The Big Think

February 3, 2016

Bernie

Filed under: Education,Politics — jasony @ 2:22 pm

I don’t like Bernie because he’s a socialist

Pretty much says it all, I think. One good thing about having Sanders get the nomination is that the choice will be very stark and clear. With his record voters won’t be able to say they weren’t warned. America will haven actively chosen the form of its’ destruction.

January 26, 2016

Education

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 9:05 pm

One of the curses of being a good teacher (in all humility) is that bad teaching drives me absolutely bonkers. It’s especially bad when it’s a subject that I’m struggling with and I know I could learn easily if I could just find someone who teaches well.

Just barfing up information or racing through facts is not teaching. Teaching involves breaking down concepts and slowly building a scaffolding of knowledge in the mind of your student, then using that scaffolding to (along with the student), hang new information on the scaffolding until they gain understanding, confidence, and self-actualization. The best teachers get the students up to escape velocity so that they can in turn teach others. Repetition and restatement are critical, as is knowing how to teach to different learning styles. If the teacher simply describes the final building in disjointed detail, he or she hasn’t actually taught anything, and often the student feels like they’ll never learn anything at all.

A lot of it comes down to teaching style as well. I’m a great hands-on and visual learner. Lecture courses are about the worst way to disseminate information to visual/kinesthetic learners but some topics don’t really lend themselves to that style, unfortunately.

Anyway, bad teachers bug me.

January 10, 2016

Autodidactic University

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 11:05 pm

12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free:

“All education is self-education.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.

Those people who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

If you’re interested in learning something new, this article is for you.  Broken down by subject and/or category, here are several top-notch self-education resources I have bookmarked online over the past few years.”

(Via .)

December 29, 2015

It’s Come to This

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 11:21 am

FIRE Q&A: Reason@Brown’s Christopher Robotham – FIRE:

“‘At Brown, there is an underground group whose purpose is to allow kids to say what they ought to be free to say above ground.’

So begins Jay Nordlinger’s National Review profile of Reason@Brown. Christopher Robotham, 21, is the group’s founder. He tells FIRE that the by-invitation-only club is a forum where Brown students can engage in free expression in an atmosphere where open and vigorous debate is welcome and valued.”

December 23, 2015

‘Stars Wars’ and the End of Culture | Acculturated

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 11:57 pm

‘Stars Wars’ and the End of Culture | Acculturated: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been greeted as a realty-shifting cultural phenomenon. At heart it is simply a mediocre movie. Harrison Ford looks tired and silly reprising the role of Han Solo. There is no exposition or backstory to explain the characters’ motivations. The action is relentless yet somehow boring. The destruction of yet another Death Star is particularly lazy. Our cultural muscles have atrophied, allowing works of marginal value to be praised as high art; it’s all become one big pop culture Death Star, sucking everything into its mindless orbit.

But we can resist. We can say no. We can learn to flex highbrow cultural muscles again and to take on challenging works of art. We can say: Nicki Minaj is junk, James Patterson is a hack, and Lady Gaga produces lazy provocations, not art. We can even say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is cotton candy that is forgotten seconds after you leave the theater.

Perhaps then we can get back to what Llosa sees as the truest, noblest calling of culture—nourishing our souls while examining the big questions. Despite our vast scientific and technical knowledge, Llosa argues, ‘We have never been so confused about certain basic questions such as what are we doing on this lightless planet of ours, if mere survival is the sole aim that justifies life, if concepts such as spirit, ideals, pleasure, love, solidarity, art, creation, beauty, soul, transcendence still have meaning and, if so, what these meanings might be?’”

Read the whole thing

November 19, 2015

Why is English so weirdly different from other langu…

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 9:42 pm

Why is English so weirdly different from other langu…: “Even in English, native roots do more than we always recognise. We will only ever know so much about the richness of even Old English’s vocabulary because the amount of writing that has survived is very limited. It’s easy to say that comprehend in French gave us a new formal way to say understand – but then, in Old English itself, there were words that, when rendered in Modern English, would look something like ‘forstand’, ‘underget’, and ‘undergrasp’. They all appear to mean ‘understand’, but surely they had different connotations, and it is likely that those distinctions involved different degrees of formality.”

