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Education Security

China Dominates In NSA-Backed Coding Contest 316

The Narrative Fallacy writes "With about 4,200 people participating in a US National Security Agency-supported international competition on everything from writing algorithms to designing components, 20 of the 70 finalists were from China, 10 from Russia, and 2 from the US. China's showing in the finals was helped by its large number of entrants, 894. India followed at 705, but none of its programmers was a finalist. Russia had 380 participants; the United States, 234; Poland, 214; Egypt, 145; and Ukraine, 128. Participants in the TopCoder Open was open to anyone, from student to professional; the contest proceeded through rounds of elimination that finished this month in Las Vegas. Rob Hughes, president and COO of TopCoder, says the strong finish by programmers from China, Russia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere is indicative of the importance those countries put on mathematics and science education. 'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.'"
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China Dominates In NSA-Backed Coding Contest

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  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:27PM (#28271847)
    'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.'

    Thats nice, and I believe it's disgusting how athletics are held here, but the public has made it abundantly clear that's they way they want it. I, for one, would like to welcome our new Chinese overlords.
  • whatever (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:31PM (#28271889)

    I don't have time for those things. I'm too busy. Working. As a programmer.

  • by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:32PM (#28271911)
    What's that?
  • The next war (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:32PM (#28271917)

    'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.'

    So long as the next war is fought with rubber balls on a carefully leveled surface, the US will do fine.

  • by ThePlague ( 30616 ) * on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:33PM (#28271939)

    Or don't want to get on an NSA list.

  • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:36PM (#28271971) Homepage
    Given that your willing to write off the population of an entire country on your limited anecdotal evidence, I have to wonder whether the people outsourcing the role knew they'd get incompetents, but at least the new incompetents would be cheaper.
  • the lesson: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:37PM (#28271995)

    Turn your back on learning and embrace anti-intellectualism? Enjoy falling behind.

    Unfortunately America is getting screwed from both sides... the Republicans actively oppose education that isn't Jesus-centered, while the Democrats and their "Oh, everyone's a winner" crap make what education we do have a joke and create a disgusting sense of entitlement. I figure once China launches a manned moon mission it'll probably be the kick in the ass America needs to get back in gear, same as when the USSR launched Sputnik. Right now America's stalled but there's still time to reignite the engines.

    Most nations don't have long once they stagnate, but America's got a hell of a lot of inertia behind it... I hope we don't throw the chance away.

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:42PM (#28272073) Homepage

    IMHO it's not that we (yeah, I'm from so called "Eastern Europe") focus on mathematics and hard science, it's just that, from what I see, athletes/etc. are put on a smaller pedestal

    (perhaps partly because of economic considerations...celebrities here simply aren't worth that much as a product; means also that for larger percentage of "would-be celebrities" the only future is as a bouncer or whore, etc.)

    But they are still put on a pedestal...

  • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:52PM (#28272199)

    Several of the Indians I work with are among the most talented, knowledgeable architects I've ever met.

    What's your point?

  • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pluther ( 647209 ) <`ten.asu' `ta' `rehtulp'> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:53PM (#28272211) Homepage

    What's worse, the quote isn't even true.

    We don't do the same thing with athletics here as they do with math and science over there. In fact, they do the same thing with athletics as they do with math and science.

    That is, they consider athletics to be important and encourage every child to participate in at least one sport.

    We, on the other hand, idolize a very small number of top achievers and encourage every child to watch them on TV.

  • by Shooter28 ( 1564631 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:55PM (#28272219)
    Yes, and until that image of nerds/geeks is changed, we will continue to lag behind.

    It's not "cool" to be smart, and so each generation grows up caring more about popularity than tackling the hard subjects and learning something worthwhile.

    Far too many people cannot even function in society with the education they receive in high school, and we still give them diplomas.
  • Re:Hah (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:56PM (#28272237)

    And apparently you've not worked with anyone educated by India's "educational" system.

    I know some very smart India born programmers, engineers, etc. The biggest difference, they moved to the good 'ol U.S. of A or England and got a real education.

    Those who have stuck around in India;
    1) do not know how to say 'no', so they can always do what you're asking of them and they've done it before (even if they haven't) and
    2) aren't very good at what they do, except taking your money and doing shoddy work.

    While I'm not willing to write off an entire population, I am willing to write off an entire country.

