The Age of Trivialization

Published on: 2005-9-28

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The Age of Trivialization


Visit the local bookstore and you would see many books whose title says:

Learn XYZ in 24 hours
A kid who was in the 2nd year of Engineering (and who it was later learnt had never written anything more complex than a `factorial') comes to me and says:

I have finished C and C++ in school and want to
move over to something more advanced - do you have anything to offer?
A final year CS student placed with a big MNC comes to me and says that he wants to `improve' the C compiler on Linux as part of his project - that too in one month's time! Do we see a common pattern here? We live in a world of astounding technological complexity - something as commonplace as the mobile phone is the result of advances in mathematical and physical sciences a proper understanding of which would require advanced degrees and many many years of toil. Read the source code of the GNU C compiler and you will see atleast one file which contains a few pages of comments referring to articles in prestigious journals - the theoretical background required for understanding the code! It's not surprising that the common man is not aware of these things; but what is really pathetic is the fact that most students of technology themselves tend to trivialize technology. What might be the reason behind this? Of course, ignorance plays a big part. Next comes the print as well as visual media where technology is `glamourised' and is presented as something `easy'. This is carried over in part to the teaching profession also where the emphasis is on watering down things to such a level that even the least intelligent student finds everything `easy' - the objective of teaching seems to be shifting from challenging the student intellectually to making him `happy' and satisfying his ego. I am beginning to see the birth of a new generation of students who sincerely believe that what they don't know is not really worth knowing - I am frightened!

arup dasgupta

Sat Nov 22 19:09:23 2008

i teach mathematics in an engineering college at kolkata; india i feel ashamed, sometimes, of the way i have to trivialize mathematics to give what can best be called "maths for dummies" !! PS: some more years of teaching and i fear it might become: "maths for dummies BY a dummy" however this is not due to the course structure as such; it is more due to economic compulsion of having all (well almost) students pass and as till recently they easily got jobs due to software boom (even BTECH in Electrical Engg.) nobody cared