Sunday, April 26, 2009

Down With Math (Originals)

Down With Math (Originals)

Yes, let me raise a simple question which may point to a partial answer. Why do students seeking certification of their competence in teaching, law, medicine, admission to virtually any higher education, get tested equally on mathematics as on everything else? SAT, GRE and LSAT and similar scores are based on a mandatory evaluation of math skills as as significant as tests of factual knowledge and intellectual skiils. Results in such math tests count for nearly as much as virtually everything else on the exams in which a person needs to perform well in order to snatch one of the glittering shares of the high pile of world money.

But Homo sapiens acquired a portfolio of skills and interests which sustained our economic and social survival in an array of trying and often dire circumstances. We carry these in our heads still. They involve the ability to communicate with others, read their behavior, know how groups work, and track the links between ideas and successful survival action. In all this, the ability to do higher and even modest mathematics could scarcely be more unimportant. We have elevated an arcane and behaviorally limited technical capacity into a robust necessity of daily accomplishment when in fact it is no such thing.

[...]

Has this to do with overestimating the importance of mathematics in the school system? I think so, because our system of educational credentials rewards folks who master technique but not necessarily judgement about its use and its meaning for human lives. Look at it coldly. You will be puzzled by whatever made our system so dependent an arcane technical skill which has proved so difficult for people wielding only judgement to supervise and guide.

Time to think and rethink arithmetic.

I think there's a lot of truth to this. We have become convinced that everyone in every career needs math. But realistically few people use intensive math skills in their jobs, even friends of mine who are accountants and engineers would probably agree. I see that standardized tests like the ACT have very difficult math sections, but the rest of the test is essentially "read the following passage and answer questions about it"- basic reading comprehension. No testing whatsoever of anything taught in history, computers, health, political science, most sciences. No wonder kids aren't interested in studying history- we've convinced them that calculus will serve them so much better. Is it really better for society as a whole to emphasize one particular skill to the detriment of all others? I remember telling a student that math was overrated and she practically went ballistic. Anytime every teen you meet "knows" something is true- like wikipedia is full of lies, math is the most important skill, climate change is a proven fact, McDonalds will kill you, humans shouldn't eat meat- it's a sign to me that some fairly effective societal brainwashing is at play. On a side note I am bemused that so much of education today aims to elicit critical thinking skills from students by asking open ended opinion questions. When students answer, this "critical thought" is instantly acclaimed, far more so than when students diligently master and memorize a body of information. But in my estimation, students are simply regurgitating what they've heard from societal opinion makers- the exact opposite of critical thinking. I also note that the proposed method of "teaching critical thinking" involves asking open ended questions, rather than teaching actual techniques to evaluate sources or debate effectively. I doubt most teachers and administrators really know what "critical thinking" means anyway. If they did, why wouldn't they use their own critical thinking skills to evaluate all the educational pablum that is foisted upon us, like Glasser's multiple intelligences theory, and other educational dogma that passes for "best practices".

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Too Much Sugar Is Bad, But Which Sugar Is Worse: Fructose Or Glucose?

Too Much Sugar Is Bad, But Which Sugar Is Worse: Fructose Or Glucose?

ScienceDaily (Apr. 25, 2009) — In 2005, the average American consumed 64kg of added sugar, a sizeable proportion of which came through drinking soft drinks. Now, in a 10-week study, Peter Havel and colleagues, at the University of California at Davis, Davis, have provided evidence that human consumption of fructose-sweetened but not glucose-sweetened beverages can adversely affect both sensitivity to the hormone insulin and how the body handles fats, creating medical conditions that increase susceptibility to heart attack and stroke.

In the study, overweight and obese individuals consumed glucose- or fructose-sweetened beverages that provided 25% of their energy requirements for 10 weeks. During this period, individuals in both groups put on about the same amount of weight, but only those consuming fructose-sweetened beverages exhibited an increase in intraabdominal fat.

Further, only these individuals became less sensitive to the hormone insulin (which controls glucose levels in the blood) and showed signs of dyslipidemia (increased levels of fat-soluble molecules known as lipids in the blood).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama's leap to Socialism- TheHill.com

TheHill.com

President Obama showed his hand this week when The New York Times wrote that he is considering converting the stock the government owns in our country’s banks from preferred stock, which it now holds, to common stock.

This seemingly insignificant change is momentous. It means that the federal government will control all of the major banks and financial institutions in the nation. It means socialism.

The Times dutifully dressed up the Obama plan as a way to avoid asking Congress for more money for failing banks. But the implications of the proposal are obvious to anyone who cares to look.

When the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) intervention was first outlined by the Bush administration, it did not call for any transfer of stock, of any sort, to the government. The Democrats demanded, as a price for their support, that the taxpayers “get something back” for the money they were lending to the banks. House Republicans, wise to what was going on, rejected the administration’s proposal and sought, instead, to provide insurance to banks, rather than outright cash. Their plan would, of course, not involve any transfer of stock. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) undercut his own party’s conservatives and went along with the Democratic plan, ensuring its passage.

