concerned and why are we talking right and wrong in a thread of ideas?

                    Some people see the world in different ways and to label a way right or wrong is not helpful.

                    Disagree or agree surely.

                    • Dennis Frank

                      To clarify, I was pointing out that Incognito was wrong to deny that I was using analogical reasoning since that is exactly what I was doing – no intent to be supercilious, just correcting an error of fact. Plus acknowledging that you could see I was using that technique. angel

      • Incognito 21.1.2

        Ah, Dr Johnston, I presume. A peddler of RW opinion, as I mentioned just recently (https://thestandard.org.nz/daily-review-30-06-2023/#comment-1957439).

        • weka 21.1.2.1

          did you figure out what he actually does? (apart from manipulating debate). What's his day job?

            • weka 21.1.2.1.1.1

              are statistics and cognitive psychology considered science?

              • tsmithfield

                The practioners in that are likely think that lol.

                I think statistics would qualify as scientific, because most scientific studies, rely on statistics to analyse the results. Including medical studies from which is used to validate new medicines etc. Though, some of that is done on such large populations that the p values can get a bit ridiculous. I have seen results like p< 00000001 or something.

                In most research a p < .01 is good enough. That means there is a 99% probability that result wasn't by chance for those who don't know that terminology.

                Cognitive psychology is quite a broad area. But, it is probably more scientific than say community psychology or marketing science or whatever. But, I am a bit sceptical about the boundaries of science in psychology generally to be honest. Where it touches on brain science it is probably more scientific than some of the more woolly areas of psychology.

                • weka

                  I was thinking more about whether one would inherently have a good understanding of science from studying and the working on statistics (as opposed to maths). Maybe it depends.

                  • tsmithfield

                    Others here may have a different opinion. But, I don't think statistics is a stand-alone science. It is more like a tool to be used as part of scientific investigation.

                    So, the statistical results might advance understanding in areas of science. But, it does come down to how well experiments etc are designed. If the design is bad, the resulting statistics are likely meaningless.

                    Statistics is a subset of maths. So, I am not sure it is accurate to frame it as "opposed to maths".

                    • roblogic

                      Mathematics at Auckland Uni used to have two branches, 'pure' and 'applied'. The Statistics stuff goes pretty deep. Other disciplines are prone to use statistical techniques poorly. Every branch of science relies on mathematical models and data to support its hypotheses.

                      Also, with the ubiquity of large and complex databases, Statistics has evolved into the discipline of Data Science. It's important work for government policy and helping large organisations plan for the future.

                      I scraped together a degree in Pure mathematics and perhaps it seems impractical, but I assure you that number theory, algebra, calculus and topology have surprising applications across physics and engineering and biology because these conceptual structures appear everywhere in natural laws.

                      I personally think that mathematics has a supernatural quality.

                  • Nic the NZer

                    I thought this was well understood. Both Math and Statistics are not sciences. They are if anything branches of logic. This property stems from their being pure thought.

                    Of course when understanding, presenting or using models stemming from actual sciences an understanding of math or areas of math is often quite important a skill.

                    Its a really important distinction because the models constructed mathematically (including statistically) don't have to work as dreamed up in the real world. For pertinent example here, the p-values derived from a statistical model have meaning only if the statistical model your deriving them from is both complete and correct. Otherwise the p-values are not telling you anything particularly useful.

                    https://larspsyll.wordpress.com/2018/12/17/why-statistical-significance-is-worthless-in-science/

                    • tsmithfield

                      I would agree with that. And partly why I am sceptical about a lot of research where statistical analysis is applied.

                      Particularly in the area of research based on questions where responses are given on a five point scale or whatever.

                      The actual design in that sort of research is really important for it to have any meaning at all. Such as ensuring all the relevant variables are included, and potentially confounding variables are controlled for etc.

                      And then the bias of Journals to accept research with positive results when research that shows no effect, or the opposite effect is arguably just as important. And the tendency of the media to broadcast the results of some study as if it means anything on its own.

                      In that sort of research I think meta-analysis is the most valuable tool rather than relying on individual studies.

                    • Dennis Frank

                      Yeah I agree with all that. Utility of such abstract systems is relative to the user. That said, application of maths & stats that correlates well with reality in the minds of a community of users becomes paradigmatic (Kuhn).

                    • tsmithfield

                      The other thing about p values, is that they are likely meaningless if the r value they decribe is very small. So, there might be a high probability that a given result may have been due to the predicted effect (high p value), but the amount of the given effect it explains is so small it is meaningless (e.g. a low r value).

                    • roblogic

                      These threads about science are always full of laughable errors. Mathematics is not just a 'skill' it is an ancient and paradigmatic scientific discipline, without which physics and engineering would not be possible.

                      The reason for the p-value crisis was because of statistical errors by non-mathematicians who thought it was just a 'skill' to be picked up in a semester, that they could just pick any old statistical model, draw a few misleading charts, and call it a day.

