We Want Subscribers Who Can’t Read This
December 6, 2019
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch
God Is On The Side With The Best Education
America has spent decades and billions of dollars in efforts to raise educational standards and help students compete with peers around the world. National programs with bipartisan support — No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core State Standards, the Every Student Succeeds Act — have had, at best, uneven results. And Tuesday’s announcement of the results from the latest rigorous international exam of 600,000 15-year-old students in 79 countries — the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) — showed the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers in the US is widening.
American teens who took the PISA test scored just slightly above students from peer nations in reading, but fell below the middle in math. That disappointing news followed results from a recent US test — the National Assessment of Educational Progress — which showed that two-thirds of US children were not proficient readers.
The director of the organization that administers the PISA test said 20 percent of American 15-year-olds were only reading on a fifth grade level of 10-year-olds. Those students, he said, face “pretty grim prospects” on the job market. Conversely, whatever China is doing is definitely working. In reading, math and science ability Chinese students far out-stripped peers in every other country. In fact, the 10 percent most disadvantaged Chinese students tested still performed better than the average.
An expert at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education said these recent test results were clear indication a new national policy direction was needed, because what the US is currently doing education-wise “just isn’t working.”
- Tech companies monitor schoolkids across America. These parents are making them delete the data (Guardian)
- The things that do – and don’t – motivate kids to succeed: Two drivers of learning behaviour are natural curiosity and the desire for a reward. But which is better for helping children learn? (BBC)
- A Dreaded Part Of Teachers’ Jobs: Restraining And Secluding Students (NPR)
I Vant To Suck You Blood! For Environmental Reasons Of Course
- A new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum tackles the question everybody who’s ever been outdoors has probably asked: Why does the world need bloodsucking creatures like leeches, ticks, mosquitoes and vampire bats?
- Blood is a hugely abundant food source, so it makes sense that wherever vertebrates exist, animals would arise to steal their life-sustaining fluids. Blood-feeding likely evolved repeatedly over the course of our planet’s history — “perhaps as many as 100 times,” according to the museum curator.
- Bloodsucking creatures have no common ancestor, as the behavior has cropped up independently in birds, bats, insects, fish and other animal groups — a testament to its evolutionary value.
- A natural history and culture institution, the museum also explores how blood-feeding, a trait that exists in nature, has crept into the human imagination and morphed into something fantastical. The exhibition will remain on display until March, but this writer won’t be attending. (Smithsonian)
Land Of The Rising Economy
- On Thursday Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a $120 billion stimulus package to strengthen Japan’s slowing economy and help some of the areas hit hardest by Typhoon Hagibis.
- The country had already racked up the biggest debt load in the developed world, relative to the size of its economy, in attempts to stoke growth and help pay for expanding social welfare costs to support a rapidly aging population. Abe built his reputation on growing Japan’s economy after years of stagnation, but a weakening global economy and trade rifts have sabotaged the country’s recovery.
- Just two months ago the administration pledged to reverse the borrowing trend, but Abe said the new measures were needed to “overcome downside risks” and “maintain or enhance economic viability” after Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics next summer. (NYT)
- Radiation hotspots ‘found near Fukushima Olympic site’: Greenpeace calls for fresh monitoring of region where nuclear disaster occurred (Guardian)
All Of Trump’s Horses And All Of Trump’s Men
- The Trump administration is considering sending dozens more ships, military hardware and up to 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East.
- The new deployment would be intended to counter any potential Iranian retaliation for mounting sanctions under the administration’s economic pressure campaign. It could also double the number of US military personnel already sent to the region since the start of a troop buildup last May. Some officials worry adding more military resources to the mix could provoke another attack or put the region on track for a dangerous and unpredictable conflict.
- Between 60,000 to 80,000 US troops are currently deployed to the Middle East and Afghanistan, depending on the number of ships in the region and the rotation of ground forces. (WSJ)
- Afghanistan Needs Billions in Aid Even After a Peace Deal, World Bank Says (Guardian)
- What the C.I.A.’s Torture Program Looked Like to the Tortured (NYT, $)
- Iran Is Secretly Moving Missiles Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say: The buildup of a hidden arsenal of short-range missiles is the latest sign that American efforts to deter Iran have largely failed. (NYT, $)
Let’s See Him Dodge This Draft
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday the House of Representatives would begin drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump, charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors.
- Pelosi said the Intelligence Committee’s two month investigation made clear Trump had violated his oath of office by pressuring a foreign power, Ukraine, for help in his 2020 reelection campaign. It’s also possible impeachment articles could include obstruction of justice charges involving the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- Pelosi said the beneficiary of Trump’s withholding of military assistance to Ukraine was Russia, and people should remember Russia is our adversary.
- The Judiciary Committee will convene a hearing on Monday to allow lawyers to formally present the evidence in the inquiry. Despite uniform Republican opposition, the committee appears to be on track to begin public debate and voting on the articles by the end of next week. The final day Congress is scheduled to be in session this year is December 20. (NYT)
How to Juice Book Sales
- For authors and book publishers, making the New York Times bestseller list is the pièce de résistance. The paper doesn’t reveal its selection methodology, other than to say it’s based on a “detailed analysis of book sales from a wide range of retailers.” During the Trump administration some politically-themed books, like those by James Comey, Michael Wolfe and Jim Mattis, have spent weeks on the coveted bestseller list.
- So casual observers might not have been surprised when Donald Trump Jr’s new book: Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, shot to the top of the treasured Times list. But given a closer look, one sees a little dagger next to the book’s entry on the list; it means some portion of sales were made in bulk.
- According to a Federal Election Commission filing, the Republican National Committee paid a bookseller $94,800 for around 4,000 copies of Don’s book. There have also been reports of other bulk purchases by conservative organizations. (NPR)
- Additional quote: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle
Don’t Catch Some Zzz’s, Let The Zzz’s Come To You
- Agonizing over lack of sleep is turning into a source of anxiety, and keeping some people up at night. Fears over bad sleep are getting the TED treatment and topping bestseller lists.
- UC Berkeley psychologist Matthew Walker warns that sleep loss is an epidemic that could have dire consequences. Walker says his research shows our chronically overtired brains make our bodies more susceptible to diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.
- Getting a good 40 winks, he argues, would improve memory and mood, and even make us feel and look younger. “Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity,” Walker declared in his 2019 TED talk. “It is your life support system. And it is Mother Nature’s best attempt at immortality.”
- But there’s a downside to all this obsession over what’s good sleep, and measuring, rating, tracking and comparing has led to a new sleep disorder some scientists are calling orthosomnia — a condition where anxiety over proper sleep metrics actually induces insomnia.
- Here’s the takeaway: Sleep may be a biological necessity, but stress over it is a choice. Better to relax, hit the snooze button, and put this issue to bed. (Wired)
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