Friday Assorted Links

1. University of Georgia prevents professor from including “stress-reduction policy” in syllabus.

2. A new kind of classroom—no grades, no failing, no hurry.

“The only goal is to learn the material, sooner or later. . . . Mastery-based learning, also known as proficiency-based or competency-based learning, is taking hold across the country.”

What goes around, comes around:

“Mastery-based learning can be traced to the 1960s, when Benjamin Bloom, a professor at the University of Chicago and an education psychologist, challenged conventional classroom practices. He imagined a more holistic system that required students to demonstrate learning before moving ahead. But the strategy was not widely used because it was so labor intensive for teachers. Now, with computer-assisted teaching allowing for tailored exercises and online lessons, it is making a resurgence.”

The goal:

“We want to change the conversation from ‘I’m not successful at this’ to ‘This is where you are on the ladder of growth.’”

3. Deep cleaning is a deep challenge for L.A. Unified School District.

4. How mental-health training for police can save lives—and taxpayer dollars.

“. . . the culture in the police world is not to acknowledge fear, stress, or weakness—and if officers do, they can be pulled off the street and put on a desk. Police who are suffering or dealing with PTSD may be more prone to hair-trigger reactions, which in turn can mean more tragedies. Those who’ve gone through the Miami-Dade program have been more willing to recognize their own stress and to seek help.”

4. Why women had better sex under socialism.

“As early as 1952, Czechoslovak sexologists started doing research on the female orgasm, and in 1961 they held a conference solely devoted to the topic,” Katerina Liskova, a professor at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, told me. “They focused on the importance of the equality between men and women as a core component of female pleasure. Some even argued that men need to share housework and child rearing, otherwise there would be no good sex.”

Pardon me while I vacuum.

Agnieszka Koscianska, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Warsaw, told me that pre-1989 Polish sexologists “didn’t limit sex to bodily experiences and stressed the importance of social and cultural contexts for sexual pleasure.” It was state socialism’s answer to work-life balance: “Even the best stimulation, they argued, will not help to achieve pleasure if a woman is stressed or overworked, worried about her future and financial stability.”

5. Genuine life lessons, from of all places, the world of professional golf.

A.  A PGA champion and columnist lock horns over a harsh critique, then learn from it.

B. A generation driven to win, but practiced in camaraderie.

On Hunger

I took a total looker to the Hippy Theatre last weekend. Thinking I might get some action, we sat in the balcony, but alas, a few other people, too close for comfort, kept me from making much of a move.

We saw All the President’s Men, thinking of it as a prequel to Mueller’s probable findings.

There’s a pivotal scene early on, when two lowly Washington Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, begin reporting on the Watergate break in. A senior editor says Woodward and Bernstein are not nearly experienced or skilled enough for what could end up being a national story (understatement). He advises Ben Bradlee to hand off their initial reporting to some established heavyweights. “They’re hungry!” their direct editor argued. Bradlee, conflicted, bet correctly on youthful ambition.

Cyclists routinely let off the gas after cresting hills. Their pedal cadence slows as soon as they begin descending, sometimes to the point of stopping altogether. “I’ve worked hard enough,” legs say to the brain, “I deserve a break.”

Many reporters and people coast, to varying degrees, once accomplished, however they define that. Of course there are outliers, oldsters who continue to grind well past the point of most of their peers.

As evidence of the fact that I’m not nearly as hungry as my younger self, rewind the tape eighteen months. Shortly before moving, I “organized” an underwhelming garage sale. Fewer than normal people showed because of my half-ass marketing. I hollered something sarcastic at my friend across the street like, “Dig the traffic jam!” To which he astutely replied, “You’re not hungry.” Touché. The truth of the matter was, a bit of bacon wasn’t nearly as motivating as saving a few trips to Value Village, which as it turned out, wasn’t much motivation either.

I’m not nearly as Ambitious as in the past, but I’m still ambitious. I care more about personal improvement than professional accomplishment. I want to learn to listen more patiently, to be increasingly selfless, caring, and loving.

That’s a type of hunger. Isn’t it?

 

 

Friday Assorted Links

1. We should all approach life a little more like Benjamin David. Tough to beat his commute.

2. How a school ditched awards and assemblies to refocus on kids and learning.

“‘This is one of the most robust findings in social science—and also one of the most ignored,’ wrote Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pursuit of the trinket or prize extinguishes what might have been a flicker of internal interest in a subject, suffocating the genuine sources of motivation: mastery, autonomy and purpose.”

3. More Foxconn Wisconsin fallout.

4. Best financial blogs. (We did not make the list.)

5. About half of Ethiopian youth chew a psychotropic leaf with amphetaminelike effects.

How to make sense of these two sentences?

“The country’s government, which rules the economy with a tight grip, is worried that the habit could derail its plans to transform Ethiopia into a middle-income country in less than a decade ― a national undertaking that will require an army of young, capable workers, it says. Khat is legal and remains so mainly because it is a big source of revenue for the government.”

