Marie Antoinette and other great biographies

5th October 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

Marie Antoinette: The Journey, by Antonia Fraser. We’re used to reading history books about compelling, intelligent men and women like Catherine the Great, Peter the Great, and Queen Isabella of Spain. We’re not-so-used-to reading books about apparent intellectual lightweights. And indeed, Marie Antoinette started her life as a coddled royal who successfully eluded attempts to, for example, teach her how to read. But despite her love of frivolity, Marie Antoinette had a great and good heart—you’d be hard put to find a woman who could face the worst and remain brave until the end.  Her ultimate, raw intelligence in front of the jury, with its pre-ordained verdict of guilt, is heartrending. This is the story of how dangerous “fake news” mobs—as easy to lead then as they are now—put Marie Antoinette under the guillotine. A spell-binding read. 

When the Culture War Comes for the Kids

This essay by George Packer in The Atlantic describes how some schools are beginning to see their mission as more oriented towards indoctrination than education. As Packer notes: “Politics becomes most real not in the media but in your nervous system, where everything matters more and it’s harder to repress your true feelings because of guilt or social pressure. It was as a father, at our son’s school, that I first understood the meaning of the new progressivism, and what I disliked about it…”   

The Dangers of Fluent Lectures 

This article by Colleen Flaherty in Inside Higher Education describes how “smooth-talking professors can lull students into thinking they’ve learned more than they actually have—potentially at the expense of active learning.  But what the associated research—“Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom”—also perhaps reveals is the reason why students can sometimes be better off not actually attending classes, but instead using their time to study actively on their own. [Hat tip Mary Pringle.]

MOOC of the Week

Our friends at Cornell University have just created the new MOOC Teaching & Learning in the Diverse Classroom, taught by Mathew Ouellett and Melina Ivanchikova. The MOOC, which launches in November, is described in this Cornell Chronicle article by Caitlin Hayes.

Coursera’s New Expert Network

Coursera has launched their new expert network, where journalists can discover subject matter experts for news stories. You can hear intriguing discussions, such as Barb’s podcast with tips to help you learn.

Muscle Building, Exercise, and Cognition

Even if you aren’t an athlete, research reveals you can build muscle through resistance training, such as weight-lifting, at any age. And of course, we know exercise has stalwart effects on cognition as well as health. Don’t have time to exercise, or a nearby gym?  No worries—recent research has revealed that warming up with a few jumping jacks, squats and lunges and then climbing 60 steps (three flights of stairs) as quickly as possible, three times a day, increased aerobic fitness by 5%.

Science’s Dirty Little SecretSelf-Citation

Scientific hard data analyst John Ioannidis from Stanford Universityhe of the infamous, vitally important research article “Why Most Published Research Findings Are Falseis back again with another hard-hitting study with the seemingly innocuous title of “A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field.” As Peter Dokrill’s article in ScienceAlert notes: “among the 100,000 most cited scientists between 1996 to 2017, there’s a stealthy pocket of researchers who represent “extreme self-citations and ‘citation farms’ (relatively small clusters of authors massively citing each other’s papers).”

Protecting Students from ThemselvesAn Emergency Room Physician’s Lecture

Dr. Louis Profeta wrote the viral essay, A Sunday Talk on Sex, Drugs, Drinking, and Dying with the Frat Boys, and since then, as he notes in his new essay, “I had been traveling the country speaking on campuses brave enough to have me. I hadn’t held anything back from the students. I warned them beforehand. I was coming from a different place, a place where doctors do rape exams, pump veins full of narcan and epinephrine, look at the clock and pronounce time of death and break horrible news to moms and dads. I had become kind of sick of it (giving out the bad news, I mean). It didn’t seem like much was working to change the tide of opiate abuse, reckless behavior, and other causes of death in young people so I figured I’d start going to the source and begging these students to, well, grow the fuck up.” 

This is a not-to-be-missed set of essays.

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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