  • by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @05:56PM (#28272239) Homepage

    Saying 'We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there.' is trying to put it all on a somewhat equal footing - "well, they're good at math, but we're as good at sports as they are at math!" Given that the Olympics were just a few months ago, it seems they also do the same thing with athletics as we do with athletics, but they also treat math and science with that highly competitive regard as well. It's all about competition, and we just don't treat math and science as competitively as we treat sports. Just look at what happens when we do treat education competitively - we get spelling bees with 5th and 6th graders who can out-spell 99% of English speakers of any age.

  • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knave75 ( 894961 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:02PM (#28272295)

    "We do the same thing with athletics here that they do with mathematics and science there....

    The problem is that we are overpaying our teachers.

    (but, seriously, we give math and science teachers a starvation wage and provide them with little respect. Meanwhile, we pay football coaches 6 figure salaries and revere them as Gods. Are we really that surprised that we fail at math?)

  • Re:Damn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @06:39PM (#28272637)
    Yes, but even a change of policy to make it less anti-education would be a step in the right direction. Expecting people to work for peanuts, fighting the school district's typically laughable curriculum hoping for a few students to win out over incompetent testing standards, isn't something that's likely to draw in the best possible teachers.

    High stress, low relation between success and effort low wages; gee I wonder why it's so hard to get men into education. If only there were similar fields that paid better and offered a lot of the same rewards, like say coaching.
  • Re:Damn (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wingman 5 ( 551897 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:00PM (#28272827)

    Not that I support coaches getting 6 figure salaries. But the reason they get it is because they made a good team, and that good team generates 7-8 figure income for the school in ticket sales. so if you reword it as a coach gets 1-10% of ticket sales in salaries it does not sound so bad.

    All you need to do is ask yourself how much income does the art department generate in grant money per year to see why there is a disparity.

  • If you're serious: You're right, we should never tell children when they're wrong. That would never create preening, self-entitled idiots that never learned any actual hard facts and have no idea how to cope with a real world that doesn't care how "traumatic" being told "you're wrong" is.

    If you're joking: God, don't scare me like that!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:46PM (#28273243)

    Nope. Your higher level of education is pretty bad too.

    Where I live only one thing matters in where you get to study: How good your high school grades are. If you did well in high school, you'll get to study where ever and what ever you want.

    In USA the education costs. It means that many potentially very smart people can't afford to get into or finish their universities. That leaves room for people with money, contacts, etc. to take the place that would otherwise have gone to the most competent people.

    I am aware there are stipend programs and such that try to ease the problem but they won't fix it.

    A place in which the most competent get to study produces better results than place in which some mixture of the most competent and wealthy get to study. It's a design flaw. In addition, institution that has purpose of making profit will sacrifice some quality if they deem it more profitable in the long term. And in some cases it is.

    Technically you could argue that while our system produces better students, your system produces better teachers (more competition between schools and such). While that argument would hardly hold (we have competent teachers here, there can be and is a lot competition even between government funded schools) I have some second hand knowledge that it doesn't work in practice either.

    My brother studied abroad in the USA when he was in high school. Three of my friends (two of which study CS and the last one studies industrial management) have studied in different (and pretty "average" as far as I have understood) universities the USA and all four have said the same. It is much easier to get good grades there. People who have been somewhat average students here become top of their class in most subjects...

    Honestly, the level of education that USA offers isn't really known for being excellent on worldwide standards. I am aware there are some really good universities too and am confident that MIT or Berkley would be better than where I study now. But saying that your higher education system rocks the world is just plain wrong.

  • Re:the lesson: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:51PM (#28273283) Journal

    America is getting screwed from both sides... the Republicans actively oppose education that isn't Jesus-centered, while the Democrats and their "Oh, everyone's a winner" crap

    Combine both: give every student an "A" in Intelligent Design.

    same as when the USSR launched Sputnik.

    USSR was able to launch such before we were because they *needed* big rockets because their missiles were so inaccurate that they launched bigger nukes to compensate, meaning their rockets were beefy enough to reach space. Same reason they hold the record for the biggest test nuke ever set off. Thus, Sputnik was actually because their tech was *worse* than ours in electronics. The "real story" is not always what it seems.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @07:54PM (#28273301) Journal

    I, for one, would like to welcome our new Chinese overlords.

