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The First Step Is Failure

Joanne Jacobs, edu­ca­tor, blog­ger and author of Our School: The Inspir­ing Sto­ry of Two Teach­ers, One Big Idea and the Char­ter School That Beat the Odds, par­tic­i­pates today in our Author Speaks Series with an excel­lent arti­cle on how “Schools won’t improve until admin­is­tra­tors and teach­ers can admit the prob­lems, ana­lyze what’s going wrong and try new strate­gies. Stu­dents won’t improve if they think they’re “spe­cial” just the way they are.” Enjoy, and feel free to add your com­ment to engage in a stim­u­lat­ing con­ver­sa­tion.Our School: Joanne Jacobs

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The First Step Is Fail­ure
By Joanne Jacobs

When self-esteem became an edu­ca­tion watch­word in 1986, I thought it was a harm­less fad. I was wrong: It wasn’t harm­less. Many teach­ers were per­suad­ed that stu­dents should be pumped up with praise, regard­less of their per­for­mance. Schools low­ered expec­ta­tions so stu­dents couldn’t fail. Every­one got an “I Am Spe­cial” stick­er. Till the stan­dards and account­abil­i­ty move­ment kicked in, stu­dents often were judged by how they felt about learn­ing not by whether they’d actu­al­ly learned some­thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mental Training for Gratitude and Altruism

Bran­don Keim writes a nice post on The Future Sci­ence of Altru­ism at Wired Sci­ence Blog, based on an inter­view with Jor­dan Graf­man, chief of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science at the Nation­al Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke.

Bran­don pro­vides good con­text say­ing that “Sci­en­tists, said Graf­man, are under­stand­ing how our brains are shaped by cul­ture and envi­ron­ment, and a mech­a­nism of these changes may involve fluc­tu­a­tion in our genes them­selves, which we’re only begin­ning to under­stand”. (more on this in our post Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nur­ture).

And gives us some very nice quotes from Dr. Graf­man, includ­ing

  • One of the ways we dif­fer­en­ti­ate our­selves from oth­er species is that we have a sense of future. We don’t have to have imme­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion.… But how far can we go into the future? How much of our brain is aimed at doing that? […]”
  • Oth­er great apes have a frontal lobe, fair­ly well devel­oped, but not near­ly as well devel­oped as our own. If you believe in Dar­win and evo­lu­tion, you argue that the area grew, and the neur­al archi­tec­ture had to change in some way to accom­mo­date the abil­i­ties asso­ci­at­ed with that behav­ior. There’s no doubt that did­n’t occur overnight; prob­a­bly a slow change, and it was one of the last areas of the brain to devel­op as well. It’s very recent evo­lu­tion­ary devel­op­ment that humans took full advan­tage of. What in the future? What in the brains can change?”
  • The issue becomes — do we teach this? Train peo­ple to do this? Chil­dren tend to be self­ish, and have to be taught to share.”

The UC Berke­ley mag­a­zine Greater Good tries to answer that ques­tion with a series of arti­cles on Grat­i­tude. I espe­cial­ly enjoyed A Les­son in Thanks, described as Read the rest of this entry »

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