Tag Archives: education

Medicine, Specialism, and the Scientific Education

In the commencement speech he delivered to the graduates of Stanford’s School of Medicine earlier this year, Atul Gawande eloquently (as ever) examined the state of modern medicine (in the U.S. specifically, the world generally), the problem with specialism, and the problem of specialists trying to fit into a system not necessarily designed for it.

I particularly like Gawande’s analogy on the experience of a scientific education:

The experience of a medical and scientific education is transformational. It is like moving to a new country. At first, you don’t know the language, let alone the customs and concepts. But then, almost imperceptibly, that changes. Half the words you now routinely use you did not know existed when you started: words like arterial-blood gas, nasogastric tube, microarray, logistic regression, NMDA receptor, velluvial matrix.

O.K., I made that last one up. But the velluvial matrix sounds like something you should know about, doesn’t it? And that’s the problem. I will let you in on a little secret. You never stop wondering if there is a velluvial matrix you should know about.

via Intelligent Life

The Technological Timeline and Science Education

In this brief profile of the Czech-Canadian academic Vaclav Smil–dubbed as Bill Gates’ tutor–we are treated to his thoughts on “the main things we should be worrying about (or not)” from his latest book and his opinion on science education and the maturation timeline of new technologies:

[Vaclav Smil] is (almost) resigned to the fact that our great debates about energy and the environment are largely pointless, because they are hugely distorted by politics and sadly uninformed by basic facts. We are a culture of scientific ignoramuses. […]

“We are structurally cooked,” he recently explained. “Every new technology takes 40 to 50 years before it captures the bulk of the market. […] That’s why “we’re going to be a fossil-fuel society for decades to come.” […]

As someone who was rigorously schooled in all the sciences, he regrets people’s widespread ignorance of science, technology and basic economics. As he told energy writer Robert Bryce, “Without any physical, chemical, and biological fundamentals, and with equally poor understanding of basic economic forces, it is no wonder that people will believe anything.”

The Keynote MBA

Truth is, the great value in most MBA and JD programs can be boiled down to 5 to 10 talks, presentations, classes and conversations that changed the way you experienced the world.

Following up on this comment, Jonathan Fields presents The Seven Keynote MBA: seven keynote speeches, from a diverse group of people, that together Fields believes will provide you as much real-world advice as an MBA.

The talks (videos, length in parentheses):

  1. Guy Kawasaki, TiECon 2006: The Art of the Start (39:46)
  2. Malcolm Gladwell, TED 2004: What We Can Learn From Spaghetti Sauce (18:16)
  3. Gary Vaynerchuck, Web 2.0 Expo NY: Building Personal Brand Within the Social Media Landscape (15:27)
  4. Annie Leonard: The Story of Stuff (21:16)
  5. Jimmy Valvano, 1993 ESPY Awards: Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award acceptance speech (9:59) (transcript)
  6. Seth Godin, TED 2009: The Tribes We Lead (17:24)
  7. Tony Hsieh, Web 2.0 Summit 08: Building a Brand that Matters (16:46)

via @evbogue

The Presence of Books and Children’s Intelligence

The number of books in your household has more of an effect on your child’s academic achievements than your education or income, a recently published study (pdf) has found.

Suggesting that the effects seem to be far from trivial, the conclusion indicates that simply the presence of books in their house can make children more intelligent.

Just having books around the house (the more, the better) is correlated with how many years of schooling a child will complete. The study […] found that growing up in a household with 500 or more books is “as great an advantage as having university-educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father.” Children with as few as 25 books in the family household completed on average two more years of schooling than children raised in homes without any books.

[Another study] found that simply giving low-income children 12 books (of their own choosing) on the first day of summer vacation “may be as effective as summer school” in preventing “summer slide” — the degree to which lower-income students slip behind their more affluent peers academically every year.

Upon reading this I had the same thought as Jonah Lehrer: “But what to do in a world of Kindles and iPads?”

For an Education in Statistics

The ability to understand data and its analyses is becoming more important in many aspects of our lives–especially government–says Clive Thompson, and as such statistical literacy is becoming an important skill.

Using recent arguments used by some confused climate change sceptics to show why it is important, Thompson explains briefly why we should learn the ‘language of data’:

Statistics is hard. But that’s not just an issue of individual understanding; it’s also becoming one of the nation’s biggest political problems. We live in a world where the thorniest policy issues increasingly boil down to arguments over what the data mean. If you don’t understand statistics, you don’t know what’s going on — and you can’t tell when you’re being lied to. Statistics should now be a core part of general education. You shouldn’t finish high school without understanding it reasonably well — as well, say, as you can compose an essay.

That’s precisely the point. We often say, rightly, that literacy is crucial to public life: If you can’t write, you can’t think. The same is now true in math. Statistics is the new grammar.