Many countries, especially Finland, Poland, and South Korea are outperforming the US on international critical thinking tests like the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) primarily due to substantial differences in rigor, which trickle down into how teachers view their students and how students view themselves and their education.
Finland’s education programs are very selective, on the order of MIT, and are well-respected like doctors are in the US.
US education programs have very low standards compared to countries like Finland (US teacher-training colleges only require on average 12-15 weeks of student teaching compared to a year in Finland) and combined with a large surplus that saturates the teacher supply (about 186,000 teachers graduate in the US each year, only about 77,000 get jobs) “dumb down the profession.”
Smaller average class size isn’t always better: the highest performing countries typically have larger classes than the US. Research shows the quality of teaching matters more than class size.
Black and Hispanic students were more likely to attend majority black or Hispanic schools in 2005 than they were in 1980.
Parents who volunteered in their kids’ extracurricular activities had children who performed worse in reading on average. Being involved in one’s children’s school work, like reading to them, asking what they are learning, or discussing current events is more important for engagement and interest.
Serotonin influences mood, implusivity, anger, and aggressiveness. Norepinephrine often amplifies signals that influence mood, attention, perception, motivation, and arousal. Exercise balances serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain.
Exercise was found to increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the hippocampus (receives memory fragments from the cortex and bundles them together), which helps build and maintain cell circuitry. Thus, exercise improves the rate of learning (a 2007 German study found people learn vocab words 20% faster after exercise).
Exercise optimizes energy usage by triggering the production of more insulin receptors, meaning better use of blood glucose and stronger cells. It also increases IGF-1, which helps insulin manage glucose levels. In the hippocampus, IGF-1 increases LTP (long-term potentiation, neuron strengthening during learning), neuroplasticity, and neurogenesis. Exercise also produces FGF-2 and VEGF, which build new capillaries and expand the vascular system in the brain.
In a 2000 Duke University study, exercise was shown to be better than sertraline (Zoloft) at treating depression.
Exercise increases the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure. As heart rate increases, a hormone called atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) is produced that tempers the body’s stress response.
Sprinting produces human growth hormone (HGH), staying in the bloodstream for up to 4 hours (usually only stays a few minutes). HGH burns belly fat, layers muscle fiber, and pumps up brain volume. In the brain, HGH balances neurotransmitter levels and boost production of growth factors, especially IGF-1.
The current K-12 education system with its class periods and distinct subjects is based on the Prussian model of education developed in the 18th century. Khan argues that this system (largely unchanged for 120+ years) is outdated and that fragmented subjects “could be learned by rote memorization, whereas mastering larger ideas called for free and unbridled thinking.” He also proposes doing away with school grades, since then older kids can mentor the younger kids, everyone can learn at their own paces, and there would be greater collaboration overall. In addition, he wants to redefine summer vacation, so that schools are more like companies in that you can take a vacation whenever you want, but are constantly learning throughout the whole year.
One of Sal Khan’s favorite books is Pride and Prejudice. Man I really need to get around to reading that book.
A really neat idea to provide a world-class education to the under-served supported by the middle and upper class without taxation: A lot of countries in South and East Asia invest a ton of money into after-hours tutoring. Khan suggests building computer centers with software like Khan Academy that the well-to-do families pay to use after school, while poor/currently unschooled students could use the centers during the day for free. Pretty neat.
At MIT, Khan used to hyper-optimize his learning time by skipping passive lectures and instead actively engaging with say, a textbook, online videos, or interactive assessments. He, along with his roommate Shantanu and others, were able to take on an insane course load (up to 8 or 9 courses) while maintaining good grades. “The idea was to work effectively, naturally, and independently.”
A lot of over-used psychological studies (Phineas Gage, marshmallow experiment) and over-played advice (meditate, exercise, sleep, eat good food). Some nuggets of practical advice and info though.
Why it’s important: “Self-control is a better predictor of academic success than intelligence, a stronger determinant of effective leadership than charisma, and more important for marital bliss than empathy.”
“Meditators have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, as well as regions of the brain that support self-awareness.” In just 8 weeks, can see changes in the brain and increased neural connections in regions of the brain important for “staying focused, ignoring distractions, and controlling impulses.” The brain truly is malleable! All you have to do is focus on your breathing and when your mind wanders, refocus on your breathing. Inhale. Exhale.
“Fatigue should no longer be considered a physical event but rather a sensation or emotion.” The body can go a lot further if you push past what your brain is telling you.
Self-control acts like a muscle, and you can train it through small acts of willpower (e.g. stop swearing). Noticing the act and choosing the more difficult option is what is important.
Moral licensing: doing something “good” rationalizes doing something “bad.” People who remember doing a past good deed donate 60% less to a charitable request.
Progress can be detrimental and lead to goal liberation, where people give themselves permission to give into temptations. Instead view progress as being committed to your goal. “I did that because I wanted to.”
Self-compassion makes people more likely to take personal responsibility.
“When reflecting on the future self, the brain’s activation is identical to when it is considering the traits of another person.” Visualizing your future self can help you be more willing to invest in your future now.
Pretty dry, but insightful.
“Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.”
“but truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it,-else it is none.”
“but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.”
“There must be very two, before there can be very one.”
“There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never mutual respect, until, in their dialogue, each stands for the whole world.”
“The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Funny, light-hearted, enlightening, full of little life lessons.
Language is powerful: It tears down barriers and lets you connect with others.
“… language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”
“I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being.”
“Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.”
The most horrifying book I’ve ever read. Absolutely devastating.
