Merkel takes aim at Trump in ‘tear down walls’ speech at Harvard


Politico reports:

Angela Merkel urged Harvard graduates Thursday to “tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness” in a speech laced with apparent jibes at Donald Trump and his policies.

Though she did not name the U.S. president, the German chancellor devoted much of her Harvard University commencement speech to attacking major pillars of Trump’s presidency: protectionism, trade wars and building walls.

She also warned of the “threat climate change poses to our planet’s resources” and called for the world to work together. Trump announced in 2017 that he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.

The German chancellor began her speech by describing her life in former East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She said that every day on her way home from her work, she would walk toward the wall, only to have to “turn away from freedom” on the other side at the last minute.

“The Berlin Wall limited my opportunities. It quite literally stood in my way,” Merkel said at Harvard, which earlier in the day awarded her an honorary degree.

She further stressed “multilateralism instead of unilateralism,” a “global” way of thinking rather than a national one, and “being open-minded instead of isolationist.” [Continue reading…]

Children change their parents’ minds about climate change

Lydia Denworth writes:

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg became famous this spring for launching a student movement to compel adults to take action on climate change. Instead of going to school, Greta has been spending her Fridays in front of the Swedish parliament with a sign reading: “School Strike for Climate.” Students in more than 70 countries have since followed her lead. But before she started trying to convince the world to take action, Thunberg worked on her parents. She showered them with facts and showed them documentaries. “After a while, they started listening to what I actually said,” Thunberg told the Guardian newspaper. “That’s when I realized I could make a difference.”

Thunberg is not alone. Other young people can be equally convincing, according to a paper published May 6 in Nature Climate Change. The team of social scientists and ecologists from North Carolina State University who authored the report found that children can increase their parents’ level of concern about climate change because, unlike adults, their views on the issue do not generally reflect any entrenched political ideology. Parents also really do care what their children think, even on socially charged issues like climate change or sexual orientation.

Postulating that pupils might be ideal influencers, the researchers decided to test how 10-to-14–year-olds’ exposure to climate change coursework might affect, not only the youngsters’ views, but those of their parents. The proposed pass-through effect turned out to be true: teaching a child about the warming climate often raised concerns among parents about the issue. Fathers and conservative parents showed the biggest change in attitudes, and daughters were more effective than sons in shifting their parents’ views. The results suggest that conversations between generations may be an effective starting point in combating the effects of a warming environment. “This model of intergenerational learning provides a dual benefit,” says graduate student Danielle Lawson, the paper’s lead author. “[It prepares] kids for the future since they’re going to deal with the brunt of climate change’s impact. And it empowers them to help make a difference on the issue now by providing them a structure to have conversations with older generations to bring us together to work on climate change.” [Continue reading…]

Screen time has stunted the development of generations of children

The Guardian reports:

A study has linked high levels of screen time with delayed development in children, reigniting the row over the extent to which parents should limit how long their offspring spend with electronic devices.

Researchers in Canada say children who spent more time with screens at two years of age did worse on tests of development at age three than children who had spent little time with devices. A similar result was found when children’s screen time at three years old was compared with their development at five years.

“What is new in this study is that we are studying really young children, so aged 2-5, when brain development is really rapidly progressing and also child development is unfolding so rapidly,” Dr Sheri Madigan, first author of the study from the University of Calgary, told the Guardian. “We are getting at these lasting effects,” she added of the study.

The authors say parents should be cautious about how long children are allowed to spend with devices. [Continue reading…]

The importance of knowing you might be wrong

Brian Resnick writes:

Julia Rohrer wants to create a radical new culture for social scientists. A personality psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Rohrer is trying to get her peers to publicly, willingly admit it when they are wrong.

To do this, she, along with some colleagues, started up something called the Loss of Confidence Project. It’s designed to be an academic safe space for researchers to declare for all to see that they no longer believe in the accuracy of one of their previous findings. The effort recently yielded a paper that includes six admissions of no confidence. And it’s accepting submissions until January 31.

“I do think it’s a cultural issue that people are not willing to admit mistakes,” Rohrer says. “Our broader goal is to gently nudge the whole scientific system and psychology toward a different culture,” where it’s okay, normalized, and expected for researchers to admit past mistakes and not get penalized for it.

The project is timely because a large number of scientific findings have been disproven, or become more doubtful, in recent years. One high-profile effort to retest 100 psychological experiments found only 40 percent replicated with more rigorous methods. It’s been a painful period for social scientists, who’ve had to deal with failed replications of classic studies and realize their research practices are often weak.

It’s been fascinating to watch scientists struggle to make their institutions more humble. And I believe there’s an important and underappreciated virtue embedded in this process.

For the past few months, I’ve been talking to many scholars about intellectual humility, the crucial characteristic that allows for admission of wrongness.

