“Thinking Thoughts No One Has Thunk”

6 07 2011

NPR
July 6, 2011
by Robert Krulwich

Charles Darwin did this, slowly and painfully, and so can you.

Every day we walk through the world. We look around. We think we see what’s going on, but it is hard to remember how routinized we are as we look, how we automatically see things from our accustomed angle, never thinking of alternate possibilities. . .

Darwin knew what he wanted to see, but he knew there are many ways to weigh the evidence. And so for the next few decades he would look at his Big Idea from every possible angle, supportive, contrarian — every way possible. Just to make sure he wasn’t missing a point of view. Just to test his guess against all the other guesses.

There’s a stubborn, happy bravery in that.





GroupThink on All Sides

8 11 2010

. . .of animal rights and how that affects the Meaning of Life to us humans.

“Ironically, it is at just this point of their agreement—about monkeys and companion animals not being special—where both groups’ values differ most from those of the general population. . .apes and monkeys and dogs and cats are being confined, vivisected, and killed while animal advocates are ignored as a lunatic fringe.”

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
November 7, 2010
Animal Research: Groupthink in Both Camps

Lawrence A. Hansen, M.D., is a professor of neuroscience and pathology at the University of California at San Diego, where he also leads the neuropathology core of the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Professors like me, with established research credentials at animal-research-intensive universities who are also members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are rare. But a dual identity as a research faculty member and an animal advocate affords a unique perspective on both camps.

A striking similarity between the two is that animal researchers and defenders of animals both employ groupthink, a mode of thought that people engage in when Read the rest of this entry »





Back to Unschooling: “Think, Analyze, Write”

28 08 2010

Not to defend it exactly, but JJ’s top-five university bachelor’s program in news-editorial journalism in the early 70s, worked pretty much the way this younger critic describes as ideal: constant thinking, analyzing and writing for real-world experienced professors, the work heavily weighted toward history, culture, political science, government, law, economics, research and investigative techniques, even one required course on “cybernetics” to acquaint us with the basement-sized mainframe in Weil Hall —
which considering we still used manual typewriters in the J-school instead of electric, was cutting edge if not almost fancifully futuristic. (That was also my first exposure to Marshall McLuhan.)

I nevertheless take her point. Indeed I’d extend it more generally to formalized, factory model “schooling” at any level. Read, think, analyze, write no matter how old you are or where, with whom, doing what. Make learning and your life’s work a wild ride you wouldn’t trade for anything! Read the rest of this entry »





We Need to Sing Our Epics or Lose Them

20 08 2010

For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, conflicting power of story.

Snook, as faithful readers can attest, is all about narratives and the power of story — in education, relationships, science, politics, work and play, war and peace, in the meaning of life itself. Search this blog using the phrase “power of story” to stay busy reading and thinking for many hours. Add music/musical theatre and “thinking and feeling” to your search, and plan on making this your new homepage indefinitely. 😉

We’ve animated Snook with epic discussions of the Great Derangement of Matt Taibbi, the language stories and Political Mind of George Lakoff, the political right-speak realism of Frank Schaeffer, the situational ethics of Philip Zimbardo and his Lucifer Effect, Harvard’s Howard Gardner on educating kids to love truth and America instead of fighting over it, Don Beck and Ken Wilber’s memes, Richard Florida and his “creative class” plus meaningful movies from Milk and Mindwalk to Hairspray and Madagascar, not to mention Harry Potter and Stanley Fish, plus the leading science lights of edge dot org.

(More Mindwalk and Harry Potter. More Stanley Fishing for meaning of life memes. And the beat goes on . . .)

But nobody tells the story of story better than this new offering from another expert, one with a name that sings a story too, Read the rest of this entry »





New Fodder for Our “Choose a New Religion” Essays!

21 07 2010

Remember COD’s rollicking Thinking Parent essay prompts at the Evolved Homeschooler wiki?

If you had to pick a new religion, which one would it be, and why? You can not pick any religion that you have been part of in your past, and you can not pick none of the above. You can be as serious or as fanciful about this as you want.”

JJ responded first with It’s not just a religion, it’s an adventure and then Doctor JJ’s religion-choosing up in the air while Nance wrote Thinking about choosing my religion, and a good time was had by all. (Good as in fun, not necessarily good as the opposite of evil.)

But now I demand a recount, er, rewrite, retrial? — that’s it, I appeal for a retrial by reason and faith, to revisit my options and consider new evidence from Killing the Buddha, a revolutionary new choice rich in both science and story, that might fit my theory of the case perfectly: I coulda been a possibilian! Heck, I may convert before the end of this post . . .

Welcome to the world of “possibilian” neuroscientist-writer David Eagleman, to life in the space between what-is and what-if, between the facts we think we know and the fictions that illuminate what we don’t know.

Eagleman-the-scientist would love to rev up his high-tech neuroimaging machines to answer the enduring questions about the brain and the mind, the body and the soul. But Eagleman-the-writer knows that those machines aren’t going to answer those questions.

