04.11.12

The Economist Throws FUD at OLPC Again

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, OLPC at 11:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Fat operating systems spend most of their energy supporting their own fat.”

Nicholas Negroponte, MIT Media Lab, rediff.com, Apr 2006

Nick Negroponte
Picture from Wikipedia

Summary: Another news item that describes a seemingly successful project as a “failure”

THERE is something quite rotten at The Economist and it’s not just fallacies-filled GNU/Linux-hostile articles (we mostly ignore them so as to not feed the provocatuers).

The OLPC, which runs Fedora, has been under continuous attacks, being the trailblazer that — just like Munich — Microsoft and its comrades must mock.

In The Economist, OLPC Is being called a “failure” in Peru — under the assumption that part of the problem is that students learn faster than many of their teachers. Here is a person from Fedora addressing the article:

OLPC a “failure” in Peru

According to the Economist. Ah, but here’s the rub. From the article:

Part of the problem is that students learn faster than many of their teachers, according to Lily Miranda, who runs a computer lab at a state school in San Borja, a middle-class area of Lima. Sandro Marcone, who is in charge of educational technologies at the ministry, agrees. “If teachers are telling kids to turn on computers and copy what is being written on the blackboard, then we have invested in expensive notebooks,” he said. It certainly looks like that.

Here is another rebuttal, this one from HP.com:

So, instead of a “disappointing return,” or “not accomplish[ing] anything in particular,” IDB did actually find a measurable benefit.
Could it be that the disparity between test scores and actual measured achievement means that it’s the tests that are lacking, rather than the laptops? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that academic testing was shown to be seriously wanting.
And is it too much to ask for The Economist’s journalists and fact-checkers to actually get as far as the sixth sentence in the report’s abstract, before writing the story? I know that many of today’s workers exhibit short attention-spans, but really!

There seems to be a reporting failure, not an OLPC failure. If they start with the premise that everything is failing, then they can collect claims that support the hypothesis and disregard the rest.

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A Single Comment

  1. mcinsand said,

    April 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Gravatar

    I can’t applaud HP’s response heartily enough, but I have the feeling that the ‘journalist’ was only looking for excerpts to support the predetermined conclusions.

    The ‘tests that are lacking’ takes me to a tangent from graduate school. We had cumulative exams where we would have two weeks to study a stack of papers followed by a four hour test. The questions were often oblique, and even occasionally orthogonal to the direction of a paper, but they were generally pretty good about probing abilities to use data in indirect ways. One exam really went over the top, though, by asking for answers that were simply too unrelated to the papers. I just wrote, ‘I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that the questions were unrelated to the test material’ and walked out after 15 minutes. My office was in that building, so I got to see students as they were leaving, and some were actually in tears. No-one passed the test, but I at least didn’t lose as much time as the other students.

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