But to avoid the issue of a potential for government control of the banks, everybody agreed that the stock the feds would take back in return for their money would be preferred stock, not common stock. “Preferred” means that these stockholders get the first crack at dividends, but only common stockholders can actually vote on company management or policy. Now, by changing this fundamental element of the TARP plan, Obama will give Washington a voting majority among the common stockholders of these banks and other financial institutions. The almost 500 companies receiving TARP money will be, in effect, run by Washington.

And whoever controls the banks controls the credit and, therefore, the economy. That’s called socialism.

[...]

With bank profits up and financial institutions trying to give back their money, there is no need for the conversion of the government stock from preferred to common — except to advance the political socialist agenda of this administration.

Meanwhile, to keep its leverage over the economy intact, the Obama administration is refusing to let banks and other companies give back the TARP money until they pass a financial “stress test.” Nominally, the government justifies this procedure by saying that it does not want companies to become fully private prematurely and then need more help later on. But don’t believe it. They want to keep the TARP money in the banks so they can have a reason and rationale to control them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Does Too Much Sun Cause Melanoma?

Does Too Much Sun Cause Melanoma?

Two experts debate the issue in the British Medical Journal.

Sam Shuster, a consultant dermatologist at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says that sun exposure is the major cause of the common forms of skin cancer, which are all virtually benign, but not the rarer, truly malignant melanoma.

Shuster says that the common skin cancers develop in pale, sun exposed skin and are less frequent in people who avoid the sun and use protection. In contrast, melanoma is related to ethnicity rather than pigmentation and in 75% of cases occurs on relatively unexposed sites, especially on the feet of Africans. Melanoma occurrence decreases with greater sun exposure and can be increased by sunscreens, while sun bed exposure has a small inconsistent effect. Therefore, he concludes, any causative effect of ultraviolet light on melanoma can only be minimal.

There is good evidence that the reported increase in melanoma incidence is an artefact caused by the incorrect classification of benign naevi as malignant melanomas, this, he argues, explains why melanoma mortality has changed little despite the great increase in alleged incidence.

He recognises that ultraviolet light causes the common, mainly benign skin cancers and, like smoking, wrinkles the skin. But he says, this is not a good enough reason for a blanket ban and we have to strike a balance with the sun's many other effects on health--from psychological and immunological, to the synthesis of vitamin D essential for bones and apparent protection against many major organ cancers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

GetHerb:: Attention Deficit Disorder What is it

GetHerb:: Attention Deficit Disorder What is it

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD) occur as a result of neurological dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the newest part of our tri-brain system in evolutionary terms. It is the part of our brain that performs executive functions. The functions of this brain deal with 1) attention span, 2) perseverance, 3) judgment, 4) organization, 5) impulse control, 6) self-monitoring and supervision, 7) problem solving, 8) critical thinking, 9) forward thinking, 10) learning from experience, 11) ability to feel and express emotions, 12) interaction with the limbic system, and 13) empathy.

Whenever there is a problem with this part of the brain, a number of skills that many human beings take for granted would not be available in any optimal way. The following are problems that develop when the prefrontal cortex is affected. 1) Short attention span, 2) distractibility, 3) lack of perseverance, 4) impulse control problems, 5) hyperactivity, 6) chronic lateness and poor time management, 7) disorganization, 8) procrastination, 9) unavailability of emotions, 10) misperceptions, 11) poor judgment, 12) trouble learning from experience, 13) short-term memory loss, and 14) social and test anxiety.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Effects of Marijuana: Healthcare Medical Device

The Effects of Marijuana: Healthcare Medical Device

Scientific studies released in mid-1997 indicate that people who smoke large amounts of marijuana may experience changes in their brain chemistry. These changes are similar to those seen in the brains of people who abuse addictive drugs such as heroin, cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol. All addictive drugs increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical responsible for causing feelings of reward. The new studies found (for the first time) that high doses of marijuana increased the levels of dopamine in the brain. Constant use of addictive drugs, however, can cause the brain to lose its ability to produce high levels of dopamine. When this happens, a drug user feels a greater need for the drug, or for even stronger drugs. Scientists believe this may occur with marijuana.

Users of addictive drugs feel withdrawal symptoms (feeling anxious, edgy, and unable to cope) when they stop taking the drugs. It was previously believed that marijuana users did not suffer feelings of withdrawal. However, the recent studies indicate that heavy users of marijuana smoke not so much for the “high” but to calm their feelings of anxiety brought on by withdrawal from the drug. Since THC is absorbed primarily in the fat tissues and lingers in the bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms are not as evident as with fast-acting drugs like nicotine.

