1st June 2018

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Week

  • We often find that when we visit a country (and even when we’re simply interested in that country), it’s a great idea to read books related to that country’s history. Barb’s recent trip to China led her to read Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, by Jung Chang. This revisionist biography lends a sympathetic eye to Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908), who is considered by many to be the most important woman in Chinese history. If you want to catch a sense of the conditions that led to modern China, this intriguing book will keep you captivated—great biographies like this one are the easiest ways to learn about history. Incidentally, Empress Dowager Cixi is a nice book for audio. Jung Chang is also the author of the spectacular international best-seller Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, with over ten million copies sold worldwide. Yes, Jung Chang can write!
  • While in China we were also recommended another related biography—Wu: The Chinese Empress who schemed, seduced and murdered her way to become a living God, (a living God is, after all, a nice gig if you can get it). Where Cixi comes across as brilliant but sometimes necessarily hard-edged, Wu comes across more along the lines of the successfully sinister described in Barb’s classic, tongue-in-cheek titled but critically-acclaimed book Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend. (As Harvard’s Steven Pinker noted apropos Evil Genes: “A fascinating scientific and personal exploration of the roots of evil, filled with human insight and telling detail.”)
  • China’s Crony Capitalism, by Minxin Pei.  If you want a more up-to-date perspective on modern-day social structures in China, this book will give you a broad perspective. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there couldn’t possibly be another facet of corrupt cronyism, off Pei goes to explore a new area, from business, to environmental protection, to the judicial system, to education, to the police themselves—and far more. If you’re doing business with China, this book, along with Poorly Made in China, is a must-read.

Math Education in the US

Here is an excellent summary by experienced math teacher Barry Garelick of the deep-seated challenges with standard US mathematics education—he includes a perceptive discussion of issues with Common Core. Barry’s book Math Education in the US: Still Crazy After All These Years, is available for free on KindleUnlimited. [Run again due to previous missing link.]

Standing Up Against Campus Intolerance

Unfortunately, university campuses, which should be the most stalwart bastion of learning and opening the mind to new and different perspectives, are becoming propagandists for narrow-minded ideologues.  The University of New Hampshire is the latest to fall prey to these propagandists.  The cost to attend this publicly-funded (with a $336 million dollar endowment) institution? $15,000 for in-state and $30,000 for out-of-state tuition.  You may wish to reconsider prior to sending your child to this institution, or contributing support as an alumnus. Polite and kind people tend to step back from dysfunctional behavior, but it’s time to (politely) fight back against self-serving extremists—feel free to let the University of New Hampshire know your thoughts: the incoming president is James W. Dean Jr, and the interim provost is Wayne Jones.

The best institution we know of that is fighting against the wave of campus intolerance, which is often sadly supported by weak-willed university administrators, is FIRE: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.  We’ve donated—consider making your own donation today!

MOOCs of the Week

Ever wonder what blockchain is all about? The University at Buffalo is demystifying this revolutionary technology through a specialization of four Coursera courses:

The courses are ideal for programmers and designers involved in developing and implementing blockchain applications, as well as anyone who is interested in understanding blockchain’s potential. Learn more and register for the Blockchain Specialization.

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team



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