              • Anker

                Psychology degrees can either be B arts or B science.

                • tsmithfield

                  Yes. Mine is only an MA unfortunately. I would have liked to do it as a science, but it was the best I could do as an extramural student at Massey.

        • Anker 21.1.2.2

          Why is it that the left almost always rights someones opinion off it they have right wing views?

          • weka 21.1.2.2.1

            the critical words in Incognito's comment (imo) are peddler and opinion.

            Johnston isn't being written off because he's right wing, he's being written off because he wrote a terrible piece about education in NZ and he's part of an organisation that at best is manipulating the public and at worst is engage in Dirty Politics.

            NZI have the draft, have been running reactionary lines on the basis of that for a week, and they haven't made the document public. That's political bullshit.

            • Anker 21.1.2.2.1.1

              Are you saying that running pieces about the draft curriculum before its been made public is dirty politics?

              How do you mean reactionary lines? Is that because he has significant conern about the science curriculum? Hell a lot of commentators on here do as do many science teachers.

              I listened to an interview with him and he made a lot of sense.

              • Dennis Frank

                I listened to an interview with him and he made a lot of sense.

                Likewise. He made a lot of sense articulating his fears to other non-holists like him. Preaching at the converted. No attempt to broaden his mind.

    • nick matzke 21.2

      Whaddya mean it's not the policy? It was the literal draft curriculum, vague as it was.

      • Dennis Frank 21.2.1

        Okay, I comment from the perspective of someone who has done policy progression via consensus politics (Greens, 30+ years ago). Policy is provisional until formally agreed. Agreement in parties is a formal process.

        Correct process, defined by rules, is the method used. Drafts, in this process, fly a mental kite. People look & see if they like it. Decision-making design must then incorporate mass feedback to be effective. You get amendments suggested, alteration & rectification tweak the thing until all agree it ought to work. Then trial it.

        That's the general scheme (I'd be surprised if much is new to you) and then it's a matter of the stage the public service is at in conducting their process to get something composed which is suitable to go to cabinet for approval/rejection.

        • weka 21.2.1.1

          This is consistent with what one of the drafters has said. It's a very early fast draft shown to a limited number of teachers in order to get feedback.

  21. As far as I can tell, NZ "curricula" would barely qualify as curricula in most other countries. They are short and vague. Most places, a curriculum is a long and pretty thorough document that lists all the core concepts required to ensure that a minimum baseline standard is achieved so that students can move up to the next level.

    All of this was true before the recent "NCEA Change Process" and other curriculum "transformations", which appear to have been used by the Labour government to try to institute a top-down ideology throughout the curriculum, practicality and accuracy be damned. Instead of putting care into the thoroughness and accuracy of the science, far more care and effort seems to be put into things like: grandstanding about multiple-ways-of-knowing, seeming wildly trumped-up claims for revolutionary nature of mātauranga Māori in all fields of study and for all major world problems, and generally grinding whatever axes are popular with the Left at the moment. The NCEA Level 1 Maths standards site has pages of meandering about positionality and culture before it finally gets around to the apparently secondary bit about maths content.

    All of this was my opinion before Andrew Rogers started revealing yet more problems in his op-eds. Just leave science education to the scientists and science educators, politicians trying to engineer science education for their own purposes never works out well for students, society, or even for the political-interferers themselves, as historical examples from Galileo to creationism to Lysenkoism have shown. Science's first duty is to the empirical evidence from the world out there, not political agendas of any particular party of any particular year. Therefore scientists and science educators never react well when government officials start trying to launder their politics through the science curriculum.

    With any curriculum document, the question should always be asked: is this really helping, on average, or is it just getting in science teachers' way?

    • Gareth Wilson 22.1

      I'd ask when the traditional knowledge of my Stone Age cannibal ancestors will be taught in science class, but I guess it's a bit old to do that easily. Even the Yamnaya were Copper Age.

    • Shanreagh 22.2

      Therefore scientists and science educators never react well when government officials start trying to launder their politics through the science curriculum.

      With any curriculum document, the question should always be asked: is this really helping, on average, or is it just getting in science teachers' way?

      Very apt points. Hopefully those at the coalface and the teachers of the teachers will get to have their say. Though people who know are often dismissed as being biased becasue of working in the system ie $$$$ or working in a field where their knowledge is seen as less trendy or 'sexy.'

  22. nukefacts 23

    I find this issue immensely frustrating so here's a bit of a rant (apologies in advance).

    NZ student attainment in science, maths and literacy has for the past 20 years been declining, and the Ministry of Education (MoE) seems hell-bent on ignoring this.

