I thought this might help with a few different stressful situations between various parts of the family. The advice is good but almost all the storiesI thought this might help with a few different stressful situations between various parts of the family. The advice is good but almost all the stories seem to have such pat happy endings---it seems a little too clean. Mostly the book just made me thankful that our family's dynamics aren't nearly as bad as some of the extremes illustrated here.
A few tips I found helpful: * p.5, p.16: It's worth figuring out exactly what it is that bothers you about another relative's behavior. Often it's one of two things: Are you embarrassed by the relative's actions and don't want to seem associated with them? Or do they raise a sore subject by showing a weakness that's a hidden part of your own self? (e.g. a chronic smoker frustrates you after you've worked so hard to quit yourself) In either case, often the best you can do is look at the situation with fresh eyes, approach it with humor, and accept they're not going to change. As the Yiddish saying goes, "If you're waiting for your relatives to change... you should live so long." * p.86: "success at a family event: Success is when you 'budget' ahead of time to expect five or ten awkward moments with your relatives and you come away surprisingly happy when only three or four things go wrong." * p.113: Good wording for starting a difficult discussion about disagreements on political or religious views: "Our goal is to open up a dialogue that hopefully will last for many years, no matter what kinds of tensions arise in our family. We'll always want the communication to be caring and respectful between the four of us. Even when we disagree with each other about important issues, it would be great if we could still have mutual respect for each person's beliefs." * p.262: At the very least, make a conscious effort to be the first (or, with your siblings/cousins, the first generation) to break the family's bad habits/patterns and not pass them to your own kids....more
This caught my eye at the library. I skimmed the first chapter and would like to finish it some day (I need to finish a few other books first!) SeemsThis caught my eye at the library. I skimmed the first chapter and would like to finish it some day (I need to finish a few other books first!) Seems to be a history of "slackers" in US popular culture and how it interacts in curious ways with the history of the Puritan work ethic.
I like the cute intro about how the author is frustrated with his son's way of "doing nothing" in a sort of post-high school gap year: The son's alleged plan is to get a low-key job while he focuses on playing the bass & starting a band... but in practice he sits on the couch with his laptop all day watching Internet videos. This grates against the author's memories of his own youth spent "doing nothing" in a far more active way: traveling the country, taking odd jobs, learning a zillion different trades and skills, and doing tons of drugs along the way.
I myself wish that, when I was hunting for a "real job" during the summer after college and then the one after getting a master's, I'd spent less time on the laptop/couch and more time taking odd jobs to learn new skills or at least just have different experiences. As Gax says, "approach job opportunities as if someone had asked you, 'Will you accept this sum of money to learn _____?'"
p.11: "Tending the automated French fryer has nothing to do with what we mean by work when we talk about the value of work ... McJobs are much more likely to fuel than to defuse class rage, much more likely to teach people the futility than the value of work."
p.30: Idleness vs inactivity: if you work as a fisherman for a living, sitting still while you fish is inactive, but it isn't the kind of refreshing idleness you get from, say, going for a walk (when you are physically active but still idle).
p.39: "Everyone I know is in the same boat. We are all lazy imposters, and we are all workaholic slaves." It's too easy to feel I spent too much time on leisure (reading silly books, playing computer games, surfing Facebook---that last one especially doesn't leave me feeling refreshed or relaxed!) when I could be working... yet I also feel I spend too much time obsessed with work (doing homework, planning out projects, sitting in meetings). Where's the balance? How can I raise my kids to have a good work ethic but in a healthy way, not to feel like a guilty slacker whenever they take a break?
p.45: The author and his buddies started a farm/commune in his youth: they felt good about exiting the rat race, but it was still a ton of hard work. "Like Thoreau, in fact, my quasi-communards and I were proud of both things---proud of all the work we did, how proficient in the traditional crafts and labors, and, at the same time, proud of our early, irregular retirement from the world of bourgeois employment. I had a sneaking suspicion that the unresolved contradictions wouldn't bear looking at too closely if I wanted to retain my sense of moral superiority, and so, again like Thoreau, I was careful about what I decided to examine closely." :)
p.46: "Ten o'clock at night on the phone with someone, it isn't uncommon to hear, 'What are you going to do now?' 'Try to get a little work in.' ... We may or may not then go back to work. It isn't dishonesty; it's like a loyalty oath, a pledge of allegiance." ...more
Just started, but I love the use of simple graphs in the text. Also, the mild statistical-term shoutouts (beta distribution, etc) are nice for those oJust started, but I love the use of simple graphs in the text. Also, the mild statistical-term shoutouts (beta distribution, etc) are nice for those of us in the know, while seemingly easy to skim/skip by the laymen.
The introduction is a bit over-the-top about how much he promises *not* to be over-the-top about Big Data... But there are lots of good lines too.
p.17: "Sex appeal isn't something commonly quantified like this, so let me put it in a more familiar context: translate this plot to IQ, and you have a world where the women think 58 percent of men are brain damaged." p.21: "WEIRD research: white, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic." I hadn't heard this term before (for psych studies carried out on convenience sample of college students) but it makes sense. Ch.3: great points about how kids today are writing MUCH more than a generation ago, despite the complaints that the internet is dumbing us down. He also mentions that people who write "u" and "i" instead of "you" and "I" on Twitter tend to already do that in other forms of writing -- people are consistent across mediums in that sense. p.69: The idiosyncratic copy-and-pasted message is convincing. I would not have guessed this is a copy-and-paste job. More power to ya. p.79: The idea of "assimilation" or "dispersion" in a social network graph (due to Backstrom & Kleinberg) is interesting, but the author seems to overcomplicate it. Maybe I misunderstood, but as far as I can tell, your marriage is "assimilated" unless (1) you have no friends in common with your spouse, or (2) ALL your friends are common -- both of you only have one group of friends. It seems clear that those are both unhealthy social situations, not just for your marriage but also otherwise. So why's this a big new insight?
[I stopped taking notes around here as I finished reading, then misplaced the book for a while, so I can't remember what most of the other highlights were.]
p.164ish: The "most typical" and "most antithetical" word lists by gender+race are both fascinating and kind of sad. It's a shame that, as far as I can see, the only few science words ("feynman" and "xkcd") are on the most-antithetical-for-black-men list. But it is funny that the most-antithetical-for-asians lists are full of misspellings. p.244: [Nice explanation of statistical precision.] "Ironically, with research like this, precision is often less appropriate than a generalization. That's why I often round findings to the nearest 5 or 10 and the words 'roughly' and 'approximately' and 'about' appear frequently in these pages. When you see in some article that '89.6 percent' of people do x, the real finding is that 'many' or 'nearly all' or 'roughly 90 percent' of them do it, it's just that the writer probably thought the decimals sounded cooler and more authoritative. The next time a scientist runs the numbers, perhaps the outcome will be 85.2 percent. The next time, maybe it's 93.4. Look out at the churning ocean and ask yourself exactly which whitecap is 'sea level.' It's a pointless exercise at best. At worst, it's a misleading one." p.245: [Funny and true.] "Data sets move through the research community like yeti---I have a bunch of interesting stuff but I can't say from where; I heard someone at Temple has tons of Amazon reviews; I think L has a scrape of Facebook." p.247: Parsons code! I remember, over a decade ago, having the brilliant idea to write a computer program that would listen to a song on the radio, or to your humming, and help you identify the song. You could even link the user to Amazon or somewhere to sell them a recording and make some money off this program. It seemed like a great project for my Signals & Systems engineering class. But I couldn't immediately think of a simple way to do it, and ended up choosing a different project, and never looked into this further. So apparently the Parsons code is an old, well-known idea, and it's how Shazam does it. I wish I'd had a bit more follow-through and tried this out then!
Overall a fun, quick read, with nice insight into how Google and Facebook and their pals deal with our data and what can be learned from it....more
Sensible, research-backed advice, conveyed with examples from many different academic fields. Probably worth skimming through again before next time ISensible, research-backed advice, conveyed with examples from many different academic fields. Probably worth skimming through again before next time I design/teach a course. The conclusion chapter is a nice review, applying each of their 7 principles to the process of learning to teach.
Below are just my notes-to-self. I read this while our department was discussing revisions to the curriculum, especially Intro to Stats. So most of my notes are aimed either at that, or at the Statistical Graphics course I taught before. (See also co-author Lovett's Thinking with Data for stats edu ideas?)
