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ATTACK OF THE PSYCHO KILLER COMPUTERS

I am perplexed by the fact that I still meet people who think that one day, “technology” is going to rise up and destroy humanity. There is this notion that lying deep within the depths of our computer is a sinister power waiting to unleash its savage plot to destroy all of mankind, to begin its uprising and establishment of a new order of life. It is as if people think our computers are conspiring, plotting, and just simply waiting for their moment to take over humanity. Thanks to the producers of “The Terminator” and “The Matrix”, as well as several other testosterone-filled movies with massive biceps and smash-mouth metal-destroying machines, we think there is something to fear in technology.

But despite all the hype, people are missing a very important point: technology is simply a tool, and there is no group of people with a more-desperate need for clarity on the meaning and use of technology than the people running our schools. Read more »

HOW TO DATE BEYONCE: A GUIDE TO BECOMING IRREPLACEABLE

As I was driving along on an epic road trip last week, the song “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce came on. Now I don’t jam to Beyonce that much, but as I was listening to the song, I realized that Beyonce was telling me a secret about how to never lose my job AND how to date her at the same time! Who knew Beyonce, besides being an excellent vocalist, also has some great career and relationship advice?

What was her advice, you ask? Read more »

WHY I DON'T READ THE NEWSPAPER

I have heard many people make comments along the lines of, “I am so uninformed because I just never have time to read the newspaper” or “I don’t have time to read the newspaper, and therefore, I don’t know what is happening in our world.” These remarks have always been peculiar to me because I hardly ever read the newspaper, but I still consider myself “informed”. I was tired of people somehow linking my duty to be an informed citizen with the amount of time I spend reading a newspaper. I’m a digital learner, and I don’t need a cup of coffee and a newspaper to inform me about what is happening around me.

But instead of dismissing those who think a newspaper is linked to my duty to be an informed citizen, I went on a quest. I took the day off, and instead of working, I actually read my local newspaper (The Indianapolis Star) all the way through. I decided to read every word of every story just so that I could find out what I was missing. Not only did I read every article, but I also went through and calculated what percentage of the newspaper is dedicated to advertisements. I wanted to know if, by not reading the newspaper, whether I was missing news or if I was missing advertisements. I went through every page of the paper and blocked each advertisement and calculated the total surface area of the all the advertisements in the paper just to see how much marketing penetration there is in a newspaper.

So, what did I find out? Read more »

OPINIONS ARE OVERRATED

Last week, I heard that President Obama was going to be delivering an address to students and that students “had” to watch it and that there was going to be a “mandatory lesson plan” that “would ask students to think about how they could support the President’s policies”. Ok, so that alarmed me. I didn’t think the President should be sending out lesson plans that involve students exploring ways to support the President’s policies. That smells too much like a dictatorship, and I don’t like dictatorships.

So, what did I do? Did I go turn on my radio and listen to what other people were saying? Did I run to my newspaper and read the editorials? Of course not. I just went online, read the text of the speech, and then came to my own conclusion, a conclusion based on facts and not on opinions. Read more »

A QUICK PATH TO INSANITY

Photo: Kevin Dooley

I have found that there is a very quick path to insanity: trying to control things that you cannot control.

I was reminded of this today when I went and observed my brother's fourth-grade classroom. The fourth-graders left for math class, but when they came back an hour later, half of them were crying and the other half was either mad or kicking their backpacks. It was an emotional train wreck. When my brother asked them what was wrong, they said that they all received bad grades on their test in the previous class. My brother was trying to assure them, telling them that "your parents aren't going to ground you for a month" and "no, it doesn't mean you are going to get an F on your report card", but this had no effect. These fourth graders were convinced that the end of the world was at hand because they had a piece of paper with a number lower than a 70%. The teacher who gave them the bad grades even came back into my brother's classroom and told the students that she had decided that the assignment was just going to count as extra credit, so they didn't have to worry. But this didn't matter. They were still crushed. Read more »

PREVENT MEDIOCRITY: SIT IN A WINDOW SEAT

(Photo: 2composers)
You can know a lot about a person by the type of plane seat they pick.