    There is a massive disconnect between science as practised (as lived by those of us in the science system), science as understood by the commentators here, and science as taught in NZ, perhaps for a number of reasons:

    – NZ teaching practice, as my children have experienced and as I've experienced on the other side cleaning up after teachers, inherently pushes children away from learning and attainment. It is structurally broken, at the most fundamental level because how reading is taught will almost guarantee a lifelong dislike for learning for anyone but the top 30%-ish. Why? Because the NZ whole-word, phonics based approach turns kids off reading, which is the most fundamental skill necessary for learning

    – most commentators here have no science backgrounds and limited understanding of what is science e.g. there is a common belief that knowledge and science are the same thing, when they just aren't. There is almost zero understanding of the philosophy of science and the practise of science. Science as practised typically falls into two areas – fundamental research, and commercialisation / practical research. The former requires deep knowledge in specific areas, and is entirely the reason we have so many technical marvels these days. Without this fundamental research there would be no modern civilisation but it's not always apparent that this 'esoteric' science practice is really useful. A great example is GPS – it underpins so much of modern life but is impossible without Einsteins theories, atomic clocks, and spaceflight. Practical research turns the fundamental into something consumable in everyday life. A good example is liquid crystal displays or solar panels. The fundamental research is many decades old but only because commercialised due to commercial research and development in the past 20 years or so. Now solar power is the largest form of new electricity in the world and is a massive contributor to how we will solve climate change.

    – there is a pervasive view in this blog that 'western science' (btw, this is deeply wrong and offensive to all the other cultures that practise modern science, not to mention that many cultures that have historically helped develop modern science. Please stop using this phrase) is vertical and narrow, and indigenous ways of knowing are somehow superior because they are 'holistic' whatever that means. In this very blog I read a comment that science would only measure nitrate levels in a river but Maori would have a holistic view of river health. Wrong wrong wrong. How many of you here have every done a river assay? it's so much more than nitrate levels, and includes invertebrate health, chemical and nutrient inputs and outputs, plant health and so on. In other words, holistic. All modern science that seeks to understand the world around us is in practise 'holistic' and looks at a great many variables, inputs, outputs, second and third order effects etc.

    – there is huge confusion about depth versus breadth in science. Matauranga Maori is often valorised here as holistic and modern science myopic and detail-focused. In reality if you research anything in any depth for a long time, you will develop vertical speciality and depth simply because there is depth to discover, and beyond a certain point, you need truly deep knowledge of a subject to effect change. Just because modern science contains huge depth in many areas, does not mean it doesn't operate outside its vertical specialities. I have seen this in practise with the scientists in my family and others I've worked with – they dive deep into speciality then spread broadly, and collaborate on truly amazing science across disciplines that changes the world we live in.

    – science teaching in NZ is broken at the most basic of levels. We struggle to attract teachers with real science backgrounds. There are no senior staff in the MoE with science degrees. The current and proposed curricula are very vague and give almost no guidance to teachers. We are even now polluting science education with religion! My kids are being taught that Mauri is a real thing in science, when it is one cultures religious view, and has been discredited over a hundred years ago in the west. Why on earth, when we have so many vaccine deniers etc, is this sort of thing being taught in schools? There is an overwhelming denigration of knowledge in teaching – teachers even say to me 'oh you don't need facts, just competencies'. This is totally wrong and flies in the face of cognitive science – to truly understand something you need baseline knowledge to build upon. I see this daily in how science and maths is taught to my kids – its all about 'strategies' to do something, no baseline knowledge, and no practise. The teachers even tell me 'oh your kid should get a maths tutor' – when I asked other parents, they got the same story. What is going on when an entire class of kids is pushed towards tutoring because the teaching practice is so broken they can't teach basic maths?

    – as far as we can tell, based on what's been leaked, this new science curriculum repeats all these mistakes – no emphasis on knowledge, just competencies;

    Again, sorry for the rant but this situation is so broken and shows no signs of getting better because there is a denial of the growing divide between NZ education and the rest of the world, and unwillingness to address this. I do not see the situation improving any time soon.

    • Anker 23.1

      Nukefacts that may have been a rant, but it was a wonderfully enlightening rant.

      Thank you

      • Shanreagh 23.1.1

        I agree with Anker.

        Interesting views……come and rant here more often Nukefacts.

        Great thread with many different views.

    • tsmithfield 23.2

      I totally agree with you. I have two year old twin grandchildren. My son has been very successful in his business, so likely will have more options available to him when the boys are of school age.

      I have already told him he should go private with schooling for them because the public system is hopelessly failing our kids.

      I truly wish this wasn't the case because quality education is one of the most important things for success in life.

      • nukefacts 23.2.1

        Thanks Anker, Shanreagh and tsmithfield for your feedback.

        I've read extensively about the new curriculum in all subject areas, and I'm still astonished that the only group really concerned about student performance is the New Zealand Initiative – a group I strongly dislike, but in this case they are 100% correct.

        How can it be that in NZ all other parties ignore this elephant in the room?

