Friday, March 16, 2012

The other way to affect the future

kw: education

Yesterday I analyzed the fraction of one's heritage that comes from more and more remote ancestors. By the time you get 32 generations into the past, the amount is effectively zero in terms of base pairs of DNA. In terms of genes, fifteen generations suffices to reduce an ancestor's influence to less than one gene. Going forward, it takes siring fifteen children to have some assurance that every one of your genes makes it into the next generation. Now many of us have that option.

There is a better and more beneficial way to influence the future. Teach. Our son is planning to be a teacher. He loved his student teaching semester. I taught college classes in computer science for seven years, and quite much enjoyed that. I usually had four sections with thirty students each, every semester. Just counting the ones that got a C or better, meaning they learned something, in seven years I had an effect, positive I hope!, on more than a thousand young people. But it only takes one…

One student I had my second year of teaching the Comp Sci class, visited me a few years later. He'd dropped out of college the year after taking my class, to earn money for his tuition. He got a job in some minor role, but then a programmer at that small company left, and they asked around the office if anyone knew how to program. He volunteered, and within a few months, had been transferred into a computer center position, earning quite a bit more than I was as an adjunct professor (I was still a graduate student). Man, that made my day!

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