Atendendo a algumas respostas apreciativas e inúmeras ignorativas, aqui está......

28 novembro 2012

Adam Smith sobre a burocra acadêmica

Vejam a perfeição do texto linkado. Tem tudo a ver com as discussões sobre currículo da Poli.

Smith: Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter 1, ARTICLE II: Of the Expence of the Institutions for the Education of Youth, V.1.130-V.1.146

Como é um pouco longo, seguem abaixo alguns trechos supimpas. Grifos meus. Para discussão de abordagens pedagógicas, a frase definitiva é: 

No discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such lectures are given.

In every profession, the exertion of the greater part of those who exercise it is always in proportion to the necessity they are under of making that exertion.

The endowments of schools and colleges have necessarily diminished more or less the necessity of application in the teachers.

It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can; and if his emoluments are to be precisely the same, whether he does or does not perform some very laborious duty, it is certainly his interest, at least as interest is vulgarly understood, either to neglect it altogether, or, if he is subject to some authority which will not suffer him to do this, to perform it in as careless and slovenly a manner as that authority will permit. If he is naturally active and a lover of labour, it is his interest to employ that activity in any way from which he can derive some advantage, rather than in the performance of his duty, from which he can derive none.

If the authority to which he is subject resides in the body corporate, the college, or university, of which he himself is a member, and which the greater part of the other members are, like himself, persons who either are or ought to be teachers, they are likely to make a common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own. In the university of Oxford, the greater part of the public professors have, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.

If the authority to which he is subject resides, not so much in the body corporate of which he is a member, as in some other extraneous persons, in the bishop of the diocese, for example; in the governor of the province; or, perhaps, in some minister of state it is not indeed in this case very likely that he will be suffered to neglect his duty altogether. All that such superiors, however, can force him to do, is to attend upon his pupils a certain number of hours, that is, to give a certain number of lectures in the week or in the year. What those lectures shall be must still depend upon the diligence of the teacher; and that diligence is likely to be proportioned to the motives which he has for exerting it. An extraneous jurisdiction of this kind, besides, is liable to be exercised both ignorantly and capriciously.

Whatever forces a certain number of students to any college or university, independent of the merit or reputation of the teachers, tends more or less to diminish the necessity of that merit or reputation. The privileges of graduates in arts, in law, physic*113 and divinity, when they can be obtained only by residing a certain number of years in certain universities, necessarily force a certain number of students to such universities, independent of the merit or reputation of the teachers.

If in each college the tutor or teacher, who was to instruct each student in all arts and sciences, should not be voluntarily chosen by the student, but appointed by the head of the college; and if, in case of neglect, inability, or bad usage, the student should not be allowed to change him for another, without leave first asked and obtained, such a regulation would not only tend very much to extinguish all emulation among the different tutors of the same college, but to diminish very much in all of them the necessity of diligence and of attention to their respective pupils. Such teachers, though very well paid by their students, might be as much disposed to neglect them as those who are not paid by them at all, or who have no other recompense but their salary.

If the teacher happens to be a man of sense, it must be an unpleasant thing to him to be conscious, while he is lecturing his students, that he is either speaking or reading nonsense, or what is very little better than nonsense. It must, too, be unpleasant to him to observe that the greater part of his students desert his lectures; or perhaps attend upon them with plain enough marks of neglect, contempt, and derision. If he is obliged, therefore, to give a certain number of lectures, these motives alone, without any other interest, might dispose him to take some pains to give tolerably good ones. Several different expedients, however, may be fallen upon which will effectually blunt the edge of all those incitements to diligence. 

The discipline of colleges and universities is in general contrived, not for the benefit of the students, but for the interest, or more properly speaking, for the ease of the masters. Its object is, in all cases, to maintain the authority of the master, and whether he neglects or performs his duty, to oblige the students in all cases to behave to him, as if he performed it with the greatest diligence and ability. It seems to presume perfect wisdom and virtue in the one order, and the greatest weakness and folly in the other. Where the masters, however, really perform their duty, there are no examples, I believe, that the greater part of the students ever neglect theirs. No discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such lectures are given. Force and restraint may, no doubt, be in some degree requisite in order to oblige children, or very young boys, to attend to those parts of education which it is thought necessary for them to acquire during that early period of life; but after twelve or thirteen years of age, provided the master does his duty, force or restraint can scarce ever be necessary to carry on any part of education. Such is the generosity of the greater part of young men, that, so far from being disposed to neglect or despise the instructions of their master, provided he shows some serious intention of being of use to them, they are generally inclined to pardon a great deal of incorrectness in the performance of his duty, and sometimes even to conceal from the public a good deal of gross negligence.

The parts of education which are commonly taught in universities, it may, perhaps, be said are not very well taught. But had it not been for those institutions they would not have been commonly taught at all, and both the individual and the public would have suffered a good deal from the want of those important parts of education.

Apoio da Usp a estudantes menos favorecidos

A Usp devia montar um programa de apoio a estudantes de colégios menos favorecidos. Professores da Usp visitariam colégios, conversariam com administradores, professores, e estudantes, com o objetivo de aproximar a universidade das populações menos assistidas sociedade. Os professores da Usp poderiam dar apoio direto falando sobre suas sobre suas especialidades acadêmicas, tirando dúvidas sobre assuntos tratados nas aulas dos colégios, e respondendo perguntas gerais.