    So as to not welcome them as your overlords tomorrow, you should rather welcome them as citizens and well-paid, highly skilled professionals today, and make sure their children speak English first and Chinese second (but still get education of the same standard as their parents).

  • Re:Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BitHive ( 578094 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:19PM (#28273511) Homepage
    All you need to do is ask yourself how much income does a department generate in grant money and you've missed the point of education entirely.
  • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ojustgiveitup ( 869923 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:21PM (#28273523)
    Maybe we should stop running schools like businesses and start running them like schools.
  • by ojustgiveitup ( 869923 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:24PM (#28273553)
    Correct - as long as they are for-profit businesses, we are doomed to mediocrity.
  • Re:Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:35PM (#28273633)

    That would work if we started funding them like schools... it's not as if the money they make from athletics goes into the chancellor's pocket... it goes to fund the school.. whether better facilities, more classes, or what not. Universities (especially public ones) are underfunded a huge amount... and they have requirements that they MUST accept a certain percentage of students (at least for the University of California and the California State Universities).. so they have to find funding somewhere... I would rather they have a school football team than an increased tuition...

  • Re:Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ojustgiveitup ( 869923 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @08:53PM (#28273761)
    I would rather we start funding them like schools. I would also suggest that we suffer from a quantity vs. quality problem that the quotas in places like California, while good-intentioned, are worsening. Higher education needs to be cheap and available, but highly selective. While I'm being idealistic, I might as well also mention that we need to stop requiring college degrees for basically any middle class job. We've saturated the job market with highly educated people, while simultaneously diminishing the quality of that education. So now, as a society, we're paying inordinate sums for lowest common denominator education, that a large proportion of people don't need and won't ever use.
  • Re:Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ishobo ( 160209 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:44PM (#28274103)

    Our higher education system rocks the world over

    Based on what data do make that conclusion?

    Also, why doesn't the U.S. fully fund tertiary education? Why is it not seen as a right?

    Frankly, I think the U.S. tertiary system is a piss poor excuse for higher learning. I would rather stay in the EU and not worry about how I am going to send my children to college. We have many fine institutions here in the EU, including the top tier Oxford and Cambridge, which are funded around 90% for all EU residents. Saying the U.S. has the best universities is like saying the U.S. has the best healthcare. True, if you are rich.

  • Teachers... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uncqual ( 836337 ) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:52PM (#28274153)
    I think that teachers are a significant part of the problem (somewhere after parents).

    The teacher's unions have for many years rejected almost all attempts to reward the objectively successful (rather than the most senior and/or most willing to collect various paper credentials) practitioners of the art while pushing out those that are not successful. They are historically opposed to all standardized student testing - esp. if they are fearful that these results may be used in teacher evaluation. If students testing at the X percentile on a standardized Algebra test at the end of Algebra I end up at the end of Geometry testing at 1.1X in one teacher's class and at 0.9X in another teacher's class in the next classroom, it seems we have a pretty good hint which teacher is better.

    The standardized testing should be a significant factor in students' grades to discourage students from "punishing" a teacher they don't like by doing poorly on the standardized tests.

    I don't find the arguments about how "teaching to tests" is bad very compelling - esp. in Math and Science. If "teaching to the tests" results in different teaching than "teaching to excel in the material", obviously the tests need to be fixed -- they are testing for something other than that which competence is desired in. Sure, there are some subject areas that don't lend themselves to standardized testing (for example, various performing arts), but these don't seem to be the areas that are resulting in American High School graduates being non-competitive.

    Annecdotally, in my personal experience most smart and competent people who flee from the teaching field (usually after having entered it somewhat idealistically) would be excellent teachers but end up being frustrated by not being rewarded for their performance, frustrated by lack of support from parents ("My little Susie would never talk back"), and lack of support from administrators ("If there's a problem with classroom discipline it must be the teacher's problem as Susie's mother has assured me she's an angel").
  • by Omestes ( 471991 ) <> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:53PM (#28274577) Homepage Journal

    Your trolling, right?

    Please tell me your trolling.

    I'm dating a person working on their major in education (its free, and mostly for giggles),who has to interact with actual k-12 teachers. Reading some of the pop-psych drivel that teachers cough up, I sadly wouldn't doubt it you were serious.