        • Dennis Frank 23.2.1.1

          I'm with the other 3 on feedback. You've much more recent experience of the system than me so I'm happy to defer to your views which seem even more sceptical than mine. I only disagree re holism around the practical application of the teaching – I've learnt about it during the past 5 decades by reading other holists and I see no reason to expect other intelligent folk to be unable.

          My apprehension reflects yours on the capability of teachers and the system to teach holism properly. Since it is a survival necessity in the 21st century, their practice & discipline will have to be continually tested & refined by users of the education system. That means designed-in feedback processes!!

    • Nick Matzke 23.3

      Hi nukefacts – if your kids are literally being taught mauri as some kind of physical force (as opposed to being something like health), please google me and email me, this was supposed to have been taken out of the curriculum and it was only ever at draft stage afaik. – Nick Matzke

    • Andrew 23.4

      Outstanding rant. No apologies needed.

    • weka 24.1

      Looks like Coyne got sucked in by the NZI. He doesn't seem to understand that the NZ curriculum currently doesn't have the kind of fine detail in it he is talk about. Did he explain that aspect?

      • Nic the NZer 24.1.1

        Seems to have engaged with that topic, yes. Basically says that its very difficult to teach a particular application of a specific science topic without the student having a prior grounding in the subject area. The expectation seems to be more students getting their initial dose of useful science at university entrence level.

        Of course what leaving out detail from the curriculum does is to make the implementation very dependent on the teachers ability and interest in developing a science program. Some teachers will do this for themselves, but some will be highly reliant on the curriculum for what they teach. Having the curriculum improve teaching practice ought to be a core goal of this project.

        • weka 24.1.1.1

          I mean the issue of the current curriculum also being a higher order document and not having a lot of fine detail.

          • Nic the NZer 24.1.1.1.1

            Yes, that is something the MoE should really be fixing for their revised curriculum.

            • weka 24.1.1.1.1.1

              I suspect it's a higher order problem than this current round of development. Would love to know the history of that and why NZ does it like that.

              • Nic the NZer

                Seems to be a cause of unequal educational outcomes (which become highly dependent on good schools and teachers filling in the gaps from the curriculum), we can happily do away with such traditions.

                • weka

                  I'm assuming it's a recent thing rather than tradition.

                • Shanreagh

                  Seems to be a cause of unequal educational outcomes (which become highly dependent on good schools and teachers filling in the gaps from the curriculum), we can happily do away with such traditions.

                  This, 'unequal educational outcomes', has been with us since public/private education was founded in NZ. It is not a recent happening so I agree it is a tradition. Private or good state schools have a tradition of smaller classes which gives them the jump on many other state schools even before talking about teacher quality and methods of teaching.

                  The concept of education being part of an election issue does not help. Same with health. Some election cycles it is worse than others. In the meantime people who have not much power in the scheme of things, ie people who are sick or people wanting to be educated don't really get a say and are buffeted by competing political ideas.

                  • Nic the NZer

                    The public education system will always include some teachers and schools who operate at a lower level than the average or the best. If the curriculum is improved at setting a base level to the subject matter being taught then the unequal outcomes can to some extent be mitigated.

                    Of course we might be happy if teachers and schools apply their own improvements and teach ahead of the curriculum level in some cases. But expecting that to happen primarily inside the public education and with the least advantaged areas to compensate for a very sparse curriculum is just the height of stupidity.

            • nukefacts 24.1.1.1.1.2

              But they won't because they operate from a broken educational philosophy that downplays detail, rigor, facts and knowledge.

          • nukefacts 24.1.1.1.2

            This was an artefact of the Tomorrows Schools reforms in the 80's. Before then we had a proscriptive curriculum, and post then each revision has been more and more vague and principles driven. From my readings and travels, this is uncommon.

            Overseas, countries such as Finland have one curriculum that is taught throughout their country. I selected Finland as an example because I've lived there and they have possibly the best school system in the world. They realised in the 70's that their educational attainment was poor and getting worse so they initiated a multi-decade reform process to standardise everything and hire and train exceptional teachers. It is incredibly hard to become a teacher and you need a Masters degree minimum! They are paid worse than NZ teachers, but successive governments have worked tirelessly to raise the status of teachers.

            So an interesting mix – proscriptive curriculum but freedom to teach it however teachers think is best, but with audit and assessment to check quality.

            • weka 24.1.1.1.2.1

              thanks, that's very interesting.

              Without knowing much about it, it struck me as neoliberal. I'd like to know the philosophy underpinning the change in the 80s. What were they thinking?

              • nukefacts

                I guess you could classify it as neo-liberal because it was a shift to 'parents rights' (not too bad), deconstructing the states role in education, radically changing curriculum, individualism in focus, and much more self management of schools e.g. board of trustees. Effectively what happened was it allowed the state to pull back from investment in education and offload lots of the day to day admin onto schools (also not fundamentally a bad idea) but without investing in developing those skills in schools and their communities. As usual in NZ – cut funding and say 'not my problem'.