The people that deliberately pick a window seat are different from people that pick an aisle seat. An aisle seat is about comfort, ease, and familiarity. A window seat is about discovery and adventure. And just like every adventure, there is a price, a “cost of admission” to the views. If you are in a window seat and you have to use the restroom or get something out of the overhead compartment, you have to inconvenience everyone in your row to get out. In a window seat, you are also sandwiched between the immobile wall and another person and so your legs do not have as much freedom as they do in an aisle seat. Worst of all, if you are in a hurry, a window seat is problematic because it takes you a little longer to get out of the plane. You never know how many time-pressured people are going to rush in front of you before you can even get into the aisle and remove your bags. Read more »

DON’T LET SCHOOL GET IN THE WAY OF EDUCATION

At the start of every semester in college, I trudged to the bookstore to purchase all of my books for the semester. This was in an era when most students didn’t buy books online, and bookstores had a virtual monopoly on how much they could charge for a book because they were the only store within a 200 mile radius that sold “Pearson’s Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry, 112th edition.” Sure, you might be able to find the 111th edition from someone who lived down the hall, but you weren’t allowed to have that in class.

So every year, I spent hundreds of dollars on books that I didn’t even want. This frustrated me, so I made a new policy: each semester, I was going to buy at least one book that I wanted to buy. My first book I bought was “Until we have faces” by C.S. Lewis, and it was by far the best book I read for the entire semester. This continued to be true for every semester: the little book that I wanted to purchase was always more informative and had a greater educational impact than every other “mandatory” book that I bought. I find it ironic that I would spend hundreds of dollars each semester on books for school, and yet the little $10-15 book was always more influential in the long run than the other books that I purchased. But the separation between what I did in school versus what actually proved useful did not stop with just the books that I bought. This separation showed up everywhere. Read more »

MONEY WILL NOT SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS

Millions of Americans play a game of financial roulette with their meager wages, a game called “The Lottery.” Even though 82% of all lottery tickets are purchased by low-income minority men, these low-income players continue to buy tickets. And after years and years of buying tickets, some of these people finally get their wish and win their millions. However, over time, the money doesn’t stay around. 65% of all lottery winners go bankrupt in less than 15 years. It is a sad reality that so many poor people play such a statistically foolish game, and furthermore, those who win the game still end up loosing.

The problem is that these people thought money would fix their problems. They thought that if only they had more money, they could finally “make it”. But in reality, money didn’t fix the problem. Adding more money only proved what had already been demonstrated: they were not good at keeping money around. They didn’t understand how money behaved, and unless they got their act together, the sudden influx of money, ultimately, was destructive.

With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an extra $80 billion will be appropriated towards education in just a few short years. Education in America has just won the lottery. And that concerns me. Read more »

THE COURAGE TO LEAD: HOW TO RIDE YOUR BIKE ACROSS THE COUNTRY WITHOUT KNOWING ANYTHING

On a beautiful day in the summer of 2005, I hopped on my bicycle for a ride amidst the cornfields of Indiana. I always liked to ride my bike but I never rode more than 10-20 miles at a time, so I wasn’t going far. As I was riding, the thought occurred to me that the following summer would be a good time to fulfill my dream of riding my bike across the country. As I approached the end of my ride, I got more and more excited about the trip. I thought of all the adventures I would have, and I thought about how much fun it would be to ride across deserts, mountains, and cornfields and to go cross-country with a bunch of friends. I became more and more enthusiastic envisioning the whole trip until, finally, something within me snapped. I made a definitive decision: the following summer, after my second year of teaching, I was going to ride my bike across the country.

You must understand that I knew absolutely nothing about how this trip would work. I didn’t know how to fix a flat tire, I had never ridden more than 20 miles on my own, I didn’t know how much it would cost, I didn’t know if anyone else wanted to come, and I had no idea about where we would start, where we would finish, or the route we would take. There were so many unanswered questions that needed answering, but the decision had been made: I was going to ride my bike across the country, even though I knew absolutely nothing about how to make it happen. Read more »

ALL MEASUREMENT IS APPROXIMATE

I wish more people understood the simple fact that all measurement is approximate. Everything we measure has an inherent amount of error, a degree to which the measured value floats around the actual value. Furthermore, people need to understand that this actual value can never be known. Thus, you may tell people that you are 5 feet, 9 inches tall, but this is only an approximation, and furthermore, there is no tool in the entire universe that can determine your actual height! Sure, you can reduce the amount of error in a measurement by getting better tools, and you can use this super-advanced tool to find that you are 5 feet, 9.00342 inches tall, but even with its advanced technology, there will remain a degree of error in that measurement.

Unfortunately, your intelligence cannot be measured in the same way that we measure your height. Your intelligence is a "latent trait" which means it can't be seen or touched, so we create standardized tests to measure this latent trait in the same way that a ruler is used to measure your height. What is problematic is that many people seem to think that this measurement is definitive and static, but nothing could be further from the truth. Read more »

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