Courageous Collaborations: Difficult dialogue moves us forward

Sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation.


Are you courageous enough to collaborate with your enemies? 

  • Bishop Omar Jahwar has worked beside all kinds of unlikely allies, from Aryan Brotherhood gang leaders to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
  • What is an enemy? A true enemy is rare, says Bishop Omar. "Enemies come when there is true violation, not true rhetoric... sometimes you have to go beyond the rhetoric so you can see the real."
  • You cannot solve deep problems from the comfort of an echo chamber—it takes courage. The key to courageous collaborations is meeting your so-called enemy to ask: "What do we fiercely agree upon? And let's work like hell to make it happen."

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Why free speech is sacred—even when it's dangerous

  • Suppression of free speech dooms democracy, says law professor Nadine Strossen. We should all be open to hearing dangerous and odious ideas rather than drive them underground.
  • "[P]eople will often say to me, as somebody who is Jewish and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who barely survived the Buchenwald Concentration Camp: How can I of all people defend the Nazis?" says Strossen. She also says, "And mark my words I would be equally distraught at having voices on the right silenced for a whole lot of reasons, one of which is the indivisibility of all rights."

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together. 

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations

I worked in the prison system for 5 years. Here's what it does to a person.

  • Most people who go to prison are not incorrigible criminals - just normal people who made mistakes.
  • The prison system can become breeding ground for antisocial behaviors.
  • Bishop Jahwar worked with prisoners to help them retain the core of who they were and "take masks off".

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

How the marketplace of ideas went rogue

  • The marketplace of ideas is a better metaphor than it's intended to be, notes Eli Pariser. As any good economist will tell you, the best product doesn't always rise to the top.
  • The institutional gatekeepers and experts who once kept checks and balances on the marketplace of ideas have been replaced by social media algorithms that reward emotion and outrage over expertise and truth.
  • How can media institutions like Facebook make this right? By reevaluating the business model that serves advertisers instead of readers, and by clearly stating their values—even if that means losing some of those 2 billion users.

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Why you should tolerate intolerable ideas

How free speech deepens the quality of good ideas.

Why the U.S. is an anomaly among democracies

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  • A study finds that even short breaks help you solidify new learning.
  • In a way, learning really only happens during your breaks.
  • For the most effective learning sessions, build-in short rest periods.

It's been believed for some time that resting, ideally sleeping, after learning something new helps you lock in your newly acquired knowledge. Now a study finds that even short breaks can be beneficial. It's a fascinating study that suggests that we don't improve as we practice, but rather during the breaks we take.

Type '4-1-3-2-4', coneheads!

Image: Pixabay

In a study from the National Institutes of Health – led by Marlene Bönstrup, a post-doc in the lab of Leonard G. Cohen – the brain waves of 27 healthy volunteers were monitored as they practiced typing 4-1-3-2-4 as fast as they could for 10 seconds using only their left hand, and then resting for 10 seconds. They did this 36 times. Long, cone-shaped, magnetoencephalography brain-scanning caps they wore allowed researchers to record their brain activity.

Speed gains

Image: Flickr

As you might expect, subjects' speeds improved with practice up through the 11th trial, starting out at about one key per second and topping out at about 3.5 keys per second. No further gain in speed was seen in trials 12-36.

When the researchers looked more closely at the participants' improvements, they noticed something surprising. On average, subjects performed at the same speed throughout each trial. It was only between trials — as they rested — that they got faster. By the time the next trial began, their speed had improved.

Neural evidence

"I noticed that participants' brain waves seemed to change much more during the rest periods than during the typing sessions," Bönstrup tells the NIH. "This gave me the idea to look much more closely for when learning was actually happening. Was it during practice or rest?"

The scans suggested that the phenomenon has to do with 16-22Hz beta waves in the frontoparietal area of the brain. These waves are associated with someone planning movement, and, indeed, when subjects rested, the researchers saw changes in the amplitude of these waves that suggest their brains were solidifying memory and getting ready to type faster. It was also apparent that most of this occurred in the right hemisphere of a participant's brain, which is associated with the left hand.