I’ve come to appreciate what a crucial tool it is for learning, especially in an increasingly interconnected and complicated world. As technology makes it easier to lie and spread false information incredibly quickly, we need intellectually humble, curious people. [Continue reading…]

Millions of America’s school children are being terrorized by gun violence

The Washington Post reports:

Locked behind their green classroom door, MaKenzie Woody and 25 other first-graders huddled in the darkness. She sat on the vinyl tile floor against a far wall, beneath a taped-up list of phrases the kids were encouraged to say to each other: “I like you,” “You’re a rainbow,” “Are you ok?”

In that moment, though, the 6-year-old didn’t say anything at all, because she believed that a man with a gun was stalking the hallways of her school in the nation’s capital, and MaKenzie feared what he might do to her.

Three times between September and November, bursts of gunfire near MaKenzie’s public charter elementary school led DC Prep to seal off its Southeast Washington campus and sequester its students. During the last one, on Nov. 16, a silver sedan parked just around the corner at 10:42 a.m., then the men inside stepped out and fired more than 40 rounds. As MaKenzie’s class hid upstairs, teachers frantically rushed three dozen preschoolers off the playground and back into the building.

“The lockdowns,” as MaKenzie calls them, have changed her, because the little girl with long braids and chocolate-brown eyes remembers what it was like before them, when she always felt safe at her Anacostia school, and she knows what it’s been like afterward, when that feeling disappeared.

School shootings remain rare, even after 2018, a year of historic carnage on K-12 campuses. What’s not rare are lockdowns, which have become a hallmark of American education and a byproduct of this country’s inability to curb its gun violence epidemic. Lockdowns save lives during real attacks, but even when there is no gunman stalking the hallways, the procedures can inflict immense psychological damage on children convinced that they’re in danger. And the number of kids who have experienced these ordeals is extraordinary.

More than 4.1 million students endured at least one lockdown in the 2017-2018 school year alone, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by The Washington Post that included a review of 20,000 news stories and data from school districts in 31 of the country’s largest cities. [Continue reading…]

Binge drinking and blackouts: Sobering truths about lost learning for college students

File 20180917 158240 10ihdv6.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Young adults at a tailgate. Young adults are more likely than older adults to binge drink and are at greater risk when they do.
Monkey Business ImagesShutterstock.com

By Jamie Smolen, University of Florida

Tens of thousands of college students nationwide will cheer for their football teams this weekend. Some of those who show up for the game after tailgate drinking may not remember the highlight touchdowns that they cheered so loudly for. Others may have trouble remembering even a rousing celebration of victory. Binge drinking, the leading type of alcohol misuse for college students, is the culprit. Drinking too much too fast can cause memory loss, sometimes called a blackout, erasing any recollection of an enjoyable life event.

What’s more, research is suggesting that binge drinking in the college brain can impair not only learning but memorizing. Deficiencies in both of these crucial neurocognitive processes would probably make studying very difficult, and far less productive. In such a case, maintaining a high academic standing might be impossible.

While many young people may euphemistically refer to binge drinking as “partying,” those of us who study addiction know that it is a serious health risk for young people. We have long known of the immediate risks from assault, death by motor vehicle and suicide linked to drinking. But the effects of binge drinking affect learning inside and outside the classroom and can have adverse effects on making successful transitions throughout life.

[Read more…]

The U.S. education system has produced a society of ‘smart fools’

Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg: IQ rose 30 points in the 20th century around the world, and in the U.S., that increase is continuing. That’s huge; that’s two standard deviations, which is like the difference between an average IQ of 100 and a gifted IQ of 130. We should be happy about this, but the question I ask is, If you look at the problems we have in the world today—climate change, income disparities in this country that probably rival or exceed those of the gilded age, pollution, violence, a political situation that many of us never could have imagined—one wonders, What about all those IQ points? Why aren’t they helping?

What I argue is that intelligence that’s not modulated and moderated by creativity, common sense and wisdom is not such a positive thing to have. What it leads to is people who are very good at advancing themselves, often at other people’s expense. We may not just be selecting the wrong people; we may be developing an incomplete set of skills—and we need to look at things that will make the world a better place.

Do we know how to cultivate wisdom?

Yes, we do. A whole bunch of my colleagues and I study wisdom. Wisdom is about using your abilities and knowledge not just for your own selfish ends and for people like you. It’s about using them to help achieve a common good by balancing your own interests with other people’s and with high-order interests through the infusion of positive ethical values.

You know, it’s easy to think of smart people, but it’s really hard to think of wise people. I think a reason is that we don’t try to develop wisdom in our schools. And we don’t test for it, so there’s no incentive for schools to pay attention.

Can we test for wisdom, and can we teach it?

