Tag: Education

Secretly Rational

 

shutterstock_230756299Like many who aren’t born fashionistas, I found myself needing advice on how to not dress like a schlub (or in my case, schlubbette). Trolling the interwebs several years ago, I ran across GoFugYourself.com, a website devoted to demonstrating that making others’ eyes bleed with your attire is not the unique domain of the fat and poor, but that Hollywood’s richest and fittest can do it, too. It gave great lessons in what not to do. But the Fug Girls also have a category for fashion explosions so spectacular that they transcend all ugliness to create their own kind of beauty: “secretly awesome!”. This, along with Bernie Sanders’s recent meditation on deodorant – got me thinking about all those activities in life that are secretly rational. Meaning, they look irrational to outsiders, but from the perspective of the one doing the activity, they are at least as rational as, say a tree is when “deciding” where to put its leaves:

For example, consider the trendy idea of The Framing Effect – the observation that people respond differently to the same situation if it’s simply framed differently. In The Why Axis, a spirited journey into the exciting realm of economic fieldwork, authors Gneezy and List experimentally verified that giving children money before an exam, then taking it away if they score badly, improves exam scores more than promising them money if they score well.* They call this an example of loss-framing, and framing is supposed to be a “cognitive bias” – one of those things humans do that’s not quite rational. But as any child might know – and as researchers discovered when they revisited the marshmallow test – a reward promised at some point in the future really is worth less than the same reward now, because there’s less chance you’ll actually receive it. These children aren’t responding differently to the same situation depending on how it’s framed: they’re responding to genuinely different situations. And quite rationally, too! – especially considering these particular children’s impoverished, chaotic environment, where adult inability to make good on promises to children may be quite common.

As the authors also observe,** when adults reward children repeatedly and consistently, the difference between gain-framing and loss-framing the rewards disappears. They offer no explanation for this, but I do: once adults earn these children’s trust by rewarding them consistently, the children have more reason to believe they’ll receive what they’re promised. Kids are more secretly rational than we suspect.

From Doolittle to Big Daddy

 

There were two things this week, a tweet that dropped my jaw and a column about an old movie I have always loved, that somehow connected for me.

Julie_Andrews_Rex_Harrison_My_Fair_LadyThe movie is My Fair Lady, the Hollywood version of Pygmalion, in which Eliza Doolittle get Professor Higgins to teach her proper (Queen’s) English so that she can be “a lady in a flow’r shop, ’stead of sellin’ at the corner of Tottenham Court Road.”  William McGurn observes the assumptions of Ms Doolittle’s request and study of language:

Is the US Economy Immoral?

 

shutterstock_259200614When Democrat Jerry Brown ran a long shot presidential campaign back in 1992, he snarkily referred to Bill and Hillary Clinton as “Bonnie and Clyde,” the Depression-era bank robbers. Brown, now the governor of California, thought he had a legitimate chance to win the nomination. He wasn’t going to let some delicate notion of political etiquette stand in his way.

Don’t expect that kind of tough talk from Bernie Sanders, another longshot Democratic presidential candidate challenging a Clinton. During his announcement Tuesday, all the socialist Vermont senator had to say about Hillary Clinton was that his campaign “is not about Hillary Clinton.”

That’s not exactly surprising. The socialist Sanders almost certainly doesn’t believe he will defeat the Clinton machine and be the Democratic Party’s next presidential nominee — much less America’s next president. So there’s no reason to play attack dog. More likely, what Sanders really wants is a big stage to highlight what he sees as the terrible unfairness and inequality of the modern U.S. economy, one where Americans have “a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.” In other words, the economy is just dandy at generating wealth, but that prosperity only benefits a few.

Data Transparency For Georgia Students

 

shutterstock_159713390Last year, I was appointed to a study committee in the Georgia House of Representatives that looked at the federal role in education. One of the topics that came up was the increased reliance on data schools collect from students. This data is valuable for teachers and educators, as it helps them understand how the student is doing and what areas the student may need help. It also presents challenges. Over time, this can get out of hand as the scope of the information increases to the point where parents might feel it is intrusive. I decided to do something about this. So this legislative session, I introduced to the HB414, the ‘Student Data Privacy, Accessibility, and Transparency Act.’