While the study was concerned with the learning of motor skills, the finding may be more broadly applicable, and further research will be required. "Whether these results apply to other forms of learning and memory formation remains an open question," says Cohen.

In any event, the study has intriguing implications for learning in a variety of settings. As Cohen says,"Our results suggest that it may be important to optimize the timing and configuration of rest intervals when implementing rehabilitative treatments in stroke patients or when learning to play the piano in normal volunteers."

Another intriguing offline idea

(Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images)

This is what problem-solving looks like.

Neuroscientists have been looking closely at our mechanisms for learning, and there's been a lot of interest in the interplay between active thinking and learning and what your brain does while — on a conscious level anyway — you're resting or sleeping.

Barbara Oakley, author of Mindshift, refers to your brain as having two distinct circuits for these two states. In her Big Think Edge video, "Breaking Through Learning Obstacles: Activate Your Neural Networks," she explains how they work together as you acquire new knowledge.

  • The focus neural network — This is the neural network you employ when you're concentrating on a problem you're deliberately trying to solve.
  • The diffuse neural network — This is a neural network that can continue to work on a problem in the background as you're consciously thinking about other things.
Being laser-focused on a problem isn't always the best way to arrive at its solution. By allowing yourself a chance to process, your brain has time to creatively work through the problem while its offline. "You relax, you go off for a walk, you take a shower," as Oakley says. Often, when you once again focus, you'll find the solution magically presents itself.

The concept of access regardless of land ownership is called 'Allemansrätt' - 'everyman's right'.


The custom dates from mediaeval times, but was only passed as law in parliament in 1974, and enshrined in the Swedish constitution in 1994. Authorities can even force landowners to remove any fence in place which has the sole purpose of obstructing public access to a recreation area.

There are sensible exceptions. You cannot enter private gardens or cultivated land, nor can you camp within 70 metres of a dwelling place, or exploit the countryside for economic purpose, such as hunting and logging.

People are obliged to take care of the nature they enjoy, and respect others they meet. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has popularized the slogan 'don't disturb, don't destroy', a variation on the 'leave no trace' tagline found elsewhere.

Several other countries ensure similar freedoms, including the rest of the Nordic countries (though Denmark has some restrictions on private land), several Baltic states, Scotland and Austria. By contrast, many countries have restrictions on access to public land. In England for example, walkers are generally allowed to cross privately owned moors, heaths and coastal land, but not forests. In the US, property rights allow landowners to exclude others. And Northern Ireland has "draconian" access rights, according to the Chairman of the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs (UFRC).

Access to nature can be key to a population's health, both in terms of encouraging an active lifestyle and for the soothing powers of the great outdoors. Japan has designated "therapy forests" where people are encouraged to go "forest bathing," while doctors in Scotland are prescribing outdoor activities to help tackle a range of conditions. Medical research has linked time spent in nature with everything from reduced depression to improved immune systems.

Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.

When Ariana Grande cried on stage recently, following her performance of an emotionally laden song, she later took to Twitter to apologise and thanked her fans for accepting her humanness.


Producing emotional tears is a uniquely human thing and yet, for many, our first reaction to crying is to apologise.

Public displays of crying and emotional release, especially of emotions deemed as unattractive like being upset or angry, remain taboo. This is because there are socially accepted rules that govern the way we feel things. These “feeling rules" guide the types of emotions and feelings deemed appropriate to display at certain times and places.

These rules tell us that is it acceptable to cry at funerals, but not necessarily at pop concerts. Equally, such rules have often stereotyped certain cultures and genders into particular norms. So feeling rules tend to dictate that men must show greater restraint in expressing their emotions publicly.

The pressure of fast-paced, 24/7 societies has created a deficiency of times and places to release emotion. And into this emotional void a marketplace has sprung up to provide people with places where they can safely vent.

Japan is at the forefront of this. The Japanese, often stereotyped as emotionless, have found ways to cater to a growing demand for emotional release. In response to the stresses of everyday life particularly among women, hotels launched so-called Crying Rooms. These made-to-order rooms come complete with weepy movies, a cozy atmosphere and tissues on surplus, with the aim of providing women a time and space where they can privately release their upset and tears, free from society's judgement and gaze.