You learn wisdom through role modeling. You can start learning that when you are six or seven. But if you start learning what our schools are teaching, which is how to prepare for the next statewide mastery tests, it crowds out of the curriculum the things that used to be essential. If you look at the old McGuffey Readers, they were as much about teaching good values and good ethics and good citizenship as about teaching reading. It’s not so much about teaching what to do but how to reason ethically; to go through an ethical problem and ask, “How do I arrive at the right solution?” [Continue reading…]

The Chinese Communist Party is setting up cells at universities across America

Foreign Policy reports:

In July 2017, a group of nine Chinese students and faculty from Huazhong University of Science and Technology participating in a summer program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) formed a Chinese Communist Party branch on the third floor of Hopkins Hall, a campus dormitory.

The group held meetings to discuss party ideology, taking a group photo in front of a red flag emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, according to a July 2017 article and photos posted to the Huazhong University website. The students’ home institution had sent four teachers on the trip, directing them to set up the party cell to strengthen “ideological guidance” while the students were in the United States.

The Illinois university partners with several Chinese universities in exchange programs; at least two of those Chinese universities have directed participants to form party cells on the Urbana-Champaign campus, using those cells for ideological monitoring and control, according to articles posted to university websites and interviews with student participants.

One Chinese exchange student who studied at UIUC in the fall of 2017 says that before embarking on the study tour in Illinois, the students had to attend a lecture on the dangers of the Falun Gong, a strongly anti-party spiritual group banned in mainland China but active in the United States.

After the students’ arrival in Illinois, their home university asked the group to set up a temporary party branch and requested that the students hold a viewing party to watch the 19th party plenum in October, the major party planning conference held every five years. (The plenum was the subject of a major global propaganda push, with Chinese embassies and consulates reaching out to Chinese community organizations around the world, asking them to organize events for their members.)

The exchange students at UIUC were also asked to report on any potentially subversive opinions their classmates may have evinced while abroad, according to the student.

“After we went back to China, we had one-on-one meetings with our teachers. We talked about ourselves and others performance abroad,” the student says. “We had to talk about whether other students had some anti-party thought.”

Illinois is not alone. Party cells have appeared in California, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The cells appear to be part of a strategy, now expanded under Chinese President Xi Jinping, to extend direct party control globally and to insulate students and scholars abroad from the influence of “harmful ideology,” sometimes by asking members to report on each other’s behaviors and beliefs. [Continue reading…]

The policing of opinion has become established practice in societies that call themselves free


John Gray writes:

For liberals the recent transformation of universities into institutions devoted to the eradication of thought crime must seem paradoxical. In the past higher education was avowedly shaped by an ideal of unfettered inquiry. Varieties of social democrats and conservatives, liberals and Marxists taught and researched alongside scholars with no strong political views. Academic disciplines cherished their orthodoxies, and dissenters could face difficulties in being heard. But visiting lecturers were rarely dis­invited because their views were deemed unspeakable, course readings were not routinely screened in case they contained material that students might find discomforting, and faculty members who departed from the prevailing consensus did not face attempts to silence them or terminate their careers. An inquisitorial culture had not yet taken over.

It would be easy to say that liberalism has now been abandoned. Practices of toleration that used to be seen as essential to freedom are being deconstructed and dismissed as structures of repression, and any ideas or beliefs that stand in the way of this process banned from public discourse. Judged by old-fashioned standards, this is the opposite of what liberals have stood for. But what has happened in higher education is not that liberalism has been supplanted by some other ruling philos­ophy. Instead, a hyper-liberal ideology has developed that aims to purge society of any trace of other views of the world. If a regime of censorship prevails in universities, it is because they have become vehicles for this project. When students from China study in Western countries one of the lessons they learn is that the enforcement of intellectual orthodoxy does not require an authoritarian gov­ernment. In institutions that proclaim their commitment to critical inquiry, censorship is most effective when it is self-imposed. A defining feature of tyranny, the policing of opinion is now established practice in societies that believe themselves to be freer than they have ever been. [Continue reading…]

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Allowing teachers to be armed is an asinine idea, says a veteran who’s been shot in combat

Matt Martin writes:

Someone shooting at you, specifically trying to kill you, is probably the most terrifying life event a person could ever experience.

Regardless of training, you don’t know how people will respond in life and death situations until the moment comes. You don’t know how people will react when they hear gunshots. You don’t know how people will react when the person next to them is shot. You don’t know how a person will respond when their task is shooting someone they know or taught. You just don’t know.

And now we are expecting teachers, even with training, to perfectly handle this situation. I say perfectly because anything less could mean even more tragedy and death. This isn’t a movie where bullets always miss the hero. These teachers aren’t action stars. These are average people, who more likely than not, have never come close to experiencing anything like this.

Few people actually run towards gunfire. Most search for cover. Some can’t function. Fight or flight. Adrenaline floods your body. Time doesn’t exist. Your heart beats outside of your chest. Fine motor skills stop working. People urinate and defecate themselves. Good luck holding steady aim at a moving target. Even the simplest of tasks, such as reloading can become difficult. Your hands shake for hours afterward. It’s chaotic on a level that is beyond comprehension until you experience it. [Continue reading…]