RSSCategory: Education

Why they tell the truth.

April 27, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Why they tell the truth.

I was listening to local Christian AM radio station “Truthtalk KJSL” tonight while driving home (as an amateur anthropologist). I heard a promotional spot that caught my attention. It went like this:

Abraham Lincoln said: “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” That’s why at KJSL we tell you the truth!

Oh, Really? Is that why?

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Neo-Jesus according to Rush Limbaugh

April 26, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
Neo-Jesus according to Rush Limbaugh

Lawrence O’Donnell put Limbaugh in his  place after Limbaugh attempted to rewrite the Bible. Limbaugh’s outburst was this: Those on the political left mangle the words of Jesus Christ. They improperly claim that Jesus was a liberal/socialist who would approve of tax increases on the rich. This is incorrect, says Rush. Jesus would not “take” taxes from the rich:

At 5:30, O’Donnell gives Rush a homework assignment:  Find a bible passage where we find Jesus “sympathizing with rich people for having paid too much tax or having been too generous, or having been forced by anyone, by the state, by Caesar, by anyone . . . forced to be too generous. “

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What I Have To Say About Ayn Rand

April 25, 2011 | By | 30 Replies More
What I Have To Say About Ayn Rand

From time to time, here and there, someone brings Ayn Rand up as some kind of role model. Lately it’s even in the national news, thanks to the Tea Party and an apparently not very good film of Rand’s seminal masterwork, Atlas Shrugged. The uber conservatives now crowding reason out of the halls of congress with their bizarro legislation and their lectures from the floor and on committees about how their toilets don’t flush right so why should regulations on light bulbs be passed are the children of the Dragon’s Teeth cast randomly by Ms. Rand and her philosophical cult followers. It amazes how people who profess to believe in a philosophy of independent thought can sublimate themselves so thoroughly to the dogmas of that philosophy and claim with a straight face that they are free thinkers on any level. The phrase “more Catholic than the pope” comes to mind sometimes when crossing verbal swords with these folks, who seem perfectly blind to the contradictions inherent in their own efforts. Rand laid out a My Way or the Highway ethic that demanded of her followers that they be true to themselves—as long as they did as she directed.

Ayn Rand’s novels, of which there were three (plus a novella/parable I don’t intend to discuss here), moved by giant leaps from promising to fanciful to pathetic. There are some paragraphs in any one of them that are just fine. Occasionally a secondary character is nicely drawn (Eddie Willers is possibly her most sympathetic and true-to-life creation) and from time to time there is even a moment of genuine drama. But such bits are embedded in tar pits of philosophically over-determined panegyric that drowns any art there might be.

But then, her devoted fans never read them for the art.

What Rand delivers in both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged is a balm to the misunderstood and underappreciated Great Man buried in the shambling, inarticulate assemblage that is disaffected high I.Q. youth.

The give-aways in both novels involve laughter. The opening scene in The Fountainhead characterizes Howard Roark for the entire novel, prefiguring the final scene in the novel, which translated to film perfectly in the weird 1947 Gary Cooper thing.

Howard Roark laughed.

He stood naked at the edge of a cliff….He laughed at the thing which had happened to him that morning and at the things which now lay ahead.

Of course, the thing that had happened to him that morning was his expulsion from university for not completing his assignments. You can pretty it up with philosophical dross, but basically he didn’t do what he was required to do, instead opting for self-expression in the face of everything else. Hence the misunderstood genius aspect, the wholly-formed sense of mission, the conviction of personal rightness, and the adolescent disdain for authority no matter what.

But his reaction? To laugh.

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Weight grade

April 23, 2011 | By | Reply More
Weight grade

According to this AP story, Malaysia are about to start grading students on their weight “to curb obesity that includes banning school cafeterias from selling junk food and sugar-laden soft drinks.”

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Intelligence can exacerbate motivated reasoning

April 18, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Intelligence can exacerbate motivated reasoning

At The Intersection (no relation), Chris Mooney points out that Intelligence doesn’t protect us from Motivated reasoning. In fact, intelligence can invite this problem. What is “motivated reasoning”?