1: Students' prior knowledge can help or hinder learning. * p.17: Get students to generate relevant knowledge/examples from their own lives. Garfield et al. 2007 got students to come up with examples from daily life that show high or low variability, and use those examples to reason about variability throughout the course. * p.23: Carefully activate the *right* prior knowledge, when it could go several competing ways. In a psych class, many students hear "negative reinforcement" and wrongly assume that negative=bad, i.e. it's about punishment. But actually it's negative=subtraction, positive=addition: negative reinforcement removes obstacle to learning. How can we activate the right prior knowledge for often-misused stats terminology, like "significant"? * p.33: Connect to students' everyday experience. Too often we use stats examples about bespoke measurements in a lab or factory... But where can stat reasoning apply directly in daily life? * p.37: Correct student misconceptions by asking them to make and test predictions. But how to do this in Intro Stats? The driving question usually isn't, e.g., "How big is the estimated effect?" (which you could predict and test), but rather "Did our study-design estimate this effect *precisely enough*? Is our conclusion *justified*?" It's hard to predict-and-test answers to such epistemological questions.
2: How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know. * p.50: What kind of knowledge-organization structure is good for Intro Stat? Examples here are hierarchies, densely-connected webs, long chains, etc. For current Intro Stat, with its barrage of tests, we have flowcharts ("If DV is such and IVs are such, use that test"). But this structure *obscures* the similarities between what each test is trying to do. Maybe simulation-based or permutation-test-based Intro Stat could have a more-helpful knowledge-organizing structure? * p.64: Use a sorting task to see how students are organizing their knowledge. Give them a set of problems with some superficial and some deep connections, and ask them to group similar things together. I wonder how Intro Stat students would sort a list of statistical tests? Exam questions? Statistical concepts? And how do we *wish* they would cluster them?
3: Students' motivation generates, directs, and sustains what they do to learn. * p.80: Nice breakdown of levers we can use to affect students' motivation. Have we made the *environment* supportive? Have we convinced them of their *efficacy* (it's possible to learn / do well if I work at it)? Have we convinced them of the *value* of this learning goal? * p.83: The authors suggest "authentic, real-world tasks," although math teacher / blogger Dan Meyer has good caveats suggesting this isn't the right axis. You can't just slap "real" context on a fake question; better to find a sincerely-felt, intellectually-motivating question, even if it's not "real-world." * p.85: I was glad to see I'm already using most of their "strategies that help students build positive expectancies"... Align objectives, assessments, and instruction; aim for appropriate levels of challenge; give early success opportunities; make clear expectations, provide rubrics, and be fair; give targeted feedback... * p.89: Reflection is good! Ask students to reflect on what they learned from the task (value of the work), or how they prepared for the task and what skills they need to work on (efficacy).
4: To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned. * p.105: Do your best to reduce cognitive load, teaching one task at a time---not several at once. The example here is a caution for our Intro Stats redesign: it suggests teaching new math and a new computer skill separately, instead of at once. We considered teaching basic programming (as part of a simulation-based inference approach) alongside intro stats concepts, but that might be too much. On the other hand... we already teach them new point-and-click software, and "review" math concepts that many never learned well; so they probably *already* have cognitive overload. Maybe teaching coding wouldn't be that different in terms of cognitive load. Of course, you do want them to integrate skills eventually. But (1) don't overload them so much they can't even learn the components first, and (2) teach & evaluate the integration as its own skill. * p.110: Exciting to see an old study, by Schoklow and Judd (1908?), using my alma mater Olin College's favorite pedagogical idea: do-learn. Get concrete hands-on experience in particular contexts, and combine that with abstract knowledge, instead of using just one or the other. Also, use "structured comparisons": Don't just say "analyze each of these business cases," but ask them to compare cases too. This forces the students to think about abstract features they can compare across cases. * p.114: Diagnose weak component skills early in the semester. Give them a self-diagnostic exam; provide specific recommended resources for each component if students need to brush up; review some of the components as a class if many people are underprepared. I wish some of my grad-level courses had done this, instead of dropping implicit pre-reqs on us midway through the semester. * p.119: Two good ways to build practice questions for class discussion (or think-pair-shares) or even homeworks: Give students a context and ask for relevant skills; and vice versa. For example, here's a scientific question; what stat concepts and tools would be relevant? Or, here's a statistical test; make up some contexts in which this would be useful. Even more advice for writing think-pair-share questions: Where does this skill apply? What is the broader principle behind this idea? Compare these cases and find common deep features. Where have we seen a similar concept used before?
5: Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback are critical to learning. * p.126: Cycle through many small practice-feedback iterations, not just one big project / "waterfall process." In the summer undergrad research project that I helped to TA, I wish we'd designed the tasks to allow for more of these small iterations. I tried to do this with my team---let's first build the simplest model we can think of, and evaluate it; now let's build on it, revise the model, and compare its performance to the old model---but I wish it had been explicitly modeled throughout the program. * p.129: I've heard the advice to use "active language" when writing learning objectives. Here's why: It's easier for the student (and yourself) to monitor and evaluate performance when the goal is explicitly something you can do. If I want you to "understand concept X," it's unclear how we can tell whether this is met. But if my goal is for you to "apply this concept to solve problems" or "recognize when this concept applies to an issue," then the student can self-monitor during their studying; and I can evaluate fairly. * p.132: Intriguing idea called Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development: optimal level of challenge is "a task that the student cannot perform successfully on his or her own but could perform successfully with some help from another person or group." Good advice for someone like myself, with strong "I have to do it myself!" soloist tendencies. Not only that, but when students teach each other, they also learn by being in the teacher-role, not just in the student-role. Also a good lens to view designing and evaluating group projects. Ties to the research reported in Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us and to my attempts at starting a dissertation-writing group with my PhD cohort. Finally, makes me wonder: can I scaffold, or make a rubric for, my own thesis work? * p.135: Again, reflection is good! Remind yourself of how much you've learned. At the start, of course progress is slow, because you don't have the foundations yet; but it's *also* slow at the "end" when you are quite advanced, because the remaining things to learn are the hardest ones. Instead of feeling stuck there, take time to remind yourself of how much you learned in the middle stage, and how your expectations/criteria for improvement should adjust to where you are in the process. * p.140: Yes, give targeted feedback, but *be concise*! Just the big ideas---don't overwhelm with detailed margin notes on every typo. In the latter case, they'll either be overwhelmed by the list of things to do; or they'll focus their energy on the easy-fixes and ignore the big ideas. * p.151: Ask students to report how they used feedback. Like the journal review cycle :) where the editor wants to see responses to reviewers' comments, not just the revised draft itself. This'll help students see the full learning cycle across assignments and revisions.