Eagleman rejects not only conventional religion but also the labels of agnostic and atheist. In their place, he Read the rest of this entry »





Accountability For–and From–the Mouths of Babes

27 06 2010

True story about the power of schoolthink to shape lives, for life. Nothing much has changed except that now, between well-meaning researchers and profit-meaning test corporations, almost all kids are being labeled for dysfunction. Not just actual orphans. I’ll make this a “First Thinks First” link too.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR WHAT CHILDREN LEARN:
An Essay from an Academic-Turned-Unschooling Mom

by JJ Ross, Ed.D.
(as published online by the Indiana Home Education Network)

Maybe I need a regular alarm clock.

When I wake to news radio as is my custom, the golden-throated stories I hear in half-consciousness stay with me, imprinting my mood and thoughts. Yet the accurate details of which news is made — facts my fully alert mind would have recorded and filed for recall — escape me almost entirely. Thus I’m left with a sort of deja vu sense of the story, sure that I “know” but off-balance about how I know. (Could this be the way divine revelations are experienced, as beyond explanation or objective proof?)

In any case, as an academic, I’ve been embarrassed over less. Fortunately parent-directed education is not a traditional academic setting!

It happened again, as I awoke this morning. Suddenly my mind was filled with stuttering orphans used for 1939 experiments, in the then-nascent science of speech pathology at some university in the Midwest — Iowa? As I said, I was half-asleep — and it turns out that the orphans weren’t stutterers at all. They were purposely TOLD by the university they needed speech therapy to correct a tendency to stutter, given a few weeks of “sessions” to see if the bogus diagnosis and intervention could create stuttering rather than curing it, and subsequently were returned to their regular orphan lives with the only noted effect being a new hesitancy in their speech. (Itself a sign of stuttering, I mused, but then I wasn’t really conscious.)

The news story continued. Some 50 years later, a journalist discovered the dusty thesis and tracked down a few of the now-elderly participants, who had never doubted what they’d been told as children by those university experts. This “educational experiment” had caused them to live their lives believing they had a scientific tendency toward communication problems, a diagnosis some say was destiny, making them hesitant and reclusive, removing some options, limiting their identity.

But here’s the truth, the journalist says — it was all a lie in service of experimental research. You could have been a contender!

Lawsuits are pending.

The university named a building after the now-dead “father of speech pathology” who supervised the orphan stuttering studies. His protege, Mary Somebody (told you I was semiconscious, remember?) says she regrets that ethical standards in 1939 weren’t what they could have been. There are some quirky legal points about sovereign immunity in place at that time in that state, whichever one it was but that’s not the part that imprinted me for the day.

My own random-abstract take on it is not legal or even scientific, but educational. Power of Story. Humans are impressionable, especially children. Facts and ideas and judgments can enter a child’s mind and lodge where they land, almost like radio news flowing into a brain whose daytime defenses are asleep.

This educational research was high-minded, meant to help children Read the rest of this entry »





The Dismal Taste of High-Yield Corporate School: Shakespearian Tragedy

29 05 2010

What’s in a name? Substitute “kid” for “tomato” and “school” for “plant” — you get the idea. Substitute individual creativity for “sugar” and “flavor” and other nutrients given short shrift by factory farm schooling in service of corporate-backed political controls.

Sacrificing Flavor

The pressure for high-yield plants is responsible for the dismal taste of the supermarket tomato. Harry Klee, a plant biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, says it’s a simple matter of economics.

. . .”The grower is paid for size and yield — and flavor is irrelevant, unfortunately,” Klee says.

In fact, the yield is so great for some tomato varieties that the plant can’t keep up. Because the plants have been bred to produce so many fruits, they can’t produce enough sugars and other nutrients.

“And so what happens is you start to dilute out all of the good flavor compounds, and you get a fruit that you bite into it and it largely tastes like water,” Klee says.
“Because that’s mostly what it is.”

That which we still call a tomato wouldn’t smell or taste as sweet after we’ve diluted its flavors and aromas, dumbed it down and bred out all its delights. That which we still call an education suffers more yet from its name . . .

I don’t care for tomatoes myself but I love the fruit of another kind of vine. That’s another good play on the same school tragedy: Read the rest of this entry »





What Adults Can Learn From Kids: TED Talk

24 04 2010

Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.





Eliminate Filibuster Right Now and Change the World

12 02 2010

The case made:

So, why not recognize the inevitable?
Eliminate the filibuster right now.

Then, the Republicans’ pompous posturing will dissipate after a couple of months now, not near the election, and the Democrats will have a chance to do a “First Hundred Days” of year 2, to pass a robust agenda that will indeed have brought about change . . .

Today, the world is disintegrating. Republicans fear the president’s success, both at home and abroad. So does al-Qaeda and Ahmadinejad. They are all reveling in his troubles, because his capacity to force change abroad is limited by his inability to do it at home.

