Brain surgery

surgery
Two months ago, Harry Brighouse posted his marvelous Teaching’s not exactly brain surgery, is it? on the Crooked Timber blog. It’s a good thing Brighouse did so right then, because he was playing off of the exalted status we accord brain surgeons, which as we know one American brain surgeon has in the weeks since single-handedly left in tatters. And though we know that, it’s always worth seeing the Guardian’s Marina Hyde pile on in her inimitable style.

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I’ll go help too, vicariously

The joys of teaching at Birkbeck occasionally include emails from students like this

Hi Fred,
I’ve just accepted a 12 month contract to work in Sierra Leone as operations manager for [redacted]. Their focus is to improve the resilience of the Sierra Leone health service post ebola. Started induction in their London office today, will fly out to Sierra Leone 1st July.
I’m still planning to complete my dissertation for first week in September, though would be grateful if we could skype for meetings!
Best wishes
S
Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

Spurious significance, junk science

Andrew Gelman links to this nice paper by Nosek, Spies and Motel, about an exciting “result” in psychological research: instead of rushing to publish, they scrupulously rushed to replicate, and the result disappeared. The fairy tale ending is that they got a nice publication from using this experience to tell us what we already know – that “significant” results obtained from small, ad hoc experimental samples are pretty much worthless. Continue reading

Eric Hobsbawm – late interview

When I was first at Birkbeck, this guy was still a regular in the staff canteen – so I must be getting on a bit myself! The interviewer is the current Master of Birkbeck, David Latchman. The revelation that several of Hobsbawm’s best books were essentially his Birkbeck lecture notes does raise the bar for the rest of us, just a bit.

A beautiful teaching story

… although it doesn’t say much for the teacher training requirements in California in the late 1940s. From the New York Times’ obituary for Karl Benjamin, an abstract painter from Los Angeles:

he began teaching fifth and sixth grade in the public schools in Bloomington, Calif., where, in addition to the three R’s, state law required him to teach art. He had not thought much about the subject before.
Continue reading

Principals as agents: “failing” schools and illusions of remote control

Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, has announced a plan to provide states with money to provide to school districts which undertake certain “rigorous interventions” in schools deemed to be failing. The program is said to be based on that employed when Duncan was “CEO” of the Chicago schools. I don’t know, but I’ll assume that his rigorous interventions in Chicago were a success (Seyward Darby, writing in The New Republic, certainly thinks so) and that’s why they’re being used as a national model. Unfortunately, we can expect this new, federally-funded effort to be far less successful.

There are four models of intervention on Duncan’s menu: Continue reading