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' book...moreThere'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).(less)
p.2: "In fact, scientists and engineers become dependent on graphical representations so that, in their absence, they fail to accomplish tasks, interr...morep.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."(less)
A very thought-provoking, useful read for anyone working in a cross-cultural setting, not just health care. The assumptions that a Westerner takes for...moreA 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 :)(less)
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 just...moreMuch 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.(less)
What an unusual book. Being myself a mathy/sciency Eastern European with the b...more(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.(less)
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 standard...moreThe 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."
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 (...moreMy 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."(less)
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 tal...moreReviewing 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.(less)
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 seve...moreSo, 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.(less)
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 motiva...moreJust 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).'(less)
As with Jacobs' other books, there is a breadth of laughs and aha moments, and less so on the depth. You won't learn the full ins and outs of every he...moreAs with Jacobs' other books, there is a breadth of laughs and aha moments, and less so on the depth. You won't learn the full ins and outs of every health fad, but it's good entertainment, and at least this book comes with appendices summarizing the health tips he really thought were worth keeping.
The sections with his grandfather are touching, and Jacobs' sons are friggin' adorable. Their logic puzzles are great:
The trick is, instead of offering three or four items, Lucas gives only two options. He'll ask me, "Which one of these doesn't belong: the chair or the tomato?" "Chair?" I'll say. "No, tomato." It's more challenging than a Zen koan.
Also, Nike's "Just Do It!" slogan came from the final words of a murderer about to be exectured. I can't find it quite as motivating anymore.
I still need to watch the Steven Pinker talk on cursing that he mentions: maybe this one?
The tips I really liked: * portion control through smaller plates, more chewing, putting down the fork between bites, and eating an apple 15 minutes before a meal * make healthy food more appetizing by making it crunchy (i.e. put sunflower seeds on salads); and start the day with protein, not carbs * treadmill desks not only help you lose weight but can make you more productive and clear-minded once you get used to one * rubbing your own shoulders reduces levels of cortisol (stress-related hormone) * reading on the toilet (and generally sitting there a long time) causes swelling of veins in certain places where you do not want swelling * after brushing and flossing, the next best tooth-care tip is to chew sugar-free gum after meals * it's possible to sharpen your sense of smell, for example by trying to identify the bottles in your spice rack without looking (I'd love to try this!) * scents can be relaxing but, despite aromatherapy's generalizations, it's very personal for everyone and often linked to memories; find a smell that relaxes you and carry it around (Jacobs carries around a little almond oil vial)(less)
I'm not usually a fan of evolutionary psychology, since much of it is un-provable/un-falsifiable "just-so" stories. But some of the ideas in this book...moreI'm not usually a fan of evolutionary psychology, since much of it is un-provable/un-falsifiable "just-so" stories. But some of the ideas in this book seem plausible and have good supporting evidence. Wrangham shows that true raw foodists are very rare. Even hunter-gatherer societies cook their food whenever they get a chance, and they even grind grains into flour and bake things (despite what all the "Paleo diet" pseudo-prehistory would have you believe). We seem to get much more out of digesting cooked food than raw: Cooking increases the glycemic index of starchy foods. There have been somewhat gross-sounding experiments comparing digestion of various foods in people whose guts are accessible due to operations or otherwise (the story of Beaumont and St.-Martin is incredible). Soft, well-processed foods make rats fatter than firmer versions of the same food. This part of the book may be useful to dieters and may help explain why less-processed foods tend to seem healthier. However, then Wrangham gets into the evolutionary stuff which is harder to support with evidence... First he suggests that cooking was responsible for a big increase in brain size in one of our ancestor species, which may be plausible enough; but then he talks about how cooking is responsible for the social structure of the family household unit, and it starts to get a bit far-fetched. It's interesting to consider that by creating mealtimes, cooking may have helped to create communities and social structure; and the stereotypical division of labor by sex (men hunt, women gather and cook) may have been the start of trade and economic exchange-based "efficiency" improvements. It may well have contributed to these things, but I don't know that I'd say cooking was singlehandedly *responsible* for them, the way Wrangham suggests.(less)