Monthly Archives: September 2013

Led by technology, humans abandon instincts?

FROM 2007


November 16. Creepy news: Led by Robots, Roaches Abandon Instincts. From the abstract of the scientific paper:

“Even when in the minority, robots can modulate the collective decision-making process and produce a global pattern not observed in their absence. These results demonstrate the possibility of using intelligent autonomous devices to study and control self-organized behavioral patterns in group-living animals.”

I was about to say, in a few years they’ll be doing it with humans… but they’re already doing it with humans, and I don’t mean television — they’re doing exactly the same thing with human children, integrating mechanical robots into groups to study and control their behavior. Patricia sends this article from a week ago, Could robots become your toddler’s new best friend?

The scariest thing is that cockroaches, over tens of millions of years, have evolved an egalitarian cooperative society, and yet they can still be controlled by shadowy powers without their knowledge. Even if humans, say in a million years, catch up to cockroaches and learn deep resistance to hierarchy, we still have to learn resistance to subtle manipulation of collective decision-making. But Patricia is is oddly optimistic:

“As cool as cockroaches are, they are not very high on the individual consciousness scale. I think many humans are quite capable of out-evolving this type of control. If we were not, we’d all be sending large checks to anonymous Nigerian bankers, right? In short, cockroaches lack the ability to assume the worst, to withhold their trust or belief. They are innocents, pre-Fall, in the Edenic eternal now — until they get squished.”

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Filed under predictions, technology, technology influences

“Teaching”/”Learning”/”Having” an internal locus of control

It seems intuitive to me that one of the most important things one can do for your kids is to help them to grow up to feel 1) unconditional love and 2) an internal locus of control — namely, that THEY are in charge of their destiny. That it is not luck or bad-luck or fate, etc.

Interestingly, Peter Gray writes about how the importance of internal (vs external) locus of control in regards to PLAY.
Sudbury Valley School has always seemed the perfect place to work/play (what’s the difference?) on this. So my wife and I have made major decisions–there’s that locus of control again–in our life to enable this. Moving to Framingham, working jobs that pay well enough to afford the very reasonable (but not free) tuition. Etc. Not that schools “raise your kids” either… they are obviously learning a lot by example from me and my spouse.

The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders
Children are more anxious and depressed than ever before. Why?
Published on January 26, 2010 by Peter Gray in Freedom to Learn

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My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me

My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me
What happens when a father, alarmed by his 13-year-old daughter’s nightly workload, tries to do her homework for a week

“My daughter has the misfortune of living through a period of peak homework. But it turns out that there is no correlation between homework and achievement.”



Right. Or very little.

Kids are people. Let them choose. If they are stoked on something, let them work on it as hard as they want. If not, why bother? Life is long. My kids, 5 and 8 work their hearts off on stuff they are interested in, usually to the dismay of me and/or their mom — us urgently trying to get them to do something on OUR agenda, like… get out the door for some reason or another.

And it has taken me an embarrassingly long time to realize over the years that when my 5 year old regularly seems like he doesn’t hear me asking him something over and over… it typically is not that he is ignoring me, he literally is so insanely focused on his task at hand that he doesn’t notice my increasingly loud and annoying attempts at getting his attention.

Seen in that light, that’s not annoying, it’s AWESOME.

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Filed under ageism, evidence-based, kids -- freedom and responsibility, motivation, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Unschooling (and SVS) challenges

Some of the points this article makes would be aided by SVS, but not all. I know it’s a meaningless label ultimately (as the article explains) but I suppose “unschooling” families often have some overlap in approaches as families doing Sudbury model school.

On Unschooling Attrition…

“If … kids partly feel happy about avoiding the drudgery of school but simultaneously develop the sense that they’re falling behind — and the only way to catch up is to go to school themselves — then something is wrong.”

“We are all an interesting mixed bag and I sincerely hope the most interesting thing about you isn’t the form of education you’re currently using. Get out of your bubble and lose the agenda.”

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Filed under Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, unschooling

Not News: The Most (And Least) Lucrative College Majors, In 1 Graph

Old news, right? And perhaps mostly useless because it’s not going to convince someone to study or work in engineering (for example) if they aren’t interested.

1. Data should be adjusted for things like stress and hours worked per week/year as some majors/careers are going to be much better in this respect.

