Wonder Twin Powers Activate! Form of… Thesis!


So I’m workin’ on the ol’ thesis. I’m citing a paper about working memory, theory of mind and humour and I just now paid attention to the non-primary authors in the study. The surnames are Uekermann, Channon, Winkel, Schlebusch and Daum.

The Schlebusch is what got me. Such good ol’-fashioned German names. Schlebusch!

Anyhoo, my thesis is starting to take a DANGEROUSLY FEMINIST slant. Could it possibly be that the Superiority Theory of Humour grew out of patriarchy? With a name like Superiority Theory of Humour, I would have thought it grew out of flower beds and little babies’ belly buttons.

Fortunately, I ran it by my supervisor today, and he told me to elaborate even more on that particular paragraph. Yay! Hopefully I can stop myself before I hand in a slightly-charred WonderBra with my paper. Thank goodness for electronic submission.


Future Dog Owner


I have decided that when I stop living in small spaces, I am going to get a dog. It will be this dog.


Well, maybe not THIS EXACT DOG, because obviously I want to take advantage of its prime cuteness years, which the above dog will have passed by the time I get one. But I will get a dog of this type. And it will have a enormous paws, and a big curly tail, and I will cuddle it constantly.


Post-Coital / Possibly-Dead Piglets of the Week




The four sides to the education debate


There are four types of people fighting about education. They are:

  1. Teachers. Most of them know what they’re talking about, because they’re the ones on the front line. They can be divided into dumb teachers and smart teachers. The dumb teachers are the reason for the debate. The smart teachers aren’t paid enough.
  2. Administrators, principals, etc. Once again, these people know what they’re talking about because they were once teachers. Some of them were once bad teachers and are bad administrators, but they just sit around and let the paychecks roll in, so their effect on the debate is minimal.
  3. Parents. They can be divided into negligent parents, good parents and outspoken parents. The negligent parents are not heard from, and the good parents nurture their kids and only get in the way of teachers if those teachers aren’t doing a good job. The outspoken parents are never satisfied, are usually jerks, and blame everything on the teachers. They usually don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t understand how education research can distort facts, so they usually end up supporting dumb educational models or just yell a lot.
  4. Education researchers. Some researchers (like Isabel Beck) were once teachers and so they focus on the practical applications of education research. The others don’t know what they’re talking about because they’ve spent 25 years in academia and have never seen a 9-year-old before. The latter group is full of assholes.

The first two groups are constantly being chided for accepting “unproven” models for teaching reading by the third group. The fourth group (excepting the Beck-lead subgroup) put out unrealistic or ineffective models that power the third group. And these last two groups are the bane of my existence. That is all.


Direct Instruction: Yay or Nay?


Direct Instruction (DI) was developed by behaviourists Siegfried (Zig) Engelmann and Wesley Becker in 1967. DI does not address individual differences in children; it focuses on communicating concepts clearly enough for any and every child to understand. The DI method begins with letter sounds and then words; words are practiced many times before they are seen in context. The focus is on repetition, and for this reason it is seen as being quite authoritarian and inflexible. Cognitive researchers don’t like it because it was developed by a behavourist. Others favour its back-to-basics appeal; according to Principal Thaddeus Lott of Wesley Elementary in Houston, Texas, “It’s nothin’ but old-time teachin’ in a box.”

A component of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was the Reading First program, which provides money for “Scientifically Based Reading Research” (SBRR) and for hiring “coaches” to impart the latest SBRR strategies to teachers. In 2006, a government audit revealed the program was plagued with conflicts of interest and wilful mismanagement. Reading First director Chris Doherty gave preferential treatment to states that used the DI approach. Review panels were sometimes stacked with DI backers or those with professional connections to the program.

Then there’s the passages from Zig Engelmann’s book, “The Outrage of Project Follow Through: 5 Million Failed Kids Later”:

The senior reading teacher and guru in one of our schools instigated an argument with me about reading – what it was, and how best to teach it. In the best cocktail-party style, we were polite, and the small group surrounding us was intent. The teacher’s premise was that the creativeness of teachers should not be trammelled by a lockstep program, like DI. She was well read, and quoted the literature with flourish. After the discussion went on for possibly ten minutes, one of our first-year teachers from the same school interrupted and ended the argument.

She said, “Angie, you know more about reading than I’ll ever know. You know linguistics, and all those theories I don’t understand. All I know how to do is follow the program. I do what it tells me to do in black type, and I say what it tells me to say in red type. But Angie, my kids read better than your kids, and you know it.”

I’m worried I have an anti-DI bias because I don’t like NCLB and I don’t like corrupt republicans. So I feel like I need to look into it further to figure out two things:

  1. whether DI is actually in conflict with cognitive research, and
  2. whether DI is as successful as its backers claim.

So I found a book called Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Early Childhood Education. Its description: “This debate-style reader is designed to introduce students to current controversies in early childhood education. The readings, which represent the argument of leading child behaviourists and social commentators, reflect a variety of viewpoints, are presented in pro/con format.”

And then I take a look at the publisher: McGraw-Hill. Wonderful. Don’t they publish a little thing called Direct Instruction? Yeah. Yeah, maybe I won’t take their word for it.

UPDATE, 2:36pm: A HA!!! It looks like it’s exactly in parallel with most cognitive research. I believe most of the backlash to DI is from bad teachers. From what I’ve read, DI is described as being “for students who can’t learn or teachers who can’t teach.” So having DI forced on you is like being told you’re an awful teacher. Well, if it walks like a duck and reads like a duck…

Two minutes of a dog chasing his tail


I’m nothing if not honest.


In My Language


In My Language is a video by Amanda Baggs, an autistic and disability rights activist. I took a look at it because I thought it might interest a woman in my Attention seminar (she works with autistic people and autism comes up often in our conversations), but I think it would be interesting for anyone to watch.

I would honestly like to know how many people, if you met me on the street, would believe I wrote this. I find it very interesting by the way that failure to learn your language is seen as a deficit, but failure to learn my language is seen as so natural that people like me are official described as mysterious and puzzling rather than anyone admitting that it is themselves who are confused, not autistic people or other cognitively disabled people who are inherently confusing….

In the end I want you to know that this has not been intended as a voyeuristic freak show where you get to look at the bizarre workings of the autistic mind. It is meant as a strong statement on the existence and value of many different kinds of thinking and interaction in a world where how close you can appear to a specific one of them determines whether you are seen as a real person or an adult or an intelligent person.

What strikes me most strongly is that she says she is in constant interaction with the physical world, but from her movements people assume that she is “in a world of her own.” I’m guilty of thinking this, possibly because I read the Babysitter’s Club book on the subject, but mostly because my first year psychology textbook said autism was mostly caused by deficits in social interaction ability, and yes, I’m fairly sure it also used the phrase “world of their own.” I shall have to rethink everything I know about autism. It seems like in her particular case, she might not have the same sort of filter on what elements of her perception are fit to pay attention to and interact with. Whereas if I turn on a tap I see a single object (a stream of water), I very quickly adapt to its pattern of motion, and I see myself as acting upon it (by running a toothbrush under it or whatever), she might see it as being more chaotic and variable, and understand it as something that can act back. I see certain objects as being in the foreground and some in the background, whereas she might not see any difference. Thoughts?

Via Mind Hacks