The Japanese company Ikemeso Danshi is even building a reputation for its cry-therapy services, during which customers watch emotive short films under the guidance of a “tear courier". In a culture where crying in front of others is taboo, the cathartic benefits of group crying brings stress relief and relaxation, leading many Japanese companies to embrace the service as a useful team-building exercise.

But it's not just Japan that has an emotional release industry. Cities around the world have seen the launch of anger rooms that provide a designated and safe space for customers to release rage through destroying objects. The recently launched Rage Club in London is a monthly event marketed as a game where participants “play with different practices to embody, enjoy and express rage". The Wreck Room lets you just smash things up in a room on your own.

For some, these services will represent the unwelcome commercialisation of human interaction and fundamental needs. Others will welcome them as a therapeutic experience.

Judgement-free environment

A commonality across these services is that they are an opportunity to release emotions in a judgement-free environment, with like-minded others. These are the key features of our new concept entitled Therapeutic Servicescapes, which outlines how service providers can build an environment where people can healthily release their emotions. Our research was based on a three-year study of the Catholic sanctuary of Lourdes in France. We uncovered three key features that help produce a setting where particular emotions are permitted and released. These features involve:

1) A space that's designed to stimulate particular emotions.

2) Like-minded beliefs provide a sense of safety, security and acceptance of the behaviour and emotions of others.

3) An escape from the dominant cultural feeling rules.

We found that these features catalysed emotional release, which boosted people's emotional well-being. While many of the Japanese services outlined above are aimed at women, our research found the therapeutic environment at Lourdes was crucial to both men and women. Many of the men we spoke to saw it as a safe space, where they could release emotions and cry, free from judgement and stigma. This acceptance of crying, people told us, contrasted with their home cultures that they described as "emotionally straightjacketed".

The value of this kind of service space is evident, especially at a time when society faces a mental health crisis, with men often worse affected by the inability to talk about or release their emotions. Suicide is the number one cause of death for men under 50 in the UK and suicide rates among US men is four times higher than women. Our study shows the importance of creating spaces where men can open up about their feelings, free from the usual societal pressures that stop them from expressing their emotions.

The health and wellness industry is expected to grow to £632 billion globally by 2021, with more and more people spending money on healthy eating, exercise and activities that help their mental health. We see the appeal of services that promote emotional release as a relatively untapped but growing segment of this burgeoning industry.The Conversation

Leighanne Higgins, Lecturer in Marketing, Lancaster University and Kathy Hamilton, Reader in Marketing, University of Strathclyde.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • A study of 41,641 college students shows that perfectionism is increasing year after year.
  • Along with perfectionist tendencies, researchers noted a symmetrical rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide.
  • The study looks not at parental influence, but at neoliberal policies that have fostered a cult of individualism.

Should we really be surprised by a study entitled, "Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time?" Though written in 2017, this research from Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill was recently republished by the American Psychological Association. Though previous surveys have mentioned "authenticity" as a defining feature of the target age group—millennials—it's hard to imagine an absence of mimicry given our social media environment.

This research is unique in approach. The team opens with a discussion of neoliberal governance being responsible for creating the conditions for rampant individualism to spread. An unchecked free market is placing undue stress on younger generations, forcing them to battle for screen space on a regular basis. Sleep becomes impossible when the entire planet is your schoolyard.

While the correlates and consequences of perfectionism are well-documented, the authors believe less research exists on the cultural conditions that fertilize it. Most research deals with parental and immediate environmental influences, not the governing economic and cultural forces. They consider perfectionism "a cultural phenomenon," and treat it as such.

"In its broadest sense, then, perfectionism can be understood to develop through the messages that young people internalize from their immediate social environments, the resulting view of themselves, especially how they construe self-worth and how it is established, and their sense of self in relation to others."

While this line of thought might be new to studies on perfectionism, differences between communal and individualist societies are understood. Better or worse is not the point of this work. Pressures associated with first thinking of yourself instead of your group have grave consequences on your mental health. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are all increasing in this younger cohort.

