20 December 2009
UK Public Service Announcement Series
Entertainer Darren Brown's version on the streets of New York
A Psychologists version
Excerpt from a BBC production explaining a particular experiment
18 December 2009
I find it interesting but I'm not sure if it's sufficiently clear about how fundamental metaphor is to our thought processes, but of course, there are severe limitations in the format TED offers.
08 November 2009
01 November 2009
30 October 2009
I really appreciate his take on responsibility, it's not just individuals, we have to hold our institutions equally accountable.
28 October 2009
25 October 2009
23 October 2009
Behavior does not exhibit what the psychologists call “cross-situational stability.”
The psychologists thus tend to gravitate toward a different view of conduct. In this view, people don’t have one permanent thing called character. We each have a multiplicity of tendencies inside, which are activated by this or that context.
I appreciate this piece as a particularly concise explanation of the importance of situationism. It's unfortunate that he paints all of philosophy as dispositionist and inherently based on a priori assumptions, but it's understandable in the context of having to be concise.
Hat Tip to The Frontal Cortex Blog.
09 October 2009
One of the things they point out is how structured this kind of freedom actually is, despite the shallow view that emphasizes "freedom" from coercion normally found in schools.
Here's an excerpt:
Far from the “free” image with which we started this account, Summerhill school has invisible boundaries, powerful inspections, binding agreements, and redemptive public rituals, as well as a set of visible sanctions that prompt and reinforce acceptable ways to live together. These all act as an “outside-in” pressure that frames and disciplines interactions while developing identities and
relationships, yet always with the possibility of change or resistance. We have suggested something of the total nature of students’ engagement with these structures. Summerhill is a powerful mechanism, generating discipline from within, and without the coercive relations of a “normal” school. The school orchestrates a vortex of engagements, from which there is no “backing away”, as one student put it. Everyone is ‘in touch’ with everyone else, more or less.
Must be willing to make and receive numerous phone calls on a daily basis. Subject of phone calls can be, but is not limited to:
- scheduling parent conferences with 100% success rate
- scheduling parent conferences with 100% of the parents
- scheduling parent conferences with 100% of the parents to be completed within a 10-day window
- scheduling parent conferences for parents that can't actually come on parent conference night
- scheduling alternative times for parent conferences during teacher's planning period, before school, or after school (when even the teacher doesn't even know what days he/she will actually HAVE a planning period, or when the teacher only has 1-day lead time as to whether or not they will have morning duty the following week, or when the teacher doesn't know when a last minute after school frivolous meeting will be scheduled)
- tracking down missing paperwork/documentation for records
- communicating information to parents about missing/incomplete student work
- communicating information to parents about their child's negative behaviors in school
Here's the first ten minutes of a longer presentation via Fora.tv that goes into more detail and explores more of his sense of the consequences of these ideas, click Watch Full Program to see the whole thing:
03 October 2009
30 September 2009
24 September 2009
Here’s a prediction: If implemented as it’s being advocated by spokespersons, the national standards-reform effort will fail. Period. It won’t fail because subject-matter specialists can’t agree on standards. And it won’t fail because of teacher incompetence, weak administrators, “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” union resistance to change, parental indifference, inadequate funding, lack of rigor, failure to employ market forces, too few charter schools, too little technology, or any other currently popular explanation of poor performance.
It will fail for the same reason the No Child Left Behind Act failed—because it will be driven by data derived from simplistic tests keyed to simplistic standards keyed to a simplistic, dysfunctional, obsolete, 19th-century curriculum.
22 September 2009
This raises the question: With scores so often rigged and fraudulent, how can we use them to pay bonuses or to close schools? New York City's last round of phony test scores (noticed as phony even by the august New York Times) triggered a payout of $33 million in bonuses to teachers; the union is laughing all the way to the bank! So millions are awarded in fraudulent bonuses at the same time that school budgets are cut to the bone. Is this the way that big business operates? If so, it is no wonder that we had a financial meltdown.
I fear that American education has now entered into a twilight zone, where nothing is what it appears to be, where numbers are meaningless, where public relations and spin take the place of honest reporting, where fraud is called progress.
