Education

  • A “new” way to cut homework loads
    courses / homework

    In some schools, the biggest obstacles to reasonable homework loads — which I’ll define as “under two hours per day,” based on past research — are the teachers and the parents (or, at least, some of the more outspoken parents). Recently, a school administrator suggested a clever way around the problem of teachers who insist on assigning an hour or two of homework a night, regardless of the students’ other teachers: having fewer teachers for each student. That sounds confusing, so let me explain. I don’t mean dropping teachers or adding students; I mean changing course schedules so they’re closer to the way they were decades ago. Today’s students can have twelve classes a week from eleven different teachers; block scheduling…

  • My degree wasn’t useless, even in the “wrong” career

    Twenty-three years ago, Columbia University awarded me a doctorate in social and organizational psychology. Given that my career in the last decade has been publishing in the auto industry, with organizational change relegated to a part-time now-and-then status, I’ve sometimes made light of the usefulness of my degree. The other day, though, I started to think about it. Regardless of whether it was the right degree or career for me, learning about social and organizational psychology did change my life. Even in undergraduate work, under Mel Gary, I learned about the roots of prejudice and discrimination, how they work, and how inevitable they are, which reshaped my attitudes about people and society. In graduate school, we went through reward systems,…

  • America’s childhood-killing, learning-blocking homework insanity
    school (homework)

    Decades ago, when Japan was starting to dominate the economy while the United States was retreating, pundits and politicians tried to figure out how we could close our “education gap.”  The solution, pundits and politicians agreed, was to toughen up. In the end, the United States launched a weak, rather flawed version of every other nation’s standardized testing, and a macho combination of longer school hours, extra homework, rigorous curricula, and tougher grading. Thus, in many towns, we send our students to long hours of school, followed by longer hours of homework, teaching them reams of trivia that they will (and probably should) forget in a year or two. Yet, we still come in well behind countries like Estonia and Belgium in…

  • You can learn from experience, but you don’t have to!

    In olden times, so I’ve been told, older people were considered wiser. The young ’uns deferred to the elderly for their accumulated wisdom. Keep in mind, of course, that the old folk were probably in their forties or fifties. People live a lot longer now than they used to, in most of the world, since we’ve figured out how to avoid dying from various plagues. Still, there is often much to be learned from older people. Except… Except that not everyone gains wisdom with age. You can learn from experience, but you don’t have to. You can just have experience and fit it into whatever mental molds you have sitting around. The mind is very good at chucking out things…

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