6: Students' current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning. * p.157: Students' social+emotional gains during college are often greater than their intellectual gains over that time. That was true for me too. So be mindful that academics aren't the only reason they're here, nor the only stress they're undergoing. * p.163: They list 4 stages of intellectual development. Duality: knowledge is divided into right and wrong, without ambiguity. Just give me the right facts and test whether I memorized them. Multiplicity: knowledge is just opinion, and everybody has their own. Everything's subjective, so my opinion should get as good a grade as any other. Relativism: not all opinions are equal; there are both general and discipline-specific rules of evidence for evaluating opinions/knowledge. Help me see how to interact critically with the content. Commitment: I choose one of these competing theories/opinions "as a foundation to build on, refining it as they go," as a "nuanced and informed" choice. (I've also heard cartoonish view of this, aka Frosh-Soph-Junior-Senior: "Ignorant + unaware" >> "Ignorant + aware" >> "Knowledgeable + unaware" >> "Knowledgeable + aware") * p.164: So, the 3rd stage above *is* (in a sense) the core of statistical thinking that we try to teach freshmen in Intro Stat. We're not trying to teach them a set of facts, but a set of tools for evaluating evidence. Yet if most students only come in at the 1st stage, they're nowhere near ready for the 3rd stage when they take Intro Stat. Is that why the course has historically been a list of statistical tests to memorize---because that's all you can reasonable *expect* from the students? Is there a better way to teach it at that level? * p.166: Research suggests that many students leave college only at the 2nd stage above. Oof. Maybe better than staying at 1st stage? But 2nd stage seems "valuable" primarily as a stepping-stone to 3rd. Stopping at 2nd leaves you as that annoying guy who responds to everything with "That's just your opinion, man." * p.168: Look into suggested book here, "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity. * p.171-2: Be aware of your course climate. Obviously don't be explicitly marginalizing (hostile and discriminatory). Also try not to be implicitly marginalizing, with unintended off-putting messages. Better is implicitly centralizing: if a marginalized perspective happens to come up, treat it in a validating way (like the econ student asking to view the case study through a racial lens, and prof saying it's a valid point so let's dig deeper). Best is explicitly centralizing: not *just* validating students who risk bringing up these perspectives, but intentionally integrating those perspectives into the course (by instructor). Also set discussion ground rules "to foster sensitivity to the perspectives that students bring to the classroom." What can I do to be explicitly inclusive in an Intro Stats class? Perhaps bring up recent news reports about algorithmic bias and address those problems head-on? It feels kind of superficial to point out a few female / minority statisticians; I don't want to leave it at that; but maybe it's worse if I don't even bother to do that? * p.178: Faculty-student interaction is a key part of the learning environment. Better interaction can mean more contact overall; contacts that feel "real" and not just formalized or superficial; responsiveness in the classroom; treating students as individuals... It leads to better retention (at the school and in the particular department/field), more students going to grad school, and better learning outcomes. * p.179: Several stages of transforming a curriculum. Exclusive: shows just one dominant perspective (e.g. if the only music appreciation course offered is Classical Music By Great Old Dead White Men). Exceptional Outsider: adds "a token marginalized perspective" (e.g. one Native American poet in a course on US poetry). Transformed: integrates multiple perspectives at the core. Again, seems clearer in arts and humanities, but what about stats? They say that if such-and-such professor "had systematically highlighted the contributions of engineers who happen to be women, this would have communicated powerful messages about women in engineering." That sounds doable in stats; there are many respected non-white-guy statisticians and I have had many such colleagues. But also, many female and minority students leave science for "fields where race and gender are legitimate lenses of analysis." I have lots more work to do in understanding how this applies to stats. * p.180: Ways to promote student development and a good climate: Validate different views, make uncertainty safe, remind them that we want to embrace complexity and not oversimplify. Don't tokenize, asking a minority student to speak for their whole group. Learn students' names and help them learn each other's. (One prof requires that students sign up for small-group meetings with him in first couple of weeks, 3-ish students at a time, so he can get to know them a bit and learn their names from the start). Reinforce group rules for productive discussions---see Appendix E. If you ask someone to sit in and give feedback on your teaching, ask about course climate too.
7: To become self-directed learners, students must learn to assess the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed. * p.192: I've never seen the point of concept maps, but the authors illustrate how they might help some learners in specific cases. Consider a student who just highlighted textbooks and memorized facts to get good grades in high school. Now, concept maps could help him transition if he's having trouble with college-level classes. * p.194: Students with "a generic writing-as-knowledge-telling strategy ... presented everything that they knew about the paper's topic without regard to the specific goal or purpose of the assignment." (I admit I do this myself in early paper drafts, including my thesis proposal!) Again, you'll have to scaffold and hand-hold a bit, to help students transition from high-school expectations to college-level ones. Remind them to assess the task itself carefully. * p.198: "...students who naturally monitor their own progress and try to explain to themselves what they are learning along the way generally show greater learning gains... Students who were taught or prompted to monitor their own understanding or to explain to themselves what they were learning had greater learning gains..." So, how can we teach students to self-monitor? I guess we can start by just prompting them often? * p.207: You can scaffold a complex assignment by laying out a detailed plan with interim deadlines and deliverables... modeling the planning process for them... but after they have some experience, you can *also* ask them to make their own plan, so that this plan itself is a deliverable (and give them feedback on it). * p.208: Teach students, or have them come up with, simple heuristics for self-checking. It should be possible to make a cheat-sheet of simple heuristics for Intro Stats; e.g., probabilities and variances should always be non-negative. * p.209: Require students to do guided self-assessements: maybe they have to assess their own work against my rubric before submitting it for grading. Also ask them to reflect on and annotate their work process, e.g. in my Stat Graphics class they could keep a "process log" describing the iterations of their poster design and why they made certain design choices. * p.211: Use "exam wrappers" (see also Appendix F). This is a short sheet to fill in when the exams are handed back, asking what mistakes they made; how they studied; and what they'll do differently to prepare better next time. Again, enforces reflection and planning. * p.214: Model your own process for them, live. Show them how you assess the task, assess yourself, make a plan, monitor your own progress, reassess and readjust as you go, and evaluate final product. Especially for younger students, it helps to see that experts have to reassess too.
Appendices * A: Self-assessments. Examples of multiple-choice questions for gauging a student's level of familiarity with a concept or tool. * B: Concept maps. Again, I can't recall ever using these productively, but YMMV. * C: Rubrics. Remember to include a category for "Mechanics" or similar (typos, proper citations, etc.), else it's not really fair to grade them. * D: Learning objectives. Don't be too high-level; break down into its component skills: "problem solving may require defining the parameters of the problem, choosing appropriate formulas, and so on." * E: Ground rules. If using these, establish them at start of the course, explain their purpose, get students' agreement, and hold students accountable. (Examples: Critique ideas, not people. Do not monopolize discussion. Use laptops only for legit class activities.) Also, step-by-step process for having students create their own ground rules---could be very useful for a discussion-heavy class. * F: Exam wrappers. Example questions: How much time did you spend preparing? What percent of that time was spent on... (reading book for 1st time; reviewing homeworks; etc...)? What percent of points lost was for... (concept)? How will you prep next time? * G: Checklists. (Could use rubrics for this? Attach to turned-in HW, checking off each part you did?) * H: Peer review. Oddly specific instructions, but good Qs to reflect on & report....more
There's a lot of good material in here, though the overall tone has less humor and more grousing than similar "stunt nonfiction" (like AJ Jacobs' bookThere's a lot of good material in here, though the overall tone has less humor and more grousing than similar "stunt nonfiction" (like AJ Jacobs' books). The author sounds like a tough person to live with! Snapping at her kids, nagging her husband constantly to do small tasks and reply to emails immediately... I get the sense that the rest of them must be a patient family.
I did empathize when she talked about being an inveterate note-taker. Even though most of the notes and lists she makes never get used for anything, sometimes they turn out to be the seed of a great new project. It makes me feel better about my own note-taking :P
So, some notes of my favorite parts: p.11: "What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while." Reminds me of Life is a Picture but You Live in a Pixel p.24: "even a quick ten-minute walk provides an immediate energy boost and improves mood" -- I should walk instead of surfing Facebook when I need a break at work :) p.55: "There is no love; there are only proofs of love." (Pierre Reverdy) p.62: "My Quaker grandparents, who were married seventy-two years, said that each married couple should have an outdoor game, like tennis or golf, and an indoor game, like Scrabble or gin, that they play together." p.82: it's worth starting a "goals group" aka "community of aspirants" to share ideas with, and have support from, other people who have similar work/school goals p.97: recommends How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk p.101: "the importance of keeping happy memories vivid" -- I'm a happy person but I don't think I reminisce enough about good times and fun adventures p.120: "What did you like to do when you were a child? What you enjoyed as a ten-year-old is probably something you'd enjoy now." It's hard for me to remember, besides reading and Legos! p.147: "Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating." (Simone Weil) p.153: "The 'fundamental attribution error' is a psychological phenomenon in which we tend to view other people's actions as reflections of their characters and to overlook the power of situation to influence their actions, whereas with ourselves, we recognize the pressures of circumstance." p.167: "the 'expensive-gym-membership-effect,' after the futile tendency to pay a lot for a gym membership with the thought, 'Gosh, this costs so much, I'll feel like I have to go to the gym!'" p.177: "Because money permits a constant stream of luxuries and indulgences, it can take away their savor, and by permitting instant gratification, money shortcuts the happiness of anticipation ... deprivation is one of the most effective, although unenjoyable, cures for the hedonic treadmill." p.179: "The head of Eliza's school told a story about a four-year-old who had a blue toy car he loved. He took it everywhere, played with it constantly. Then when his grandmother came to visit, she bought him ten toy cars, and he stopped playing with the cars altogether. 'Why don't you play with your cars?' she asked. 'You loved your blue car so much.' 'I can't love lots of cars,' he answered." p.213: "Buddhists talk about 'skillful' and 'unskillful' emotions, and this has the right connotation of effort and competence." p.244: great suggestion to change your computer password(s) to be a mantra that you *want* to repeat daily p.288: "You hit a goal, but you keep a resolution." It does make a difference whether you're aiming for a goal (run a marathon -- and then what, once I've run it?) vs. for a resolution (exercise daily -- just keep pushing myself to get better day after day)....more
p.2: "In fact, scientists and engineers become dependent on graphical representations so that, in their absence, they fail to accomplish tasks, interrp.2: "In fact, scientists and engineers become dependent on graphical representations so that, in their absence, they fail to accomplish tasks, interrupt meetings in order to fetch some representation, or at least use gestures to reproduce transient facsimile in the air."...more
A very thought-provoking, useful read for anyone working in a cross-cultural setting, not just health care. The assumptions that a Westerner takes forA very thought-provoking, useful read for anyone working in a cross-cultural setting, not just health care. The assumptions that a Westerner takes for granted (e.g. your doctor knows what medications to prescribe, and you endanger yourself if you don't take the full dose) may be quite contrary to other peoples' beliefs (e.g. a Hmong parent is making an eminently reasonable compromise by giving their child a little of the Western medications and a little of their own spiritual healing, instead of the inflexible Westerner doctor's insistence on doing it all one way).