21 September 2009
The average time to a plateau was 66 days but the variation was 50 to 254 days. This is way more than the 20-30 days usually touted in self-help circles.
16 September 2009
Are Your Friends Making You Fat?- New York Times
Buddy System- Wired Magazine
10 September 2009
06 September 2009
I saw that quote from Margaret Thatcher you included at the bottom of your last e-mail. At first I brushed it off because it seems to refer to some of the gross mischaracterizations that are going around in some circles these days, but then it seemed to stick in my craw which suggested that there was something much deeper at stake. So here's what came out when I thought about it more thoroughly:
The United States of America today is some wierd amalgam of capitalism, democracy, socialism, federalism, republicanism, and numerous other isms. That's just the way reality is, so simplistic labels are all wrong. But more important than the label for the complex system is our moral sense of what that system is supposed to do. All the wisdom teachers throughout the world agree that we have a moral duty to care for one another. The last administration's policies seem to be dedicated to wasting our resources on hating one another. When you pick your favorite ism to make it the enemy then you are attacking part of America. Some people pick on socialism, some of my friends pick on capitalism or conservatism. They're all wrong. Caring for each other is the right thing to do, even when it's hard. And there is no harder time to care and no harder person to care for than someone who has hurt you. Ask Jesus, he knows all about that. And it seems shameful to me that some people are determined to allow the systematic denial of health care for millions of Americans by private insurance companies to continue.
The problem with recent government policies (which Thatcher, Reagan, Bushes 1&2, and probably even Clinton implemented) is that making the rich richer interferes with our ability as citizens to care for one another. I want the government to be a strong part of a society that encourages us to have empathy for each other and provides the infrastructure (roads, regulated markets, law enforcement, schools, military, universal health care, etc.) that makes it possible to express the responsibility I feel to act to help those in our nation who are vulnerable and/or in need. I believe in having a strong government that uses it's power to build positive relationships with other people, organizations, and governments, especially when they disagree with us.
Here's a short blog post I wrote a while back that addresses this concern with a youtube video.
The point is this, caring takes strength and hating is a sign of weakness. The whole reason for the 9/11 attacks was the weakness of the terrorists, that's why nothing comparable has happened since. Then we succumbed to the same weakness by seeking revenge instead of justice. The neo-conservative haters who are hysterically opposed to health care are showing their weakness. The question is whether or not the majority of Americans who want to express care can muster the courage show their strength.
Here's hoping America can be strong again.
04 September 2009
01 September 2009
What makes the difference is...
“academic socialization” mean[ing] that parents communicate their expectations for education to their kids and highlights education’s value and utility, like by linking schoolwork to current events. They also help their children create academic and career goals, discuss learning strategies with them, and make plans and preparations for the future.
As opposed to home-based or school-based involvement.
Hill and Tyson looked at three different types of parental involvement: home-based involvement, school-based involvement, and what they call “academic socialization.” In home-based involvement, parents talk to their kids about school, try to help them with their homework, take them to educational places like museums, and make sure they have access to books and newspapers. School-based involvement consists of attending school events, becoming a part of the PTA, volunteering at school, and building relationships with teachers.
Hat Tip to the Greater Good Blog.
26 August 2009
Here's another video of him talking about morality and how the salience of moral thinking makes a difference in behavior:
14 August 2009
[O]ne of the nicest things a friend can do is let us misunderstand them just a little.
“If you don’t know everything about someone else, you still enjoy the time you spend with each other,” says Delia Baldassarri, a sociologist and assistant professor at Princeton who has studied people’s perceptions of their friends’ political attitudes. “In certain ways, you may even enjoy it more.”
Fascinating insights into the illusion of knowing your friends.
Thanks to Mind Hacks for pointing out this correction:
The article has a bit of a quirk, however, by supposedly explaining "Psychologists call this projection: in situations where there’s any ambiguity, people tend to simply project their feelings and thoughts onto others".
Except, they don't. The effect discussed by the article, where we over-estimate the extent to which people share our own mindset, is called the false consensus effect.