Um compromisso razoável seria de uma semana de trabalho por ano para cada professor, podendo ser redistribuído de forma razoável entre os docentes das unidades e departamentos. Seriam 2% do trabalho total da universidade, o que não pode ser considerado excessivamente oneroso. Esse programa  desmistificaria a experiência universitária, mostrando a frações da população que a Usp é uma instituição acessível, embora seletiva. Assim teria um impacto muito maior do que iniciativas como quotas, pontuação extra, e outros esforços na direção de maior justiça social que têm sido discutidos, sem a maioria dos problemas que essas iniciativas podem trazer.

Eu não sei como organizar um programa desses. Mas confio que face a face com estudantes de colégio os professores da Usp vão saber dar o melhor de si e fazer uma contribuição inestimável à justiça social. O maior obstáculo é a inércia burocrática, que certamente vai preferir criar comissões e reuniões para gerar relatórios e criar regras que ficam aqui dentro da universidade, contam pontos nas carreiras, mas têm impacto nulo sobre a ciência e cultura no país.

15 novembro 2012

Em 1889....

Hoje é aniversário do 1o golpe militar da história do Brasil. O governo constitucional só foi restabelecido 5 anos depois, com a posse do paulista Prudente de Morais na presidência.

Dizem que o então presidente americano, Benjamin Harrison, quando soube da Proclamação da República do Brasil, disse ter deixado de existir a única verdadeira república na América Latina. A citação pode não ser atestada, mas não deixa de ter um fundo de verdade.

10 novembro 2012

I have nothing against numbers.

I like numbers. Some of my best friends are numbers. But you can't trust numbers. You never know on whose side they are. If you torture a number, it will confess anything. You just can't trust numbers.

09 novembro 2012

Gerrymandering rule

Proposed rule:
No portions of any two cities or towns shall be in a district if the said cities or towns are joined by a paved road which stays within the State, if the length of the said road between the two towns is not longer than two thirds of the shortest distance of a drive beginning in one said city or town, ending in the other, and remaining within the district.
The rule above has the goal of enforcing a practical measure of convexity upon voting districts, with the goal of avoiding extreme cases of gerrymandering. It is an attempt to answer a questions that @JohnAllenPaulos asked on Twitter

Another different answer mentioned in the conversation is splitline districting.

05 novembro 2012

Nowhere to run

"Nowhere to run" é o melhor episódio da melhor série de TV americana, Murphy Brown. Se alguém conseguir assistir, boa diversão. Alguém lembra se era nesse episódio que a secretária da Murphy Brown só dizia "Sure, fine, no problem"? O melhor momento é quando Miles conta que recebeu sua primeira ameaça de morte.

Miles: Some guy called. He said if we don't drop the story he's gonna send me to Toledo in several small sandwich bags.
Murphy: Is that what this is all about? Hey, everybody, Miles, just got his first death threat! Death threats happen to every good journalist, Miles. You've gotta look at it as a right of passage.

Miles: I'm sorry I had my rite of passage. There was a rabbi and a big buffet.

Ao contrário da vida real, a máfia do programa de TV telefonava diretamente para o Miles, não para o chefe dele.

02 novembro 2012

Darboux's method

Darboux's method, as explained by Cartan, is a systematic way to find whether a partial differential equation can be solved using ordinary differential equations techniques. If so we may be able to solve a given equation point-by-point, or curve-by-curve, without the need to find the complete solution. Ordinary equations are easier to solve and, most important, the answers are a lot easier to understand, so Darboux's method should be widely used. That does not seem to be the case. Why? I have a number of explanations, possibly all equally wrong.

1 - The number of situations for which Darboux's method gives useful answers is too limited. As I understand, that happens when the exterior differential system admits so-called Monge characteristics, which, for many equations of practical importance, may not be the case.

2 - Darboux's method is used more often than my growing ignorance has been able to discern.

3 - Physicists, the people who most often solve partial equations, need complete solutions. In this case a complete numerical solution is less complicated and more useful than a piecewise solution along given curves.

4 - Numerical methods using computers are convenient for finding complete solutions. However they are not likely ever to be useful for finding real-time answers in engineering applications such as feedback control. This is of course the reason I am interested in Darboux's method.

5 - Cartan is difficult to read. There exist more recent texts, including ones by Burke; Arnold; Ivey & Landsberg; Stormark; Olver; and Bryant, Chern, Gardner, Goldschmidt & Griffiths. Except for Burke and Arnold, who wrote for physicists and are not complete explanations of Cartan, they are not that much easier going than the originals.

6 - Cartan wrote in French, as did Darboux. That should not be a serious problem, because everybody should be able to understand mathematics written in French. Or so thought our teachers when they began to translate all of science into English after Europe devolved into barbarity in 1933. They translated German and Russian, but of course translating French was not urgent - the literature in Italian and the other European languages was smaller. By now the subset of researchers who would consult a French original is a proper subset of the French-speaking scientists, possibly not even a very large one. So Cartan is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.

7 - Darboux's method requires working with complex characteristics, even for real differential equations. Of course imaginary and complex numbers are the delight of every self-respecting electrical engineer, may you have the same joy. The less fortunate might find them challenging.

I would not be very keen on alternative 1 being the main explanation. The others appear in the order of how amused I am by them.