Fadiman's writing is very engaging, with vivid and heartbreaking quotes from the many interviews she conducted. She alternates personal chapters, about the story of the young epileptic girl Lia Lee and her family and her doctors, with chapters about the history of the Hmong and how so many ended up as refugees in the USA.
I had never heard the story of the Hmong, nor for that matter much about the war in Laos. The Hmong fought fiercely for the Americans against the communists in Southeast Asia. When the war was a loss and they had to evacuate... they ended up in awful refugee camps in Thailand for a while, and only slowly got relocated to the USA, where instead of being treated as war heroes, they were put on welfare but not given any chance to maintain their mountain farming lifestyle. (There were some parallels to my own Polish homeland's history.)
Notes to self: * p.47-48: Seems like there's a need for better pill-taking-instructions/technology, especially for illiterate patients. There were other reasons for Lia's parents' non-compliance with the prescribed pill regimen... but surely a much simpler regimen and clear instructions would have helped. * p.53: One of Lia's doctors: "[Lia's parents] seemed to accept things that to me were major catastrophes as part of the normal flow of life. For them, the crisis was the treatment, not the epilepsy. I felt a tremendous responsibility to stop the seizures and to make sure another one never happened again, and they felt more like these things happen, you know, not everything is in our control, and not everything is in your control." * p.165: A Hmong refugee, re: a remark about cohesiveness of Hmong society: "Yes, if a person outside the community see a Hmong person, they look that way. But inside they have guilt. Many feelings of guilt. You go from the north of Laos and then you go across the Mekong, and when the Pathet Lao soldiers fire, you do not think about your family, just yourself only. When you are on the other side, you will not be like what you were before you get through the Mekong. On the other side you cannot say to your wife, I love you more than my life. She saw! You cannot say that anymore! And when you try to restick this thing together it is like putting glue on broken glass." * p.183: The Hmong were mountain farmers for centuries, so they hoped to get such farmland here in the US. The government said it would be too expensive and unfair to other immigrants to just give them land... but Fadiman wonders if it wouldn't have been much cheaper (and healthier) than resettling them into unfamiliar urban areas and putting them on welfare for decades. * p.260: Arthur Kleinman's eight questions, "designed to elicit a patient's 'explanatory model'": http://www.donnathomson.com/2012/11/e... http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/62... I wonder if there's some equivalent of this for education, when a teacher/professor and students run into cross-cultural difficulties. Also, I love Kleinman's suggestion to "First, get rid of the term 'compliance.' It's a lousy term. It implies moral hegemony. You don't want a command from a general, you want a colloquy." * p.271: "After fourteen months, the grant for the program expired, and, as far as I know, that was the first and last penile exorcism to be sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services." * p.274: There's an article "Doctors Have Feelings Too" which tells doctors, in precise medical terms, how to recognize when they are having a feeling: "Anxiety may be associated with a tightness of the abdomen or excessive diaphoresis..." I can't tell if it's a joke or not. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33... * p.277: Discussion between physician Bill and psychotherapist Sukey, both Americans who work with the Hmong: "You have to act on behalf of the most vulnerable person in the situation," said Bill, "and that's the child. The child's welfare is more important than the parents' beliefs. You have to do what's best for the child, even if the parents oppose it, because if the child dies, she won't get the chance to decide twenty years down the road if she wants to accept her parents' beliefs or if she wants to reject them. She's going to be dead." "Well," said Sukey tartly, "that's the job you have taken on in your profession." "I'd feel the same way if I weren't a doctor," said Bill. "I would feel I am my brother's keeper." "That's tyranny," said Sukey. "What if you have a family who rejects surgery because they believe an illness has a spiritual cause? What if they see a definite possibility of eternal damnation for their child if she dies from the surgery? Next to that, death might not seem so important. What's more important, the life or the soul?" "I make no apology," said Bill. "The life comes first." "The soul," said Sukey. * p.285: "[The shaman] tossed the polished halves of a water-buffalo horn on the floor to divine whether the spirits had heard him. When both horns landed flat side up, the answer was no; when one horn landed flat side up and one horn landed flat side down, the answer was ambiguous; finally, when both horns landed flat side down, he knew that his spirits had all heard their master's call." How many times should the shaman expect to toss the horns before all the spirits say yes? Maybe I'll give this as a stats exercise for my students :)...more
Much of the content is about convincing you to adopt the mindset of a good teachers: You should be interested in the students' understanding, not justMuch of the content is about convincing you to adopt the mindset of a good teachers: You should be interested in the students' understanding, not just in getting them to regurgitate facts or plug & chug formulas. You should be patient with learners of different types and levels. Assessments for the sake of getting feedback should be frequent and separate from assessments for the sake of labeling the student with a final grade. You want the students to become able to learn independently, so train them to think constructively about their own learning.
Mostly, this is stuff I already knew and agreed with. I really like Bain's high-level ideas. But I wish there would have been more concrete illustrations of how these ideas work in practice. Practical examples could have replaced a lot of the fluffy language about the opening the students' minds and hearts, etc.
Still, there are a couple of lists of explicit questions to use when planning your course. No list can cover everything you need to consider---but still, it doesn't hurt to use such a list, to ensure that at least you haven't overlooked what's on it.
Bain also has some lists of "types of learners" or "developmental stages of learning." It's often unhelpful to pigeonhole individual students into one bucket or another... but it can be useful to treat these archetypes as if they were user personas, and consider how your lesson plan will work for these users....more
What an unusual book. Being myself a mathy/sciency Eastern European with the b(I read this on Cosma Shalizi's suggestion: see his review at his blog.)
What an unusual book. Being myself a mathy/sciency Eastern European with the best of intentions, I really enjoyed reading this bizarre set of vignettes about mathy/sciency Eastern European with the best of intentions.
Basic idea: although we all know how badly Soviet Communism turned out, there were in fact people who believed it could be done well. In principle, shouldn't we be able to optimize production to a higher degree of efficiency when it's all under state control than in the comparative anarchy of the free market? Spufford's book explores several aspects of how and why this didn't, in fact, work out.
Some parts work better than others, but overall it's a worthwhile read for this curious perspective on Eastern European history, with some great slice-of-life snippets about Soviet academics.
Chapter I.1 (happily available on the book's website) includes a truly beautiful look inside an applied mathematician's head, starting with a simple request for help: "The Plywood Trust produced umpteen different types of plywood using umpteen different machines, and they wanted to know how to direct their limited stock of raw materials to the different machines so as to get the best use out of it." (p.12) ...through his thoughts on how to abstract the problem from plywood and machines to an unsolvable set of equations -- then to the realization that they may be solvable after all, and how -- then to how such a solution could optimize not only one factory but several, hundreds, all of them -- then to how such an optimized economy could, over time, "free the world from scarcity ... And he could hasten the hour, he thought, intoxicated. ... It might be a lifetime's work. But he could do it. He could tune up the whole Soviet orchestra, if they'd let him." (p.16-17) Beautiful, and ironic. As the book continues, we see that the mathematician in question fought for his ideas, and made some headway with the authorities, but never enough to implement his ideas in a really efficient manner. For human and political reasons, the local and national authorities always insisted on having enough discretion in their decision-making to deviate from the mathematically-optimal plan -- which disrupted the delicate balance and made the whole optimal-planning thing break down. (In addition, Cosma's blog post above explains why solving the mathematical problems simultaneously for the whole Soviet economy at once would take impossibly long with today's computers, never mind the computers they actually had available.)