Projection is a unverified psychological defence mechanism where people supposedly misperceive psychological states in other people that, in reality, they have themselves but unconsciously want to hide from their conscious mind.
08 August 2009
Harper's Interview with Musicophilia author Oliver Sachs.
Five part video of Notes & Neurons from the World Science Festival featuring Bobby Mc Ferrin, 3 brain scientists, a science journalist, and a few other musicians.
Kicks off with a set from Bobby McFerrin then goes into a fascinating discussion of the brain science of music for a non-technical, non-musician audience including demonstrations of many of the concepts.
28 July 2009
He seems keenly aware of the role of randomness, the arbitrariness of both succeeding and failing.
"There are two types of schedule, which I'll call the manager's schedule and the maker's schedule. The manager's schedule is for bosses. It's embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you're doing every hour.
When you use time that way, it's merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you're done. ...
For someone on the maker's schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn't merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.
I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there's sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I'm slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you're a maker, think of your own case. Don't your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don't. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off."
25 July 2009
12 July 2009
11 July 2009
David Kessler, MD, served as commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Kessler, a pediatrician, has been dean of the medical schools at Yale and the UCSF. He has more detailed view of how we fall into the trap.
07 July 2009
Here's a link to an Australian news show video that presents a demonstration of cognitive body mapping and a syndrome of dysfunction to the brains mapping structures. (Hat tip to Mind Hacks) This is the basis for the cognitive cartography idea. What I posit is that the brain not only maps the body image, it also maps a social image. That mapping defines the extent of our capabilities in our social context in a similar way that our body image defines the extent of our capabilities. Just like when we extend our capabilities with tools, then the brain incorporates the tool into the image. So when we extend our social influence our brains incorporate the social context into our social image.
04 July 2009
03 July 2009
02 July 2009
Why Groups and Prejudices Form So Easily: Social Identity Theory
10 Rules That Govern Groups
Social Loafing: When Groups Are Bad for Productivity
Effectiveness of Mutual Support Groups
Social Facilitation: How and When Audiences Improve Performance
Leaders Emerge by Talking First and Most Often
7 Reasons Leaders Fail
25 June 2009
A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare. In his dream he is in a society where music education has been made mandatory. “We are helping our students become more competitive in an increasingly sound-filled world.” Educators, school systems, and the state are put in charge of this vital project. Studies are commissioned, committees are formed, and decisions are made— all without the advice or participation of a single working musician or composer.
Since musicians are known to set down their ideas in the form of sheet music, these curious black dots and lines must constitute the “language of music.” It is imperative that students become fluent in this language if they are to attain any degree of musical competence; indeed, it would be ludicrous to expect a child to sing a song or play an instrument without having a thorough grounding in music notation and theory. Playing and listening to music, let alone composing an original piece, are considered very advanced topics and are generally put off until college, and more often graduate school.
As for the primary and secondary schools, their mission is to train students to use this language— to jiggle symbols around according to a fixed set of rules: “Music class is where we take out our staff paper, our teacher puts some notes on the board, and we copy them or transpose them into a different key. We have to make sure to get the clefs and key signatures right, and our teacher is very picky about making sure we fill in our quarter-notes completely.
One time we had a chromatic scale problem and I did it right, but the teacher gave me no credit because I had the stems pointing the wrong way. ...
Sadly, our present system of mathematics education is precisely this kind of nightmare. In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul-crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.
Everyone knows that something is wrong. The politicians say, “we need higher standards.”
The schools say, “we need more money and equipment.” Educators say one thing, and teachers say another. They are all wrong. The only people who understand what is going on are the ones most often blamed and least often heard: the students. They say, “math class is stupid and boring,” and they are right."
Click on the "pdf file" link above the quote for the full 25 page document.
19 June 2009
Through all but the next to last chapter of this book I could generally concede his main points about the necessity for a broad cultural movement to counter the absurd claims in religious doctrine about how the world works. I found that he framed some of his arguments in unpleasantly divisive ways, but the essential points were good.