After a lot of work on the bill with a broad coalition of education and technology groups — as well as input from the Department of Education — HB414 passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee. Though it did not make it out of the House Rules Committee in time to be considered by the Senate, no bill is ever really dead in the legislature so we began looking for a Senate bill we could attach our bill to. We found one, and I’m grateful to Georgia State Sen. John Albers for allowing us to add HB414 to his bill SB89. The amended bill received final passage on sine die and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed it into law earlier this week. Other states are now considering similar bills, as is the U.S. Congress. This important law will limit the education related data schools collect on students and make sure it remains private and secure. For more on this bill, see the press release below from Excellence in Education, one of the many education reform groups that supported this legislation.

Third Class Temperament

 

ObamaLike cult members awaking to find their leader swigging gin and squirreling money into a Swiss bank account, liberals are rubbing their eyes in disbelief at President Obama’s behavior. The figure they worshipped so fervently and for so long is now revealed to be a “sexist” – at least according to National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill.

Her view is seconded by Senator Sherrod Brown (D., OH). They are upset about the president’s derisive treatment of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., MA), who committed a sin the president does not take kindly – she disagreed with him. For differing about the merits of the TPP trade deal, she got what everyone should already recognize as the Obama treatment – her views were caricatured and her motives were questioned. “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else.” Senator Brown thought the president’s use of Warren’s first name betokened sexism.

No, Senator Brown, that’s not sexism, that’s all-purpose disrespect. The president has been displaying the same condescension to world leaders, senate majority leaders, house speakers, and everyone else since first taking office. It was always “John” and “Harry” and “Hillary” – never Speaker Boehner, Leader Reid, or Secretary Clinton. It was “Angela” and “David,” not Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Cameron. Can’t wait to see whether, when the Pope visits in September, the president refers to him as “Jorge.” There was one exception to this rule – Obama was at pains to refer to Iran’s Ali Khameini, who has never been elected to anything, as “Supreme Leader.”

Don’t Talk Back — Unless You’re Working Out Some Personal Issues

 

Restorative-Justice-Ven-DiagramYou may have heard me say it here before: California is the world’s largest open-air asylum. I’ve always thought that, but it became much clearer to me after I decamped from my native Golden State to Tennessee last year. Now every time that I sent foot back on California soil — as I did last night — I’m struck by the air of unreality that characterizes the place. All you have to do is look around for a few minutes before you start thinking “Is it possible that there’s a gas leak in this entire state that no one knows about?” That’s about the same reaction I had reading through the San Francisco Chronicle this morning, which notes this — ahem — innovation taking place in Oakland schools:

Mouthing off in class or failing to follow a teacher’s instructions will no longer lead to suspension in Oakland schools, a ban that will be phased in and be fully in effect just over a year from now, the school board unanimously decided Wednesday night.

Oakland Unified will become one of a handful of California school districts that restrict suspensions to more serious offenses and eliminate the punishment for willful defiance — a broad category of misbehavior that includes minor offenses such as refusing to take a hat off or ignoring teacher requests to stop texting and more severe incidents like swearing at a teacher or storming out of class. San Francisco and Los Angeles are also among those districts.

The Trouble with Private Schools

 

shutterstock_50734714Let me first establish my bona fides in order for you, the Ricochetti, to understand that this is a cri de coeur. I was homeschooled K-12, am a proud alumna of Hillsdale College, and for many years taught in private classical schools (I now have a position that supports school choice and excellent curriculum and teachers). I loved the kids and I loved my subject. It was a privilege to open up the virtues and vices of the classical world to my students and to challenge their minds to understand the thoughts of Cicero and Plato.

Here is why I left teaching: I began to despair that real K-12 education was possible in the 21st century. Was it because a) the children were glued to their screens? b) too much testing? c) the Common Core standards? d) administrative burdens? e) uninvolved parents?

None of the above. It was because of helicopter parents. Their fear of failure was crippling children’s ability to learn. There were often excuses for low grades and frequently explicit pressure to change them. These were parents at conservative, Christian, private schools. We teachers were not strangers to the end-of-the-year conference in which an administrator would sit down with the teacher and parents and facilitate a “compromise” in which the teacher would raise the student’s grade in exchange for getting to continue their employment. Over time, many teachers learned not to give Fs (or even Cs) to any students lest they be subjected to vitriol in their inboxes or in person, and vicious gossip about them to other parents.