Notes to self: * p.12: "The Plywood Trust produced umpteen different types of plywood using umpteen different machines, and they wanted to know how to direct their limited stock of raw materials to the different machines so as to get the best use out of it." Using "umpteen" instead of "A" or "X" or "theta" strikes me as simple way to make math far more readable for nonmathematicians. Reminds me of the comment that "I've never seen a county with n towns in it. Talk about, I dunno, eight towns instead." * p.41: "They volunteered for things. At first the things were tiny ... But reassuringly quickly, it seemed to be understood by those who made such matters their business that the two of them were indeed electing themselves (which was the only way it happened) into the ranks of the energetic and reliable, and then the activities they were called on for got more important; more interesting, even." This is absolutely how it works, in my experiences. * p.66: I love the "zombie dance" passage, quoted in full in Cosma's review. * p.70: A big-city economist sees the poverty in a small village: "'There's a supply problem,' he said uncertainly. 'No,' she said, 'there isn't.' 'But --' 'There isn't,' she said. 'This is the back of the queue, that's all. Always the back of the queue.'" * p.81-91: Great overview of the practical problems the Soviets ran into when they finally got control and realized Marx's writings didn't apply here: Marx expected the revolution to happen in rich capitalist countries, where the factories and skilled workers already existed -- not in the agricultural backwater of Russia. * p.86: "...fairytale-rapid rises for those who could fill the Soviet state's insatiable hunger for skills. The economy needed whole categories of trained people to spring into existence in the twinkling of an eye: teachers, nurses, doctors, chemists, metallurgists, pharmacists, electricians, telephonists, journalists, architects, designers, book-keepers, aviators, car drivers, truck drivers, locomotive drivers, and engineers, engineers, engineers of every description." What a nice image, to think that a society would reward training/skills consistently and generously. Of course that's not quite how it worked out, but a nice image all the same. On the other hand, see p.144... * p.88: "For a society to produce less than it could, because people could not 'afford' the extra production, was ridiculous. By counting actual bags of cement rather than the phantom of cash, the Soviet economy was voting for reality, for the material world as it truly was in itself, rather than for the ideological hallucination. It was holding to the plain truth that more stuff was better than less." Of course, this failed to allow for a balance between lots-more-of-stuff-people-don't-actually-need vs. a-little-more-of-stuff-people-do-need. * p.117: "Ask the computer and it would obey, as ready as a genie in a bottle -- and as intolerant of badly-framed wishes." * p.141-149: Quick overview of the development of academia and its culture in the USSR. * p.144: The European-style curriculum was replaced with a tech-heavy focus: mostly engineering, then the sciences and medicine, and hardly any humanities or social science except for the compulsory Marxism-Leninism material. I've often wished that more students today had a passion for STEM fields, but not at the expense of wiping out the humanities entirely! I'd be curious to read more about how exactly that affected Soviet culture. * p.147: I'd like to find the novel Monday Begins on Saturday, "in which a secret department investigates, appropriately enough, the magical objects in Russian fairytales." * p.171: "'I'm afraid I don't know much about music.' Or care much, she politely didn't say. She could never hold patterns of sound in her memory for very long. Probably some specialized protein was missing." Cute inner thoughts of a geneticist. Also the jazz club/bar they want to visit is called Under The Integral -- adorable! * p.220: "Alas, the effect of moves like these was always to tighten the plan a notch or two further than anyone had originally intended. It would be pushed (everywhere, as other colleagues did what he was doing) that bit more towards a state where its goals could only just barely be achieved. Thus it would be more vulnerable to bad luck, and even more susceptible to proliferating gridlock should anything else go wrong. But the alternative was the incoherent wonderland of the mathematicians." All of this chapter (IV.1) is a very nice example of people having to rebalance when reality forces a swerve from the planners' mathematical optimum. And the surrounding chapters give a lovely, ironic example of where such failures may come from. It was something like this: A factory cannot meet its assigned production targets using its old-model machine, so it sabotages the machine with the hope of getting it replaced with the new model. But the new-model machine-manufacturers cannot make one for them, because the new model costs less, which means that selling a new model instead of an old one will not let them reach their newly-increased sales targets. These sales targets were increased only because of the increased budget they were granted in order to buy the materials needed to build the sabotaged machine's replacement in the first place. What a mess. * p.221: "It was not a very satisfactory objection to an event that it was unlikely, for in the nature of probability, unlikely things took place all the time." * p.221: "The gorgon, whose hair was rinsed the red of old blood..." Not a bad description of this era's middle-aged Eastern European ladies in "customer service" jobs. * p.223: "He could have wished that Solkemfib's No. 1 line had broken down instead. True, clothing manufacturers were waiting for the ordinary yarn it made, but compared to the tire plants they were a distinctly low priority; because, one single step beyond them, you arrived at the consumer, and the consumer was an end-point of the system, and therefore a natural sink for shortages. ... No one stood beyond them in the chain, so there were no consequences whatsoever for inconveniencing them, no farther balances to consider. You could inconvenience the consumer with impunity." * p.271: "But the Soviet experiment had run into exactly the difficulty that Plato's admirers encountered ... The recipe called for rule by heavily-armed virtue ... Wisdom was to be set where it could be ruthless. Once such a system existed, though, the qualities required to rise in it had much more to do with ruthlessness than with wisdom. Lenin's core ... were many of them highly educated people, literate in multiple European languages ... and they preserved those attributes even as they murdered and lied and tortured and terrorised. They were social scientists who thought principle required them to behave like gangsters. But their successors ... were not the most selfless people in Soviet society, or the most principled, or the most scrupulous. They were the most ambitious, the most domineering, the most manipulative, the most greedy, the most sycophantic..." * p.290-291: "'I'm sorry,' said Emil with a flustered tenacity, 'but I have to insist on this point. Irrational pricing is not a transitional difficulty. It is a fundamental issue. ... If managers have only profit to guide them, but prices do not give them reliable information about the priorities of the plan as a whole, the the priorities of the plan as a whole will not be maintained. Output will wander off God knows where.' 'We've thought of that,' said one of the aides. [...they present their solution...] 'But... that defeats the entire object of the reform,' said Emil, whose hands had risen all by themselves and were now clasped over the sore apex of his head, as if incredulity might pop the top off his cranium, if he didn't hold it on. [...Emil explains why...] 'Pfft,' said Kosygin. 'As if people would blame the machine and not us, when it suddenly doubled the price of heating oil in December. Sorry, no. We'll just have to muddle along with the prices we've got. We're not going to tear up a working system for the sake of some little theoretical gain in efficiency.'" * p.360: "So much blood, and only one justification for it. Only one reason it could have been all right to have done such things, and aided their doing: if it had been all prologue, all only the last spasms in the death of the old, cruel world, and the birth of the kind new one. But without the work it was so much harder to believe. ... And the world went on the same, so it seemed, unchanged, unredeemed, untransfigured." * p.378, note on p.88: Westerners felt disquiet about possible Soviet growth in the '50s much like they later did about Asia's growth. See Krugman's article on this (official link, pdf). * p.381: look into the books Moving the Mountain: Inside the Perestroika Revolution and New Atlantis Revisited: Akademgorodok, the Siberian City of Science for more on the Siberian Science City and its residents * p.385, note on p.133: "at this time, the riverside site of the Patriarchate was occupied by a popular open-air swimming pool, which had filled in the hole intended to accommodate the foundations for a gargantuan Palace of Soviets. As of the present day, all of the twentieth-century changes to the site have been reversed, and the Patriarchate stands there again, as it did in 1900." This seems to be describing the same building whose sad story is told by Ryszard Kapuścinski in Imperium: it was built with great effort and expense, demolishes rapidly and plundered, and apparently has been rebuilt (Wikipedia). * p.395, note on p.212: Mentions the fascinating-sounding BBC documentary "The Engineers' Plot" (Wikipedia, Youtube). * p.396-7, note on p.215: apparently the Russian abacus differs from the better-known(-to-me) Chinese one (Wikipedia). * p.410: "Psychoprophylaxis, in a melancholy irony, is the basis of the phenomenally successful Lamaze method for natural birth in the West. The Soviet ideas were carried back to Paris by the French doctor (and community) Fernand Lamaze, and humanised there ... [It] may seem to Galina here to be just another form of compulsory pretence; but it would be equally just to see it as another piece of mangled Soviet idealism, another genuinely promising idea ruined by the magic combination of compulsion and neglect. Velvovsky and his colleagues were the century's pioneers in trying to see childbirth as something better than an illness to be endured." * p.415: I hadn't heard of "trinary" processors before (Wikipedia). I should read Pioneers of Soviet Computing. * General: read up on Oskar Lange, dachas, what happened to Napoleon at Moscow, and how exactly shopping worked in terms of money/coupons/bartering/etc....more
The author seemed to use only one test (PISA) to rank and compare education systems across countries and over time. Since there are many such standardThe author seemed to use only one test (PISA) to rank and compare education systems across countries and over time. Since there are many such standardized tests, and each measures something a little different (and it's usually difficult to say what that is other than "performance on tests just like this one"!), any conclusions here are necessarily consequences of whatever it is that this test happens to measure.
