Category: Education

How to Deal With Social Anxiety

| October 23, 2016 | Reply

Eric Barker offer a well researched post on how to deal with social anxiety. Here’s an excerpt:

  1. Mindfulness recommends “noting” troublesome thoughts like fear. Recognize and accept them to let them go.
  2. Neuroscience advocates “labeling.” (Frankly, this is a lot like noting but backed by some PhDs and an fMRI.)
  3. Stoicism has “premeditation.” That’s when you ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” and realize it’s not that bad.
  4. Neuroscience also recommends “reappraisal.” This is reinterpreting your feelings with a new story that makes them less scary.

A random bunch of tips? Nope. So what do they all have in common? You gotta use your brain. You gotta think. Some might reply, “I am thinking, I’m thinking about all the awful stuff that could happen if I embarrass myself. In fact, I can’t STOP thinking about it!” But you’re not thinking. You’re reacting. Fight or flight. Like an animal would.

Here’s something Barker’s article that I didn’t appreciate.  Intense mental focus “smothers” anxiety.

When your thinking brain — the prefrontal cortex — is highly engaged, it slams the brakes on feelings. And you can use this trick deliberately. Anything that gets you thinking actively can smother anxiety.

This makes perfect sense, given the limited scope of attention. If you fill your head with challenging problem solving, there simply isn’t room for anxiety.  Barker suggests that one thing to focus your mind on is your fears–face your fears, and it will keep anxiety at bay.  Barker reminds that we are not our thoughts.   Therefore, instead of saying, “I’m feeling anxious,” say say, “There is anxiety.”  Instead, note the existence of scary thoughts.

I’ll keep this advice in mind.


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Why we SHOULD talk to strangers

| September 4, 2016 | 2 Replies

Kim Stark has made a career of talking to strangers. She made it her task to try to understand why she does that, in this TED talk. She has decided that it is better to use one’s perceptions than to use categories, such as the category of “stranger.” Using this category means that we are not treating others as fully human. There are other benefits. Some studies show that people are more comfortable opening up to strangers than to people they believe they know. We expect that people we know understand us–we expect them to read our minds. Not so with strangers, with whom we start from scratch. Sometimes they do understand us better. Maybe we need strangers, but how should we interact with them, how do we balance both civility and privacy, which are the guiding rules in the U.S. In other countries there are other rules. In Denmark, many folks are extremely adverse to talking to strangers.

Stark offers and exercise that involves smiling, and then “triangulation,” commenting on a third person or a thing. Or engage in “noticing,” such as complimenting the other person on something (and you can most easily talk to a stranger’s dog or baby). Or engage in “disclosure,” sharing a personal experience, and this tends to cause the “stranger” to reciprocate.

Stark’s main message is that we need to stop being so wary of strangers and to make a place for them in our lives.

At The Atlantic, James Hamblin follows up with his own explorations on talking to strangers.


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Bill Nye on the foolish concept of race

| August 18, 2015 | 1 Reply

I completely agree with Bill Nye on the issue of “race.” We should all reject the concept of “race.” It is wholly and completely unscientific. We are all of the same species: We are all human beings. Yes, we humans come with different skin colors and we have various features that differ based on our ancestry, but we are all human. In rejecting the concept of “race,” I would urge that we maintain and vigorously enforce laws that protect people from other people who foolishly continue to believe in “race” and act on that foolish belief. If we keep clinging to unscientific unsupported notions of “race,” though, we will FOREVER be divided for an idiotic reason, regardless of how well-intentioned our belief in “race.” Unfortunately, the belief in “race” has long been widespread; and it has long been institutionalized and repeatedly used as a tool for oppression, power and financial gain. Rooting it out of every little corner of the planet will be an immense task requiring that people listen closely to those who do careful science on this issue, and then do their utmost to recognize that every person is of the same species.

Nye does not reject that there are such things as social tribes but warns that they can be destructive: “There have always been tribes . . .but what we have to appreciate now is that we live in a global community. Tribal loyalties are fun when it comes to the Superbowl but they are not relevant when it comes to our future. We are all in this together.”

We can fully recognize the need to protect people from racism and racialism while rejecting the concept of race. In my view, we should all be fighting a two front war. Deny the existence of race while at the same time protecting people from the ravages of racism. To anticipate objections to this post, yes, race is social construct that is as real as any social construct. But it is inevitably and ultimately a destructive social construct. It’s time to dismantle it while carefully protecting people from bigots.

We can fully recognize the need to protect people from racism and racialism while rejecting the concept of race. In my view, we should all be fighting a two front war. Deny the existence of race while at the same time protecting people from the ravages of racism. I thought I made this clear. Yes, race is social construct that is as real as any social construct. It is an ultimately destructive social construct. Time to dismantle it while protecting people from bigots.

