The Iraqi Study Group Report

A number of the recommendations appear to be empty diplospeak, but here are the most noticable things about the Report of the Iraq Study Group that seem to matter

Note how Saudi Arabia and Turkey are not mentioned in the following list. Good. Kowtowing to those enemies of the peoples of Iraq has gotten us into this mess:

RECOMMENDATION 5: The Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself. Other countries—for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea—that might be willing to contribute to resolving political, diplomatic, and security problems affecting Iraq could also become members.

No War with Iran. Good. We are in a war against al Qaeda on a global scale, and with al Qaeda in Iraq and the Baath Party is Mesopotamia. Using the aftermath of 9/11 to confront Iran was a bizarre mistake.

RECOMMENDATION 10: The issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council and its five permanent members (i.e., the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) plus Germany.

The victory in Iraq will not be an excuse to cease fighting, but merely recalibration. Good. Our forces must be put to better use.

RECOMMENDATION 18: It is critical for the United States to provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq.

The future is coming on:

RECOMMENDATION 35: The United States must make active efforts to engage all parties in Iraq, with the exception of al Qaeda. The United States must find a way to talk to Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Moqtada al-Sadr, and militia and insurgent leaders.

Recommendations 21, 26, 27 28, and 30 would be disastrous if we were willing to enforce them. Fortunately, we are not:

RECOMMENDATION 40: The United States should not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 41: The United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United States could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if Iraq does not implement its planned changes. America’s other security needs and the future of our military cannot be made hostage to the actions or inactions of the Iraqi government.

RECOMMENDATION 42: We should seek to complete the training and equipping mission by the first quarter of 2008, as stated by General George Casey on October 24, 2006.

RECOMMENDATION 43: Military priorities in Iraq must change, with the highest priority given to the training, equipping, advising, and support mission and to counterterrorism operations.

America is back on track.

More analysis is available from ZenPundit.

Open Thread

Readers are the best part of blogging — I love to get feedback, whether in email, comments, or through trackbacks. I am also lucky that several readers often send me interesting bits of news, opinion pieces, and other mail not directly related to any particular post. However, my schedule often stops my from replying to these emails in a timely manner, and regularly prevents me from giving my take or analysis on some event or news story.

Therefore, I am creating this “Open Thread” post. When I receive such a message and am unable to reply, I will direct the notice to this page. That way, a reader who wants to share something with the world will be able to do so. And other social readers can read, give their own thoughts, and participate in an expanded discussion.

What’s new to you?

IE7, Google Desktop, and MSHTML

What a joke:

I had some pretty major crashing on the new build of IE7 whereas the previous build worked just fine. The error reported is:

Faulting application iexplore.exe, version 7.0.5335.5, faulting module mshtml.dll, version 7.0.5335.5, fault address 0x000d850d.

For those that do not browse the usergroups, the fix that worked for me is to disable the Web History checkbox in Google Desktop indexing options.

Classrooms Evolved, Part I: Traditional Methods

The most common style of teaching ignores my definition of a class Student society, and student concern for their grades, are sidelined throughout the class hour. A professor will stand up with a lesson plan, often written years ago, and talk. For an hour or two or three, depending on the class, students just sit and listen. Students are essentially uninvolved with the lecture, except for the mental work required in paying attention. Then after class, students (supposedly) study, typically individually, and for most classes ineffectively. Standard ways of grading in these classes, such as exams and essays, individual and group work, do not help much.

Multiple-choice exams are not effective. Doing well on such a test requires the student to memorize terms for a tremendous amount of material. “A” students learn to sacrifice understanding to breadth. Students do not leave the class any smarter, or even more able to use concepts in conversation, let alone in life. This sort of studying is exhausting. Worse, it encourages lazy teaching. “It’s in the book” is a reflexive answer to a student complaint. It is hard to see multiple choice exams, as they are regularly given, as anything other than a rotten instrument.

Yet essay tests are counterproductive too. They are more useful because they require linguistic reconstruction of information, and this writing makes writing both more cognitively valid than multiple-choice exams. But essays encourages lazy teaching. By essentially punishing the teacher for giving this sort of work (it takes h o u r s to grade these things), essays act as constant reinforcement against instructors who assign them. Standard essay tests punish the professors who use them. Additionally, the temptation to use a rubric (and sacrifice measured comprehension for something mindlessly easy to grade) becomes too great – and at that point, why not just use a multiple-choice exam?

Assigning individual work is full of dangers. Private assignment deprives scholarship of a social component. The human animosity towards isolation can keep student from putting in the necessary time on individual projects. Likewise, individual work channels students in their own ignorance, too often making the assignment either a desperate example of fumbling in the darkness. Comprehension is ignored in favor of meeting the teacher’s requirements.

Not that typical group work is much better. Until graduate school I despised group work, because such assignments really meant that high-performing students would just carry the load for low-performing students. Group work without accountability was some sort of prisoner’s dilemma game, with one player being both unwilling and unable to meaningfully cooperate. Indeed, I think many teachers’ overemphasis on individual work comes from a learned aversion to poorly contributing group-members.

So what is needed is a grading system which avoids the memorization of practice exams, the grueling mind-numbingness of essays, the isolation of individual work and the free-riding of group work. Thus must be done in the context of a teaching style that embraces society. It requires a new style of classroom – a style I have been developing for years.

Classrooms Evolved, a tdaxp series
1. Traditional Methods
2. Social Grading
3. Deliberative Learning
4. Overcoming Doubt
5. Conclusions