Wired: We’re Changing the Way We Think

30 12 2008

Clive Thompson on “How YouTube Changes the Way We Think”:

So here’s my question: What exactly is this? What do you call MadV’s project? It isn’t quite a documentary; it isn’t exactly a conversation or a commentary, either. It’s some curious mongrel form. And it would have been inconceivable before the Internet and cheap webcams—prohibitively expensive and difficult to pull off.

This is what’s so fascinating about online video culture. DIY tools for shooting, editing, and broadcasting video aren’t just changing who uses the medium. They’re changing how we use it. We’re developing a new language of video—forms that let us say different things and maybe even think in different ways.

Most Laughable Politics of 2008 — Video Galore!

28 12 2008

Don’t miss this as you prepare for the New Year.

(Daniel Kurtzman edits the Political Humor page of About.com, part of The New York Times Company. He is author of the books “How to Win a Fight With a Conservative” and “How to Win a Fight With a Liberal.”)

“Wonderful Tradition of Philosophy and Science”

28 12 2008

. . .[and] the beauty of reason, too. Philosophy grows from religion as astronomy grew from astrology, chemistry from alchemy.

So sayeth Christopher Hitchens.

But as intelligent and reasonable as humans now may be, people the world over including our own American media when the cartoonish becomes scary enough, still pretend and defer to religious claims that divinity plays humanity like puppets in a scripted play, a play that casts most humans as unworthy and doomed no matter what.

Thus in the third millennium “there is no bigger subject than God” and religious leaders still can bully this modern world into abandoning it all — our hard-earned philosophy, science and reason — via their (heavenly or hellish?) weapons of mass destruction, from controlling education, information and economic progress, to genital mutilation and genocide, to the increasing threat of nuclear bombs.

Frisky cock of the snook to Lynn for this six-and-a-half-minute CNN video of Lou Dobbs and Christopher Hitchens talking about the danger of organized religion as politics and policy. The interview ends with Hitchens’ own citizenship journey as Thomas Jefferson’s biographer and finally becoming our “fellow American” on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday at Jefferson’s memorial in America’s capital, in the name of the First Amendment and the essential wall of separation Jefferson himself once imposed between church and state in Virginia.

Mortimer Adler’s definition of education was “the freeing discipline of wonder.” Religious education seems like an oxymoron then, unless we change our definition of religion, to match. Make it freeing rather than oppressive, wondrous rather than warlike, open to questions and new discovery and change. That was the thought when I wrote this:

Maybe human spirituality is evolving [for the next cultural era] as we discover and accept truths not through patriarchal personification and studying “authoritative” writings spelled out for our dutiful performance on demand, but through an “unschooled” direct [and democratic if you will] personal connection to each other, and to the universe as a system?
Read the rest of this entry »

If You’re Still Near a Computer. . .

23 12 2008

Go here for intelligent human holiday home magic. A quirky classic collection of stories, including five different takes on the Nutcracker ballet tradition alone — “I Hate the Nutcracker” for example, by a lovely-sounding lady who otherwise seems un-Scroogelike. . .we didn’t do the Nutcracker this year because the kids were cast in an original Irish fairy tale dance instead, The Snow Queen. It was Saturday night here, what a show! (More on that later if I get some pictures or video uploaded.)

And this should keep you busy, a Santa’s stocking full of stuff to bake, eat, drink, buy, read, watch, laugh at, dance to, and be culturally Jewish or Persian to, too . . .

“Look inside,” Francois said.
That’s when I noticed the mocha butter cream filling in the Yule log was missing two inches on each end.
“Your parents ate this while we were upstairs, probably with their fingers,” he said.

. . .The Yule stump was the one part of the meal that my parents ate with gusto.

“The inside is the best!” they told Francois.

If your kids are presently out of the room or else past the literal faith-of-a-child stage as you sit at the computer —  here’s Dave Sedaris as Crumpet the Elf unwittingly getting his real-life career start on NPR in 1992, reading his own “Santaland Diaries.”