Some atrocities over just a seven week period:
Lesson: When totalitarian regimes oppress the individual to the point where the individual loses all value and is treated as a means rather than an end (Kant anyone?) people can view others as insects or “pigs” (Japanese soldier: “A pig is more valuable now than the life of a [Chinese] human being. That’s because a pig is edible.”). They can become utterly ruthless and unfeeling.
Throws you immediately into the brutal world of Celie, an African American woman in what appears to be early 20th century Georgia (there are mentions of ship sinkings like those during World War I). Testament to how far we have come in terms of societal norms in just a hundred years and the power of literature to place the reader in the mindsets of others and foster empathy.
“I say, Until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble. He laugh. Who you think you is? he say. You can’t curse nobody. Look at you. You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all. Until you do right by me, I say, everything you even dream about will fail. I give it to him straight, just like it come to me. And it seem to come to me from the trees. I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.”
“That’s not what I’m telling you. I’m telling you I won’t be able to love your own son. You can love him just as much as you want to. But be ready to suffer the consequences. That’s how the colored live.”
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, he say, the more I love.”
Very much like James Baldwin.
“struggle, in and of itself, has meaning.”
“love could be soft and understanding; that, soft or hard, love was an act of heroism.”
“…because my death would not be the fault of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of ‘race,’ imposed upon an innocent country by the inscrutable judgment of invisible gods.” Damnnnnn. That assonance though.
This guy clearly knows his stuff. But he is boring as all hell.
“As an organization, the Party sits outside, and above the law. Its should have a legal identity, in other words, a person to sue, but it is not even registered as an organization. The Party exists outside the legal system altogether.”
The Central Committee (370 members) “elects, or to be more precise, selects the Politburo” (25 members) which in turn selects the Standing Committee (9 members). Together, they are responsible for one-fifth of humanity (1.3 billion people).
A ‘red machine’ is a red telephone with just one four-digit number that connects people in positions of power, e.g. CEOs, to someone in the Chinese Communist Party. Based off the Russian veturshka, a secure internal phone system that was used to connect the party elite.
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
“I exist as I am, that is enough. If no other in the world be aware I sit content. And if each and all be aware I sit content.”
“Thruster holding me tight and that I hold tight! We hurt each other as the bridegroom and the bride hurt each other.”
“Encompass worlds but never try to encompass me.”
“The past and present wilt…I have filled and emptied them, And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.”
“I am large…I contain multitudes.”
“I too am not a bit tamed…I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”
Verily, difficult to parse, verily, can get boring, but verily, I love the camel, lion, dragon, child metaphor.
“The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred ‘Yes.’ For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred ‘Yes’ is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers his own world.”
“True, we love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving. There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
“And if a friend does you evil, then say: ‘I forgive you what you did to me; but that you have done it to yourself—how could I forgive that?’ Thus speaks all great love: it overcomes even forgiveness and pity.”
“And there is nobody from whom I want beauty as much as from you who are powerful: let your kindness be your final self-conquest.” Be kind if you have power—that is beauty and goodness.
“Courage, however, is the best slayer—courage which attacks: which slays even death itself, for it says, ‘Was that life? Well then! Once more!’” Bring it on!
“We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.”
“For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.”
“Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
“Everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right.”
Witty, entertaining, informative.
Humans have an insane number of physical attributes adapted for long-distance running:
Nuchal ligament behind head that stabilizes the head when moving fast
Big butt to “prevent the momentum of your upper body from flipping you onto your face”
Achilles tendon stretches like a rubber band - great for energy-efficient jumping
Arched feet, short and straight toes which helps running
Vertical bodies retain less heat, sweat glands
Running shoes suck for running:
“Runners wearing top-of-the-line shoes are 123 percent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap shoes.”
The impact of your legs from running can be up to twelve times your body weight.
“The more cushioned the shoes, the less protection it provides.” “Your legs and feet instinctively come down hard when they sense something squishy underfoot.” They’re trying to push through the soles “in search of a hard, stable platform.”
Placing a support underneath the arch of the foot is worthless: you lose its natural capability to naturally flex and stretch. There are twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, twelve rubbery tendons, and eighteen muscles in the foot. Natural engineering.
Lesson: Wear shoes with minimal “support”. Get as close to bare-foot running as possible. Nike ruined an entire generation of runners for profit.
A whirlwind of names, cyclical personalities and mystical phenomena. And some incest.
“A person doesn’t die when he should but when he can.”
“It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”
“In that Macondo forgotten even by the birds, where the dust and the heat had become so strong that it was difficult to breathe, secluded by solitude and love and by the solitude of love in a house where it was almost impossible to sleep because of the noise of the red ants, Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula were the only happy beings, and the most happy on the face of the earth.”
“…and both of them remained floating in an empty universe where the only everyday and eternal reality was love.”
“Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”
Master of the mental game of chess and the physical martial art of Tai Chi Chuan.
“Consider how you may not realize how much someone’s companionship means to you until they are gone — heartbreak can give you the greatest insight into the value of love.” The feels.
Approach to learning: “breaking down the artifical barriers between our diverse life experiences so all moments become enriched by a sense of interconnectedness.”
“Then I would work against his counter. This way we raised the baseline of our everyday level, and incrementally expanded the horizon of what our creative bursts could attain.” Little by little.
“I was ready for war, listening to ‘Lose Yourself’ on the headphones. I felt myself steeling against the world, like a freight train that just had its brakes cut.” Ahhh yeahhh.
Two kinds of Push Hands: Moving Step and Fixed Step. Josh won both.
Be Impeccable With Your Word. Always speak the truth.
Don’t Take Anything Personally. People are dealing with their own problems and spheres of reality.
Don’t Make Assumptions. Be as clear as possible. Communicate.
Always Do Your Best. You can never feel bad if you always give it your all.