In regard to the framing of his arguments he made the same basic error as his anti-religion compatriots, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, they focus exclusively on objecting to the doctrinal/ creedal dimension of religion (referring to Ninian Smart's seven dimensions of religion) and ignore and/or minimize the value of the mythic, social, ritual, experiential, ethical and material dimensions of religion. I consider this error as equivalent to how the anti-evolutionists conveniently ignore the nuances of evolutionary science and pick exclusively on the most stereotypical misrepresentations.
But that's par for the course, what really got my britches in a tangle was his treatment of violence. In chapter 6, entitled A Science of Good and Evil, Harris presents his argument for the moral necessity of violence in general and torture in particular. He contends that we have no practical alternatives by showing how war is a moral necessity and since that is the case then effectively torture is no different, morally, from collateral damage (the wartime killing, maiming, and terrorizing of innocents). If war is morally acceptable, then so is torture, if we are consistent in our beliefs. The premise of his argument about the moral equivalence of collateral damage and torture is necessarily based on the lack of an effective, that is morally acceptable, alternative means to achieve the same ends. So he takes pains to show that the pacifist alternative to war is not reasonable and appears to be ignorant of alternative interrogation techniques.
His refutation of the moral credentials of pacifism relies on an absurd caricature of pacifists who would ignore their personal safety in the presence of a mass murderer and then takes an isolated quote from Gandhi (suggesting that the Jews should have committed mass suicide in opposition to the Holocaust) to dismiss pacifism as patently absurd.
He also recounts how he intervened to prevent further violence against a Czech woman who was being forced into a car. He discounts his act as cowardly and morally worthless because he interprets his actions as failing to deliver a message to the perpetrators of the violence. As someone who formerly trained in martial arts for several years I found his creative engagement in the situation to be a very excellent example of using the most effective tools at hand to preserve the health and safety of another person. He discounts the moral value of his actions because he was not Super Hero enough to deliver a “lesson” to the thugs he thwarted. There are several problems with this view. First of all, he is delusional about the efficacy of one intervention, no one learns that kind of “lesson” from one isolated incident. Second of all, I have no way to imagine what he could have done to “teach” the “lesson” he expects. In my understanding of human beings and how they learn, when you do violence to them they will be focused on the violence you did to them, not whatever they happened to have done before you came into the situation with your violence. Here's an ex-cop who not only attests to the accuracy of this view of how humans behave, but teaches people to do deliberately what Harris did instinctively. Thus, in my estimation his account of this incident is a perfect example of how non-violence successfully thwarted violence and ultimately undermines his argument against pacifism. Here's a video that illustrates verbal judo from the movie Fort Apache: The Bronx:
To refute his premise in regards to torture, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been using effective and efficient non-violent means of interrogation since World War Two. According to a scholar who has studied the modern history of torture in the form of the psychological techniques made famous by the Abu Ghraib scandal, the FBI's methods are a viable alternative. My blog post entitled Psychological Dark Side provides access to some of the key videos that have informed my opinion on this matter.
As for his portrayal of pacifists, his claim that pacifists would refuse to act in self-defense against a lone murderer is absurd. Pacifism as I understand it is specifically an opposition to the use of state power to wage war. Pacifists are clear that there are crucial differences between the moral situations when one person kills another 1) for immediate self-defense, 2) for personal gain, and 3) for the purposes of a state that authorizes the killing. Just like everyone else they accept the moral necessity of the first, and abhor the second. Where they differ from many other people is consciously rejecting the third.
I reject Harris' arguments about the acceptability of violence and the necessity of torture. My opposition to both violence, in general, and torture in particular are based on my belief that morally acceptable alternatives are available and that they are also practical and effective. The real problem is that, as a society, we just haven't gotten out of the knee-jerk habit of reacting with violence. If we take Harris advice of grounding our religions in empirically valid spiritual practices that are aimed at accurately characterizing the facts of consciousness then we will make progress towards the true aim of religion which is to bind people together for mutual nurturance, not drive them apart. The trick is to get Religion to forsake it's claims to authority over matters better addressed by other institutions and focus what it is best suited to address. Unitarian-Universalism is leading the way as the only non-creedal religion (that I am aware of.)