To read rather than listen to another classic Sedaris story and pick up some cross-cultural Christmas history to astound the kiddies besides, click here for “Six to Eight Black Men” and be prepared with a plausible answer for passersby, about what’s making you laugh out loud:

One doesn’t want to be too much of a cultural chauvinist, but this seemed completely wrong to me. . .

And while you’re browsing, listen to this. If after you’ve heard it, you still think some Christmas music would be nice, go here and click on the “holiday music mix” hotlink for instant streaming gratification, holiday music picked out by smart people for smart people, that will sound a bit fresher than the department store or tv fare. 🙂


When the World Laughs With You. . .

18 12 2008

Our local health club just sent me this by email:

Do you ever wonder whether happy people have something that keeps them cheerful, chipper and able to see the good in everything? It turns out they do; they have happy friends.

New research from Harvard Medical School and the University of California suggests that happiness is influenced not only by the people you know, but by the people they know. The study shows that happiness spreads through social networks, sort of like a virus, meaning that your happiness could influence the happiness of someone you’ve never even met.

“We have known for a long time that there is a direct relationship between one person’s happiness and another’s,” says study co-author James H. Fowler, PhD, University of California. “But this study shows that indirect relationships also affect happiness. We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ happiness.”

They concluded that the happiness of an immediate social contact increases an individual’s chances of becoming happy by 15 percent. The happiness of a second-degree contact, such as the spouse of a friend, increases the likeliness of becoming happy by 10 percent, and the happiness of a third-degree contact, or the friend of a friend of a friend, increases the likelihood of becoming happy by 6 percent.

Surround yourself with happy people, because happy friends can make you happy.
Source: webmd.com

Not like I didn’t already know that just about everything, good or bad, spreads through social networks. 😉

(Remember the study about how fat people have fat friends??)

“We’d Have Homeschooled Him, Our Boy Would Still Be Alive”

18 12 2008

“We would have home schooled him or taken him to another psychologist,” said [dad] Don King. “If we would have known, our boy would have never been in that room. He would still be alive.”

Barack Obama, Rick Warren and Dan Dennett for Thinking Parents

18 12 2008

Lynn at Bore Me to Tears is writing about Saddleback’s Rick Warren being tapped to do the official praying for America at Obama’s inauguration.

I found rival TED videos I’m watching and trying to connect this morning, first by author-pastor Rick Warren and then by philosopher and cognitive scientist Dan Dennett, refuting Warren’s best-selling book about humans and our “purpose” for being who we are, starting about 15 minutes into his talk and going great guns from there:

The key to our [human] domination of the planet is culture, and the key to culture is religion.

Bringing purpose to their lives is a wonderful goal and I give [Rick Warren] an A-plus on this . . .a fantastic achievement. . How does he do it?

. . .It’s been going on for thousands of years and he’s just the latest brilliant practitioner of it. . .Every time you read it or say it, you make another copy in your brain!

[Philosopher Dan Dennett calls for religion — all religion — to be taught in schools, so we can understand its nature as a natural phenomenon.] More about Dennett here.

Whose truth are we gonna listen to?

[Warren says] “Surrendered people follow God’s word even if it doesn’t make sense.”

. . .You don’t like my interpretation? Don’t listen, don’t listen, that’s the Devil speaking!

Dennett’s last line is particularly good imo: “I wish this meme would go extinct!”

Define Education: Black and White, Well-Read All Over?

17 12 2008

I like essay questions, compare and contrast, thought experiments.

Binary questions set us up for binary answers, unless we’re smart enough to just use the question as a jumping-off point for all sorts of open-ended, fuzzy logic and systems thinking.

So my definition of education depends on good questions rather than good answers. (Binary true-false, yes-no, on-off, this-that questions and answers don’t fit my definition of “good.”) Here are some good essay questions in play this week, bonus points for Thinking Parents who integrate them into one big gloriously unclear yet inspired theme!