That said, there's a lot of thought-provoking stuff here, and some sensible advice at the end for parents trying to pick their kids' school or trying to get more involved.
Notes to self: * p.19: "Without data, you are just another person with an opinion..." * p.37: The successful students at an Oklahoma high school go on to college, but then often get placed in remedial courses. "That meant that some of Sallisaw's best students were paying good money for college, often in the form of student loans, but they weren't getting college credit. ... It wasn't hard to understand why, as their debt mounted, many quit college altogether. ... I asked [the principal] ... 'That doesn't really bother me,' he said, 'because at least they are trying.' The main goal was to go to college. Whether his graduates succeeded there was out of his control, or so it seemed. The fact that those kids had spent four years in his school preparing to get to college---and that he'd given them a diploma that was supposed to mean they were ready---did not seem relevant." * p.52: "...the Koreans were known as the Italians of Asia, more emotive and chatty than the Japanese or Chinese." * p.59: describes the Korean exam system: "Score above a certain number on the college exam, and you were automatically admitted to a top university. Forever after, you would be paid more than others, even for doing the same work." How did such an exam system get set up in the first place? The history must be fascinating, especially given how brutal its consequences have turned out to be. * p.64: "...rigor mattered. Koreans understood that mastering difficult academic content was important. They didn't take shortcuts, especially in math. They assumed that performance was mostly a product of hard work---not God-given talent. This attitude meant that all kids tried harder, and it was more valuable to a country than gold or oil." * p.64-65: "Families and kids could lose sight of the purpose of learning and fixate obsessively on rankings and scores. ... This obsession remained relatively mild in the United States, as shown by the persistently low math performance of even the wealthiest U.S. kids..." * p.71: "Back in America, Tom and all his classmates had used calculators. In his Polish math class, calculators were not allowed. Tom could tell the kids were doing a lot of the math in their minds. They had learned tricks that had become automatic, so their brains were freed up to do the harder work. It was the difference between being fluent in a language and not." I notice this with my grad school classmates too. Using a calculator doesn't free up your mind to think about the new aspects of a hard problem; rather, knowing the basics so well that you *don't need* a calculator is what frees up your mind. * p.72: "If the word was hard, routine failure was the only way to learn." * p.74: Apparently U.S. school districts and curricula are highly decentralized, so textbooks cover many topics in little detail (so they can sell everywhere but be particularly good nowhere). And a teacher never knows what the incoming students learned the previous year; so they have to cover certain topics over and over and over, boring half of the kids to death, or skip ahead to new material, losing the other half of the kids. The new-ish Common Core standards might help. I'd not though about this aspect as part of America's weak math education, but it makes sense: it's no big deal if in your English literature classes over the years you read 'Hamlet' three times or you miss it entirely, as long as you cover some of the many great works. But in math, covering fractions too many or too few times is a serious problem. * p.76: "The teacher wove trigonometry and calculus into the lesson, following the thread of the lesson across disciplines, as though geometry were just one solar system in a larger universe of math. Together, the different disciplines could solve problems in the real world, where mathematics was not boxed into neat categories. Geometry was the study of shapes, after all, and calculus was the study of change. To figure out how shapes behaved when they changed---perhaps to design a video game---you needed both." * p.85: Finnish teacher-training programs are about as selective as UC Berkeley or MIT. Most US teacher-training have no admissions requirements. * p.89: So if Finns actively chose to reboot their teacher training and it worked out so well, has any other country tried this same approach? If so, how did it work out? * p.91: Major backlash ensued when Rhode Island wanted to raise minimum test scores for potential teachers: "It was interesting to note that higher standards were seen not as an investment in students; they were seen, first and foremost, as a threat to teachers." * p.93: "Incredibly, at some U.S. colleges, students had to meet higher academic standards to play football than to become teachers." ... "It was acceptable to perform below average for the country on a test of what you had learned throughout your educational career if you aspired to dedicate your career to education." * p.94: US student teaching experience requirements are often just 12-15 weeks, vs year-long residency in Finland. * p.95: Strong students as education majors --> more rigorous training --> less likely "to quit in frustration" once they are on the job. * p.100: Story of Finnish kid who came to US, rocked math of course but surprised to do well at US history too: "Luckily, her teacher gave the class a study guide that contained all the questions---and answers---to the exam. On test day, Elina coasted through the questions because, well, she'd seen them in advance. When the teacher handed the tests back, Elina was unsurprised to see she'd gotten an A. She was amazed, however, to see that some of the other students had gotten Cs. One of them looked at her and laughed at the absurdity. 'How is it possible you know this stuff?' 'How is it possible you don't know this stuff?' Elina answered." * p.105: "the peer effect: She behaved differently depending on the kids sitting next to her." * p.106: "Yet she dealt with her own kids the way a coach might treat his star players. Her job was to train those kids, to push them, and even to bench them to prove a point. Her job was not to protect them from strain." --> parents as coaches vs as cheerleaders * p.108: Parents who volunteer in the school are not associated with kids' higher test scores. But there is positive association of parents who read to and discuss with the kid, with their test scores. * p.109: There was an actual "self-esteem movement" in the US in the 1980s-1990s? I know people joked about this vaguely but I didn't realize there was an actual movement around it. * p.113: warmth and strictness are not opposites. Parents & teachers who are both "strike a resonance with children, gaining their trust along with their respect." * p.115-6: Korea's big exam is "like some Hunger Games of the mind" :P when they shut down everything and focus on the exams for that day, but "Still, a child growing up in Korea could not help but get the message: Education was a national treasure. Getting a good one mattered more than stock-market trades or airplane departures. And everyone, from parents to teachers to police officers, had a role to play." * p.117: "In the U.S., everything was very controlled and supervised. You couldn't even go to the bathroom without a pass. You had to turn all your homework in, but yet you didn't really have to think with your own brain or make any decisions of your own." * p.118-9: Sports provide benefits... to the kids who play them. But "only a minority of students actually played sports" and the non-physical-exercise lessons of sports can be conveyed through academic rigor too. "In many U.S. schools, sports instilled leadership and persistence in one group of kids, while draining focus and resources from academics for everyone. The lesson wasn't that sports couldn't coexist with education; it was that sports had nothing to do with education." * p.120: Best predictors of academic performance aren't IQ tests but character: self-discipline, motivation, empathy, self-control, persistence, conscientiousness. And these are more malleable than we tend to think. * p.121-2: Diligence in simply finishing the test & attached survey predicted performance better than content-matter did. Poland was highest in this regard. * p.133: Poland's education reform "would demand more accountability for results, while granting more autonomy for methods." * p.136-7: Poland's delay in tracking (extending the keep-everyone-together system for a while longer, by delaying the split-up-by-vocational-track by a year) raised the test scores of those who would have gone to vocational schools, for that year. But as soon as they split off the next year, the scores dropped back down. * p.137-9: Tracking by student level seems sensible/efficient, but expectations are lower for students in the lower levels. Words like "gifted & talented" imply innate talent, rather than preparation and hard work. Other countries have tracking in high school by career aspiration, but the US actually starts tracking earlier than most (basic, honors, gifted&talented --> AP), and teaches different content to the advanced kids, not just more depth of the same content. * p.139-40: "As soon as young kids showed signs of slipping, teachers descended upon them like a pit crew before they fell further behind." In Finland, more kids get special help, but for shorter term, and it carries less of a stigma. * p.147: Talking to Handke, the Polish education minister: "Looking back, he wished he and his colleagues had done a better job selling the reforms. They had focused more on the policy than public relations, when they should have done the reverse. ... Politics, history, and fear mattered more than policy, always and everywhere." * p.153: Finnish word "sisu": "It meant strength in the face of great odds, but more than that, a sort of inner fire ... the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win." * p.157: US teachers bond with their students, and that's laudable, but the goal should still be learning & rigor. * p.160: US is diverse, but not well-mixed -- there is lots of clustering, incl. by race (incl. self-segregation by choosing neighborhoods where to live), and such clustering can lead to lower expectations as with tracking. * p.162: Teacher with ethnic mix of students: "I don't want to think about their backgrounds too much ... There are twenty-three pearls in my classroom. I don't want to scratch them." * p.164: Finnish "Teachers considered most special ed students to have temporary learning difficulties, rather than permanent disabilities. That mindset helped