One Surefire Way to Improve Mental Health

Jean M. Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, argues that smart phones are contributing to Millennial’s worsening mental health. The data is concerning.

Here’s her Atlantic essay (hyperbolically) titled “Have Smartphones Ruined a Generation” and here’s an interview with her from yesterday’s PBS NewsHour.

In summary, the less tethered young people are to their phones, the better their mental health.

The Smartest Guy in the Locker Room

Princeton’s freshman quarterback, the 193rd ranked recruit in the country, Brevin White.

When asked why he passed on scholarship offers to Power 5 schools, including Arizona State, Oregon State, Tennessee and Utah, he said, “I want to have a roommate that’s smarter than me.

The WSJ tells White’s story here. In short, he wants a career in the NFL and on Wall Street. He’s watched an increasing number of Ivy players find their way to the NFL and is confident he can do it too.

What a great quote. The irony is, by saying he wants a roommate that’s smarter than him, he’s instantly the smartest guy in the dorm and locker room.

My dad always told me to get better at tennis, hit with people better than you. The same principle, surround yourself by people more knowledgeable and/or skilled, applies to any context in which a person is striving for self-improvement.

To what degree are you surrounded by smarter, more skilled people?download.jpg

 

 

Friday Assorted Links

1A. The new “Coolest City on the East Coast“.

1B. Some of the best television in history.

2. Better to buy or rent? The American Dream is a Financial Nightmare.

Spoiler.

“Housing has always had a terrible track record as an investment – from 1890 to 2012, the inflation-adjusted return (i.e. taking inflation out) on residential real estate was 0.17 percent. That means a house purchased for $5,000 in 1890 would be worth $6,150 in 2012.

Over the same time period the stock market returned an inflation-adjusted 6.27 percent. That means a $5,000 investment in the market would be worth over $8 million.”

3A. First-generation students are finding personal and professional fulfillment in the humanities and social sciences. The Unexpected Value of the Liberal Arts.

3B. A “Seismic Change” at Cal State.

4. A friend of mine, a former high school principal extraordinaire, says school leaders need at least five years to implement meaningful reforms. The D.C. public schools have not got the message. One in four D.C. public schools have had at least three principals since 2012.

5. About 50,000 people live in Olympia, WA and in Venice, Italy. Approximately 20,000,000 visit Venice annually. That’s approximately 55,000 people every day of the year. If that many people visited Olympia each year, I would do what young Venetians have already done. Leave.

6. Venezuela is collapsing.

7. Hypothetical. Say at some point in the future I’m out mowing the lawn and decide to take a “nature break” behind a big tree on our rural property. Will mountain goats later appear? One other thing, what kind of person whizzes where those mountain goats are licking in the lead picture?

On Anti-Intellectualism

Jordan Weissmann of Slate shares a mind numbing story that calls into question the President’s intelligence. Titled “A Small But Soul-Crushing Illustration of Donald Trump’s Economic Illiteracy,” he concludes:

“At some point, it appears Donald Trump heard somebody say that the United States cannot grow as fast as China or Malaysia because we have a ‘large’ economy. No doubt, what they meant is that the U.S. is a highly developed, rich nation and therefore can’t expand as quickly as developing countries that can still reap large gains from taking basic steps to improve their living standards. But Trump did not understand it that way. He apparently thought that when whoever he was listening to said “large,” they were talking about population. Therefore, in his mind, if China grows at nearly 7 percent per year with its 1.4 billion people, the U.S. should be able to do it too. This is the man who millions of voters are relying on to bring back jobs.”

Many anti-Trumpers will interpret this middle school-like error as disqualifying. A President has to have a modicum of economic literacy, doesn’t she? But there are lots of others whose school experience was so negative that they are suspicious of anyone or anything academic in nature. They trust people who work with their hands way more than they do people, like journalists, who work with words.

It’s easy to write off these people’s anti-intellectualism as simple-minded, but there’s more to it. Listen to their stories and inevitably they’ll talk about classmates’, teachers’, or employers’ negative preconceived notions of them. Their strongest memories of school are of a pervasive arrogance that often takes root early as a result of homogenous ability grouping or “tracking”. In the way they design curriculum and evaluate student work, educators routinely define “intelligence” far too narrowly, agreeing that those especially good at reading and writing have it, and those whose “smarts” take less academic forms, do not.

Formally educated professionals aren’t intentionally arrogant, but often, they convey a sense of superiority in subtle and nuanced ways. Not being in touch with one’s arrogance doesn’t negate its impact.

We talk about education’s importance all the time without acknowledging the underlying antipathy many have for formally educated know-it-alls who would never conflate the meaning of a “large economy”. One particular friend of mine, who is unconventionally smart and happened to vote for the reading-averse President, would conclude one thing from Weissmann’s story, he’s an arrogant prick.

Is that because my friend is just another irrational right wing nutter or are formally educated people like me to blame? At least in part.