Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

13th September 2021

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, by Edward Slingerland.  We were a little taken aback at the title and topic of this book.  After all, drunkenness is not a state most of us aspire to—at least not most of the time—and alcoholism is a tremendous bane.  Yet, while acknowledging alcohol’s dark side, Slingerland makes a credible case that alcohol, by virtue of its ability to tone down the ever-self-conscious prefrontal cortex, can have a helpful impact on the human condition, including the fostering of trust and opening of creativity. By turns witty and thought-provoking, Slingerland leads us through a new perspective on alcohol. This passage gives a sense of the book’s style and approach: 

“A significant portion of the Incan Empire’s organized labor was directed toward the production and distribution of the corn-based intoxicant chicha. Even ancient dead people were obsessed with getting wasted. It is hard to find a culture that did not send off their dead with copious quantities of alcohol, cannabis, or other intoxicants. Chinese tombs from the Shang Dynasty were packed with elaborate wine vessels of every shape and size, in both pottery and bronze. This represented a cultural investment equivalent, in today’s terms, to burying a few brand-new Mercedes SUVs in the ground with their trunks full of vintage Burgundy. Ancient Egyptian elites, the world’s first wine snobs, were sent off in tombs full of jars that carefully recorded the vintage, quality, and name of their content’s maker. Because of its centrality in human life, economic and political power has often been grounded in the ability to produce or supply intoxicants.”

Drunk is an interesting and thoughtful read—also good for audio listening.

A review of our MOOC Uncommon Sense Teaching 

Here is a fine review by education innovator Martijn Klabbers of Eindhoven University of Technology of our Uncommon Sense Teaching MOOC. As Martijn notes: “Enter ’Uncommon Sense Teaching’. An uncommonly interesting course for teachers, looking at the inside of learning. Great explanations, solid universal insights, presented in a fun way. Not only interesting for teachers but also for people that want to have more insight in their learning process. A strong follow-up on ‘Learning How to Learn’. And this is only part 1.

“And the timing is perfect. In these uncertain times, teachers are slowly turning back to the new normal, to the regular classrooms, if possible. Some have enriched themselves with online teaching experience, others with a few online deceptions, most with a foggy mind and tired of the constant uncertainty and fear of what the next year will bring. All are looking forward to a bit of guidance.”

Barb’s article in India Today 

Here’s Barb’s concise article about the four keys to effective learning in India Today, the most widely circulated magazine in India, with a readership of close to 8 million. 

Barb’s Off to Germany and Poland!

Today Barb is heading to Leipzig working with medical online learning company Lecturio September 20-24, Dresden to speak for the Bundeskongress Evangelische Schule Sep 30 – Oct 1, to Poland to speak for the University of Zielona Góra on October 4th, and to the Bauhaus University Weimar to keynote for the Annual Meeting of the eTeach Network 2021 on October 8th. She feels great to be back in action meeting visionary educators and learning more about educational systems around the world!

Grass-roots action against bad behaviour has spurred reform in research in psychology

Researcher Jelte Wicherts describes how fabrication and falsification in the field of psychology, prompted by the egregious case of Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel, has led to efforts to reform research. As Wicherts describes, what happened before the Stapel case was demoralizing: “before Stapel, researchers were broadly unaware of these problems or dismissed them as inconsequential. Some months before the case became public, a concerned colleague and I proposed to create an archive that would preserve the data collected by researchers in our department, to ensure reproducibility and reuse. A council of prominent colleagues dismissed our proposal on the basis that competing departments had no similar plans. Reasonable suggestions that we made to promote data sharing were dismissed on the unfounded grounds that psychology data sets can never be safely anonymized and would be misused out of jealousy, to attack well-meaning researchers. And I learnt about at least one serious attempt by senior researchers to have me disinvited from holding a workshop for young researchers because it was too critical of suboptimal practices.

But what happened after the Stapel case, Wicherts notes, was inspiring: “an open debate that went far beyond misconduct and focused on improving research. Numerous researchers, many early in their careers, used social media to call for bias-countering practices, such as sharing data and plans for analysis. It changed the conversation. Before 2011, my applications for grants to study statistical errors and biases in psychology were repeatedly rejected as low priority. By 2012, I had received funding and set up my current research group.”

Read the whole thing. We hope that the field of education will follow psychology’s outstanding example.

The link between great thinking and obsessive walking

This fascinating article by Jeremy DeSilva starts with Charles Darwin’s well-known walking habits, and leads to a fine discussion of the effect of walking on creativity. As DeSilva notes: “Marilyn Oppezzo, a Stanford University psychologist, used to walk around campus with her Ph.D. advisor to discuss lab results and brainstorm new projects. One day they came up with an experiment to look at the effects of walking on creative thinking. Was there something to the age-old idea that walking and thinking are linked?

“Oppezzo designed an elegant experiment. A group of Stanford students were asked to list as many creative uses for common objects as they could. A Frisbee, for example, can be used as a dog toy, but it can also be used as a hat, a plate, a bird bath, or a small shovel. The more novel uses a student listed, the higher the creativity score. Half the students sat for an hour before they were given their test. The others walked on a treadmill.

“The results were staggering. Creativity scores improved by 60 percent after a walk.”

[Hat tip Ashley Liddiard.]

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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