                But this has evolved over the years e.g. now the MoE bulk funds capital works in schools, but cannot help injecting their woke theories where they are not needed e.g. the disastrous focus on open plan everywhere when building classrooms, and no assessment whether they impact learning outcomes. BTW, for those of us with kids with learning differences, open plan has been a disaster, robbing our kids of focus and concentration.

      • nukefacts 24.1.2

        From what I can tell he doesn't even really know who they are. He has an extensive science network and most of his contacts are people like myself who correspond with him on the state of science in NZ, because we love science and love NZ, and want to see our kids doing well.

  23. LawfulN 25

    The words "holism" and "systems" are meaningful words, in and of themselves and useful when used properly. However, they more often signal woo, which is what is happening here.

    Who thought that putting people who don't really believe in science in charge of the science curriculum would promote scientific knowledge and the scientific method? It's like if someone put me (an atheist) in charge of Sunday school.

    Our education system is a joke and most of the teachers are dumb.

    • Dennis Frank 25.1

      Woo is a useful social category, but it does signal mental laziness when used as a last resort by those unable to grasp the depths of a topic.

      Progressive thought – whether in politics or science – is a part of how humans operate. Woo wasn't around when Einstein produced relativity & all the other physicists assumed he was permanently out to lunch. Until his theory was validated many years later. There will always be people ahead of the game…

      • Shanreagh 25.1.1

        Woo to me means airy fairy, lacking in substance, in tune with the latest cafe chatter thought and not much else.

        It is often used on this board as pejorative. I don't think it signals mental laziness, far from it. I think it means someone has seen 'woo' before and is now recognising it.

        I don't think it signals a person not recognsing progressive thought.

        Papers that are heavily invested with the buzz or jargon words of the day are often classed as 'woo'. The thoughts actually may not be woo but the author has trapped the them in langauge pr social constructs that people cannot understand.

        • Dennis Frank 25.1.1.1

          Papers that are heavily invested with the buzz or jargon words of the day are often classed as 'woo'. The thoughts actually may not be woo but the author has trapped the them in langauge pr social constructs that people cannot understand.

          Reminds me of that famous hoax perpetrated within the academic community back in the 1990s. A sceptic simulated a deconstructionist exposition of postmodernism, filled it with gobbledygook, and got it published in an academic journal. It was artful enough in the languaging to surpass the critical faculties of the journal's editor.

        • tsmithfield 25.1.1.2

          With respect to science, woo, to me, means smuggling unscientific stuff into science then masquerading it as if it were science.

  24. tsmithfield 26

    One of the main issues I see with taking a "holistic" approach to science, is that much of science has progressed by taking the opposite approach.

    By that, I mean, reducing the scope of issues being studied so that the variable of interest can be studied as purely as possible. That means controlling for, or eliminating as much as possible confounding variables, and ensuring that an experiment or aspect of research as accurately as possible reflects the interaction between the variables of interest.

    This sort of process has lead to huge advancements in many areas including medicine etc.

    Thus, scientific progress does require a high degree of reductionalism, and this seems to be directly in conflict with any aim to make science "holistic".

    • Dennis Frank 26.1

      We know we've had a couple of centuries of reductionism. The benefits you mention have been accompanied by a tendency towards myopia. The more a specialist tightens their focus on their operational arena, the less interaction they are likely to have with others, and the more irrelevant they tend to become – unless/until they prove a relevant discovery.

      The reason Lovelock produced the Gaia hypothesis way back is due to using his intuition & connecting all the causal links (that are the focus of reductionists) into a big-picture theory. Once partnered with Lyn Margulis, who documented the connection to biology, the theory got traction. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/gaia-hypothesis

      Thus the role of the holist. Use both/and logic to then produce the integral view: reductionism + holism = progress.

      • tsmithfield 26.1.1

        The problem with a holistic approach is that it seems to me to become highly subjective. What I include in my holistic view of something may be quite different to yours. And neither of us would necessarilly be right or wrong.

        And scientists studying the same thing may have different holistic views of a particular area of study.

        Hence, key scientific principles such as validity, reliability, and repeatability are going to be very difficult to achieve.

        Whereas, by focussing on reduction, the aim is to ensure that all researchers are studying the same thing, should they want to replicate a piece of research for example.

        The other thing is, that science already does include the holistic aspect.

        So a problem is reduced in a scientific way, and cause and effects are identified. Interventions are studied in this context.

        Then interventions are developed, and enacted in a holistic environment. The results are then considred, and the process starts again if required.

        But this is just science. There is nothing particularly unusual about it.

        • Dennis Frank 26.1.1.1

          When holism got trendy around '85 I reacted negatively: media were presently it as `a warm bath of mindless gravy' – that's the phrase that kept showing up in my mind & I have no idea why!

