3rd December 2020

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

Inferno: The True Story of a B-17 Gunner’s Heroism and the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History, by Joe Pappalardo, a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics. A critically important aerial front in the WWII battles against the Nazis was the daylight forays of the US Army Air Force (USAAF) over the skies of Western Europe from 1942 until near the end of the war. Over 30,000 USAAF personnel were killed—as author Pappalardo notes “For some scale, the U.S. Marines suffered 24,500 killed in action during World War II.” Barb’s bomber-pilot-to-be father, Al Grim, caught pneumonia during training in 1942. This nearly mortal illness held him back as his initial pilot training cohort went on to be killed virtually to a man over Europe in circumstances similar to those Pappalardo describes in Inferno. (Barb’s gifted uncle, Rodney Grim, was killed during training when another young pilot rammed his plane, as poignantly described in the Grave Discovery: Discovering Grave Stones and Stories blog. (Yes, Rodney Grim is Barb’s brother’s name, tooit was a bit of a shocker for the living Rodney to see “his” gravestone in the Opheim Montana graveyard, although, of course, the military got his name wrong.)

Pappalardo uses the unlikely tale of a ne’er-do-well winner of the Medal of Honor, Maynard Harrison Smith, as a narrative device to help readers understand the horrors endured by men who were often facing near certain death. The central sections of Pappalardo’s book, describing what it was like to be flying a burning, just ready-to-snap-apart “flying fortress” while being strafed by German aces, are enough to keep you on the edge of your seat (don’t even try reading at bedtime.) The undercurrent theme of the book is precision bombing—a will-o’-the-wisp target if ever there was one. If you enjoy learning about important, but little-known topics of military history, this book is for you.

ASEE Presents: Barb’s Synchronous Master Class On Effective Teaching

Coming up soon, Barb and colleagues (and a special mystery guest!) will be doing the first live webinar presenting practical insights and ideas from their groundbreaking new book Uncommon Sense Teaching. This workshop, on the afternoons of January 6, 7, and 8th, 2021, gives an unprecedented look at new insights from neuroscience that give you practical tools that can help your students learn more effectively.  Wherever you teach, you will find this workshop provides great new insights on learning that aren’t even contained in Learning How to Learn. Space is limited, so reserve your seat now

Chocolate and Cognition

There’s been plenty of research evidence that cocoa is helpful for not only cardiovascular function, but also for cognition.  This recent study “Dietary flavanols improve cerebral cortical oxygenation and cognition in healthy adults,” strengthens those findings even further.  If you’re already in the peak of physical health as an exercise buff, cocoa may not make much of a difference. But for non-athletes, a little cocoa seems to be a genuine day brightener, especially if you are doing difficult cognitive work.  Just be careful that the cocoa hasn’t had all the goodness stripped out of it.  (Barb uses CocoaVia, which appears to use some of the most effective commercially available processing methods for retaining flavonoids.)

A tanulás tanulása: Learning How to Learn for Hungarian Speakers!

Terry and Barb’s book Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens is now available in Hungarian as A tanulás tanulása—it’s at all the bookstores and via e-shops in Hungary. Dr Lilla Kocsis has done some wonderful short videos videos in Hungarian about the book on Facebook, (it’s enough to make Barb want to squeeze in time to be learning Hungarian!). And don’t forget, the MOOC Learning How to Learn is now available in Hungarian as A tanulás tanulása: Hatékony mentális eszközök, melyek segítenek megbirkózni a nehéz tantárgyakkal.

Politics in Academia: A Case Study

Academic environments form a vital underpinning for all of education. This post relates the sad saga of trying to publish scientific findings informatively critical of that environment. As psychologist Glenn Geher notes: 

“The most difficult paper that my team (the New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab) and I have ever tried to publish was a paper on the topic of political motivations that underlie academic values of academics. 

That paper, inspired by a visit to our campus from NYU’s Jonathan Haidt, founder of the Heterodox Academy, was, a bit surprisingly to us, so controversial that it was rejected by nearly 10 different academic journals. Each rejection came with a new set of reasons. After some point, it started to seem to us that maybe academics just found this topic and our results too threatening. Maybe this paper simply was not politically correct. I cannot guarantee that this is what was going on, but I can tell you that we put a ton of time into the research and, as someone who’s been around the block when it comes to publishing empirical work in the behavioral sciences, I truly believe that this research was generally well-thought-out, well-implemented, and well-presented. And it actually has something to say about the academic world that is of potential value.”

Geher’s experience seems to involve a situation related to academia being run like a business. Big Business is rightly criticized for influencing researchers who then mislead the public about the efficacy or harm of their products. This is an obvious problem for the public that might be using their products, and it is the reason that conflicts of interest must be revealed, for example, in publishing papers and applying for grants.  But academia seems to censor research that might show them in a bad light. This is a more insidious, invisible problem for a public who relies on academia for education and sound scientific advice. It seems that unlike conflicts of interest involving researchers with ties to business, journal editors can have their own profound academic conflicts of interest that remain unacknowledged, perhaps most especially to themselves. The result, sadly, can be an erosion of public distrust of published findings.

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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