A majority of “real Americans” including swelling ranks of southern Republican voters, seem to get the sense of this, according to new polling:

Four out of five voters thought Congress was more interested in serving special interests than voters.

“I think Congress and the Senate need to be completely revamped,” said Michael Wish, 30, a Democrat from Medina, Ohio. He added, “The old way of doing things is no longer working.”

Americans appear hungry for an end to partisan infighting in Washington, so much so that half of respondents said the Senate should change the filibuster rules that Republicans have [ab]used to block Mr. Obama’s agenda. Almost 60 percent said both Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans should compromise in the interest of consensus . . . 62 percent said Mr. Obama was trying to work with Congressional Republicans, while the same percentage said that Republicans were not trying to work with Mr. Obama.

Harry Reid of course says it can’t be done — like everything else in the Senate, it won’t work. (Trivia stumper for a trivial politician: what was the last thing this majority leader DID do successfully, anyone, anyone, Bueller? Was it before Obama? Does this unprecedented Senate majority even manage to pay its own staff anymore, get the offices and chamber cleaned, keep the lights on?)

. . .it would so tear away at the framework of the Senate for the last 150 years. . . Reid fiercely defended the minority’s right to filibuster and argued that the Senate was bound by its past rules until the supermajority acted to change them.

But this rationale about conserving and revering America’s institutional traditions isn’t stopping a supposedly conservative and reverential Senate-confirmed chief justice from leading his Supremes into uncharted, earthshaking “nuclear” repudiation of a century’s worth of Constitutional rules protecting the majority of Americans from corporate bullying, not just some school playground code Reid desperately clings to hoping it might protect him from even worse bullying than the pummeling underway (could it be worse?)

We could just eliminate all the current members of Congress and a supermajority of Americans, 92 per cent in fact, see the sense of that!

But the evidence is overwhelming now: that won’t fix what’s broken, only who we’re maddest at next . . .





TED Tackling Complexity and Cynicism

10 02 2010

And that’s what we might call Drop TED Gorgeous:

Every TED conference opens with “The Elephant March” from Verdi’s Aida and it never fails to have the same effect on me: an overwhelming
feeling of new possibilities.

In his opening remarks, TED curator Chris Anderson met the zeitgeist head on, talking about his rage at the fact that every idea about how to deal with our big problems is crushed on a wall of cynicism and complexity . . .





Unschooling Passion Play From Apple Computer “Buccaneer-Scholar”

26 01 2010

Unschooling on FaceBook thanks Mitrik Spanner for posting:
“Great audio interview of James Marcus Bach, the author of Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success on Wisconsin Public Radio November 13, 2009. He’s a software testing manager at Apple Computer and [pro]ponent of unschooling.”

[Also son of author-poet Richard Bach]

Stream the audio here.





Sunday School Science Teacher Costing Schools Credibility and Cool Half-Million

31 12 2009

Remember this guy?

Creationist John Freshwater, branding kids for Christ while on the public payroll as mild-mannered public school science teacher. . .

(Evidence of the monstrous harm done when kids are taught alchemy, that leaden lies can be transformed into golden truth, if only you believe hard enough and get a bunch of other people to believe it too?)

But wait, there’s more! This true story keeps getting less believable and more costly as the hearings drag on and his attorney plays games.

Freshwater is expected to be the last direct witness in the hearing that has been held, on and off, over about 14 months and has cost the school district more than $500,000 in legal fees. Rebuttal witnesses might be called in coming weeks.

The latest plot twist being reported this festive Christmas week is that Freshwater taught his creationist ideology as science not just with cool magnetic lab equipment, but by rigging “experiments” to exploit the awesome intelligence built into playful, wholesome, trustworthy kid-magnet Legos — sacrilege!

Freshwater described using Lego blocks to show that cars, buildings and other structures cannot build themselves.

I beg to differ.

Did you know the word “lego” is a creative fusion of the Danish words leg and godt, which my playful mind notes with glee, literally means “play well” and not the seemingly obvious “shin and calf of deity” that an illiterate literalist might insist on imagining is factual?

. . .[Celebrating Legos] gave me a gift too, a story with power to play with in the real world, imagining how all the elements of man’s myth and reality can connect to build the most wondrous cities . . .Legos are limitless fishes and loaves in every room of OUR house, how about yours?

lego evolutionm t-shirt from thinkgeek dot com

Freshwater’s religion belongs in his church and if he wants to get paid for teaching holy truth to kids who want to learn it, that’s fine too. Let his church put him on the payroll, not the school district. As for what my own children are learning, the true meaning of intelligent design taught through Lego power of story was found under our secular Christmas tree by unschooled and unchurched Young Son.
On a t-shirt of course. 😀

Please know the message war is not just about “science” class any more (never really was, you knew that, right?)

So forget curriculum; today’s lesson is education by t-shirt. And if you and yours are on holiday from dogma and curriculum, at least this week if not permanently, then please enjoy this intelligently designed gift together free from church or state politics, the gift that truly keeps on giving:

Cobbling Together the Best Real Learning We Can