Get PJ Media on your Apple

Is Math Necessary?

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

Well, the 10th Carnival of Homeschooling is up and hosted by Anne at a href=”http://palmtreepundit.blogspot.com/2006/03/10th-carnival-of-homeschooling.html”Palm Tree Pundit./a As I scrolled through the line-up, I checked out the posts on “a href=”http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/BarbaraFrank/89388/”Why They Need Algebra/a” and “a href=”http://spunkyjunior.blogspot.com/2006/02/life-without-algebra-i-think-not.html”Life Without Algebra? I Think Not/a.” I thought of my own child who insists that she “does not need math.” When I hear this, I cringe. My father was a mathematician who spent hours (I mean hours) a day teaching me Algebra, Trig and Pre-Calculus. In my first year of college, when I thought I would be an Aerospace Engineer (fat chance of that), my dad still coached me through my first year of advanced Calculus. br /br /This is why I get disheartened when I read journalists like Richard Cohen at the a href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2006/02/15/BL2006021501989.html”Washington Post giving advice /alike this to a girl who had failed Algebra six times:br /br /blockquoteHere’s the thing, Gabriela: You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know — never mind want to know — how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later — or something like that. Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note — or reason even a little bit. If, say, the school asked you for another year of English or, God forbid, history, so that you actually had to know something about your world, I would be on its side. But algebra? Please./blockquotebr /br /It’s amazing that this journalist is so egocentric that he doesn’t see the need for knowing a subject outside of his own field as something important for kids. When reporters at newspapers think that writing is the highest form of reasoning, we have to question where their priorities lie. Knowing something about the world is nice–but knowing how the world works is the ultimate knowledge. br /br /I came to see the beauty, complexity and sheer enjoyment of doing math and have been forever grateful to my dad for instilling in me a sense that math was important. But so many kids hate math and this extends into the teen and adults years. Just go to any check-out counter and ask the clerk to calculate change without a machine of some sort and see the glazed look of puzzlement in his or her eyes. It’s a shame because we need more mathematicians and young people in the hard sciences, not fewer. Anyone got any clever ideas on how to interest kids in math?br /br /Update: Joanne Jacobs has more thoughts a href=”http://www.joannejacobs.com/mtarchives/016015.html”on life without algebra/a.

Read bullet |

More of Your Cardiology Questions Addressed

Monday, March 6th, 2006

A new medical blog, emThe Heart of the Matter/em, has been kind enough to answer a href=”http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2006/02/questions-needed.html”some of the questions /a our readers asked about heart problems. If you would like to see if your question was addressed or just want more information on heart concerns, see a href=”http://hmatter.blogspot.com/”Heart of the Matter Blog /aand scroll down to view questions and answers. One of the topics addressed is what firemen can do to reduce their risk of a heart attack–if this is a concern to you, check it out.

Read bullet |

Toxic Disinhibition and Blog Comments

Monday, March 6th, 2006

Have you noticed how free people feel to make comments on blogs to others that they would not necessarily make in the course of normal conversation? John Suler, a psychologist at Rider University, a href=”http://psycyber.blogspot.com/2006/01/where-did-all-aggression-go.html”has a good post /a on aggression and cyberspace and an article on the a href=”http://www.rider.edu/%7Esuler/psycyber/disinhibit.html”online disinhibition /a effect: br /br /blockquoteIt’s well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly. Researchers call this the “disinhibition effect.” It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes people share very personal things about themselves. They reveal secret emotions, fears, wishes. Or they show unusual acts of kindness and generosity. We may call this benign disinhibition. br /br /On the other hand, the disinhibition effect may not be so benign. Out spills rude language and harsh criticisms, anger, hatred, even threats. Or people explore the dark underworld of the internet, places of pornography and violence, places they would never visit in the real world. We might call this toxic disinhibition. br /br /On the benign side, the disinhibition indicates an attempt to understand and explore oneself, to work through problems and find new ways of being. And sometimes, in toxic disinhibition, it is simply a blind catharsis, an acting out of unsavory needs and wishes without any personal growth at all.br /br /What causes this online disinhibition? What is it about cyberspace that loosens the psychological barriers that block the release of these inner feelings and needs? Several factors are at play. For some people, one or two of them produces the lion’s share of the disinhibition effect. In most cases, though, these factors interact with each other, supplement each other, resulting in a more complex, amplified effect./blockquotebr /br /Suler talks about how people hide behind anonymity on the internet and feel they can say more hostile and aggressive things online than they would to a person’s face. As I have said before, I do not mind if commenters wish to stay anonymous but I will ask my readers and commenters to please remember when responding to others, do not say things that you would not tell someone to their face–that goes for identifiable commenters also. I happen to be one of those people who is not terribly afraid of conflict. If I saw you in person and we were having a discussion, I would say the same things to you in person that I would online. I have a strong tolerance for negative comments, etc. (Remember, I deal with the most negative aspects of human behavior on a regular basis). They do not bother me terribly, however, they do bother others so please, respect the other commenters on this site and disagree in a polite manner. Any other suggestions for how to keep comments civil are welcome. Thanks!

