November 30, 2007
Scientific American: The Secret to Raising Smart Kids
Hint: Don't tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in lifeI know this scenario very well as I went through it myself.
A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.
[emphasis in the original]
The author goes on to discuss two different, competing views of intelligence.
Several years later I developed a broader theory of what separates the two general classes of learners—helpless versus mastery-oriented. I realized that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that’s that. I call this a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so. Like Jonathan, such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb.I was a little bit fortunate because although my parents raised me with a sort of mixed view of intelligence. They told me I was smart (cuz I am) but they also told me that "I can do anything I set my mind to." I had a very hard time in math starting in third grade when we learned long division.
The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort, not ability, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts
The problem wasn't that I didn't understand long division, but that I refused to do it. Our teacher would give us numerous problems to solve in which we had to divide numbers out to more than a dozen places. We spent weeks on
this kind of math problem, because several students had a hard time with them.
For the first week or so, I had top marks in the class doing long division. I would dutifully do my problems and turn the homework in and do well on the tests. But as we went on, instead of developing more efficient methods of doing the problems, I gave up and refused to perform those problems and I began to fail my homework assignments and class quizzes.
I remember hating math from that point on and refused to attempt to learn it.
I could blame a bad teacher for this, but the fact is that I remember consciously giving up on math because it took too much effort. I remember saying, only partly in jest, "This is what calculators are for."
My sister, by contrast, had a learning "disability" in school. It wasn't discovered until she was in 6th grade and until that time she saw how effortlessly I would succeed in school and, I think, she developed the more intrinsic view of intelligence. She hated school and fretted over her work. But after they discovered that she learns things differently, they taught her how to study differently and she began doing a lot better in school. She actually did very well in college and graduated rather confidently with honors.
I love the conclusion of the article:
There are few things more dispiriting than the thought that there is nothing a person can do to improve their situation.I think we could draw some pretty strong comparisons between this and other areas of life, such as the popular notions that minorities are disadvantaged because of racism built into standardized tests, teaching methods, and things that "white privilege" allows white people to ignore. Minorities are constantly told that they cannot succeed because the "system" is pitted against them. Is it any surprised that so many people give up and content themselves with low class, violent existence? The same can be said of any one in a lower-class situation where many people think that they need money to make money and if you're poor, you're stuck at it.
Teaching children such information is not just a ploy to get them to study. People do differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute much more to school achievement than IQ does.
Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become unteachable. Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation. If we foster a growth mind-set in our homes and schools, however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become responsible employees and citizens.
This is scientific proof that individuals are self-made! I love it!
November 14, 2007
That said, I find myself continually delighted to learn new things about Objectivism.
It is SO GOOD!
It's elegant and livable. It lets me live a life of creativity, joy, wealth, and utter happiness. And when I learn something new about it realize some new implication, I just love it so much more!
Update: This post was inspired by reading Ari Armstrong's post on Recovering from Rationalism. I'm delighted to hear about his process, but the best part to me was reading about the particular examples he gave and the description of the differences between induction and rationalism. I just hadn't thought of it that way before, so I was shocked to joy about it.
Update 2: I forgot to pay Diana some link love since she brought Ari's post to my attention.
November 13, 2007
Emphasis added.Excuse me? Ethics under negotiation?
Yee says he decided against having his students interact with other users, however. "That would have changed things with our institutional [ethical] review board," he told New Scientist. "We would probably have had to get consent from the users involved."
The UCL team did not seek to clear the SL-bot project with its review panel, because the user interaction was so simple. Only if users had been asked for personal information would ethical approval have been needed, says Friedman.
However, Yee believes that the ethics of experimenting in virtual worlds remain under negotiation. "Some review boards are probably too cautious and others too liberal," he says.
I believe that is actually called "bribery." Signs of the times, y'all.
November 12, 2007
I am so SICK of god books.
I've got Hitchens, Harris, Dennet, and Dawkins there as well as a host of rebuttals including D'Souza's new book.
I looked through my pile and hoped to read something that I would actually enjoy that everyone isn't talking about already, but I came up with nothing. The fiction in my pile seems to consist of books that I suspect are all mediocre to bad. The non-fiction ranges from boring to WAY boring or intellectually too intense for my present mood.
So, I threw several more of these tiny little god books in my bag and started reading something called The Dawkins Delusion on my ride to work.
November 08, 2007
I have to say: I really liked it. It's well-written and largely right.
Since it's so short, it really doesn't go into much detail about things, but one part really struck me: Harris points out that atheism is not a world view. It's not a philosophy. It's not an approach to life. A person can be atheist and still not be very rational. But believing in God does imply a specific metaphysical delusion and epistemological fault.
It's a quick read and the lack of detail actually prevents Harris from saying much of anything that really offends me or that represents philosophical errors that are very serious. (It's not without flaws, philosophical and otherwise, but most are pretty minor and not essential to his overall argument.)
So, I recommend it.
November 05, 2007
It’s an interesting argument, though, which boils down to this: if it’s possible to create a virtual world so real that its inhabitants are actually sentient beings, then it’s mathematically more probable that we are actually inhabitants of such a world. An innovation like that, after all, tends to give rise to numerous copies: think, for instance, how the first car burgeoned into millions of cars, just as the first computer became millions eventually, too.I think Descartes proposed a problem like this during his famous "I think therefore I am" spiel in which he posits the existence of God on some rather flimsy claims about how deceitful God is or isn't and some other stuff.This whole "we live in the Matrix" thing is one of those questions that I generally laugh at because they represent little more than parlor games for arm chair philosophers and also people who smoke pot and love The Matrix movie.
In that case, given there can be only one Natural Reality (while there can be millions of virtual realities), then it is more probable we’re inhabitants of one of those millions of virtual realities than inhabitants of the single Natural one.
Robotics researcher Hans Moravec originated the argument that we are probably already living in VR: If it is possible to build virtual realities sophisticated enough to give rise to sentient residents, it’s likely there would be many such VRs. After all, once we built the first car or the first laptop computer, millions upon millions more followed. (And even if humanity never builds superlative VR machines, some alien civilization somewhere will do it, if it is possible.) If you are a self-aware creature, then, there are two possibilities: You live in natural reality, or you live in one of these super-VRs. Since there is only one of the former and a lot of the latter, the chances are quite strong that you, and indeed all of us, are living in a simulated world.I don't agree with the assessment that “it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.” And I don't think that this says anything about the relative likelihood of that particular metaphysical truth.
Although this pseudostatistical style of reasoning doesn’t prove anything, it does say something about the relative likelihood of a particular metaphysical truth.
What reason does anyone have to think that we live inside a computer simulation?
Even if we were in a simulation and there is no possible way of distinguishing it from "natural reality" what difference does it make? Such a scenario would render the idea a blind assertion since there wouldn't be any evidence to support it.
By and large, discussions about parallel universes and whatnot don't really interest me.
I also suspect that popular understanding, summaries, and interpretations of quantum mechanics are so simplified as to be just wrong. I think people even misuse the example of Schroedinger's Cat.
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