explain why Finland had one of the highest proportions of special education kids in the world; the label was temporary and not pejorative. The Finns assumed that all kids could improve. In fact, by their seventeenth birthday, about half of Finnish kids had received some kind of special education services at some point" * p.167: If all schools are at least *good*, then competition to get into *best* is friendly. Else, can get ugly. * p.168: "I wondered what would happen in a true free market in which parents had real insight into the rigor of a school and the quality of its teachers, not just the aesthetics of the building or the ethnicity of the students." * p.170: Korean families spend more on cram schools (hagwons) than the US gov't does on the drug war. * p.171: "If the parents were not engaged, that was considered a failure of the hagwon, not the family." Teachers are free agents, close to pure meritocracy, "and just as ruthless." * p.174: "I didn't meet anyone in Korea who praised the education system, not even people who were getting rich off it. The lesson seemed to be that without equity---meaningful opportunities for everyone, not just the elite---the system would be gamed and distorted." * p.177: So weird to imagine raids of hagwons, police enforcing curfew, operators trying to defend themselves by claiming they're not really tutoring... "We are just doing our own work here. We didn't teach," and police harassing them for teaching! * p.185-6: Some US lawmakers try raising education standards, incl. rigor and consequences of tests, but to great backlash. Pushback is that kids who put in the hours of seat time "should receive their diplomas, regardless of what they had learned or what would happen to them when they tried to get a job ... Those kids deserved a chance to fail later, not now. It was a perverse sort of compassion designed for a different century." * p.190: "there were no short cuts in presidential fitness, unlike in algebra ... It didn't count toward her gym grade, but a lot of the students, and the gym teacher, took it seriously, as if they were training for a real test." * p.193: "we had to first agree that rigor mattered most of all; that school existed to help kids learn to think, to work hard, and yes, to fail. That was the core consensus that made everything else possible." * p.195: "She also taught him never to let a child leave school without a backpack. ... These children had to do a lot of learning if they were going to make it. Their backpacks were like lifejackets, and they would surely drown without them. * p.201: "A stranger who parachutes into a faraway country ends up, as the Koreans would say, 'licking the outside of a watermelon,' unable to get beneath the surface into what matters." * p.207-218: Tips on spotting a good school: Visit a classroom and watch the students, not the teacher: are the kids engaged, working hard, and not sitting there bored? Ask kids what they're doing now & why -- can they answer *both* questions? Ask kids: do you learn a lot everyday, do students behave as the teacher wants them to, does the class keep busy and not waste time? Ask what they do if they don't understand something. Listen to other parents -- do they seem interested in the academic quality, or more in the sports teams? Ask *how* parents are involved -- as coaches at home or merely cheerleaders at school peripheral events/clubs? Ignore shiny technology. Ask principal -- how do you choose teachers (do you have input, and do you watch them teach)? How do you make teachers better? How do you measure your successes, beyond just tests and graduation rates? How do you make the work rigorous enough and keep raising the bar? * p.231: "Excessive, vague, or empty praise has corrosive effects, as multiple studies have shown, incentivizing kids to take fewer risks and give up more easily. Self-esteem is important, but it comes from hard work and authentic accomplishment, not flattery."
There's one thing that bothered me when I've heard of this research before, and which I hope the book will address. They purport to show that people doThere's one thing that bothered me when I've heard of this research before, and which I hope the book will address. They purport to show that people don't give logical answers. For instance, in the classic example of Linda the feminist(?) bank teller, people often say "Linda is a feminist bank teller" is more probable than "Linda is a bank teller." And indeed, that's illogical; the bigger category (all bank tellers) is necessarily more probable than its subcategory (feminist bank tellers). ...BUT... Unless you specifically pose this as a logic puzzle, it's reasonable for a subject to assume that the researcher is following the basic principles of decent human conversation, like Grice's maxim of relevance. If Linda's not a feminist, why did you describe her like one? Besides, if you're talking to a real-life human outside of a logic puzzle, and they ask "Is she a bank teller or a feminist bank teller?" then it's almost certain they meant it as an exclusive OR, i.e. "Is she a non-feminist bank teller or a feminist one?" So, under this lens, people are actually being logical in their inference: in any normal conversation, the probability that you meant to ask whether she's a feminist or non-feminist bank teller is high, and the probability that you described her this way because she is a feminist is high. So the common answer is correct, in this sense. It might not be that we have bad heuristics about probability. Rather, we have good heuristics about it, in the context of sane conversations with someone not trying to trip you up.
Again, I hope the book addresses this point, and I look forward to reading it regardless. ...more
My dad attended a business seminar by Mr Zander and loved it enough to buy the book. We still use some of the authors' catchphrases around the house (My dad attended a business seminar by Mr Zander and loved it enough to buy the book. We still use some of the authors' catchphrases around the house ("Remember rule number 6!") The book contains a ton of good advice and inspirational stories. I particularly like how the authors admit their own shortcomings -- it's not all just Pollyanna optimism.
That said, it also does contain plenty of fluffy optimism and New-Agey talk of energy. "In the realm of possibility, there is no division between ideas and action, mind and body, dream and reality." I find that kind of stuff off-putting, but luckily it's interspersed with great concrete stories from the authors' experiences of inspiring musicians or of redirecting couples in therapy.
Favorite parts: * The idea of throwing your hands up and saying "How fascinating!" when you or someone else makes a mistake. No need to flip out, it's just a learning opportunity! * The idea of "measurement world" -- the point of view that everything and everyone must be compared, ranked, analyzed... This mindset is very much an inherent part of my job as a statistician, but it doesn't mean I have to act or think this way personally in my dealings with people. * The idea of "toes to nose" -- a phrase you've memorized so it can be a lifeline when things get tough (i.e., what you're taught on a whitewater rafting trip so you don't flail and drown) -- and the idea of an organization's vision as the org's toes-to-nose, a way of keeping everyone connected and responsible and participating. If I ever start a business, I'll want to have a toes-to-nose / vision.
Favorite quotes: * p.42: Once I had given my audience an A and invented them as colleagues, they were precisely the people with whom I wanted to converse, and I was exactly where I wanted to be. If we really do have the choice of saying who is in the class we are teaching, or the orchestra we are conducting, or the group we are managing, why would we ever define them as people we cannot effectively and enjoyably work with? * p.72: [A great strategy for managers in trouble, and for people sitting through meetings, via a quote from second violinist Eugene Lehner:] One day, during my very first year playing with the orchestra, I remember an occasion when Koussevitsky was conducting a Bach piece and he seemed to be having some difficulty getting the results he wanted–--it simply wasn't going right. Fortunately, his friend, the great French pedagogue and conductor Nadia Boulanger, happened to be in town and sitting in on the rehearsal, so Koussevitsky took the opportunity to extricate himself from an awkward and embarrassing situation by calling out to her, "Nadia, please, will you come up here and conduct? I want to go to the back of the hall to see how it sounds." Mademoiselle Boulanger stepped up, made a few comments to the musicians, and conducted the orchestra through the passage without a hitch. Ever since that time, in every rehearsal, I have been waiting for the conductor to say, "Lehner, you come up here and conduct, I want to go to the back of the hall to hear how it sounds." It is now forty-three years since this happened, and it is less and less likely that I will be asked. However, in the meantime, I haven't had a single dull moment in rehearsal, as I sit wondering what I would say to the orchestra should I suddenly be called upon to lead. * p.116: [Quote from Martha Graham:] There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. * p.119: [about cellist Jacqueline Du Pre:] When she was six years old, the story goes, she went into her first competition as a cellist, and she was seen running down the corridor carrying her cello above her head, with a huge grin of excitement on her face. A custodian, noting what he took to be relief on the little girl's face, said, "I see you've just had your chance to play!" And Jackie answered, excitedly, "No, no, I'm just about to!" * p.169-170: A vision articulates a possibility. ... It is an idea to which no one could logically respond, "What about me?" ... In the pursuit of objectives under a vision, playing is relevant to the manifestation of the possibility, winning is not. [i.e. a vision is not about being Number One and beating out the competition.] * p.177: [from a NASA employee moved by young musicians' letters to NASA:] I will have to remember "I am here today to cross the swamp, not to fight all the alligators."...more
Reviewing this years after reading... It's not a bad book; I just remember it didn't live up to the high hopes I had after watching Robinson's TED talReviewing this years after reading... It's not a bad book; I just remember it didn't live up to the high hopes I had after watching Robinson's TED talk -- the book didn't really have much more to say than the talk. On the other hand, I noted plenty of quotes below, so maybe it was better than I recall.