Read bullet |

Heart Health Podcast–Your Health Questions Answered and more on the Ports Issue

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

a href=”http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/750/48/1600/helendeathshirtsm.1.jpg”img style=”float:right; margin:0 0 10px 10px;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;” src=”http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/750/48/320/helendeathshirtsm.1.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”" //abr /Have you ever been worried that you’re having a heart attack? I should have been six years ago when I did–but I had no idea what was wrong with me. Join us today for our podcast– we are talking to Dr. Wes Fisher of a href=”http://www.cafepress.com/medtees/616561″Medtees.com /aand the a href=”http://www.drwes.blogspot.com/”DrWes blog /aand a href=”http://blogs.webmd.com/heart-disease/”Laurie Anderson /awho blogs at a href=”http://www.webmd.com/”WebMD/a. These cardiac experts will answer our reader’s questions on how to take care of your heart, what, if any, foods to avoid, and how to tell if you are having a heart attack.br /br /We also got a chance to speak with Stewart Baker, the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, about the Ports issue. He gives some updated information on what is going on and Glenn asks him what he thinks of these sophisticated points made by Frank J. of a href=”http://www.imao.us/archives/cat_know_thy_enemy.html”IMAO.us/a. br /br /You can a href=”http://podcasts.instapundit.com/CardiologyandPorts030506.mp3″listen to the podcast here/a or a href=”http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=116559643s=143441″subscribe to iTunes./a br /br /As always, suggestions and comments are welcome.

Read bullet |

Do Schools Have Jurisdiction over Kids on the Internet?

Friday, March 3rd, 2006

This is a tough one and it is hard to say how I feel about it (Hat Tip to a href=”https://treatmentonline.com/treatments.php?id=519″Treatment online/a). A teen in California and his friends were suspended in February for making (and viewing) threats on a href=”http://www.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=splash”MySpace.com/a:br /br /blockquotea href=”http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/MYSPACE_SUSPENSIONS?SITE=7219SECTION=HOMETEMPLATE=DEFAULTCTIME=2006-03-02-15-08-13″A middle school student /a faces expulsion for allegedly posting graphic threats against a classmate on the popular MySpace.com Web site, and 20 of his classmates were suspended for viewing the posting, school officials said.br /br /Police are investigating the boy’s comments about his classmate at TeWinkle Middle School as a possible hate crime, and the district is trying to expel him.br /br /According to three parents of the suspended students, the invitation to join the boy’s MySpace group gave no indication of the alleged threat. They said the MySpace social group name’s was “I hate (girl’s name)” and included an expletive and an anti-Semitic reference.br /br /A later message to group members directed them to a nondescript folder, which included a posting that allegedly asked: “Who here in the (group name) wants to take a shotgun and blast her in the head over a thousand times?”br /br /Because the creator of a posting can change its content at any time, it’s unclear how much the students saw./blockquotebr /a href=”https://treatmentonline.com/treatments.php?id=519″Treatment online /ahad this to say about the case:br /br /blockquoteChances are, the California middle school student, who authorities will thankfully not mention by name due to his age, will not be reinstated. The threat of violence, and the graphic nature of the threats made to a specific target take this case above and beyond the more questionable calls that districts have had to make in the past. These new technologies are presenting administrators with new challenges every week. School districts must respond with very specific guidelines about what they expect from students both while they are in school and while they are at home. The debate will most likely hinge on whether the internet, as some folks in Littleton argued, can be considered part of the overall learning environment, and therefore when students post harassing, mocking or even threatening things online they are in fact disturbing that learning atmosphere. There will not be any easy answers, and districts will be forced to be flexible and learn along with parents. Discussing these issues with students may help create a more open dialogue and educate decision makers about some of the attitudes and behaviors that they need to understand./blockquotebr /br /I think my uneasiness with this case is that the 20 classmates were suspended by the school for viewing a message by the boy who put out the threat. Did they suspend any of the kids who previous school shooters told about their crimes? For example, many studies found that the a href=”http://www.icrsurvey.com/Study.aspx?f=SchoolPollII.html”school shooters told classmates /aabout their plans and left clues that could have warned of the attacks. However, I have never heard of the classmates who knew the plans being suspended, arrested, or held accountable for what they heard. br /br /What do you think? Should schools have the right to expel or regulate their students on the internet outside of the school setting?