November 5, 2015

End of an Era

Filed under: Education,Maker,Science — jasony @ 10:30 am

After 14 years, the next season of Mythbusters will be the last. What a great run!


What We Owe the MythBusters: “The MythBusters’ delight in gonzo engineering also helped inspire the rise of the modern class of tinkerers known as ‘makers.’ When the show began, the idea that average people could build their own complex gadgets was a fringe notion at best. Today, more than 400,000 students worldwide gather to compete in FIRST Robotics competitions. Thousands of adults and kids attend Maker Faire festivals to show off their quirky inventions. ‘I feel really lucky that ‘MythBusters’ coincided with the whole D.I.Y. movement and contributed to it,’ Mr. Savage said. ‘I mean you’ve got 10-year-old girls building robots now!’

‘MythBusters’ didn’t do all this alone, of course. American culture is embracing its inner nerd on many fronts today. The cult of Steve Jobs and our fascination with tech start-ups have played a part. So have fictional TV shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has stepped into Carl Sagan’s shoes, and ‘The Martian,’ which its star, Matt Damon, calls ‘a love letter to science,’ is one of the biggest films of 2015.

Best of all, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the number of college freshmen enrolling in STEM majors has climbed nearly 50 percent since 2005. If a few more kids today want to grow up to be Elon Musk or settle on Mars or cure cancer, we have Jamie and Adam partly to thank.”

August 14, 2015

The Great Unlearning

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 10:07 am

July 9, 2015

Helicopter Parents and the Kids Who Just Can’t

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 9:39 am

Helicopter Parents and the Kids Who Just Can’t – Bloomberg View:

“People have been worrying about The Kids These Days since time immemorial. And yet, older people I talk to — ones old enough to remember seeing the low-speed, low-stakes train wreck that was my own generation hurtling through college and into the workforce — confirm my impression that This Time Really Is Different. The upper stratum of the Trophy Kids really are going into college expecting to live in a sort of Nerf universe where nothing ever really hurts, and there’s always an adult to pick them up and put them back on track. And they’re coming out into the workforce expecting the same sort of personal concierge service from a world that, as I was myself dismayed to find 20 years ago, really doesn’t have time to care how they feel.”

From the comments:

Here’s the secret to human history:
Prosperity breeds the conditions for its own failure. Societies NEED to get smacked around periodically, or they become unhinged from reality. The coming storm that we fear IS the cure.

Indeed.

June 8, 2015

Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 7:08 am

Wait But Why: “”

March 23, 2015

Liberal Education Indeed

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 9:21 am

Infants in College: “Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being ‘bombarded’ by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning, a notice put on top of a syllabus or an assigned reading to alert students to the presence of potentially disturbing material. . . .

the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer. . . .

while keeping college-level discussions ‘safe’ may feel good to the hypersensitive, it’s bad for them and for everyone else. People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled. What will they do when they hear opinions they’ve learned to shrink from? If they want to change the world, how will they learn to persuade people to join them?

Or, put another way, how will they grow up?”

When this gets written in the New York Times, of all places, you know there’s truly a problem.

November 18, 2014

Forseeable Consequences

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 8:27 am

SEATTLE’S MINIMUM WAGE CRASH: $15 to ZERO:

“Perhaps most concerning about the $15 proposal is that some businesses anticipated going beyond an increase in prices or a reduction in staffing levels. More than 43 percent of respondents said it was ‘very likely’ they would limit future expansion in Seattle in response to the law. One in seven respondents is even ‘very likely’ to close a current location in the city limits.

Yes, it it always sounds good to give people more free stuff, but once again, everything has a price. I asked a group of sixth graders what they would do. It only took them a few minutes to determine that their only choices were to; fire some employees, raise prices, or go out of business. They also concluded that people won’t come to your store if you charge too much. If sixth graders grasp this, what is wrong with our politicians?

Seattle is the first city in the country to pass a $15 minimum wage. Survey results suggested it will be the first city to find out why it was such a bad idea.”

The policy was voted in unanimously and fully supported by the Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant. Remember what Margaret Thatcher said about Socialism?

