Can we programme a robot to have good taste?

During an online Philosophy Club for 7-11 year olds – where we were discussing if robot teachers are a good idea – one young participant asked Can we programme a robot to have good taste?

This question really struck me as it is a subject that I am currently grappling with for my research…what is success in life and who decides?

The young philosopher was using her question to highlight the problems that a robot teacher might face when giving feedback on a piece of work and deciding if it was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Others in the group then pursued many of the avenues that you may imagine – asking – What is a good picture? What if it was scribbly but the child was really young or had tried really hard? What about if it was a really abstract picture, how could the robot think that was good? Is this fair?

One way round this, suggested by the initial questioner, is that the robot learns the rules of the curriculum – it is either right or wrong….

When reflecting on the session I found myself asking – what is a teacher doing that a robot can’t? when we exercise our judgement on a piece of work can we ever be completely fair. Schubert (2014) explains this quandary through his writing about Bourdieu’s definition of symbolic violence ‘ Taste would seem to be a personal quality but it is actually social…Each time a member of society expresses a preferencethey are expressing , however unwittingly, the predispositions of the structured structure that is habitus.‘ We express a preference through the filter of everything that we have experienced so far in life.

Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier, social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classification is expressed or betrayed.

Bourdieu, 1979

This leads me to ask what teaching and learning is really about? is it about recognising when children are able to reproduce established and ‘proven to be correct’ types of art, maths answers, stories and facts about the world or is it something else? What about social interactions – can we only recognise one way or are their many? What does this say about diversity in education and in society?

Perhaps most importantly for me, how then can we enable children to say or contribute something new to society? Do we need to remember the perennial line…if we always do what we’ve always done, then we will always have what we’ve already got. Personally, I think that we really do need some new thinking if we are to move on as a society, build greater resilience so that we can thrive and not just survive in our increasingly uncertain future.

The final thought has to come from a child ‘I think that if we allow robots to do too much for us then we will forget our skills and eventually we will forget how to be human.’

Is the purpose of education to help us to be human?

What do you think?

P4C Plus is fun – students and teachers love it – now available online – the perfect CPD for the new normal! #dialoguewks #p4c

I am really pleased to now be able to offer P4C Plus online for all schools thinking about how to equip their teachers for the new normal…P4C Plus is an approach to teaching and learning based on philosophical inquiry.  It shows teachers how to teach through dialogue, facilitate student-led inquiries and get to know the students better.

P4C Plus shows students how to think independently,  reason effectively, communicate persuasively and explore their values.  The students have a safe space to discuss views on a wide range of topics.

Dialogueworks

Using P4C to think about Our Community. @Sapere_p4c @tmbc_culture @ArtsAward

I have just started a project to roll out an Arts Award called Our Community designed by Tameside Council TMBC and the Arts Council of England to enable children to think more deeply about their community, learn about local artists and use their own art skills to express their observations of and visions for their communities.

As a Philosophy for Children trainer it was natural for me to use P4C/ Philosophical enquiry to facilitate this work. First group started last night.

Once again the children proved that they are much more capable of philosophical enquiry that we often give them credit for.

Questions raised by 6 and 7 year olds last night…What about homeless people? are they looking for a community? Is it a ‘blank community’ because they don’t know who is it in it yet? Are we in a community with people we don’t know? Do we need people to make a community?