p.24: Then I said that I'd love to be able to play keyboards that well. "No, you wouldn't," he responded. Taken aback, I insisted that I really would. "No," he said. "You mean you like the idea of playing keyboards. If you'd love to play them, you'd be doing it." [Reminds me of a conversation I've had before: "I'd do anything to play piano as well as you do." "Really? Such as practicing every day for years?" "Ah, well, no, not that."]
p.50: Growth comes through analogy, through seeing how things connect rather than only seeing how they might be different.
p.100-101: [Terry Tao's experience with advanced mathematics: have good mentors you can discuss with; be stubborn in working through simple things until you understand them completely; with a new problem, try tricks that worked on similar problems in the past, and be persistent until you figure it out]
p.110: The CRP, she says, aims to prove scientifically the hypothesis that science can be funny. "We are methodologically sound. During each show, a control audience is locked in an identical, adjoining room without comedians. We then assess whether this control audience laughs more or less than the experimental audience who are exposed to jokes about science. Preliminary data gathered from shows around the country looks promising."
p.116-117: Connecting with people who share the same passions affirms that you're not alone; that there are others like you and that, while many might not understand your passion, some do. It doesn't matter whether you like the people as individuals, or even the work they do. ... Finding your tribe brings the luxury of talking shop, of bouncing ideas around, of sharing and comparing techniques, and of indulging your enthusiasm or hostilities for the same things. ... The physicist Freeman Dyson says that when he's writing, he closes the door, but when he's actually doing science, he leaves it open. "Up to a point you welcome being interrupted because it is only by interacting with other people that you get anything interesting done."
p.126: There's a big difference between a great team and a committee. Most committees do routine work and have members who are theoretically interchangeable with other people.
p.144-145: [Dangers of groupthink via the "Abilene Paradox": a family's enjoying themselves calmly at home; one suggests a trip to Abilene; the others don't like it but each assume everyone else wants to go; so they all go and have a bad time, and when they get back realize nobody really wanted to go; even the first proposed it only in case the others were bored, not because he wanted to go...]
p.154: ...nowadays being British "means driving home in a German car, stopping off to pick up some Belgian beer and a Turkish kebab or an Indian takeaway, to spend the evening on Swedish furniture, watching American programs on a Japanese TV." And the most British thing of all? "Suspicion of anything foreign."
p.161: Lucky people tend to maximize chance opportunities. They are especially adept at creating, noticing, and acting upon these opportunities when they arise. Second, they tend to be very effective at listening to their intuition, and do work (such as meditation) that is designed to boost their intuitive abilities. The third principle is that lucky people tend to expect to be lucky, creating a series of self-fulfilling prophecies because they go into the world anticipating a positive outcome. Last, lucky people have an attitude that allows them to turn bad luck to good. They don't allow ill fortune to overwhelm them, and they move quickly to take control of the situation when it isn't going well for them.
p.182: [Paul McCartney on learning guitar:] "It had a great riff. I loved it but didn't know how to play it. Then I worked it out and ran over to John's house saying, 'I've got it. I've got it.' That was our only education experience---showing each other how to do things. To start with, we were just copying and imitating everyone. ... We just imitated other people and taught each other."
p.204: The children ask things about how big iPods were when the adults were growing up... Something else has been going on at the Grace Living Center, though: medication levels there are plummeting. Many of the residents on the program have stopped or cut back on their drugs. Why is this happening? Because the adult participants in the program have come back to life. Instead of whiling away their days waiting for the inevitable, they have a reason to get up in the morning and a renewed excitement about what the day might bring.
p.235: There are three major processes in education: the curriculum, which is what the school system expects students to learn; pedagogy, the process by which the system helps students to do it; and assessment, the process of judging how well they are doing. Most reform movements focus on the curriculum and the assessment.
p.250: The other model of quality assurance in catering is the Michelin guide. In this model, the guides establish specific criteria for excellence, but they do not say how the particular restaurants should meet these criteria. ... The result is that every Michelin restaurant is terrific. And they are all unique and different from each other. One of the essential problems for education is that most countries subject their schools to the fast-food model of quality assurance when they should be adopting the Michelin model instead....more
So, I'm a statistician with a fair bit of experience in the kind of modeling Silver talks about.
I really liked how Silver gives broad sketches of seveSo, I'm a statistician with a fair bit of experience in the kind of modeling Silver talks about.
I really liked how Silver gives broad sketches of several fields that involve making predictions, and characterizes what it is about those where we can (and do) make predictions well vs. those where we can't (and don't). It's useful to think about how (un)predictable some things inherently are, and it's practical for deciding whether or not to work on predicting them :) or, for that matter, on how to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
But I can't support his fanboy-like promotion of "Bayes's theorem" as the solution to all ills. I certainly use Bayesian statistics myself in my work, and I agree it has potential to be used more often in many fields! *But* I don't think it helps anyone when he gives a warm fuzzy summary and claims it's the best statistical inference paradigm, without really explaining what that means or how it relates to the alternatives. I'd prefer it if people would think hard about each problem at hand and pick the right tool for the job, not "pick sides" over which mindset is uniformly "best."
Compounding the problem, throughout the book, Silver says things like "Bayes's theorem tells us..." and I'm rather disappointed by the sloppiness. Bayes' theorem is just a simple formula using conditional probabilities. Bayesian statistics is an approach to inference and set of methods for doing statistics (which involves Bayes' theorem but also so much more). Bayesian thinking seems to be a recently-popular buzzword that basically just describes the fact that people update their knowledge as they get more data (though it's not necessarily provable that we do this in a way analogous to Bayes' theorem). These are three very distinct things, and Silver mashes them all up carelessly. It's not easy but certainly possible to keep them straight.
Finally, two minor dislikes: 1) Some sections were slow reading because I Just. Don't. Care. about sports statistics or poker, both of which made up a sizable portion of his illustrative allegories and case studies. I understand that other people love this stuff; I'd just prefer to see more scientific examples, like the earthquake or weather prediction chapters. 2) The writing style feels like his first draft was too dry and the editors told him to add more personal details. So once in a while, the explanation of an idea is interrupted with a semi-jarring "...as Dr So-and-so told me over a sushi lunch..." that never quite seems to fit the flow of the book....more
Just set a writing schedule and stick to it. It's obvious advice, but if you don't do it yet, it's worth reading the author's cheery tone for a motivaJust set a writing schedule and stick to it. It's obvious advice, but if you don't do it yet, it's worth reading the author's cheery tone for a motivational kick in the pants to get you started.
Some favorite parts: * p.12: 'Do you need to "find time to teach"? Of course not---you have a teaching schedule, and you never miss it. [...] Finding time is a destructive way of thinking about writing. Never say this again. Instead of finding time to write, allot time to write.'
* p.14: 'When confronted with their fruitless ways, binge writers often proffer a self-defeating dispositional attribution: "I'm just not the kind of person who's good at making a schedule and sticking to it." This is nonsense, of course. People like dispositional explanations when they don't want to change [...]'
* p.44: 'Never reward writing with not writing. Rewarding writing by abandoning your schedule is like rewarding yourself for quitting smoking by having a cigarette.'
* p.81-90: Good advice on outlining and writing a journal article, particularly the introduction: 'This formula introduces the reader to your problem (section 1), reviews theories and research relevant to the problem (section 2), and clearly states how your research will solve the problem (section 3).'...more