Sunday, 27 March 2011

What do we measure?

"The gross national Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our door and the jails for the people who break them (...) It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl (...) Yet the GNP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials (...) It measures everything, in short, except that which makes worthwhile." Those wise words came from Robert Kennedy and were quoted in Doing the right thing: Measuring wellbeing for public policy. Bobby Kennedy is speaking about the ridiculous measure of economic growth to determine the health of a country. Taken from Found by H, researcher extraordinare. Thanks once again, H.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

'Free schools'

Yes, they should. Free schools I mean.

A lovely person from Home Education Business Forums has brought this to our attention:

"Government spokesman says the education secretary is 'crystal clear' that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact" it burbles.

Hmmm. And I thought you could rely on the writing on the package. Free schools? Ha! Nothing free about being told you can't teach creationism, is there?

And it's an oddity that scientific fact is a) not always fact and b) is often widely and vehemently opposed to the current mode of thinking in science.

Professor Brian Cox may whittle on about black holes but even he has to admit that, once we get inside one, the black hole is merely a big cavity of mysterious happenings. Let's face it, creationism may be entirely appropriate inside your friendly neighbourhood black hole.

What is it behind all this then?

It's the struggle again with what you personally believe and what the state thinks is right and wishes you would believe. It's the space between your ears that's up for grabs. Believe that science is fact and you're approved of. Believe that a supreme being decanted us into life and you're not.

And, once again, the human being - that bright source of restless curiosity - is relegated to a plaything in the clash between the world views of other people. Because no human child is clever enough to sort his or her way through the various theories and come out with some sort of conclusions that satisfy him or her.

"The BCSE, which describes itself as the leading anti-creationist organisation in Europe, wrote to Gove to express its "extreme concern" at applications from groups such as the Everyday Champions Church and the Christian Schools Trust to run free schools."

Why does the BCSE (whosoever they are) wish to express 'extreme concern' at other people learning whatever they choose? Why must we all believe in science the way most folks conceive it to be? What's in it for the BCSE? Why are they so bothered what children learn about the universe?

I believe in a certain type of loo roll (toilet paper) but I would defend to the very verge of death your particular right to like another type of bog wiper.

I suppose that makes me open-minded.

And if the government tells us we should prefer one loo roll over another?

Is that the government's job?

What are they so afraid of? Is it that science, when analysed by those eager young bright minds (or any minds at any stage and any age), will appear to be fairy stories told by those with reasons to tell them?

I'm not against science. I've sat in a fair amount of classes learning all types of the stuff and had many hours of pondering over the beauty of a lot of it. I say let the creationists rock on with their creationism, and the scientists point out the loveliness of science. Teach both and let the brilliant brains that sit and listen work it all out.

"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." ~Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Y Factor

"Forced by the relentless ambition of the Y-chromosome to reproduce itself, women were reduced to a state of serial pregnancy, increasingly enslaved by dependence on men.

This suited the Y-chromosome as the sexual landscape turned in its favour. The irresistible opportunity arose to build a harem, a herd of women just as dependent on its owner as his sheep or cattle. Women themselves became domesticated and imprisoned. The temptation to polygamy was overpowering and examples were all around. Men, driven on by the lash of their Y-chromosomes, could copy their cattle and become the stud bulls of their own herd. But the damage didn't stop there. The enslavement of women through serial pregnancy required much earlier weaning than before. No longer required to be able to walk and run before being released from the breast, the young child need to be weaned. Some archaeologists believe this was accomplished by the invention of fired pottery which allowed cereal grains to be boiled into a pastry gruel which could be fed to unweaned infants. Once her child was weaned, a woman could become pregnant again soon afterwards. The bull/man would have no difficulty at all with that part. But the children, ripped from the security and unconditional love that breast-feeding embodies, were left feeling bewildered and abandoned. Far from gaining a sense of independence, they were bereft, deprived of the strong sense of their own value and autonomy which builds during this intimate and prolonged contact. Some believe that children even now never really recover from this shock. They struggle to regain trust in a world that has for some reason unknowable to them abruptly changed for the worse. The trauma of early weaning has even been adduced in modern theories of depression. The feeling of powerlessness implanted by the sudden withdrawal of love and nurture at the mother's breast, when even the cries of despair go unanswered – as they must for early weaning to succeed – leaves a long shadow in the psyche of the very young that can darken their whole lives."

Professor Bryan Sykes thinks it's all the fault of the Y chromosome, ladies.

Read his book Adam's Curse. Well-written and very interesting.

Excerpt from
Adam's Curse – A Future without men - by Bryan Sykes, Bantam Press, 2003 p. 237-238

Sunday, 13 March 2011

For all the phenomenal women out there - and the phenomenal men

This poem isn't mine. I wish it was. It expresses what women can be and what they are. It's by the phenomenal Maya Angelou.

Phenomenal woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.

I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.

I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.

I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
it ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,

'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Thanks to H. for finding it, and Maya Angelou for writing something so profound to celebrate womanhood.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Fair mood or foul

Did you know that if you're in a rotten mood you're a less effective learner?

Obviously the opposite is true too.

When you think about it, it's fairly reasonable. You can't focus on anything, you feel irritable and upset, and the last thing on your mind is trying to retain knowledge.

But the research is there:

"Findings show that both positive and negative mood may hinder or promote information processing. In two experiments, we show that negative mood impairs transfer effects and learning."

Yes, that's just what I said in non-experimenter language.

"Additionally, mood affected performance if it was induced before the learning phase; participants in a negative mood needed more repetitions to reach the mastery level and also performed worse in the transfer tasks, although there were no greater mood differences in this problem-solving phase."

In normal words, people took longer to get good at something if they were feeling bad about anything.

Common sense.

When you have a bad experience while learning it can affect your performance so try to keep everyone happy. It's an easy way to boost performance.

The research came from 'How do we learn in a negative mood? Effects of a negative mood on transfer and learning,' found in the Journal of Learning and Instruction, Vol 17 no 1, February 2007