Member Post

 

Plato’s Republic is occasionally–ok, constantly–mentioned as a book promoting communism.  Don’t believe the hype. For a start, the account of the declining democracy in Book 8 of the Republic is a goldmine if you’re interested in criticism of leftist redistributionist politics; see here for more on that.  (By the way, one of the laws Socrates recommends in Book 8 would have prevented the subprime loans […]

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When I posted my “luck” story last week, on the privilege of subbing in Kindergarten for an excellent teacher, I referred to my first day in Kinder at that school six years ago–when the classroom atmosphere wasn’t so ideal. I said that later, I’d share what I had written at the end of that intense work […]

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Econ 101 For Colleges

 

IMG_0484A commonly-held leftist meme is that conservatives hate education. The technical word for this is “nonsense”: conservatives value education just as highly as liberals, and it bears repeating that the majority of college graduates vote Republican. Conservatives do, however, have strong criticisms of academia, which is a related but distinct matter from higher-education itself.

Of late, a new criticism has grown regarding the rise of the government-educational complex, specifically regarding the positive feedback* loop between tuition prices and easy student credit. The more money the government offers at below-market rates, the more colleges raise the fees, prompting even more generous loans, and setting up another cycle of the same. When you further consider that the availability of the loans is completely divorced from consideration of the degrees’ potential value and that their value is almost uniquely protected from normal market pressures, you realize that we’re not dealing with a market failure, so much as a conscious and successful effort to prohibit the existence of one.

As usual, Megan McArdle puts it best. Writing about students trapped under mountains of debt for nearly useless degrees, she says:

Member Post

 

We are lucky–blessed–when we can get paid to do the work we love.  I am privileged to have two education-related jobs, to devote myself to tasks that give long-term satisfaction, and then to receive affirmation from colleagues and kids–like gravy on something already good.  Working with Kindergartners in the school system has been an unexpected […]

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We need to keep talking about education around here, right?  A lack of good education is one of the root problems with the country, isn’t it?  Critical thinking has long been a buzzword in education, but there are some questions we might ask about it.  Questions like: What is critical thinking exactly? Is more critical thinking […]

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To close out a week about methods of teaching and persuading through games, it would help to cite evidence that such instruction does occur. Here are some things I’ve learned from games over the many years. Fellow gamers, please share your own examples.  From SimCity, I was introduced to concepts of city planning at an […]

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We have discussed sandbox learning. We have discussed the use of scripted narratives in video games. Now, I will describe the process of emergent storytelling — or, perhaps more accurately, story-finding.  This last design strategy attempts to mix the centrality of a player’s own decisions and creativity in sandbox games with the dramatic focus and […]

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What Video Games Can Teach Us About Narrative

 

Earlier this week, I addressed the potential for popular fiction to be compelling without being exclusively fun. Yesterday, I introduced the sandbox model of games, which offers opportunities for learning without direct instruction. Today, I will discuss instruction and persuasion through traditional storytelling and its translation into interactive environments.

The potential of traditional storytelling to offer insights or arguments doesn’t need to be explained. We are all familiar with the occasional power of novels and movies to make us consider, reflect, imagine, or feel. But it’s worth noting that not all linear fiction is focused on plot. Some stories are driven by events. Others are driven by characters. Even static settings can be major themes by themselves, which is why so many fans of The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, or the Aubrey-Maturin series dig into lore and history in addition to enjoying those narratives. Sometimes, we are challenged to unravel puzzles and to anticipate the next plot twist. Other times, we passively enjoy witnessing the interplay between a group of delightful companions, without any expectation of final resolution.

Member Post

 

Eric Wallace of podcasting fame directed my attention to an article by Ian Bogost over at The Atlantic. I seem to remember reading Bogost’s articles before or debating design issues with him on Star Wars: Galaxies developer Raph Koster’s blog.  Skipping past all the liberal victim mongering, the focus of Bogost’s essay is how to […]

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A philosopher writing in the New York Times: Don’t blame postmodern philosophers for moral relativism.  Blame the public schools. And there’s more.  The article speaks for itself pretty darn well.  I’m resisting the urge to add anything to it.  Maybe better informed Ricochetti can add helpful things in response, perhaps along these lines: What are the immediate […]

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