In 1985, the FDA gave approval for the use of two psychoactive chemicals from marijuana to help prevent the nausea and vomiting many cancer patients experience after receiving chemotherapy. For these patients, THC can be prescribed in capsule form. Research suggests that compounds (other than THC) inhaled when smoking marijuana can also be used for medicinal purposes. Marijuana may help stop the weight loss in AIDS patients, it may lower eye pressure in people with glaucoma, it may control spasms in multiple sclerosis patients, and it may help relieve chronic pain.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

For Some, Voice Mail Is Losing Its Allure - NYTimes.com

For Some, Voice Mail Is Losing Its Allure - NYTimes.com

Research shows that people take longer to reply to voice messages than other types of communication. Data from uReach Technologies, which operates the voice messaging systems of Verizon Wireless and other cellphone carriers, shows that over 30 percent of voice messages linger unheard for three days or longer and that more than 20 percent of people with messages in their mailboxes “rarely even dial in” to check them, said Saul Einbinder, senior vice president for marketing and business development for uReach, in an e-mail message.

By contrast, 91 percent of people under 30 respond to text messages within an hour, and they are four times more likely to respond to texts than to voice messages within minutes, according to a 2008 study for Sprint conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation. Even adults 30 and older are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text than to a voice message, the study found.

There are no definitive studies of how many voice mail messages American leave compared with earlier periods, but if the technology is heading toward obsolescence — as many communication experts suspect — the trend is being driven by young people. Again and again, people under 25 recount returning calls from older colleagues and family members without bothering to listen to messages first. Thanks to cellphone technology, they can see who called and hit the Send button to reply without calling their voice mail box. “Didn’t you get my message?” parents ask. “No,” their children reply, “but I saw that you called.”

Jack Cathey, 20, a college student in Lewisburg, Tenn., said his parents and grandparents continued trying to leave him voice messages despite his objections. “Do you know your voice mail’s full?” a family member asked him recently, failing to comprehend that, for his generation, that might not be a problem.

To cater to those with no patience for voice mail, wireless providers are busy rolling out a new generation of text-based alternatives that promise to make communication faster and more efficient.

The most popular is Visual Voicemail, which comes standard on the iPhone and is available on other smart phones, including the Samsung Instinct and the BlackBerry Storm. The application displays messages in a visual in-box, just like e-mail, and allows users to listen to messages one by one, in any order, so important calls can be returned first and others saved.

Other companies have taken a bolder approach, eliminating the need to listen to messages altogether.

Paul Greenberg : The Entitled - Townhall.com

Paul Greenberg : The Entitled - Townhall.com "Academic Entitlement" syndrome

It's no longer the coaches who appeal, wheedle, growl, grovel, or whatever it takes to raise a student's letter grade. It's the students themselves.

Naturally enough, a team of academics has written a paper about this sad trend. ("Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting and Motivational Factors"). The syndrome now has a name (Academic Entitlement) and an abbreviation (AE) -- just like Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The four scholars who did this Pioneering Study trace the origins of AE to parental pressure, material rewards for good grades, competitiveness, and "achievement anxiety and extrinsic motivation." They conclude that AE is "most strongly related to exploitive attitudes towards others and moderately related to an overall sense of entitlement and to narcissism."

At the risk of putting all that in plain English, these kids are spoiled brats with character problems. But how will they ever get over them if they're not allowed to fail -- and learn from their failures? If their mediocre performance is regularly rewarded with As and Bs, how will they learn the difference between excellent and run-of-the-mill?

The saddest aspect of these kids' condition is that they're unaware of it. They actually think they're pretty darned good, and deserve those good grades. More to be pitied than scorned, they may come out of school with no idea of what real accomplishment is, and the intrinsic satisfaction of doing something well.

They may never thrill at a formula elegantly devised, a mission truly accomplished, a sentence well written, a simple procedure done with care every time, an experiment perfected, a form that perfectly follows function....

Not for The Entitled the sense of awe that may be the first step toward God. If a teacher dropped one of these students off at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he the might emerge a few hours later with only one question: Is this going to be on the test?

But why should they be any different from what they are? Raised in an age when self-esteem is all, they're told how great they are from K to 12 and may graduate without the faintest idea of what greatness is, or demands.

Consider this newly named syndrome another argument for universal military service. Call it Greenberg's Theorem: There's nothing wrong with these kids that six weeks of basic training at an Army base in some barren clime wouldn't cure -- if they didn't manage to have mama or papa get them out of it.

But if they stuck it out, they'd soon learn that it's results that count, not influence or manipulation. Or even effort if it's misplaced, if it amounts to nothing more than the same mistakes endlessly, energetically repeated.

To quote a deluded young senior at the University of Maryland: "I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade. What else really is there than the effort that you put in?"

Well, for starters there is talent, insight, intention, humility, tolerance, an openness to criticism and a determination to learn from it. There is an appreciation for what is noble and contempt for what is base. And the love of knowledge for its own sake, not for the rewards it might bring, and . . . well, you get the point. Unless, of course, you think you're entitled.