Difficulties with Virtual Content

 Posted by on 6 April 2015 at 10:00 am  Education, Epistemology
Apr 062015

This article on the benefits of writing notes by hand rather than on the computer — The Benefits of No-Tech Note Taking — rings true in my experience as a student (and as a teacher). Computers are an impediment to good note-taking, not a help. Even apart from the distraction, the problem is the way that people take notes:

The researchers found that students who used laptops were inclined to try to take notes verbatim—even when they were told not to. The longhand note takers took selective, organized notes because they couldn’t write fast enough to get everything down. As a result, they processed lectures more deeply, which allowed them to retain more information and even understand it better.

On a related note, I’ve found that I have serious problems retaining written material read on the kindle, in part, I think, because every text is formatted the same. I’ve found that the various things I read blend together and then disappear from memory in ways that print books, audio books, and even articles read online don’t do.

Do you have the same experience? If so, any suggestions?

The Truth about Science Projects

 Posted by on 17 March 2014 at 2:00 pm  Education, Funny, Science
Mar 172014


The Beauty of Gratitude

 Posted by on 14 November 2013 at 11:00 am  Benevolence, Education, Ethics, Justice
Nov 142013

On November 7th, Letters of Note published this touching and beautiful letter from Albert Camus to Louis Germain, the teacher who helped him rise so far beyond the miserable circumstances of his birth and childhood. (See the post on Letters of Note for a few details about that.)

19 November 1957

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honour, one I neither sought nor solicited.

But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened.

I don’t make too much of this sort of honour. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

Ah, what a perfection of gratitude that is!

Oct 072013

Back in early September, I answered a question about keeping secrets for competitive advantage on the 8 September 2013 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.

Here’s the question:

Is it wrong to protect my competitive advantage in a sport by refusing to share information? I am an aspiring MMA fighter. I’ve done a lot of work studying personal fitness, how to prevent and fix personal injuries, and how to maximize force output. I recently signed up for an MMA gym to prepare for some amateur fights. I’m concerned that when I do non-conventional “stretches” before or after a workout I’ll get questions from curious people. Then I’m in a dilemma. I would like to make friends, but I really don’t want to give away for free my knowledge that I have worked hard to achieve – knowledge which gives me an edge over many competitors. I don’t want to tell them where I got this information either. Perhaps if they ask what I’m doing, I could say “trade secret” or something else. Ultimately though, I don’t want to give potential competitors the tools that will help them beat me. Is this legitimate? Is it immoral or unwise?

In answering, I was helped by the following comments from amateur fighter Anthony Kluska. I liked them so much that I read them on the air, and I wanted to blog them for y’all too. Anthony wrote:

I am also an amateur fighter training at Daddis fight camps in Philadelphia. I work along with former UFC fighters, current Belator fighter and former WEC fighters. To answer his question simply, yes it is very unwise especially at his novice level. To be blunt he really needs to get over himself. The professional fighters at his gym will be light years ahead of him when it comes to “how to prevent and fix personal injuries, and how to maximize force output.” This is a sense of ignorance a lot of people have before joining these gyms. I know. I had it. Then the during Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class I got smashed by a blue belt half my size and my pretentiousness left it about two seconds. Chances are no one will care about his stretches or his ability to maximize force output. Most MMA gyms foster a sense of team spirit and encourage good training partners. What he really needs to focus on is becoming a good training partner learning everything he can while not being cocky.

Furthermore he should not try to gain a competitive advantage against those in his gym. He won’t be fighting his own teammates during bouts. What he should do is give all his “secrets” away so that he can develop new skills against people competent in his specialties. For instance I am a pressure fighter so I work a lot with guys who know how to pressure me back. This forces me to learn how to stick and move. Now my outside boxing is almost as good and my inside boxing.

Lastly there are no secrets any more in the information age. There are internet videos, MMA forums analysts who publish free seminars books magazines and a plethora of gyms associated with other gyms. There are no “secret martial arts skills”. It’s all in the open for anyone to know. A quick Google search will provide you with so much information it’s unbelievable. The question is, “is he the 3% who will utilize the information or is he just a gym class hero.”

To understand the 3% mentality, watch this video.

Thank you, Anthony! If you’ve not heard that podcast segment, you can listen to or download it here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on the value of a central purpose, self-confidence at work, keeping secrets for competitive advantage, hate crime laws, and more – is available as a podcast too.

Apr 182013

Chris Mortensen — the director of the excellent documentary Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged — is raising money for a new documentary on the disaster of government schooling today and what can be done to fix it.

Check out the project on KickStarter… and contribute sometime in the next 57 days if you want it to happen!

Here’s the teaser video from the KickStarter page… which looks awesome. (After watching the video, I contributed!)

I hope to have more on this new project later. But for now, I wanted to post a quick announcement.

Also, if you’ve not yet seen Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged, check out the documentary on NetFlix (streaming and DVD) and Amazon (streaming and DVD). Also, the book of full interviews is available in paperback and kindle.

As you might recall, I interviewed Chris about Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged back in February on Philosophy in Action Radio. It was a great interview — and such a delight for me! So if you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the podcast here:

For more details, check out the episode’s archive page.

Apr 172013

Tonight, I’ll interview Eric Barnhill about Cognition, Movement, and Music. The topic is a bit obscure, but I’ve always been fascinated to hear Eric talk about his work. For me, this interview an excellent opportunity to have yet another interesting conversation… and you get to listen in!