Read bullet |

Critical Thinking still Prevails

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

In a recent excellent post by a href=”http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005707.html”Jane Galt/a, she wonders if the left is out of ideas:br /br /blockquoteThe left used to have a Big Idea: The free market doesn’t work, so the government will fix it. The social democrats disagreed with the Socialists and the Scoop Jackson democrats about how much fixing was necessary, but they all agreed on a basic premise, and could sell that simple message to the public. Then, after fifty years or so, people noticed that the government didn’t seem to work any better than the free market . . . worse, actually, in a lot of cases . . . and it was awfully expensive and surly. Conservatives stepped in with their Big Idea: the government screws things up, so let’s leave more stuff up to individuals, which, if nothing else, will be a lot cheaper. Obviously, liberals disagree with this . . . but they have not come up with a Big, Easily Sellable, Idea With Obvious Policy Prescriptions to replace it. Some of them have just kept repeating the old Big Idea, which it seems to me that fewer and fewer people believe, as the US continues to pull ahead of its economic peers. Others have focused on coming up with lots of little ideas . . . but those take up too much time and energy to attract voters. Gore tried to whang up anger against pharmaceutical companies, and Kerry tried to stoke anger against Bush, as replacement. But in politics, there’s just no replacement for the Big Idea./blockquotebr /br /Sometimes, when I lament to myself about the lack of critical thinking skills that go on in our educational system, I remember that in the United States, ideas still prevail when it comes to choosing our political systems.

Read bullet |

The Joys of Podcasting

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

It seems that a href=”http://www.net4now.com/isp_news/news_article.asp?News_ID=3455″Ricky Gervais/a, the British Comedian, has made it to the Guinness book of World records with his podcasts (Hat Tip a href=”http://www.fraterslibertas.com/2006_03_01_archive.html#114117976410824090″Fraters Libertas/a). “The Ricky Gervais Show, the popular podcast which earlier this month made a new Guinness World Record for having 2.9 million downloads, is returning for a much-anticipated second series.” It seems that Mr. Gervais will now be charging for his podcasts.br /br /”This project represents the first major transition from a free to a commercial podcast. Season 1 of The Ricky Gervais Show was free, but now Season 2 is available through a small subscription charge. In the light of 3 million downloads, Gervais jokingly lamented giving his show away for free in a recent podcast, saying: ‘I have been a fool.’ ” br /br /Wow, thanks to our wonderful readers and subscribers, Glenn and I have had over half a million downloads on our podcasts in only six weeks–I wonder if we can catch up?br /br /I must say that podcasting is just plain fun…it is great to look at books, articles and videos of our guests and see what, how and why they think the way they do. Tim Minear, the producer and writer of emWonderfalls/em and emFirefly/em among others, never went much past high school. Claire Berlinski travels the globe writing and thinking about social problems and politics, and Bill Frist spends time thinking about how to keep Americans safe from health epidemics. As a kid, I spent my time reading biographies of people who were successful. I was always intrigued by how someone’s life came together in such a way that made them an inventor, athlete, public figure or writer etc. br /br /People’s minds work in such different ways and it is amazing how we all come to find our path in one way or another. I wonder what I would do if I could live another lifetime and choose another career path knowing what I know now–I think I would choose to be a film director and start at a young age–but since that is an impossibility–then luckily, I can live vicariously through others by devouring their writing, music, politics and films.

Read bullet |