July 21, 2014
From The New Yorker, 7.21.14, an extensive piece about cheating in Atlanta, GA, and the pressures which caused it – pressures which may be summed up by the term “data driven” results:
John Ewing, who served as the executive director of the American Mathematical Society for fifteen years, told me that he is perplexed by educators’ ”infatuation with data,” their faith that it is more authoritative than using their own judgment. He explains the problem in terms of Campbell’s law, a principle that describes the risks of using a single indicator to measure complex social phenomena: the greater the value placed on a quantitative measure, like test scores, the more likely it is that the people using it and the process it measures will be corrupted. “The end goal of education isn’t to get students to answer the right number of questions,” he said. “The goal is to have curious and creative students who can function in life.” In a 2011 paper in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, he warned that policymakers were using mathematics “to intimidate—to preëmpt debate about the goals of education and measures of success.”
March 22, 2014
Some really good advice on how to “do art” from Kurt Vonnegut, which starts like this:
November 5, 2006
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
read the rest here.
February 8, 2014
I picked this up from “The Mountain Path”, July 2006, and it’s a breath of fresh air on this cold February morning:
The problem, however, lies in the teaching that it is through thinking and through study of the scriptures (shastras) that we will gain enlightenment. Endless scriptural study is a serious error because it strengthens the habit of thinking. Such study is founded on a fundamental error, different from an error in mathematics, or physics, because it assumes that (a) one has a ‘self’ and is an individual person; and that (b) one needs something external to oneself to help one to get rid of this ‘truly existing’ selfhood. The moment you depend on the thinking mind to guide you, you implicitly assume that your Reality is not here and now, and that to discover our Reality will take time. All this is mental delusion. How can you get at Reality by seeking it in the future, when it is already here right now?
The more you study and the more you reflect on concepts in order to gain enlightenment, the more you indirectly assert that you are not Reality. In thinking like this, you are falsely conditioning your mind, reinforcing your ignorance. Because, as long as the thinking mind is in full swing, Advaita is out of question. To realize Non-Duality through thinking is an impossibility.
January 4, 2014
I found myself re-reading this wonderful essay by Evgeny Morozov in the New Yorker, called Only Disconnect:Two Cheers for Boredom. It’s wide ranging, exploring our state of “permanent receptivity” due to connectivity (smartphones, etc.) This quote, below, about how constant, permanent receptivity to the newest thing, newest update, newest gadget to buy .. how this receptivity robs us of the ability to distinguish between the new and the same old, same old. We are apparently bored without even recognizing it, but it’s the low grade variety of boredom we now experience, not the productive kind, where kids would spend summers just looking at clouds in the sky. The Circlers are people from the new Dave Eggers novel. The quote I like is the part that starts “One reason …