Eric began his career as a Julliard-trained concert pianist, but now he’s a graduate student in medical physics in Scotland. Yes, that’s a bit of a strange path. Oddly, it’s been a path with a mostly steady trajectory, as you can see from his recent write-up for his alma matter. Here’s a bit:

During my time at Juilliard, I was introduced to an obscure field called Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which was developed by the Swiss composer and music theorist Emile Jaques-Dalcroze at the turn of the 20th century. In Dalcroze, movement is combined with vocal work and improvisation to create an alternative approach to teaching music. However, musical subjects are intermediate goals, used to develop attention, focus, coordination and physical performance via movement.

In Dalcroze I saw a methodology of unexplored potential that brought all my varied interests together. However, Dalcroze as a profession, to the extent that it exists at all, mostly consists of young children’s music and movement classes. To many colleagues, I had abandoned interpreting Schubert sonatas for sitting on a floor with 3-year-olds rolling balls around.

Early in my Dalcroze career I was reverse-commuting to a children’s music school in the suburbs (a rite of passage for many a Juilliard grad, in one form or another), where I frequently taught Dalcroze and piano to special-needs and learning-disabled children. I took them on as students because I had a blast teaching them.

However, I began to notice something interesting: The struggles they had executing musical patterns in movement seemed deeply connected to their core special-needs deficits. Similarly, to the extent that these students’ ability to execute rhythmic tasks improved, their core deficits seemed to temporarily recede. If I found a way to help a low-functioning girl keep a beat, she would then become just as present as anyone else. If I could tune up a boy’s ability to track measure, suddenly he would sit up and listen to an entire sentence. Stepping and skipping the rhythms of a nursery rhyme with these children would result in an afterglow of clear and expressive speech from them where none previously existed. This observation was the most exciting one I ever made. It has been the cornerstone on which I have built everything I have done professionally since.

You can read the rest here. Also, Eric gave a talk at TEDxBermuda — Empowering Through Rhythm — that’s an excellent teaser for tonight’s interview:

Fascinating, no? I hope that you join us for the interview!


In case you didn’t hear about this when it made the rounds a few weeks ago… John P. McCaskey taught a wildly popular course on the “Moral Foundations of Capitalism” at Stanford for some years. Alas, the course was discontinued, much to the consternation of students… so much so that the story was circulated about it around the internet, all the way to The Daily Caller.

Happily, McCaskey is now at Brown, teaching the same course. He’s such an awesome lecturer that, although I’ve sworn never to step foot in another classroom, I envy those students at Brown!

Happily, I’ll enjoy an hour of meaty discussion with him on tonight’s Philosophy in Action Radio. We’ll discuss the shift in the moral justification for liberty currently underway in libertarian circles. (That could be good… or it could be bad!) I heard him lecture on the subject on Saturday night, and that was fantastic.

I hope that you’ll join us for the live show tonight… but if you can’t attend that, you can always listen to the podcast later. (That will be posted here around 9 pm tonight.)

Simple Math Versus Confused Woman

 Posted by on 26 March 2012 at 1:00 pm  Education, Funny
Mar 262012

If you’re driving 80 miles per hour, how long will it take you to go 80 miles? Well, the answer is not so simple according to this pretty young woman:

Paul suggested that the man is married to her for reasons other than her intelligence… but I’m not sure that anything could compensate for that level of ignorance!

This video was brought to you by the stellar education offered by government schools. Thanks, politicians!

Update: Here’s an interview with the couple on Good Morning America… and wow, she really is dumber than a box of rocks.

Civics Test

 Posted by on 1 March 2012 at 2:00 pm  Education, Fun, Politics
Mar 012012

Steve D’Ippolito sent me this civics literacy exam by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. It’s 33 questions, and here’s the summary:

Are you more knowledgeable than the average citizen? The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%. Can you do better? Questions were drawn from past ISI surveys, as well as other nationally recognized exams.

Both Paul and I got 100%, although we had to make a few educated guesses.

It’s appalling that the average score is about 50%. (That’s just proof that our government schools need more money, right?!?) Amazingly politicians did even worse.

If you take the quiz, tell us your score in the comments!

Evolutionary Theory: Fact Versus Faith

 Posted by on 25 July 2011 at 1:00 pm  Education, Religion, Science
Jul 252011

Should evolution be taught in schools? I can’t help but laugh as these Miss USA contestants answer that question… but then I want to cry.

Evolutionary theory is the integrating theory of biology. As such, it should be a major part of middle and high school biology. Alas, it’s not, and the result is the widespread acceptance of blatantly faith-based views like those expressed in this video.

When I taught introductory philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I’d spend a day discussing evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory explains the supposedly mysterious order and complexity of living beings cited by Paley’s analogical argument for God’s existence via purely natural law. Hence, the existence of a divine designer cannot be inferred from the complexity and order of life.

Before starting that class, I’d ask my students whether they’d studied evolutionary theory before. Only about two-thirds of them had done so. That was bad enough, but even worse, most of those students were utterly confused about evolutionary theory, usually thinking it to be nothing more than sheer random variation.

When young people aren’t taught the basic facts of biology, is it any wonder that they default to religious superstition and myth?

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