What is wrong with education and journalism?
Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from Aug 14, 2016. It's a collection of podcasts, videos, and other links for people who love to learn online and are fascinated by the world. Click here to get playlists emailed to you as they come out.
Let's start this off with a three part mini-series on education from Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, Revisionist History. On the plus side, Gladwell really knows how to drive home an extremely compelling and cynical narrative; on the negative side, Gladwell's strong personal views certainly frame what gets talked about so it's difficult to get an idea of what might be missing. All in all though, this mini-series achieves exactly what I look for in a podcast–a broader, more complicated understanding of how an important slice of the world works.
Carlos Doesn't Remember, Jul 6, 36 min
Learn: that the U.S. is not doing a great job in making sure bright, poor, kids are actually making it to good colleges, regardless of what schools might say. Quote: “But whatever you do, don’t call this story inspirational, because it’s not. It’s depressing. Because it says that if you live in Lennox and things go awry, you need to have an Eric and an Alena in your corner, and be as tough, and single minded, and one in a million as Carlos is to make it out. That’s why the capitalization of talent is such an issue, because these are really long odds.”
Food Fight, Jul 13, 32 min Learn: how college endowments work and that there is major tension within small private universities for balancing financial aid for students in need and catering to the wealthy families that pay full tuition. Quote 1: “Princeton is a perpetual motion cash machine. There is literally no way they can ever run out of money. If they wanted to build a half a billion dollar dormitory with marble staircases, mahogany floors, and solid gold bathroom fixtures, they could pay for it out of petty cash, and still bank 200 million dollars. That’s wiggle room.” Quote 2: “We don’t pay any taxes in terms of to the feds or the state, so we are a tax subsidized entity. So one would logically conclude then, if you have a large endowment, you really have an obligation to provide a public good, not just to educate the rich.” (VP of Vassar College) My Little Hundred Million, Jul 20, 42 min Learn: about the weak chain and strong chain argument, how mega donor philanthropy in higher ed started, and why Malcolm Gladwell has a huge issue with the super rich giving to the schools with the largest endowments. Quote: “There are almost no schools that can pay their bills just on the strength of student’s tuition. Those days are over. Philanthropy is what makes the wheels turn. But there’s a problem. A lot of that philanthropy doesn’t make any sense. It’s going to the wrong places for the wrong reasons.” Ok, now for a few more regular recommendations :) The Leonard Lopate Show How Millions of Microbes Connect Us All, Aug 11, 30 min Learn: everything you want to know about the micro-biome, like how half the cells in our body are not our own. Half! Interview is with Ed Yong, a well known and fantastic science writer, who wrote I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes within us and a Grander View on Life. Quote: “We are these entire worlds. We have so many living organisms within us, and the different parts of our bodies are like different habitats; the forearm is like a desert–it is parched and barren, the nose and the mouth are like rainforests–they are humid and hot, and each of these places house its own menagerie of species, of microbial fauna." Extra: Ed Yong shared a fantastic story on The Story Collider podcast about meeting and eventually becoming disappointed in his hero, Sir David Attenborough. BBC World Service- The Documentary The Battle for the US Constitution, Aug 3, 27 min Learn: how crazy important the 14th Amendment is to the history of civil rights and to the future of the US. Quote: “So now both presidential candidates are pushing for profound reinterpretations of the 14th Amendment. Trump, on whether being born in America makes you an American; Clinton, on whether corporations have the right as people to equal protection under the law. And that’s on top of the power Trump or Clinton will have as president to nominate Supreme Court Justices who share their views on these divisive issues.”
Kurzgesagt-In a Nutshell Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR, Aug 10, 16 min Learn: how the new genetic engineering technology called CRISPR is already rapidly revolutionizing the idea of genetic engineering. This sort of thing has been sci-fi material for decades, and will make you want to re-watch Gattaca. Quote 1: “It’s hard to get across how big a technical revolution CRISPR is. It literally has the potential to change humanity forever.” Quote 2: “Most of us have something wrong with them. In the future that lies ahead of us, would we have been allowed to exist?” Quote 3: “We might end disease, we could extend our life expectancies by centuries, and travel to the stars.” Veritasium Is Most Published Research Wrong? Aug 11, 12 min Learn: what the deal is with the reproducibility crisis within science that has been getting a lot of attention. This video is also an excellent primer for an overall better science literacy. Quote 1: “The point is, that data doesn’t speak for itself, it needs to be interpreted [...] and therein lies the problems with incentives. Scientists have huge incentives to publish papers, in fact their careers depend on it. As one Scientist Brian Nosek said, ‘There is no cost to getting things wrong. The cost is in ‘Not Getting Them Published.” Quote 2: “What gets me is the thought that even trying our best to figure out what’s true, using our most sophisticated and rigorous mathematical tools, peer review, and standards of practice, we still get it wrong so often. So how frequently do we delude ourselves when we’re not using the scientific method? As flawed as our science may be, it is far and away more reliable than any other way of knowing that we have.”
Special mini-playlist: JOURNALISM
Journalism is a theme that kept popping up for me so I figured why not share some of the best things in a mini-playlist? The Leonard Lopate Show Glenn Greenwald on the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity, Jul 25, 30 min Learn: what the main journalist who works with Edward Snowden thinks about the current state of the press. Quote 1: “I think one of the problems with the American media in general has been the fact that journalists often fail to perform what ought to be their principal function, which is to be adversarial to those who wield political power- to be skeptical and investigate their claims, rather than simply laundering them uncritically.” Quote 2: “Currying favor with people who wield great power can turn you very easily into a stenographer or a propagandist rather than an adversarial journalist.” Quote 3: “The places that pretend to be objective, to me, are just as subjective as whatever you might have in mind when you’re talking about opinion journalism, whether it be MSNBC or Fox News or online blogs or whatever. The difference isn’t that one is objective and one is subjective. The difference is that one is honest and one is not.” Extra: Greenwald has an excellent Ted Talk on Why Privacy Matters. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Journalism, Aug 7, 19 min Learn: how much the digitalization of the news has affected the journalism industry and why the direction things are going looks a little insane. Quote: “We try to add new information to our stories, our researchers work incredibly hard, but the media is a food chain, which would fall apart without local newspapers.” The Atlantic Slightly More Than 100 Exceptional Works of Journalism
Just two but very big recommendations this week for things to subscribe to. Brainpickings.org is a site I plan to write about in the future, but in the mean time, do yourself a huge favor and sign up for the Sunday newsletter (in the sidebar). It consistently exposes me to ideas and writings I had never heard of, and the creator Maria Popova does an astounding job at finding interesting things to share. For example, check out this new article with never before seen philosophical writings from Bruce Lee. There is also a Bruce Lee podcast mentioned. I haven't checked it out yet, but be sure to let me know if you do! And lastly, of course, if you haven't already, be sure to check out the new and wonderful Bello Collective. It's going to be a fantastic hub for interesting thoughts and suggestions all across the podcast and audio world. Check out this article that gives a taste of what an audio storytelling workshop is all about. That's all for this week! Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you've learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!