2. Unemployment is also higher in many of the lowing paying majors/careers. Also, how about avg years worked and ageism by career sector? 50 years old software engineers vs 50 year old teachers.

3. Info should also be adjusted for pensions. Working for 20-30 years and retiring (or working at a new job) with a pension is rather nice.


1 in 2 new college graduates are jobless or underemployed (2013)

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Filed under ageism, contrarian, education, work

$2/watt for solar PV in Germany???

A commenter here writes:

“… (~$4/watt in MA), but that’s TWICE what they’re paying in Germany, using the same panels, racks and inverters. “

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The Heroic Imagination Project

“It’s still too soon for a long-term verdict on the curriculum, but early assessments indicate hero project’s approach is one to watch. In pilot programs at high schools in California’s Bay Area, kids who’d taken a hero course showed an enhanced understanding of concepts like the bystander effect and the ways people defer to authority, and they reported being more reflective and compassionate after taking the course. Related programs for adults, including one that teaches corporate employees to act with integrity, are in development.”

How about the entire culture of school? Check out Sudbury Valley School.

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Filed under Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

On hard work…

One nice thing about Sudbury schools is it gives you time to get going on the work of whatever it is that you want to be doing. No time to start on those “10,000 hours”? Why wait if you know what IT is? (BTW, I think the 10k hours thing is a little off, but my point is… get to it, if you want to!) And if you don’t know yet? That’s great too! Plenty of time to think and explore and converse! How many of us spent our 20s and 30s (and 40s and…) trying things out? Why not start earlier?

See also: Your Career is Not a Disney Movie

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Filed under Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Dear OpenOffice 4

Dear OpenOffice 4,

Your Calc (like Excel) application is almost perfect. I can get used to using ; instead of , in my calculations. But… can you PLEASE put at the top of the list that when someone copies and pastes (copy-and-pastes?) a column (or columns) from the app into something else — a web form, a text-editor, a word-processor — that you DO NOT copy the entire 100,000 cells that are blank! Excel does this right (just pasting the rows with content — say 1 thru 100 — and has done this right since the beginning of time (or since I recall) so please put it at the top of your bugzilla todo list! (is it in there?)


An otherwise very happy and very grateful user

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Filed under dear..., work

MACS and Common Core

I have been thinking about traditional school and standards lately — it’s in the news a lot. I guess as it always is, but perhaps especially because it’s the beginning of another school year.

For example, there is this recent one from the NY Times lauding Massachusetts (LINK) But is it that actually so great?

The article notes:
1. This is just one test of 8th graders
2. There is still a substantial performance gap between rich and poor
3. Schools are improving, but a big part of that is due to “teaching to the test”. So does this even matter?
4. The 95% percentile in Mass is still substantially below Singapore in the chart they report shows. So we are not that great. Perhaps this is showing MA is substantially holding back a substantial group of kids.

My points would be (as a Sudbury Valley School parent and Sudbury School advocate)
1. There are clearly deeper problems causing the rich/poor performance problems
2. What are the graduation rates at these schools?
3. Parents should choose. This is not the way I choose to educate MY KIDS. But we each should choose.
4. I remember doing science projects in elementary school — hermit crabs, measuring rainfall, observing clouds, growing plants. It was vaguely interesting, but I am pretty sure that I was not grasping any greater point trying to be made. If anything, I remember it sorta sucking the interest out of me (being forced to measure rainfall, plant growth etc)
5. My wife happened upon a random science/biology textbook in her house when she was in elementary school (her brothers?) and DEVOURED IT. By herself. On her own terms.
6. Compulsory curriculum is not needed to produce inquisitive scientists, capable adults, upstanding citizens, good people. Sudbury Valley School has been doing it for more than 40 years. There is empirical evidence.
7. There is not a “critical window” for learning science.
8. Childhood is (in my opinion) for free play with direct experience with nature and their surroundings. Sounds like a good breeding ground for scientists. Kids at SVS are fishing, discovering crayfish, etc, etc in the creek. That is priceless vs sitting around in a classroom.
9. Most schools are generally not thinking about who the kids are now, but rather worrying about who they could/should/need to be in the future. Kids are people. Right now.

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Filed under ageism, school, science, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School