In motivated reasoning, memory searches, interpretations of incoming information, evaluations of arguments, and even perception, are biased in such a way that we will be more likely to arrive at a desired conclusion (called a directional motivation . . . ). The way this is achieved, in essence, is by limiting the information that is retrieved from long term memory into current working memory (the store of information that is available for current processing), thereby biasing the information available for supporting or evaluating conclusions and arguments, as well as interpreting incoming information.

Climate-change denial is a good place to observe motivated reasoning in action:

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Chris Hedges: Kick the modern money-changers out of the temple

April 18, 2011 | By | Reply More
Chris Hedges: Kick the modern money-changers out of the temple

Chris Hedges had some sharp words for the modern day money-changers last Friday, during his speech in Union Square, New York City, during a protest outside a branch of the Bank of America:

The bankers and hedge fund managers, the corporate and governmental elites, are the modern version of the misguided Israelites who prostrated themselves before the golden calf. The sparkle of wealth glitters before them, spurring them faster and faster on the treadmill towards destruction. And they seek to make us worship at their altar. As long as greed inspires us, greed keeps us complicit and silent. But once we defy the religion of unfettered capitalism, once we demand that a society serve the needs of citizens and the ecosystem that sustains life, rather than the needs of the marketplace, once we learn to speak with a new humility and live with a new simplicity, once we love our neighbor as ourself, we break our chains and make hope visible.

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How standardized test essay questions are graded

April 17, 2011 | By | Reply More
How standardized test essay questions are graded

Ever wonder how those big testing companies grade the essay questions on standardized tests? This article in the City Pages (an alternative weekly in the Twin Cities) will make you wonder, more than ever.

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Ayn Rand’s worship of a serial killer

April 17, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Ayn Rand’s worship of a serial killer

I was stunned when I read this article by Mark Ames at Alternet. I’ve long found Ayn Rand’s worldview to be morally stunted, even sociopathic, but I had no idea that she was so far gone that she fervently admired a serial-killer/dismemberer. Check out this intro:

There’s something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be so hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population that thought like this, but the U.S. is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and libertarian crowd, but whose influence is only starting to spread out of the U.S.

One reason most countries don’t find the time to embrace Ayn Rand’s thinking is that she is a textbook sociopath. In her notebooks Ayn Rand worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of “ideal man” she promoted in her more famous books. These ideas were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America’s most recent economic catastrophe . . .

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A day in the life of an inner-city middle school principal

April 14, 2011 | By | Reply More
A day in the life of an inner-city middle school principal

Ever wonder what it is really like to run a public middle school in the inner city. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times has writtenan excellent account of the job of Ramon Gonzalez, principal of a public middle school in the South Bronx.

In certain respects, 223 is a monument to Klein’s success: empower the right principals to run their own schools and watch them bloom. Thanks to Klein, González has been able to avoid having teachers foisted on him on the basis of seniority. He has been able to create his own curriculums, micromanage his students’ days (within the narrow confines of the teachers’ union contract, anyway) and spend his annual budget of $4 million on the personnel, programs and materials he deems most likely to help his kids.

And yet even as school reform made it possible for González to succeed, as the movement rolls inexorably forward, it also seems in many ways set up to make him fail. The grading system imposed by Klein that has bestowed three consecutive A’s on González is based in part on how well 223 does on state tests. But the school’s relative success on these tests and other measures also disqualifies him from additional state resources earmarked for failing schools. The ever-growing number of charter schools, often privately subsidized and rarely bound by union rules, that Klein unleashed on the city skims off the neighborhood’s more ambitious, motivated families. And every year, as failing schools are shut down around González, a steady stream of children with poor intellectual habits and little family support continues to arrive at 223. González wouldn’t want it any other way — he takes pride in his school’s duty to educate all comers — but the endless flow of underperforming students drags down test scores, demoralizes teachers and makes the already daunting challenge of transforming 223 into a successful school, not just a relatively successful one, that much more difficult.

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