You Say Dumbing Down, I Say Inviting In

Most of the early feedback on Building Tech Together has been positive, but one person has said that I’m over-simplifying some things and dumbing down others. I’m not sure what the difference is, but my answer is that Newtonian physics isn’t a dumbed down version of quantum mechanics or general relativity: it’s a simpler model that is easier for newcomers to start with while being perfectly good for solving a wide range of problems. It’s Scratch instead of Python or Java, and I’m past feeling that anyone should apologize for giving people a ramp they can walk up instead of a cliff to climb.

I also try to respect the fact that the people I’m writing for don’t have time to read the primary literature and weigh its nuances, and that expecting them to reveals a lot of privilege. Academia cares less about being right than about not being wrong, so papers are littered with defensive get-outs like “perhaps”, “might indicate”, and “however”. In contrast, every teacher has to teach tomorrow (or this afternoon, or in an hour) which means they have to decide now whether to do X or not. As one said to me years ago, if a student is right 90% of the time that’s an A+; if a teacher can do just as well in the time they actually have, they should be just as proud.