SJSU – Lowered Standards

As a driven person, I hate when I can’t solve a problem. I have lost many hours and days worth of sleep trying to understand how pointers work, why I should adopt good coding standards, why a given framework refuses to come together or why my application is just not quite as useful as I had thought it would be. In spite of however I felt about a given project in Delia Garbacea’s classes I always left feeling like an accomplishment had been made.

Java is for dummies

As I rose through the ranks of my education the rule of diminished returns began to rear its ugly head, and not just in the software engineering world. Essays became less scrutinized and more opinionated, math became more difficult to visualize and understand, and an odd thing happened in my CS courses – rails were put on. My instructors took time out of their class schedule to complain about how things have changed, how dumbed down their assignments have become, how lazy today’s students are… and yet… they cow-towed to the lowest denominator and the gifted and driven students suffered. My first java course was an absolute joke. Our assignments were a gross example of hand holding and led to a number of clashes between me and the instructors.

One interesting discussion spun off of an assignment where we were forced to use simple arrays.

Our instructor had given us a specification requesting that we build some dumb application, using at least 4 arrays of data. One of the students took it upon herself to make the whole application use arrays. She came up to me to ask me what I thought, yes I am that good, and the woman was offended when I told her it was sub optimal. The lab I wrote was about 50 or so lines, fit on a page and was in my left hand; the lab she wrote was 8 pages long, featuring only 80 lines of code, the rest of the pages were comments explaining what ARR1, ARR2, ARR3 and all of their sisters were supposed to be. Instead of using named fields to document themselves, inline comments to explain why she is doing something in the code, or even a single reference to what the program was trying to do … she added 6 pages of bullshit paragraphs. We argued for a while before my Perl Instructor came through and I handed it off to him… and he told her exactly the same thing I had.

I know you can feel it coming so I won’t hold you back from the edge of your seat. Yes she got an A, and so did I.

Philosophy 134 – A child’s game

This semester I am taking an online philosophy course, one that I have been warned about before, but I figured that my bar had fallen far enough. This is college and it’s time to discuss some heavy hitting topics in academia. Here we are in week four and I have already run aground. I don’t care for the class, what we are supposed to be doing or how we do it. It is just a bunch of busy work and a pretty large time sap.

You may ask… Why?

Because, I am once again working in a group, and a group of pretty ridiculous people at that. Our first assignment was to write up a case study review of the application of ethical rights on a news article regarding instructors in Missouri being able to communicate with “students,” privately. The case was pretty neat, in fact, so I dove in. Read the actual bill, posted my comments and we went forward, for about a day.

The freedom of speech right is being used to back the judgment, but I’m not entirely sure I agree. Every industry has its own restrictions on freedom of speech, and it does not seem to be common place for anyone within each to be crying for freedom. It may be a classical right, but we have classically put restrictions on it to protect public safety. Stereotypical examples include yelling Fire in a crowded theatre, or auditorium, but we also block our children from having access to pornography, we have restrictions on language use on television, where even though it is acceptable to curse during the day (although frowned upon) in a crowded restaurant, such language is bleeped on our televisions and radio.

In the notes from our instructor it is pointed out that we don’t provide our children with many negative rights because they do not have the responsibility to handle them, so we have an odd situation where negative rights of one are applied to the lack of rights of another. How can we expect to address this problem with freedom of speech when only one side has such a right or responsibility?

As I understand it, this wording was put into place for the expressed reason of protecting children from being the victim of some form of assault. I think there is a problem to be had here for a few reasons:

  1. Similar to gun control laws, they only really apply to people who are already on board. When a restriction such as this is put into place it is not going to stop people who are willing to evade it, it is simply going to be evaded. So, bad guys get bad guns and good guys get to wait two weeks to get a license, gun training and a gun lock, and here if an instructor is going to be reaching out to a student privately it’s going to happen and there is not much of a path to finding out – you cannot read my private messages and won’t even be alerted to the existence of one without some intervention from the two parties or an accidental view in the computer lab.
  2. Children are quite oblivious to laws and how they apply to people. Being bright doesn’t really go the extra mile because of a lack of perspective. It is currently illegal for sex to occur under the age of consent, but that doesn’t stop the children involved from taking part. It is currently illegal to smoke marijuana, cigarettes, drink booze etc. but that does not stop children from doing it, even if the intention of the law is good. 
  3. Implementation of this legislation will be difficult for children to understand. For the last decade abstinence only education has been pushed to little benefit, and the decade before it was “this is your brain on drugs.” I grew up during this phase and I really didn’t find it to be very illustrative of the situation. I had friends who smoked weed and did other drugs and it didn’t really hit me about the destructive effects of it until I had responsibilities and saw my friends not being able to meet theirs. My choice to not take part in using drugs was entirely personal and a rational decision – I was trying to learn and didn’t want to be silly all the time.

