The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

27th August 2021

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

We can always tell when we’ve got a great book to read when we’re so excited about it that we sneak reading in even during the day, when we’re supposed to be working. And just such a book is Tom Reiss’s The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.  This is a stunningly good book—to be deposited on Barb’s shelf of “favorite books of history.”  It’s always fantastic when you read a biography centered around a decent, caring, but daring human being who gives whatever it takes to do it right by his fellow humans.  

Just such a person was Alex Dumas, father of the famous novelist Alexandre Dumas, (author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers—whose key characters were clearly based on aspects of the novelist’s father). Alex, the son of a white marquis and a black enslaved woman, Marie-Cessette Dumas, was the first person of color in the French military to become general-in-chief of a French army. What an extraordinary man!  You can’t help but read about his exploits and come to believe he was an eighteenth-century superhero. 

Reiss provides a very different perspective on the French Revolution and its destroyer, Napoleon Bonaparte.  By providing an in-depth perspective of someone who knew Napoleon well, we come to see how narcissistic Napoleon actually was.  And where the French Revolution had begun the process of freeing all enslaved people in French dominions, Napoleon moved to re-enslave them and to re-institutionalize racism in France.  (Somehow, this is never emphasized in Napoleon biographies.)  In the end, however, it is the wonderful exploits of Alex Dumas that makes this extraordinary book such a delight to read. Also fantastic for audio.

How to Make Best Use of the Most Important Tool in a Software Developer’s Toolkit: Your Brain

This YouTube video on behalf of Class Central, features software expert Zach Caceres presenting with Barb about practical insights for programmers from neuroscience. These insights can enhance your ability to move to and beyond mastery in becoming an intuitive coder.

A Happy School Sets an Example with Uncommon Sense Teaching

LHTLer Brenda Benedict of the  Lake Superior Academy, a Montessori elementary charter school in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, writes: “I teach struggling readers over Zoom. (I live in Grand Rapids, MI). I took Learning How to Learn years ago and it has changed my teaching.

“I introduced the headmaster of the school, Susie Schlehuber, to Uncommon Sense Teaching. She is implementing the concepts to the teachers this week. Together we are showing teachers how to use the concepts in their teaching. The teachers are embracing it and preparing lessons to share with their students. It is very exciting!

“Thank you for your work. We are expecting a great school year of achievement with the students. I am currently taking the MOOC on Uncommon Sense Teaching and love it!” 

Now this is an exemplary school!  Please feel free to reach out to Brenda or Susie if you might have questions about how to enroll your child (if you live in Michigan), or to implement similar programs in your school.

Uncommon Sense Teaching Makes the Retrieval Practice Hall of Fame!

As you probably recall, our favorite book on teaching is Pooja Agarwal and Patrice Bain’s Powerful Teaching (which we reviewed here). We’re happy to report that our very own Uncommon Sense Teaching made it onto the retrieval practice “Hall of Fame”—see their recommended books related to retrieval practice here

Matthew Walker (author of Why We Sleep) and Dan Ariely are Sadly Moved to Our Hall of Shame

Two figures we’ve admired in the past have come under scrutiny for serious ethical issues with their work.  We ourselves have touted the book Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, as an important book on sleep’s value. (We’re ashamed to have touted it as one of our books of the year.)  Walker’s book, as it turns out, is riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, as described in this outstanding analysis by Alexey Guzey (himself an early student of Learning How to Learn). 

As Wikipedia notes: “Walker failed to disclose that numerous meta-analyses involving over 4 million adults found the lowest mortality was associated with 7 hours of sleep, and that the increased risk of death associated with sleeping more than 7 hours was significantly greater than the risk of sleeping less than 7 hours as defined by a J-shaped curve.” As Guzey concludes: “…imagine that a 20-year-old who naturally needs to sleep for 7 hours a night, reads Why We Sleep, gets scared, and decides to spend the full 8 hours in bed every day. Then, assuming that they live until 75, they will waste more than 20,000 hours or more than 2 years of their life, with uncertain long-term side-effects.”  But there’s far, far more, including evidence for misrepresentation of the institution where Walker received his doctorate (the institution Walker had claimed apparently doesn’t issue doctorates), plagiarism, and, well, just making stuff up if it supports what Walker wants to say.  (Here is Walker’s response to some of the criticism.)

And we were also sad to learn of retraction and problematic research by Dan Ariely, who has studied, of all things, honesty.  Many companies (including some online learning platforms), ask students to sign integrity statements before beginning quizzes or fill-in forms.  This approach has often arisen in conjunction with Ariely’s findings.  Unfortunately, there’s good evidence that the data for this research was cooked.  

An Uplifting Message for Students

This wonderful video message for a Week 6 School Assembly at Sydney Grammar School in Sydney, Australia, gives a sense of the kind of upbeat insights and reminders that teachers can give their students.  Relax and enjoy Ms. Julia Wilson’s message—and perhaps share some similar motivational messages with your own students at your school!

Tea-Shirts for Tea Lovers

After last week’s discussion of teapots, we discovered this interesting online store that sells “tea-shirts” for tea aficionados.  If you’re a fan of tea, you might enjoy perusing their offerings.

Barbara Oakley ร่วมมือกับ LHL Brainery ส่งเสริมคนไทยให้เรียนรู้อะไรก็ได้ บนโลกใบนี้

Barbara Oakley ร่วมมือกับ LHL Brainery ในการสนับสนุนให้คนไทยได้เข้าถึงเนื้อหาของหลักสูตรระดับโลกอย่าง Learning How to Learn ผลงานด้านประสาทวิทยาของการศึกษาแบบเข้าใจง่ายและเทคนิคที่สามารถนำไปใช้ประโยชน์ได้จริง เพื่อส่งเสริมการสร้างทักษะการเรียนรู้ให้ผู้เรียนมีความพร้อมสำหรับการเรียนหรือการทำงานแบบก้าวกระโดดในอนาคต เพราะไม่ว่าคุณจะอยู่ในสายอาชีพไหน ทักษะการเรียนรู้เป็นสิ่งพื้นฐานที่จะทำให้คุณสามารถทำทุกอย่างที่ปรารถนาให้ประสบความสำเร็จได้อย่างง่ายและรวดเร็วขึ้น ขอเชิญติดตามเรื่องราวของ Learning How to Learn ได้ที่ LHL Brainery Facebook.

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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