Filing this under “education” in the hopes that, well, you know…

November 14, 2014

Rose Window Craftsmanship

Filed under: Audio,Business,Disclosure,Education,Music — jasony @ 1:56 pm

Okay, listen up, performers in all venues. Sing, Theater, public speaking. Anybody with an audience, really. This is a bit long but it communicates something I’ve always wanted to say. If you don’t have an “audience” then you can skip this. But in one way or another most of us do. I think this can help.

When I talk about the level of planning and execution that it takes to work at a really high level, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Take four minutes and watch this amazing performance (h/t Matt for the link). Pay attention to his execution, misdirection (watch what he wants you to watch, then rewind and watch what he _doesn’t_ want you to watch). Then keep reading.

This performance represents hours and hours and hours of patient, slow, methodical practice. Every movement is thought out and carefully crafted. What you’re seeing looks spontaneous and natural, but every twitch, gesture, and facial expression is being executed purely on muscle memory. He’s probably done this sequence of actions five thousand times. And no, that’s likely not an exaggeration.

THIS is the kind of thing I always have in mind while planning a show. You have to think on several levels. What levels? I’m glad you asked:

1. Emotional/Entertainment (highest level): what is your purpose? Not just moment-to-moment, but overall. What do you want to leave the audience with? A feeling of awe? Of sadness? Of quiet reflection? Of anger? Of joy? Each of these is a legitimate goal depending on your purpose. But you will never be able to communicate what you’re trying to say unless you _define_ what you’re trying to say. And saying “we want it to be good/awesome/amazing” isn’t enough. You have to define exactly where the target is or you’ll never know if you hit it. There’s a difference between the emotion you feel during the last scene of Schindler’s List (Liam Neeson standing by Schindler’s grave) and the final image of Monster’s Inc (“Kitty!”). But you can be sure that each of those moments was chosen as a goal. An end-state. And the emotion that you felt as an audience member was carefully crafted and manipulated within you so that when that moment came you were able to experience it clearly. “Manipulated” in this case isn’t a bad thing. There’s an implicit agreement among creators and audience members that this sort of manipulation is okay. I like getting emotional at movies. It’s okay if I’m in on it. Often it’s so easy to lose sight of your target because you get lost in the details. Keeping your goal in mind is always, always, always the #1 thing.

2. Structural: this is the second level of execution. What are the structural elements required to reach your emotional end-state goal? Why is doing that movement or gesture or motion better than that one? This kind of knowledge and understanding comes with experience. With seeing a lot of things that don’t work and then trying something else and something else and something else until you figure out what does and then putting that thing that does work in your bag of tools to use later. With enough time, your bag of tools gets big enough that you can start to see commonalities when presented with a problem to solve. Even better, you start to see connections between things that you never thought existed and can reach into your experience and solve a problem in a unique way. Your bag of tools will look different from mine and that’s okay. This is called personal style, and is a reflection of the particular experience we’ve each been through. However, the accumulation of these tools represents a common language that we all speak, even if we’re not aware of it. Being cognizant of the tools turns you from emotional consumer into experience creator. In our culture that’s a powerful place to be.

So the structural level supports the emotional/entertainment goals (everything supports the emotional/entertainment goals). Just doing the song/move/moment/whatever in a vacuum may be cool, but you have to attach it to an overall scaffolding of elements that builds to a goal in order for the moments to be meaningful. This, in my experience, is where most people lose sight of the bigger picture when putting together a project. They often think that just putting flashy stuff in will be enough. But you need the meatier elements to be present so that the entire thing has substance. In the case of my own work, placing the cool Sing move at a certain point can be neat and make the audience yell, but putting it in a specific spot for the right reason, with the right timing, can absolutely drive the moment home. Having an amazing opening stage image relate to a relevant and focussed closing stage image (even if it’s a “YEAH!” jazz-hands moment) shows craftsmanship and forethought. It looks polished and professional.

In whatever you do, always think about each structural element and how it contributes to the larger picture. Flying buttresses are an important innovation, but people travel to Notre Dame cathedral to see the gorgeous Rose window.

Yet the window could not exist without the supports.