I’m too impatient to wait for those who embrace “race” to wear each other out with insults, wounds and killings. I’m certainly not willing to wait for an interplanetary diaspora. I want the stupidity (and consequent mistreatment of innocent human beings) to stop NOW. There is no need to wait any longer. We can get entirely rid of the notion of race while yet embracing friendships, communities, extended families and extended ancestry, as well as 80,000 types of diversity rooted in real life things. And let’s keep in mind that ALL of us have ancestry that undeniably extends to the same place: Africa. We are all ultimately African. Starting now, let’s seek diversity only in meaningful things, such as the content of our character.

It will take many people immense effort to break out of the racialist matrix. One of my early steps out was reading about Star-Bellied Sneetches, a book demonstrating that even young children understand the problem. The concept of race is poisonous–used for mischief wherever it is used What I propose is that we embrace people while rejecting race.

this topic really frustrates me because we are all victims of this “race” scam yet we all continue to cling to this empty dangerous concept that you can use a smattering of physical characteristics to judge an entire person. And why is it that a President who has a “white” mother and a “black” father end up being called “black” or “African American”? Are we that low on brain wattage that we oversimplify like this? Why do so many of us cling to race? Ask cui bono, to whom does it benefit? It benefits many in many ways. For some it provides evidence-free victimhood. For others, an instant community. For others, evidence free scapegoats. And for most of us, “race” is a concept born out of laziness – we don’t want to do the hard work of really getting to know each other

Addendum 9-8-15

Path dependence plays into this issue big time. If people had been getting along, oblivious to skin color or other trivial physical characteristics we associate with “race,” and if someone came along and suggested, “Hey, let’s start generalizing about what kind of person we are dealing with on the basis of ‘race,” a totally unscientific and incoherent concept that I have invented based on trivial physical characteristics of humans. As people with geographically correlated trivial characteristics intermarry over time, it will become more and more absurd to determine who is of what race. I propose in fact, that a President who has a “white” mother and a “black” father will be deemed “black,” and this will invite people to treat him/her with unwarranted presumptions as to what kind of person he/she is.” If someone had made that proposal in this hypothetical scenario, it would (or at least, in an intelligent world) SHOULD be immediately rejected as absurd, divisive and dangerous.

My conclusion: the only reason we continue to divide people by “race” is because ignorant people from long ago started doing so, and they did it for horrible reasons related to power-mongering and economic advantage.


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Why many American men are circumcised

| July 28, 2015 | Reply

This short comedy video explains the history of circumcision in the United States.


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Pushback against anti-GMO

| July 15, 2015 | 1 Reply

From Slate, questions about the integrity of the anti-GMO food movement:

That’s the fundamental flaw in the anti-GMO movement. It only pretends to inform you. When you push past its dogmas and examine the evidence, you realize that the movement’s fixation on genetic engineering has been an enormous mistake. The principles it claims to stand for—environmental protection, public health, community agriculture—are better served by considering the facts of each case than by treating GMOs, categorically, as a proxy for all that’s wrong with the world. That’s the truth, in all its messy complexity. Too bad it won’t fit on a label.


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Stop attending your kids’ organized sports games

| July 4, 2015 | Reply

Why shouldn’t you attend your child’s organized sporting events? It’s a form of helicopter parenting:

Compared to other parts of our children’s lives, sports are bizarrely parent-centric. We don’t gather in the back of algebra class and watch students solve quadratic equations. In music and dance and theater, we don’t attend every single practice, lesson and rehearsal. We just show up for an occasional performance, keep our mouths shut and applaud like crazy when it’s over.

So, here’s a better idea, especially for the legions of paunchy, stressed-out, middle-aged souls out there. Let’s banish parents from youth fields, courts, and diamonds, and let’s arrange for moms and dads to play soccer, softball, basketball, whatever, themselves when their children have a game.

Our kids would get more freedom, we parents would get more exercise, and all of us would remember why we love sports.


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Lee Camp comments on the way the U.S. fails to support college education

| March 22, 2015 | 1 Reply

Lee Camp comments on the way the U.S. fails to support college education. Spot on. Then he skewer Obama by reference to 1994 Cheney. Excellent.


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Unsurprising new study: homeopathy does not work

| March 14, 2015 | Reply

Here is yet more proof that homeopathy does not work.


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Elite College for Free, Without the Degree

| March 4, 2015 | Reply

How can you possibly attend elite colleges for free? You just walk into the classrooms and act like a student.

Here is the opening to this story, which addresses more than a few serious topics:

Between 2008 and 2012, Guillaume Dumas took courses at some of the best colleges in North America—Stanford, Yale, Brown, University of California Berkeley, McGill, and University of British Columbia, among others—without being enrolled as a student. He then went on to start a successful online dating business in Montreal.

For four years, the 28-year-old from Quebec lived the life of a wandering scholar, moving from one university town to the next, attending lectures and seminars, getting into heated debates with professors. Sometimes he was open about his unregistered status, but most of the time, fearing reprisal, he kept it quiet. To pay for his everyday expenses, he worked at cafes and occasionally earned money by writing papers for other students. He lived at co-ops or other cheap student housing, but at Brown, when funds got particularly low, a kind soul let him set up his sleeping bag and tent on the roof. At the end of all this, he never received a degree.


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