18 June 2009
16 June 2009
Here are the videos that I have found to be the most enlightening (from shortest to longest):
~20 minutes with Senator Carl Levin responding to former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism of President Obama's Policies and claims about "aggressive interrogation"
~20 minutes with Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo on exactly how the situation, not the individuals, determined that abuse would occur at Abu Gharib. WARNING: graphic images of torture. But there is a redeeming message at the end!
~1 hour with history Professor Alfred McCoy from University of Wisconsin on the 50 year history of CIA secret psychological torture techniques. WARNING: highly academic presentation with graphic video segments and descriptions of torture.
The Long Version of Zimbardo's presentation. 1 hr. 10 min. WARNING: graphic images of torture.
Reed College (my alma mater) Political Science Professor Darius Rejali gives a thorough examination of torture (1 Hour, 45 min):
A New Yorker reporters perspective on the recent torture issues:
14 June 2009
Eyal Ram on Teacher Education for Democratic Schools.
Bruce Smith on his experiences as a disempowered public school teacher.
Essay on technology in school by and an interview with Daniel Greenberg that includes a lot of Sudbury Valley School information.
Lefty Parent Blog post on national educational standards.
Interview with Daniel Greenberg on Bnet
Mothering article by Daniel Greenberg
Utne Reader article on Sudbury by Rachel Anderson
Psychology Today article by Hara Estroff Marano 2006
EUDEC Media List
12 June 2009
They found that ADHD is largely a developmental problem: the brains of kids with ADHD develop at a significantly slower pace than normal. For instance, the median age by which 50 percent of the cortical points attained peak thickness for the ADHD group was 10.5 years, while the median age for the control group was 7.5 years. This lag was most obvious in the lateral parts of the prefrontal cortex, which is a brain area essential for most of the executive functions that appear to compromised in children with ADHD. (On average, their frontal lobes were three and a half years behind schedule.) The good news, however, is that the ADHD brain almost always recovers from its slow start.
02 June 2009
28 May 2009
19 May 2009
The Secret Advantage Of Being Short on Krulwich On Science by Robert Krulwich
Here's a detailed article from The Edge about our illusion of time.
And another video on the perception of time:
03 May 2009
Unhappiness is a Bad Habit
Punished By Rewards?
How to get kids to do boring (but necessary) tasks
24 April 2009
"The key finding of this study is that people fail to recognize that the deterrence policy will violate their intuition of justice until after they see it in practice." That is, we like the idea of zero tolerance and don't realize how unfairly it can treat people until we are slapped in the face with the disproportionate results of what at first seemed like a clear and simple policy.
In the end, the psychologist concludes, "when it comes to introspection, we are all 'strangers to ourselves.'"
The professor asked participants about a case like a real one in which a 13-year-old girl shared a Midol pill with a friend at school to relieve the friend's menstrual cramps. The 13-year-old was expelled for violating a school rule against distributing drugs. The survey asked whether expulsion or student-parent conferences with a guidance counselor would be the better response to such an incident. Once they heard the details of the Midol case, fully 88 percent of those who had earlier endorsed the idea of a zero tolerance policy reversed themselves.
I see what you mean about the apparent incompatibility of definitions of justice. I think your analysis neglects the crucial feature of holding strictly to abstract ideals when there is the option of grounding a conversation in concrete circumstances and the morality of specific actions.
The essence of morality is the prevention of harm and the promotion of beneficial behaviors and circumstances. This essence is cognitively driven by five apparently universal criteria based on mostly unconscious assessments of harm, fairness, loyalty, authority, and purity. (Taking Jonathan Haidt's model of moral cognition as a starting point.)
The problem that you point to is the incompatibility of abstract notions. As long as both sides are exchanging abstractions then you are absolutely correct war is likely, if not a foregone conclusion.