While I think it is perfectly reasonable for an instructor to be asked or required to use auditable means to help curtail abuse, I think that it is only going to become a means of firing or suspending instructors who happen to build a positive relationship with a student.

[…]

This was all pulled together because I wanted to know the case as a proper debater should, backwards and forwards. Unfortunately I hadn’t wrapped my head around the topic well yet, and so I opened up the site and pulled up the 9 pages of my instructor’s notes to try to understand it further. I didn’t, and I don’t, but I tried:

Positive rights are rights to help from others (usually the government) so that we can reasonably survive, such as right to information, right to food, clothing, and shelter. We have the positive right to shelter, but we do not have a positive right to own a home. Property rights are negative rights or privileges, not positive rights. We have the negative right to get shelter, and have that shelter be as permanent as we can. This would be a kind of negative right to try to get property. But actually getting property is a privilege of your circumstance of being able to manage to get property without violating rights of anyone else. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, people who lost their homes were give FEMA trailers to live in. The government supplied shelter because this is a basic positive right. But once the homes are rebuilt, they have to call FEMA to pick up the trailers because the government did not give them property, just shelter. Property is something we want, but we do not necessarily need to own to survive. Recall that for Locke, property was an important negative right. But by this he means, if you work to get property, nobody should just decide to take it away from you, not if you are innocent in how you got that property. In other words, if you got property by doing actions that did not violate rights of others, then nobody should be able to just take your property.

This is a reasonable example from her notes. It isn’t supposed to say anything more than a positive right is a benefit, and not granted by nature, but the lack of fair punctuation and or paragraphing makes reading it an absolute bore. She also uses the term Right 68034 times in the notes, clouding the issue considerably more.

I can hear you now – Sure bob, that is some dense shit, but it’s not impossible to parse. Sure, I totally agree. I still lack the clarity but here is our discussion:

Hello,

I read through the document that we were linked to and i dont think that i have a very good grasp on what it is trying to convey. It was quite dense and was quite difficult to read, let alone model notes on them. Are there some sources that we can be referred to (other than the couple linked on the course page) which would be a bit easier to parse?

.:Bob


At the very bottom of MY NOTES on Utilitarianism, you will find a working definition–that is what you use. If you are going in a wrong direction, I am reading your posts & I let you know so that you get feedback before you submit work to be graded. . Do NOT use Wiki or any "parsed" sources–use my notes

Instructor


I understand that you would like to have us use your notes, and i began there. The only problem i have is that i dont really feel like i understand the material well enough. I guess our first paper and other posts will have to come together to answer that.

thank you though.

.:Bob


Yes, nothing works like trying to apply the theories to cases, & like I said, I’ll guide you if you are not getting it. You can read Standford Encyclopedia, usually a good source. My worry is, some amateur sources will give Util. only in Bentham’s terms, but modern Util. is much broader.

Instructor

The class is philosophy, sure, and there is a lot of freedom for opinions to be formed on topics as diverse as Rights, Utilitarianism and their applications. Problem is, our class is structured in an odd way – it is. And by it is, I mean that every paper we “write” is structured in such a way that there is really not much writing going on. Each paper comes down to a large fill in the blanks process:

In MY NOTES each ethical theory has a WORKING DEFINITION section that tells you how to apply the theory to a case. Fill in the blanks, follow the steps, ALGORITHMS!

Instructor – GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR CASE DISCUSSIONS

Note the use of capitalization and lack of sentence form & structure. This is what I am dealing with on a massive scale.

  • mgw

    This is some lengthy shit you’re outputting here, Bob-bo. Sounds like you’ve discovered a few complaints I made a while back.

    I just want to remind you that you’re a really, really smart guy. It’s almost silly for me to read about you “struggling over pointers”. The real mind-fuck should be your motivation for convincing yourself you’re actually struggling over it 😛

    And hey, I’m back in university. We just won some state department contest last weekend which was pretty positive.

    Miss your intellectualism, as usual.