          It was only when I started investigating it seriously that my view became more sympathetic. Einstein's mate Bohm was advocating it back then.

          Reductionism & holism are both driven by subjective views: they attain common ground only when others agree on substantive elements. A kind of mental resonance kicks in, producing like-mindedness & the overview gels collectively in consequence. That's the social alchemy of a paradigm shift.

          Dunno if you have ever read how Kuhn explained paradigms but he did encompass the spectrum from practical science (investigation & experiment) to theory/model then up to constellated belief systems. A blend of experiential & theoretical science…

          • tsmithfield 26.1.1.1.1

            I would give some concession when it comes to the softer sciences such as psychology. Because, it is very difficult to treat people the same way we may treat chemicals in a test-tube.

            But, for the harder sciences, I think there is little scope for a holistic approach. Something flies or it doesn't. A bridge carries a specified weight or it doesn't. A given reaction occurs when two chemicals are mixed or it doesn’t

            • Dennis Frank 26.1.1.1.1.1

              Bohm wrote the textbook on quantum mechanics that became generally acknowledged as the standard in the field. When you get endorsed by the entire community of physicists like that you operate at the heart of the establishment.

              He was also hounded out of the USA by McCarthyism due to being a union organiser & communist. He evolved his view of holism via transcendence.
              https://paw.princeton.edu/article/scholar-finally-gets-his-due-david-bohm

              • tsmithfield

                I will have a look at that.

                But, that field leaves plenty of scope for Woo on steriods, as the multitude of views on Closer To Truth suggests. Lots of interesting stuff there.

              • Andrew

                Bohm was an interesting case. I don't recall his book on QM being the standard text – people were more likely to recommend Schiff or Messiah – and I only bought a copy because I liked his later "Causality and Chance in Modern Physics", which was a kind of recantation of his earlier espousal of the Copenhagen interpretation, and described his pilot wave theory which was a big influence on John Bell. Both books were eminently clear, and IIRC made no mention of "holism". Later he came under the influence of Krishnamurti and wrote "Wholeness and the Implicate Order", which I can make absolutely no sense of.

                I can still make absolutely no sense of talk of holism in general because people seem to use it as a kind of vague, indefinable generalisation welding together a whole lot of different ideas. It might help if some one could give an example of a useful scientific theory that could be described in holistic terms. Or describe exactly why we need a "holistic" approach to climate change rather than just putting less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, much as we fixed the hole in the ozone layer by banning CFCs.

                As the man said, whatever can be said can be said clearly. If you can't say it clearly you can't teach it either.

                • weka

                  it's a good question and challenge. I will have a go tomorrow at explaining why we need a whole systems approach to climate.

                  But I also feel like I am bilingual talking to people who recognise only one language and some of the concepts can only be explained in the second language.

                  Or, people really good a reductionist thinking (not a pejorative) may struggle to grasp the interrelatedness of things and how that forms more than the sum of the parts.

                  That's not inherently a problem, but not being able to allow it might be true is.

                • Dennis Frank

                  I don't recall his book on QM being the standard text

                  I got that line from Wikipedia (years ago).

                  people seem to use it as a kind of vague, indefinable generalisation

                  Exactly how I saw it in '85. To comprehend something, ya gotta study it.

                  If you can't say it clearly you can't teach it either.

                  Damn right! Problem is, holism is right-brain cortex function. Words are left-brain cortex function.

                  Integral thinking combines the two. That process is conducted by the corpus callosum: the brain organ constituted of zillions of channels along which signals flow back & forth. Can't explain holism without neuroscience. Academic silos transform users into morons.

                • Incognito

                  Ecology and Anthropology are examples of holistic science, IMO.

                  Personally, I consider emergence and emergent properties characteristics or hallmarks of a holistic science.

  25. Dennis Frank 27

    I do empathise with folks (clearly intelligent & seemingly very) unable to grasp holism. I took me a few years to do so, way back in the late 1980s. Wot did it? I found a copy of this book buried in the basement of the Ak uni library: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holism_and_Evolution

    The guts is that the author had been pondering Darwin & realised something fundamental was missing. I waded through the book. His basic insight was that nature makes wholes, naturally, as organic process. Mine is that this means Darwin's twin fundamental principles (mutation & selection) were inadequate to describe fully how nature operates, so you must include what Smuts called whole-making and holism.

    So he confused readers somewhat via dual meanings of the word, much as Kuhn did likewise with paradigm. This isn't a real problem: it is normal in the English language for the same word to generate multiple user meanings. It is a problem only in comprehension and education. Surmountable via study & reconceptualising.

    Take the hydrogen atom, oft-cited as the most common part of the universe. Nature produces one when an electron enters into an orbital relation to a proton. This functional triad is only seen as such when you do metaphysics on it. The conceptual bridge between physics & metaphysics is built out of seeing numbers as archetypes within nature: pattern-generating, influential. Quanta + qualia is holistic mental process.