When you have a concern for the safety of your child, then if you meet someone with a concern for their child's safety, then it's likely you can work together for that common cause. The possibility for resolution of conflicts is to frame the conversation in terms of the concrete harm that is inevitable given that the parties to the conflict insist on dealing exclusively with abstractions and strongly avoid observing the concrete details of the situation. It is often possible to find common moral ground in the concrete details. One common moral concern is that everyone wants to protect their children from harm, for instance. There are probably many other avenues for finding common moral ground from which to have a discussion. The art of creating this kind of conversation successfully rests in framing the conversation in the concrete and minimizing the abstract, except to reinforce lines of moral thought that converge on workable outcomes.
This was demonstrated at the Camp David Accords. There is a section of the documentary “Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains” in which they are talking about how he helped craft the Camp David Accords (I hope that's the right source) and apparently when the difference was made, it was made for concrete reasons of emotional importance to the people in the conversation.
Jimmy Carter was working for justice, meaning the concrete reality of reducing the harm caused by violent conflict. He was not there imposing an abstract ideal. He was holding a gracious space in which a meaningful conversation could be had. He was focused on relating to each man in the conversation as a fellow human being concerned with the welfare of others. It was holding that gracious space in which the focus was on creating real meaningful relationships that was an act of justice. When the men could see the concrete reality of suffering, then they could reframe their position to accommodate first seeing the other as a fellow human being and then as a representative of other human beings who also deserve not to be harmed. Normal people easily fight against abstractions, but they resist fighting when they see someone just like them being hurt.
For me a just world is one in which we honor the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. The criteria of justice I want to hold you accountable to, and that I expect you to hold me accountable to, as well, is whether my actions cause harm, real concrete harm in the world. Not imagined harm to dead or imaginary people, but real harm to living people. That's a reasonable criteria for justice, I think.
23 April 2009
16 April 2009
School Matters- Tomorrow's Teacher, Tomorrows School
14 March 2009
His design goals are emotional, functional and reflective. These levels occur to us as the visceral [non-conscious], behavioral [sub-conscious], and reflective [conscious].
02 March 2009
27 February 2009
This article on Summerhill goes the opposite direction and even calls it "strict" and says they have 150 to 230 rule!
20 February 2009
18 February 2009
18 January 2009
17 January 2009
This is a one day movie. Noah and I decided to make a movie in the early afternoon, outlined a script, and started shooting. We finished shooting that night after dinner and I edited and scored it, finishing up around 2AM. About 13 hours start to finish. Noah was the cinematographer and he happens to be 10 3/4 years old (or so.) The score has been changed because of copyright issues, but the new one is even better.
Kristina, Richard, and the lady at the Joy Luck Chinese Restaurant were very enthusiastic recruits into the process. Kristina created the prop used at the very end, too.
16 January 2009
15 January 2009
That's not good.
14 January 2009
The idea is that everyone can submit ideas that we all vote on and the top ideas get included in the presidents daily briefing.
13 January 2009
There is one hyperbolic statement that should be corrected:
This is one of hundreds of democratic schools around the globe, and it is not even unique to Canada. If you would like to know where democratic schools are I recommend The Online Directory of Democratic Education.
05 January 2009
03 January 2009
This lecture from author Dan Gilbert is less than 15 minutes but paints a clear picture of why we humans are not responding to looming global challenges.
02 January 2009
Are Power and Compassion Mutually Exclusive?"
The answer to the provocative title is no, but having a sense of your own power does seem to correlate with maintaining emotional distance from those who tell you a sob story. This seems to me to be an important validation of a tenet I learned from BJ Dohrmann, the founder of CEOSpace. It goes something like this "Money is attracted to success and repelled by desperation." When making appeals for money or anything else, if you want the attention of the rich and powerful, don't be desperate. The rich and powerful will automatically maintain a distance. When the rich and powerful invest in someone (financially or with their influence) they are looking to increase their success, therefore they are going to be attracted to someone on a path to success. They do have compassion, but in order to get them to access that compassion in your favor you have to appeal to the part of your sob story that they can relate to, the part that is overcoming the difficulty and rising to meet the challenges.