The psychologists call it “deindividuation”. It’s what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic deindividuation experiment concerned American children at Halloween. Trick-or-treaters were invited to take sweets left in the hall of a house on a table on which there was also a sum of money. When children arrived singly, and not wearing masks, only 8% of them stole any of the money. When they were in larger groups, with their identities concealed by fancy dress, that number rose to 80%. The combination of a faceless crowd and personal anonymity provoked individuals into breaking rules that under “normal” circumstances they would not have considered.
Deindividuation is what happens when we get behind the wheel of a car and feel moved to scream abuse at the woman in front who is slow in turning right. It is what motivates a responsible father in a football crowd to yell crude sexual hatred at the opposition or the referee. And it’s why under the cover of an alias or an avatar on a website or a blog – surrounded by virtual strangers – conventionally restrained individuals might be moved to suggest a comedian should suffer all manner of violent torture because they don’t like his jokes, or his face. Digital media allow almost unlimited opportunity for wilful deindividuation. They almost require it. The implications of those liberties, of the ubiquity of anonymity and the language of the crowd, are only beginning to be felt.
“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’”—- Louis CKLouis is heir the George Carlin throne.
Mr. Whitson taught sixth-grade science. On the first day of class, he gave us a lecture about a creature called the cattywampus, an ill-adapted nocturnal animal that was wiped out during the Ice Age. He passed around a skull as he talked. We all took notes and later had a quiz.
When he returned my paper, I was shocked. There was a big red X through each of my answers. I had failed. There had to be some mistake! I had written down exactly what Mr. Whitson said. Then I realized that everyone in the class had failed. What had happened?
Very simple, Mr. Whitson explained. He had made up all the stuff about the cattywampus. There had never been any such animal. The information in our notes was, therefore, incorrect. Did we expect credit for incorrect answers?
Needless to say, we were outraged. What kind of test was this? And what kind of teacher?
We should have figured it out, Mr. Whitson said. After all, at the every moment he was passing around the cattywampus skull (in truth, a cat’s), hadn’t he been telling us that no trace of the animal remained? He had described its amazing night vision, the color of its fur and any number of other facts he couldn’t have known. He had given the animal a ridiculous name, and we still hadn’t been suspicious. The zeroes on our papers would be recorded in his grade book, he said. And they were.
Mr. Whitson said he hoped we would learn something from this experience. Teachers and textbooks are not infallable. In fact, no one is. He told us not to let our minds go to sleep, and to speak up if we ever thought he or the textbook was wrong.
Every class was an adventure with Mr. Whitson. I can still remember some science periods almost from beginning to end. On day he told us that his Volkswagon was a living organism. It took us two full days to put together a refutation he would accept. He didn’t let us off the hook until we had proved not only that we knew what an organism was but also that we had the fortitude to stand up for the truth.
We carried our brand-new skepticism into all our classes. This caused problems for the other teachers, who weren’t used to being challenged. Our history teacher would be lecturing about something, and then there would be clearings of the throat and someone would say “cattywampus.”
If I’m ever asked to propose a solution to the problems in our schools, it will be Mr. Whitson. I haven’t made any great scientific discoveries, but Mr. Whitson’s class gave me and my classmates something just as important: the courage to look people in the eye and tell them they are wrong. He also showed us that you can have fun doing it.
Not everyone sees the value in this. I once told an elementary school teacher about Mr. Whitson. The teacher was appalled. “He shouldn’t have tricked you like that,” he said. I looked that teacher right in the eye and told him that he was wrong.
We have all been in the situation where we have half-finished work due tomorrow. You can upload a unfinished word document and this tool will modify it so that it cannot be opened. You can send the corrupted file instead to buy yourself some extra time.
With Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince coming out in the U.S. later this week, it’s time to out myself as a Slytherin Supporter. Maybe you already knew that. Nothing against Gryffindors – I’m no Voldemort or anything – but I always tend to like the villains a little more than the do-gooders. To celebrate Harry and Co.’s sixth movie (and sixth book), here are a few facts that you may not have known about the gang in gold and red (and maybe a couple about the set in silver and green).
1. Hermione’s name was almost “Hermione Puckle.”
It has a sour tone to it, doesn’t it? J.K. Rowling thought so, too, and changed to something that suited the character better. Rowling has said that Hermione has a healthy dose of herself in there, as she was quite the know-it-all herself as a child. Hermione was originally going to have a younger sister, but Rowling never found the right moment to stick her into the books. 2. Gilderoy Lockhart, the insufferably vain professor and celebrity from The Chamber of Secrets, was based on someone Rowling knows in real life. The rumor is that she based him on her ex-husband, but she has been quite adamant about denying that. “He used to tell whopping great fibs about his past life, all of them designed to demonstrate what a wonderful, brave and brilliant person he was. Perhaps he didn’t really believe he was all that great and wanted to compensate, but I’m afraid I never dug that deep,” she has said. “He’s probably out there now telling everybody that he inspired the character of Albus Dumbledore. Or that he wrote the books and lets me take the credit out of kindness.”
3. Hedwig, Harry’s Snowy Owl, isn’t entirely accurate. After the first book was accepted for publication, she found out Snowy Owls are diurnal. And it was during the writing of book two that she realized that Snowy Owls are silent, meaning that Hedwig’s knowing hoots and conversational noises weren’t quite true-to-life. She admits this was just a research hole on her part, but says readers should feel free to assume that her unusual talents are just part of her magical ability. Incidentally, although Hedwig is female, she is played by a male in the movies because females aren’t wholly white like males are.
