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.