3. Physical (lowest level): Finally there is the physical level. Also known as “ya gotta have the moves”. Once levels 1 and 2 are nailed down, level 3 thinking means doing like this guy in the video and practicing, practicing, practicing. Every movement and gesture. Polishing until they’re all perfect, lead naturally into each other, and contribute together to build a structure that supports the overall emotion. If you don’t execute this level then the whole thing can either look amateurish or come crashing down. So get this part right. Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong. And communicate this ethos to your participants. They need to know that the goal isn’t just good execution of the physical level, but good execution of the physical level in order to support the structural and emotional levels.

An audience’s time is one of the most precious things a performer can ask for. When 2000 people trust you with four hours of their time you become responsible for almost a year of irreplaceable human experience. Treat that sacrifice with planning, respect, humility, and (above all) practice and they’ll return your investment with attention and appreciation.

And somewhere, in all of that, everybody can be changed.

337px-Notre_Dame_de_Paris_south_rose_window.jpg

November 13, 2014

Double Action

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 2:29 pm

Trigger warning: This post disparages the proliferation of trigger warnings:

“On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive.”

When merely talking about the idea of censorship is censored due to the potential to “trigger” hypersensitive students, I think we’re entering some sort of academic end-phase.

October 24, 2014

Can’t Afford a House? Don’t Buy One

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 8:48 am

Can’t Afford a House? Don’t Buy One: “When legislators and activists say that we need low-down-payment loans because most people couldn’t possibly save up for a 20 percent down payment, what they’re really saying is that people can’t actually afford to buy a house. Helping them to go buy one anyway is not a great idea; it will work out well for some, to be sure, but it will have tragic consequences for others, and for the housing market as a whole if there’s another downturn. We just spent six years learning, the very hard way, that you can’t borrow yourself rich. That knowledge is too expensive to throw away so easily.”

Remember in 2008 when everyone had just discovered that all those sub-prime and low/no-doc mortgages were the cause of our economic wreckage? Well:

The Center for American Progress: “We shouldn’t obsess about down payments,” said Julia Gordon, director of housing policy. “Research confirms that low-down-payment loans to lower-wealth borrowers perform very well if the mortgages are well-underwritten, safe and sustainable.”

Hello? Hello? History is calling and wants its lesson back. It was wasted on you.

October 17, 2014

Word Spew

Filed under: Education,Science,Travel — jasony @ 1:40 pm

In testimony before Congress Thursday, Dr. Frieden was not much more straightforward. His answers often sound like filibusters: long, rolling paragraphs of benign assertion, advertising slogans—“We know how to stop Ebola,” “Our focus is protecting people”—occasionally extraneous data, and testimony to the excellence of our health-care professionals.
It is my impression that everyone who speaks for the government on this issue has been instructed to imagine his audience as anxious children. It feels like how the pediatrician talks to the child, not the parents. It’s as if they’ve been told: “Talk, talk, talk, but don’t say anything. Clarity is the enemy….

You gather they see us as poor, panic-stricken people who want a travel ban because we’re beside ourselves with fear and loathing. Instead of practical, realistic people who are way ahead of our government.”

The language of government now is word-spew.

Read the whole thing.

This is not about politics, and I wish that the people who keep saying it is would simmer down. It’s about public health, stopping a pandemic, and dealing with a threat in an intelligent way.

September 24, 2014

The Camp Counselor vs. the Intern

Filed under: Business,Education — jasony @ 8:29 pm

The Camp Counselor vs. the Intern:

“But the clinching argument came from my daughter’s impassioned defense of camp counselors, and her outrage that someone glancing at résumés would believe that a 20-year-old who fetches coffee at Google is more impressive than one who spends days and nights nurturing, teaching, organizing, comforting and inspiring…

“What I do there matters.”

September 12, 2014

Growth Mindset

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 8:24 am

The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart | Khan Academy:

“My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was ‘gratefully.’ He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, ‘Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.’ I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a ‘growth­ mindset.’ But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.”

Excellent stuff. I’m definitely a believer in praising students for their tenacity, patience, and ability to learn, and not for any sort of innate “smartness” that we may observe. I confess that my autodidactic polymathishness constantly struggles with the frustrating process of getting the old brain matter to learn something new (electronics and programming is really stretching me right now). It’s encouraging to see that effort does bear fruit, even when that fruit is slow-growing.