    Primary and secondary educations exists to make kids LEARN, not to make them feel good about themselves. When it comes to schooling, I actually don't care how they feel about it, as long as they leave being able to read at a 12th grade level, and know at least some math. Actually, I would like it if they knew something about history as well. If they leave feeling good about themselves, that is great, IF (and only if) they earned it through achievement.

    People who do mediocre work should feel mediocre about it. Feeling bad about it forces them to do something about it. Telling them that being a moron is fine, isn't making them want to stop being a moron. Kids should be under some pressure to... you know... better themselves.

    As for self-esteem... its a load of new-age crap. Self respect, like all other forms of respect, must be earned. Being proud of yourself for nothing but existing is rather stupid, it motivates nothing but egotism and some idiotic sense of entitlement. Being proud of yourself for doing something, that gives incentive to continue to achieve.

    Also, no, they are not innately special. No one is. You are nothing but part of the faceless masses that will be completely forgotten within one generation of your death, this is the definition of not being special. Just because you like yourself, doesn't change this. If you feel good about this, there is something wrong. You only become special when you DO something that the vast majority of anonymous strangers in the world can't do. You don't get to the point where this is possible by sitting on your ass, staring into a mirror, and chanting a mantra about how awesome you are just because you are you.

    A quick question; should I be proud of myself for sitting at my desk eating cheetos? Or should I be proud of myself for getting off my ass and doing something interesting? Children are no different.

    Really, we need more hard-ass eduction. We should just flunk everyone who can't actually read at their grade level, or perform basic mathematical operations, no questions asked. Continue to flunk them until they pass, turn twenty-one, or realize they should just get their GED and do something that befits their temperament.

  • Re:Damn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by story645 ( 1278106 ) <> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:27PM (#28274803) Journal

    Also, why doesn't the U.S. fully fund tertiary education? Why is it not seen as a right?

    Because it would be prohibitively expensive? I go to a dirt cheap uni (~4000 a year, 5000 after next years tuition hikes, and it's a public school so it's only that low 'cause of the massive tax funding the school gets, though it's getting hit with budget cuts right and left) and even that kind of tuition would be a massive funding issue for everyone who wanted to go to college here in the states, mostly because it's so standard/expected that a person gets a degree. (though there's tons of financial aid available for anyone below middle class. Being middle class, I lucked out and got a good merit scholarship.) There's also the long standing idea, not limited to the US, that a college education should be limited to a select few who are actually suited for it.(A person used to go to college 'cause they were smart enough, and high school's had college and vocational tracks.) This idea is changing 'cause the global economy is now so skills based, but policy takes longer (and again, coming up the money for it would be difficult.)

  • by megaditto ( 982598 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:09AM (#28275057)

    It's just a question of priorities. I believe this is evolution at work. With some huge generalizations, here is what I think happens:

    In China/SU people will suffer or even starve to death unless they get a skilled/high-tech job. Therefore, one's intelligence is highly valued (by parents, wifes, society in general, etc.)

    In America, there is no danger of starvation. Even the unemployed get to have a house, a car, a TV, 5 meals a day, and a dimebag. Therefore, the people focus on more relevant (at this time) things such as personal appearance and personality.

    The good news is that us humans are highly adaptable, and our priorities will be adjusted as needed (when the circumstances change).

  • Re:Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Amiga Trombone ( 592952 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:06AM (#28275511)

    Well, you might want to consider there are 1.3 billion Chinese to 300 million Americans. If you're going to consider representation as a percentage of population, Russia's performance, with a population of only 140 million, was a hell of a lot more impressive than China's.

  • by Omestes ( 471991 ) <> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:28AM (#28276375) Homepage Journal

    t. Schools are also around to give children confidence, physical fitness, social skills, discipline, etc.

    I can see how some of these are important for schools. But we should still never sacrifice pure learning for any of them. Actually, the only one that has an overt place in schools is phys-ed. The rest of them should arise naturally from a learning environment. Confidence is covered the second a kid does an "impossible" problem, or reasons out a consequence on their own. Social skills arise from being stuck in a class room full of children trying to fit in and rise to the top of the social heap. Discipline is, and has, always been integral to ALL hard tasks. You can't tell me that those kids in the 1800's before modern "social education" didn't have it. You teach discipline by being a hard-ass, "you do it until you get it right, if you don't do it bad things happen".

    You have obviously never tried to teach a smart child who lacks confidence in their ability because they've never been encouraged.