    Lost you already? Doesn't matter. We know from advertising that repetition is essential in the comms process. The triad here is sender/signal/receiver. Yank public relations gurus have been pushing this line the past century: gotta tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you just told them. Their consensual view is that the formula is the only way to get the message thro effectively. It's a discipline. And triad.

    Folks learn something new when ready, willing & able. That works because it's a triad. Despite Aristotle telling everyone that metaphysics was beyond physics they didn't go there, so we got 23 centuries of everyone being too thick to figure it out. Not good enough in the 21st century. The moron path is a loser's option.

    Holism is usually referred to as a philosophy. Progress comes from realising it is nature's creation method too. When you think about it, you can see that the method integrates parts into wholes. So you get systems. Function + form, process + structure. Triads.

    What I'm doing here is neopythagorean. I'm explaining how the numbers one, two, and three, actually work. The education system describes them as quanta whereas in reality they are qualia also. They are qualitatively unique entities within nature. Pythagoras told everyone that the world is made of numbers, and we did inherit harmonic theory in consequence, but there was always more to it than that. Time to spit the dummy!

    • weka 27.1

      I think I understood most of that but to clarify, when you say the hydrogen atom is a triad, are you saying the triad is the proton, the electron, and the atom itself?

      or perhaps the proton, the electron, and the force holding them together?

      as an experiment in messaging, see if you can answer that in 3 or less sentences.

      • Dennis Frank 27.1.1

        smiley perhaps the proton, the electron, and the force holding them together

        That's the standard view of physicists – not wrong, but it isn't how I see it. I express the triad like this: proton/electron/orbital. So the 3rd element is the consequence of the force – the behavioural pattern of energy exchange that links the electron to the proton – because my view is relational (uses relativity as guiding principle).

        That's the answer in 3 sentences (the triad you asked for). Since I prefer the view from metaphysics, I ought to add that principles, hypotheses & assumptions are metaphysical and acknowledged as such in physics education. Also, an orbital is a technical term in physics different to an orbit – Google ought to confirm that & point to a definition if you're interested.

        • Andrew 27.1.1.1

          Well, you've certainly lost me with this neo-pythagorean stuff about the number 3. It seems eccentric to count an orbital as an object on a par with an electron and a proton when it just describes a possible bound state of an electron in terms of its energy and angular momentum. And the proton is a bound state of three quarks, which gives you another three not counting the gluons holding the quarks together, but then that's five objects altogether. Plus the quarks are surrounded with a cloud of quarks and antiquarks and other particles, occasionally bound into protons so to focus on the number three seems at best mildly eccentric. In any case, I don't think this kind of speculation has any place in a science curriculum.

          • Dennis Frank 27.1.1.1.1

            That's just because you haven't thought about it long enough. An orbital is not an object. In the neopythagorean view I'm advocating, it is an element within an operating system. You've heard of systems science? Okay, do you accept that it's been a multi-disciplinary academic arena for the past three decades? If yes, then you're informed. Cool, there's a realistic basis upon which to proceed.

            Your point re quarks & sub-levels of organisation of matter is correct of course. Holism must encompass those when taught. Do I trust teachers to be able to do so? Not on past performance, but where there's a will there's a way. Curriculum reform initiative seems evidence of will.

            And you're quite right that my line of speculation has no place in a science curriculum. That's due to the failure of Plato & Aristotle to follow the line of enquiry Pythagoras established (that numbers are the basis of how the world works). So his dictum produced only the theory of harmonics in science. To take it further, one must used metaphysics. Note that Aristotle pointed to it without advising that it ought to be checked out. Duh!

            that's five objects altogether

            I haven't got around to doing elemental analysis in the sub-atomic realm. The fact that you counted to five is a promising start but the logic you used to get there didn't come across to me. In science, reasoning must be shareable. Same in metaphysics, so we get to constellate common ground on a like-minded basis.

            Works via collective mental resonance. Physicists would bail out immediately of course: `we acknowledge that we build our theories upon a basis of assumptions & hypotheses since physicists have always done that, and we've known since Aritotle that doing so is metaphysics, but we ain't gonna subscribe to mental resonance – that's woo'.

            Seems clear to me that metaphysics must start afresh to enter into acadaemia as an intellectual arena that can validate itself as a source of comprehension of how the world works. The deep Green view requires starting with generic human experience, such as our experience of ecosystemic relations and the dimensions of that. Time has been discriminated against way too long!! Natural time cycles are a fact of life regardless of inertial academic evasion of the fact.

            Holism derives from the monad & dualism from the dyad. These are two dimensions of the world, to be included with spacetime. From Einstein we also had a quote, oft recycled, making the basic point:

            A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness."

            https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/369-a-human-being-is-a-part-of-the-whole-called

            Same goes for her? I doubt that. Women are more connected than men. Nonetheless, he's onto something profound, anchoring holism in experience.