August 27, 2014

Tax the Burger

Filed under: Education,Politics — jasony @ 9:36 am

Let me explain. Or actually, in the case of Burger King’s planned acquisition of Tim Hortons, let my colleague Matt Levine explain, because he is smarter and funnier and a better writer than I am, and has already nicely summed things up:

The purpose of an inversion has never been, and never could be, and never will be, “ooh, Canada has a 15 percent tax rate, and the U.S. has a 35 percent tax rate, so we can save 20 points of taxes on all our income by moving.” Instead the main purpose is always: “If we’re incorporated in the U.S., we’ll pay 35 percent taxes on our income in the U.S. and Canada and Mexico and Ireland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, but if we’re incorporated in Canada, we’ll pay 35 percent on our income in the U.S. but 15 percent in Canada and 30 percent in Mexico and 12.5 percent in Ireland and zero percent in Bermuda and zero percent in the Cayman Islands.”

What is he talking about? The U.S., unlike most developed-world governments, insists on taxing the global income of its citizens and corporations that have U.S. headquarters. And because the U.S. has some of the highest tax rates in the world, especially on corporate income, this amounts to demanding that everyone who got their start here owes us taxes, forever, on anything they earn abroad.

This is a great deal for the U.S. government, which gets to collect income tax even though it’s not providing the companies sewers or roads or courts or no-knock raids on their abodes. On the other hand, it’s not a very good deal for said citizens and corporations, especially because our government has made increasingly obnoxious demands on foreign institutions to help them collect that tax. Both private citizens and corporations who have a lot of income abroad are deciding that they’d rather renounce their ties to the U.S. than deal with the expense and hassle of letting it tap into income that they have earned using some other country’s roads and sewers and police protection.

If there are two car dealerships next door to each other and one offers a car for 20% less than the other (all-in), which one are you going to patronize? Sure, the coffee, environment, and paint job might be better at the more expensive dealership, and that might be worth paying more for, but at some point– 10%, 35%, 50% (and there is a point)– the benefits of going to the higher-cost dealer are outweighed by the economic comparison.

People who are arguing against Burger King leaving the U.S. and reincorporating in Canada are essentially saying that they must continue patronizing the more expensive store, and they are using guilt-trip tactics to argue their point. It’s what we have come to expect from a less economically literate worldview. I’m glad that we’re finally seeing such effective pushback. I hope it’s not too late.

Do I want Burger King to leave the U.S., taking a lot of tax revenue from us? No way. But I sympathize with their plight (being a small business owner, boy do I sympathize). It’s absolutely worth it to be a part of the U.S. economic system and, yes, I think they do “owe” something on some level to that system. But when that system constantly demands more and more while other countries are offering them better rates? It’s a no-brained decision to eventually leave for other shores.

Dear taxing authorities: if you get greedy, eventually you’ll get nothing. There’s a lesson here– there’s a trend going on here. You need to learn it before you have no business tax revenue left.

Tax sanely. Spend wisely and responsibly. Be good stewards of the economic trees. And the Burger Kings, and all of his friends, may come back.

August 26, 2014

Teaching

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 7:49 pm

I just experienced existentially bad teaching tonight. I mean BAD. No context, no overview, no tell-them-what-you’ll-tell-them-then-tell-them-then-tell-them-what-you-told-them (the basis of great instruction). It was made even worse that the topic was an extremely complex and deep software suite. The students were completely lost and couldn’t even get the screen to look the same as the instructors (this program is really deep).

As an educator (and one that has been teaching more and more lately), this sort of thing has graduated from being an irritation and annoyance to being almost, I don’t know, a righteous cause for me. Sitting in class tonight (before I got up and walked out), I suddenly remembered every single bad teacher in my education career and wanted to pull them each aside and demand of them: WHY DID YOU FAIL US?!?!

Teachers: if you can’t prepare, if you can’t communicate, if you can’t create a framework of knowledge in someone else’s mind and then methodically, confidently fill that framework with information that can be recalled and utilized by the student later, then I don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s not teaching.

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