4. Collecting unusual and interesting names and words has been a lifelong habit for Rowling. She has said that she loves reading lists of them, from war memorials to baby name books, and made it a point to remember her favorites. Some of them found a new home in the Harry Potter books. She makes up some of the words too – “quidditch” is a Rowling original. She filled up five pages of made-up words that started with “Q” before she hit on one that sounded right. “Voldemort” and “Malfoy” were also invented.
5. If a muggle were to happen across Hogwarts, all they would see is nothing but a ruined castle with large signs on it saying ‘keep out, dangerous building.’ This might sound a bit suspicious to those of us in the States, but it seems like the U.K. is rife with castle ruins. 6. Fred and George Weasley were born on April Fool’s Day. Go figure. While we’re talking about the Weasleys, there was a Weasley cousin named Mafalda who got edited out of The Goblet of Fire in order to make room for the love-to-hate-her invasive “journalist” Rita Skeeter. That’s probably best – Ginny Weasley is supposed to have been the first girl born to the Weasley family for several generations, so scrapping Malfalda supports that backstory.
7. Harry, Ron and Hermione all have wand cores based on their birthdays: the Celt assigned trees to people based on that kind of like we assign gemstones today. She had already assigned Harry’s holly-based wand when she discovered the Celt tree calendar and found that she had accidentally assigned him the “right” type of wood. She did the same thing with Draco Malfoy (Hawthorn wood). But Ron and Hermione both purposefully received wands based on their birthdays – ash for Ron and vine wood for Hermione. She didn’t carry this convention out for all of the characters, though.
8. Filch’s cat, Mrs. Norris, takes her name from the Jane Austen book Mansfield Park. Fittingly, Austen’s Mrs. Norris is also rather sour and bitter.
9. Snape was partially based on a teacher J.K. Rowling once had. She likes to write him, though, because she finds him such a pathetic creature. 10. As you probably know, King’s Cross station is where young wizards hop on the Hogwarts Express to get to school. What you might not know is that the station holds special meaning for J.K. Rowling: it’s where her parents met. They were coincidentally both headed to Arbroath in Scotland when they met on the train. King’s Cross was intentionally chosen as the gateway to Hogwarts in homage to Rowling’s parents.
In a recent survey of 2,000 parents by LAPTOP Magazine, fifty-five percent of parents admitted to using Facebook for digital snooping into the lives of their children. Another five percent would use Facebook if someone taught them how to utilize it. The most common tactic for the digital snooping is checking out the most recent status updates. Other methods of spying on their children included reading posts on the wall as well as checking out pictures that have been tagged with the child’s name. Technically-savvy parents have even logged into a friend’s account to gain more access into their child’s digital life.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare.
“Rowling wrote Hermione to eschew stereotypes. She doesn’t end up with the hero; she is never there to function as Harry’s love interest. She prefers Arithmancy to Divination in school. Hermione is also a total badass, despite her prim and proper reputation. (…) So often, female characters are allowed to be aggressive or rebellious, but in exchange are stripped of any traditionally feminine qualities and instead are forced to pick up traditionally masculine traits. However, Hermione is never made to do that. Most notably, she is written to be highly logical AND emotionally expressive, a combination not commonly afforded to most of today’s leading ladies.”—Liz Feuerbach, The Women of The Harry Potter Universe (via writingadvice)
“Another Edchat co-coordinator, Kyle Pace notes that “#edchat wasn’t designed to ‘live’ only in one place. We always encourage extending the conversation beyond Twitter. That is crucial to seeing actual change happen in our schools. If all we do is talk for an hour on Tuesdays, there will never be any ‘walk’ to match the talk.”—Will Google Replace Twitter or Facebook for Teachers? (via world-shaker)
I suppose it’s not surprising. Math and music are strongly related and many (including myself) would liken math to a foreign language. Once you understand the grammatical basics, if you will, the rest of it comes a lot easier.
I have a case study of sorts in my house: Our older son, who’s 7 and just finished the first grade.
We started emphasizing basic math when he was in pre-kindergarten. Simple addition: 3+4, 2+2 - stuff he could figure out on his fingers. Then we upped the ante and gave him some addition where he had to keep one number in his head, but could use his hands to add the second number - 7+3, 8+5, even 9+7.
He loved it. Absolutely loved it. It made him feel great to see check mark after check mark on his correct answers. By the time he finished pre-k, he was doing double-digit addition. By the end of kindergarten, he could do four-digit addition and subtraction.
What’s more, he wanted to. And his affinity for math led to him wanting to learn to play piano, because he recognizes the musical patterns, almost as if he’s visualizing math.
Our younger son (almost 5) hasn’t accelerated to the same degree as Rafael, but Markus understands basic addition and we take any opportunity to ask how many there is of something. It’s the conceptual leap from learning your numbers to understanding that these numbers are a quantity and how to visualize them.
The University of Missouri study was of a 177 students from 12 different elementary schools who’ve been tracked since kindergarten. They’re in the fifth grade now and the study plans to follow them through the 10th grade.
Basically, first-graders who understood how numbers were ordered and how they were quantities had faster growth in math skills over five years.
As further proof that reading and math use different sides of the brain: These early math skills had “no impact on future reading ability.”
In some ways, this study is one of those no-brainers. “Study math earlier, do better.” But it’s the specificity of the times and the ages and the conceptual leap that makes this interesting to me. They need these basic math skills by first grade to pull ahead. And if there’s an area the U.S. has been lagging in, it’s math and science.
How have you worked with your children to build their interest and skills in mathematics?