    Not as a profession, though I've had to deal with them, and was one. You lead a child to confidence, you don't teach it. As stated, it comes from that first moment you make them find water on their own (as opposed to leading them to it). I was diagnosed as a "troubled" child as a kid, because of this 90% of my teachers decided they had to hold my hand, and thus I learned nothing, even if I was smart. Then I had a teacher that made me read a ton of books, synthesize the knowledge into a coherent plan (not contained in any of the books), and then design an application for it. It was hard, it was challenging, but I did it. I got an A, and a nice "atta boy!" from my teacher, after that my confidence issues were solved. Again, this is anecdotal, so... But the premise remains, self confidence is earned, all a teacher can do is make a child realize that they deserve it. For characteristics beyond the droll "you exist, and are special!" crap.

    The secret to confidence is forcing kids to be surprised with their own abilities, not preaching it at them.

    Apparently, you have never known anyone who has withdrawn from school and social life because they were having trouble at home.

    This does happen, I agree. But this is not the majority of cases, nor enough of the population to force changes on general curriculum. Smart teachers can pick these kids out, and give them special attention, or call social services if it is bad enough.

    This highlights a major problem with the system; aiming for the lowest common denominator. We can help the kids with real problems, AND help the best and brightest excel and become something special. We don't have to drag everyone down to the most level of the most wretched example.

    You seem to have no understanding about how developmental psychology or education actually work

    Have some understanding, did an undergrad in psychology. Granted my emphasis was pure research, but I did get stuck with some developmental classes (not claiming I'm an expert, just not unfamiliar). Developmental psych is probably one of the weakest areas in psych at the moment, though.

    For some reason, you seem to think that our schools should teach average students to feel terrible about themselves because they are average, as if that would somehow motivate them to learn more.

    Never said that. Well, if average kids can't read at their grade level, and don't know math at a comparable, then well yes, they should be judged by their higher level peers, and should feel that they can do better. I accept average as the high C to low A level of grades, and this is fine, though there should still be at least some pressure to do better. A percentage of average kids are capable of more, given proper goading.

    We should try to make every kid rise to the maximum of their ability. We also, must accept that this level varies.

    If you are truly an average student you shouldn't be made to feel bad about it, but y

  • by Seakip18 ( 1106315 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:30AM (#28278561) Journal

    Umm....These weren't excuses. They were questions. I think what you want is this "These contest are biased against Americans anyway. The other countries can simply out compete us cause they cheat..waaaaaah!" I'm not buying any excuses like that, I assure you. America by and far lost, plain and simple.

    Every year, as GSOC rolls around, Slashdot throws a few articles up. One of these is always about a week before the deadline, highlighting the main projects for the summer and reminding students to participate.

    Why would slashdot not bring up this or any other contest before the start?

    I believe another poster also pointed out the cash prize is $5k. While nothing to sneeze at here in the US, that maybe an entire year's salary to some of the participants. Lot more motivation for them to compete and even less for the top talent here.

    I'm not saying the US has some divine right to win and no where in there did I say the US should. I'm simply questioning whether there was any effort to drum up any American programmers. It appears not, so the US got what the US deserved. A piss poor showing and a slashdot article questioning why the US did so poorly.

  • Re:Teachers... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 11, 2009 @01:02PM (#28296061)

    I don't find the arguments about how "teaching to tests" is bad very compelling - esp. in Math and Science. If "teaching to the tests" results in different teaching than "teaching to excel in the material", obviously the tests need to be fixed -- they are testing for something other than that which competence is desired in.

    Experience from the UK where we do have much standardized testing, is that the teachers teach the kids how to pass the test since the teacher and their department and their school will be assessed (and funded!) based on the test results. This creates the situation where education is turned into a box-ticking exercise to ensure the kids pass the tests, but don't actually learn, leading many companies to put new employees on courses to ensure they have an adequate grasp of language and mathematics for the job.
    The qualifications, these kids have worked so hard for, are not fit for almost any purpose other than to say they can learn to pass the exam.
    A science exam paper taken by 15/16 year olds, recently, asked the question "what would you use to look at a distant star?" it was a multiple choice question with answers like microscope, thermometer, ruler, telescope. my 7year old thought it was too easy!
    Teachers hands have become tied by the system so they have no freedom to *really* teach the subject and inspire the kids so they actualy learn.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly