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Well, that didn’t take long: Teacher placed on leave for criticizing Dear Leader

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Actually, not criticizing so much as pointing out parallels that make a lot of people uncomfortable with trump. Tatiana Sanchez reports in the Monterey Herald:

A history teacher at Mountain View High School has been placed on paid leave after drawing parallels between Republican President-elect Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler in his lesson plan.

Frank Navarro, who’s taught at the school for 40 years, was asked to leave midday Thursday after a parent sent an email to the school expressing concerns about statements Navarro made in class. Mountain View/Los Altos High School District Superintendent Jeff Harding confirmed the incident Friday but declined to describe the parent’s complaints.

Navarro, an expert on the Holocaust, said school officials declined to read him the email and also declined his request to review the lesson plan with him.

“This feels like we’re trying to squash free speech,” he said. “Everything I talk about is factually based. They can go and check it out. “It’s not propaganda or bias if it’s based on hard facts.”

Though Navarro said school officials originally told him to return on Wednesday, Harding said he could return as early as Monday.

“We are interested in getting Frank back in the classroom … we’re just trying to maintain our due diligence,” he said. “We have a heightened emotional environment right now with the election. It’s always a challenge to maintain a line in a classroom.” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2016 at 9:33 pm

How Japan Prepares Its Children for Independence

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Kate Lewis writes in Savvy Tokyo:

Last week, my two-year-old son took a ‘secret’ field trip. His yochien(preschool) packed up all of their child class students, took them on a bus, and would not tell us where.

When we learned about the plan, the other American parents and I looked at each other in excited disbelief. “This would never happen in America,” we whispered, conscious of the mountains of forms and waivers that would have been deemed necessary back home for such a trip. Yet we weren’t horrified or worried. We were delighted.

The reasoning behind the ‘secret’ field trip was simple: this was the children’s first adventure without their parents. The yochien did not want us moms to show up, one of the other mothers laughingly translated for us. They joked that one or two of us might sneak to the park to watch this first solo outing, and it was important that the children take this small step toward independence alone.

Next year, my son—at three—will ride the bus to yochien by himself.  By five and six, Japanese children often take public transit or walk to school without their parents.

My mother, back in America, was horrified when she heard this. “They walk by themselves? The whole way? He’s far too little for that,” she said, when I mentioned it off-hand.

Yet to an outsider like me,  Japan does an excellent job of preparing its children for independence, in a way that America—with its love of helicopter parenting and loathing of ‘free-range’ parenting—often does not.

It begins slowly. Our yochien eased us into the transition of attending school, even though the toddlers only attended one or two days per week. It was still an adjustment, and the school treated it as such. The moms attended the first several days of class, and the first field trips. When the children finally attended their first solo day of class, nearly a month had gone by.

And it is in this way, bit by bit, that Japanese children build up independence. With only 1.7% of Japanese schoolchildren riding a bus (according to research from the American-based Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTS)), and some schools banning cars from doing drop-offs, walking to school is often a necessity in Japan. Yet children aren’t simply shown the door and expected to find the way to school by themselves. Independence is a skill taught through weeks of practice: learning the route holding the hand of a parent, meeting the shop owners along the way, navigating the landmarks with a parent following a block behind. It’s making sure the children not only know how to do it, but also know how to do it safely.

Most importantly, the wider community in Japan also helps foster children’s independence. Neighbors who see children walking or playing alone don’t call the police, nor do the police arrest the parents. Instead, they help.

When the SRTS sent its deputy director to Tokyo in 2011 to learn about Japanese methods, among their findings was that community participation was crucial in helping the system work as well as it does—and in helping parents feel confident in letting their children go.

The route to school for a Japanese child often includes volunteer crossing guards, signs designating safe shops and homes in case of emergencies, and even neighborhood chimes reminding playing children to head home at dark. In this way, everyone pitches in to ensure children can be both independent and safe, providing a framework to allow them freedom. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 November 2016 at 10:44 am

Father Writes a Great Letter About Censorship When Son Brings Home Permission Slip to Read Ray Bradbury’s Censored Book, Fahrenheit 451

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 November 2016 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Books, Education, Government

Campus censorship and Hallowe’en: It is somewhat scary

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Erika Christakis writes in the Washington Post:

Erika Christakis is an early-childhood educator and the author of “The Importance of Being Little.”

The right to speak freely may be enshrined in some of our nation’s great universities, but the culture of listening needs repair. That is the lesson I learned a year ago, when I sent an email urging Yale University students to think critically about an official set of guidelines on costumes to avoid at Halloween.

I had hoped to generate a reflective conversation among students: What happens when one person’s offense is another person’s pride? Should a costume-wearer’s intent or context matter? Can we always tell the difference between a mocking costume and one that satirizes ignorance? In what circumstances should we allow — or punish — youthful transgression?

“I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation,” I wrote, in part. “I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.”

Some called my email tone-deaf or even racist, but it came from a conviction that young people are more capable than we realize and that the growing tendency to cultivate vulnerability in students carries unacknowledged costs.

Many at Yale maintain that my email prompted widespread and civil conversation, and that the ensuing controversy was just a matter of competing expressions of free speech. I aired an unpopular opinion, which was answered by an equally legitimate response.

But these sanguine claims crumble on examination. The community’s response seemed, to many outside the Yale bubble, a baffling overreaction. Nearly a thousand students, faculty and deans called for my and my husband’s immediate removal from our jobs and campus home. Some demanded not only apologies for any unintended racial insensitivity (which we gladly offered) but also a complete disavowal of my ideas (which we did not) — as well as advance warning of my appearances in the dining hall so that students accusing me of fostering violence wouldn’t be disturbed by the sight of me.

Not everyone bought this narrative, but few spoke up. And who can blame them? Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted us personally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously supported us publicly were admonished by colleagues for vouching for our characters. Many students met with us confidentially to describe intimidation and accusations of being a “race traitor” when they deviated from the ascendant campus account that I had grievously injured the community. The Yale Daily News evidently felt obliged to play down key facts in its reporting, including about the two-hour-plus confrontation with a crowd of more than 100 students in which several made verbal and physical threats to my husband while four Yale deans and administrators looked on.

One professor I admire claimed my lone email was so threatening that it unraveled decades of her work supporting students of color. One email. In this unhealthy climate, of which I’ve detailed only a fraction of the episodes, it’s unsurprising that our own attempts at emotional repair fell flat.

But none of these examples captures the more worrying trend of self-censorship on campuses. For seven years I lived and worked on two college campuses, and a growing number of students report avoiding controversial topics — such as the limits of religious tolerance or transgender rights — for fear of uttering “unacceptable” language or otherwise stepping out of line. As a student observed in the Yale Daily News, the concept of campus civility now requires adherence to specific ideology — not only commitment to respectful dialogue.

The irony is that this culture of protection may ultimately harm those it purports to protect. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 October 2016 at 1:27 pm

The Mission of Immanuel Kant via an entertaining animated film (8 min)

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Open Culture is really very interesting (for example, this post lists the 20 CDs that Steve Jobs choose for the prototype iPod). This post by Josh Jones includes a video (below). The post begins:

Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is perhaps best known for his systematic philosophical ethics, conceived of as a post-religious framework for secular morality. His primary ethical mandate, which he called the “categorical imperative,” enables us—Alain de Botton tells us in his short School of Life video above—to “shift our perspective, to get us to see our own behavior in less immediately personal terms.” It’s a philosophical version, de Botton says, of the Golden Rule. “Act only according to that maxim,” Kant famously wrote of the imperative in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, “by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

This guide to moral behavior seems on its face a simple one. It asks us to imagine the consequences of behavior should everyone act in the same way. However, “almost every conceivable analysis of the Groundwork has been tried out over the past two centuries,” writes Harvard professor Michael Rosen, “yet all have been found wanting in some way or other.” Friedrich Nietzsche alluded to a serious problem with what Rosen calls Kant’s “rule-utilitarianism.” How, Nietzsche asks in On the Genealogy of Morals, are we to determine whether an action will have good or bad consequences unless we have “learned to separate necessary events from chance events, to think in terms of cause and effect, to see distant events as if they were present, to anticipate them….”

Can we ever have that kind of foresight? Can we formulate rules such that everyone who acts on them will predict the same positive or negative outcomes in every situation? The questions

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It occurs to me that Kant’s approach is somewhat similar to John Rawl’s “veil of ignorance” that we assume as we define the roles, responsibilities, and rights of the various social groups without knowing beforehand which role we shall assume. It’s more or less the idea of fair sharing between two people: one cuts the portions, the other gets first choice: both are satisfied because the procedure ensures fairness.

UPDATE: See this good short video:

Written by LeisureGuy

27 October 2016 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Books, Education, Religion

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10,000 hours of practice may not be all that it’s cracked up to be: Talent is indeed important

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Take a look at this very interesting article in the New Yorker by Maria Konnikova. From the article:

Together with one of Ericsson’s own students, Len Hill, they decided to tackle the golf question head-on. Hambrick spent weeks tracking down data for P.G.A. tour stats and running analyses to determine how the pros reached their level of success. The work continued when he returned to Atlanta, and even went on into the first years of his professorship at Michigan State University. But the analyses weren’t turning out quite as expected—training was not explaining nearly as much as it should. So, while the work languished in unpublished state, Hambrick began to focus more and more on the other possible components of expert accomplishment. Of course, training was important—but how important? “I started to ask, Well, wait a second, can these strong claims about the primacy of practice actually hold up—is there the evidence to back it up?” The more he researched, the more he concluded that the answer was no. No matter how much he had practiced as a teen-ager, he would never have reached the P.G.A. tour. Of course, he’d known that all along, on some level—after all, he quit golf. People do have natural ceilings to their talent in any given area, and after a certain point their success arose from things other than deliberate practice.

In one study, for instance, Hambrick looked at pianists and measured their working memory, or the ability to keep chunks of information in mind and accessible for short periods of time. In the past, working-memory capacity has been found to be heritable. In his sample, it predicted success even when you accounted for the effects of practice; pianists with better working memory were better at sight reading—and increased practice did not alter the effect. When he looked back to one of the most frequently studied groups in expertise research, chess players, he found that, in addition to working or short-term memory, three more components of cognitive ability—fluid reasoning, comprehension knowledge, and processing speed, all abilities that are, to some extent, heritable—were related to performance. This was especially true of younger and less experienced players. If you’re naturally better, you don’t have to practice quite as much to get good.

So how much did practice actually explain? In a 2014 meta-analysis that looked specifically at the relationship between deliberate practice and performance in music, games like chess, sports, education, and other professions, Hambrick and his team found a relationship that was even more complex than they had expected. For some things, like games, practice explained about a quarter of variance in expertise. For music and sports, the explanatory power accounted for about a fifth. But for education and professions like computer science, military-aircraft piloting, and sales, the effect ranged from small to tiny. For all of these professions, you obviously need to practice, but natural abilities matter more.

What’s more, the explanatory power of practice fell even further when Hambrick took exact level of expertise into account. In sports—one of the areas in which deliberate practice seems to make the most difference—it turned out that the more advanced the athlete, the less of a role practice plays. Training an average athlete for a set number of hours yields far more results than training an élite athlete, which, in turn, yields greater results than training a super-élite athlete. Put differently, someone like me is going to improve a great deal with even a few hundred hours of training. But within an Olympic team tiny differences in performance are unlikely to be the result of training: these athletes train together, with the same coach, day in and day out. Those milliseconds come from somewhere else. Some may be due to the fact that genetic differences can account for some of the response to training. At Stanford’s elite study, which looks at the most accomplished athletes in the world, Euan Ashley, a professor of medicine and genetics, is studying how an Olympian’s body may respond differently to a given training regimen. Some changes are due to genetic variants that may affect blood transport or oxygen uptake or fat metabolism, or any other number of factors. Some are due to sheer luck—How much sleep did you get? How are you feeling? And some, of course, are due to hours of training. But at the top of the top of the top, the power of additional training falls off sharply.
So where else, exactly, do performance differences come from? . . .

The article suggests some answers to that question.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 October 2016 at 12:17 pm

The U.S. is no longer a white, Christian country. How do we handle that?

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Very interesting video from the Atlantic:


Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 11:59 am

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