        • weka 27.1.1.2

          Elegant answer thanks

          is the orbital a blueprint of potential then? A description of (the dynamics of) the relationship between the election and the proton?

          • Dennis Frank 27.1.1.2.1

            Yes, looks like you are intuiting the thing. The positive and negative charges of the proton & electron produce a force of electrical attraction between them and a field results similar to that of a bar magnet.

            That force-field combining effect relates the two sub-atomic particles, establishing potential interaction, and that electrical potential transforms into actuality as the proximity increases and the interaction escalates. The interaction produces the orbital. The orbital is an interactive relationship played out in time and described via the application of maths & physics techniques.

            That's the comprehension I got from my education – others may use different words for it perhaps. The main point re difference between orbit and orbital is that the latter is statistical rather than literal: detection of position is defined by an equation defining the likelihood of the electron being any particular distance away at any moment of time. Similar uncertainty applies to the energy of the electron – from which the form of the orbit emerges.

            Thus emergent qualia, inherent to the system. To describe the system fully, you must combine quanta with qualia. Quantum is the reductionist technical term for one little bit of stuff. To become holist, the scientist must develop a view and theory of how one bit relates to another bit, and to any consequent emergent new whole that forms from their interaction…

    • nukefacts 27.2

      “The conceptual bridge between physics & metaphysics is built out of seeing numbers as archetypes within nature: pattern-generating, influential. Quanta + qualia is holistic mental process.”

      What on earth does that mean? This sounds like it’s rapidly devolving into a phenomenon I see time and again -person who wants a deeper quasi-religious feeling maps woo experience / theory of the day into science because science has a multi hundred year imprimatur of authority and they’re trying to coat tail that.
      I can attest as someone who has degrees in hard science and so-called soft social science, science is very holistic. Just because we need to dive deeply into something doesn’t mean we don’t also consider the big picture. Most people who criticise science as being reductionist aren’t scientists and don’t work with them. It’s a popular discourse that is just plain wrong.

      • Andrew 27.2.1

        It reminds of how, back in the day when Murray Gell-Mann described his particle classification scheme as "the eightfold way" as a joke, people took it seriously and wrote books like "The Dancing Wu-Li Masters" and "The Tao of Physics" claiming to see links between high energy physics and eastern mysticism.

        Re reductionism, it's a slippery term. Steven Weinberg distinguished several meanings of the word, and was happy to describe himself as a reductionist in some senses while rejecting others – see for example the chapter "Two Cheers for Reductionism" in his book "Dreams of a Final Theory". "Holism" is equally slippery, but I wonder if, when people talk about holism they don't mean something more like what the physicist Phil Anderson was talking about in his paper "More is Different" (https://cse-robotics.engr.tamu.edu/dshell/cs689/papers/anderson72more_is_different.pdf) under the general headings of "emergence" and "complexity" – you organise the sciences in a hierarchy of levels, and as you go to a higher level new concepts emerge that are needed to understand the behaviour at that level – spontaneous symmetry-breaking giving rise to superconductivity being an example he uses.

        Be all that as it may, it's a far cry from science in the New Zealand curriculum, and you're just going to confuse people if you don't teach them the basics first.

        • Dennis Frank 27.2.1.1

          Murray Gell-Mann described his particle classification scheme as "the eightfold way" as a joke

          I do have his quark jaguar book but haven't got around to reading it so can't comment yet. Sometimes a joke does point to a truth though…

          Your point about emergence is correct, Andrew. My reference to qualia at base level of experience was intended to flag that view.

          Qualitative features are traditionally merely used as the basis for sorting in a categorisation scheme. Labels & identifiers. Not primal, but deep. Acknowledging them as qualia is the mental hurdle at which the academic world has failed continuously thus far. Such collective inadequacy is not good enough. Therefore I predict that social scientists on the multi-disciplinary bandwagon will soon spit the dummy: "Enough of this shit already!!"

          A sceptic would respond, "hey, qualities are subjective". True, but they do become relatively objective when experiencers agree on the basics of common experience. Crowd-sourced wisdom emerges. Can't prove that the colour red is real is what you often get in books by scientists nowadays. Yet humans act as if it is.

      • Dennis Frank 27.2.2

        trying to coat tail that

        Yeah, absolutely. Plenty of that in new-age circles wherever you look.

        I can attest as someone who has degrees in hard science and so-called soft social science, science is very holistic.

        Depends on the user, huh? The blend works for you, which is good. Have you gauged the extent to which your colleagues exhibit that blend?

        Just because we need to dive deeply into something doesn’t mean we don’t also consider the big picture.

        During the 20th century there were opinion leaders in physics who did big picture contextualising too, but when they did it some colleagues became uneasy and others pointed out that they were merely philosophising. Tacit indicators, such reactions, to the tunnel-vision bias of reductionism.

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