What does it mean to be black?

Many people insist that “the first black president” is actually not black. . .Intermarriage and the decline of racism are dissolving ancient

What does it mean to be Republican?

“You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy stimulus package, reforms that are necessary. . .”
McCain. . .has almost never been popular within deeply partisan Republican circles. . .

What does it mean to reform education as opposed to further defining it as school?

If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.
— Linda Darling-Hammond
Read the rest of this entry »

Next Chapter, In Which Favorite Daughter Receives Her Own First Passport

15 12 2008

Travel is broadening, part of a real education. FavD has been for many months, planning a trip to Europe next summer with a young female friend fluent in French and with family in Belgium. So she needed a passport and we had been reading about the months-long wait and all the extra wartime security checks, etc.

Right after Thanksgiving we went together to the local clerk’s office, with all the stuff one needs, birth certificate and picture ID which in this case was her driver’s license, etc. But then it turned out they can’t take her learner’s permit as a “real” driver’s license, strange.  I guess that’s a federal thing based on problems in other states even though here the regular license and restricted license are the same in terms of ID validity — so anyway, it took us another week, during preparation for her college finals, to Read the rest of this entry »

Free Gay Marriage Speech “Alive and Well” for FL Gov’s Wedding

13 12 2008

The loudest protesters were about 30 people with the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement. The group chanted that Crist was a “murderer” . . . with the aid of a bullhorn. Crist acknowledged the cacophony, smiling and saying, “Free speech is alive and well.”

Far more peaceful were a group of largely gay protesters who chided Crist for backing a constitutional ban on gay marriage that voters approved in November.

 The Associated Press/Governor's office Gov. Charlie Crist, right, and Florida first lady Carole Rome leave their wedding ceremony on Friday.

The Associated Press/Governor's office -- Gov. Charlie Crist, right, and Florida first lady Carole Rome leave their wedding ceremony on Friday.

Indoctrinating Kids Shows Distrust of Reason

13 12 2008

Dale McGowan says that parents can raise good children without God. -- Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard News Office

“It’s a very different process to reach adulthood and cho[o]se your first labels yourself,” said McGowan, “than to look down and see the word ‘Catholic’ or ‘atheist’ hanging around your neck.”

Among Humanist parents, confidence sometimes runs dry in the face of religious traditions that already offer “a box of settled questions” on death, sexuality, and other big issues.

“It’s into that breach of confidence that the church steps,” said McGowan.

There seems to be a growing sense of community among nonreligious parents, he said — but it’s pretty new. . .

Good write-up of Dale McGowan’s um, “un-ministry”? — where as Harvard-honored humanist dad, he’s spreading the good news about how educating kids to reason for themselves and to challenge all authority and ideas, is more moral and socially responsible and thus more real as education, than indoctrinating them in any belief system and calling it good news for education:

In fact, research shows that indoctrination, often the focus of religious upbringing, is, more than anything else, what impedes moral development, claimed McGowan.

“At the heart of indoctrination is the distrust of reason.”

Better off are children who get from their parents “an explicit invitation to disagree,” he said — that is, children “actively engaged in the refinement of their own moral development.”

Homeschool Moms and a Strange Public Story

12 12 2008

Never mind the Subway boycott story or the debate over who’s a real homeschooler, who’s a real customer? 🙂

What do you think of this UK tale of 13 homeschooling kids having weekly sessions in a Swedish furniture store cafe and even bringing their own food and games — real customers, real homeschoolers, really “quiet time” and really education, or more like really obnoxious? What about the young people working there, trying to learn good business practices and how to handle customers who may be taking advantage or annoying other customers? Yes, they obviously said some ignorant things about home education but did the moms win them over or educate them by the “heated” self-entitled approach they took or just get them in trouble with management, which would tend to make them even more resentful of us?

I’m wide-open to input on this one because I have many mixed feelings!