The Problem With Perfectionism

The authors define perfectionism as "excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations." They employ a cross-temporal meta-analysis of American, Canadian, and British college students' replies to the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale. Totaling 41,641 students between 1989 and 2016, three types of perfectionism were considered:

  • Self-oriented perfectionists are irrational in their self-importance while holding unrealistic expectations of themselves, punishing themselves when they can't meet their own self-imposed impossible standards.
  • Socially prescribed perfectionists feel consistently and harshly judged by others, forcing them to seek approval at every turn.
  • Other-oriented perfectionists impose unrealistic standards on everyone else and act out when these standards are not met.

Self-oriented perfectionism is considered the most complex. They base self-worth on achievements. Satisfaction never comes. Over the long run, clinical depression, eating disorders, and early death are a few of the results.

Socially prescribed perfectionism is the most debilitating, resulting in major bouts of anxiety and depression; it can lead to suicide when unchecked.

Other-oriented perfectionism is the least studied. Recent research ties it to higher levels of vindictiveness, hostility, and a tendency to blame others for, well, everything, but mostly for personal shortcomings. Low levels of altruism, compliance, and trust follow, as well as, in relationships, more fighting and less sexual satisfaction.

Curran and Hill attribute three cultural changes as catalysts for widespread increase in perfectionist tendencies:

  • The emergence of neoliberalism and competitive individualism.
  • The rise of the doctrine of meritocracy.
  • Increasingly anxious and controlling parental practices.

In a neoliberal environment, levels of narcissism, extraversion, and self-confidence increase as communal traits spiral. Collectively, we've become less caring about the welfare of others, while blaming others has gone through the roof. Ironically, we didn't need a study for this. We only need Twitter.

These trends are apparent in influencer culture, where a premium is placed on experiences, many of which are fabricated to begin with. This glorification of experience is why recent generations spend more money on status possessions and image goods well above their parents and grandparents. Add a dash of FOMO for a toxic cocktail.

Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Worldwide Professional Bodybuilders during the Arnold Sports Festival Africa 2019 at Sandton Convention Centre on May 18, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

As we've known since biblical times (and likely before), more stuff equals less satisfaction. Our impatience with stuff translates into dissatisfaction with self. Cortisol boils.

"Yet rather than alleviate presentational and interpersonal anxieties, studies indicate that exposure to others' perfect self-representations within social media can intensify one's own body image concerns and sense of social alienation."

One real-world example: The UK has experienced a 30 percent increase in body dysmorphia and eating disorders in young girls since the advent of social media.

In a meritocracy, those with the highest status and most possessions are treated as winners, though little information about their prior conditions is shared. We only see the lifestyle, not the trust fund; we don't know what clothing gets shipped back to the rack. A pompous display: those with less feel less deserving. Material wealth is too often linked with low self-esteem.

Not only is the schoolyard infected, but so is the classroom. Teens are being taught that an education is designed to make money, not to enrich their lives and deepen their knowledge. American society no longer rewards the culture it created—wage premiums associated with degrees have stagnated for the last 20 years—yet we're left with the mental weight of school as a means of financial success, or, as it goes, "getting ahead."

This translates into parents—part of the neoliberal, meritocratic groundswell—transferring their own failed expectations onto the shoulders of their children. The youth internalize these pressures. Parents spend far more time today than a few decades ago focusing on educational endeavors and far less time on leisure and hobbies.

"Should a young person be unable to navigate an increasingly competitive social milieu, then it is not just their failure, it is also the parents' failure too."

Interestingly, American students showed higher levels of self-oriented perfectionism and lower levels of socially prescribed perfectionism. This is, in part, due to shrinking budgets for communal-oriented funding faster than other countries. Regardless of geography, all three cohorts claim to be victims of demanding social expectations.

The kids are not alright. Neither are the parents.

It's always been nature and nurture. While parental influences are powerful, this research shows how forceful the weight of society is on our outlook. Just as anti-Semitism is rising in a populist-focused America, the endless barrage of people (seemingly) having more fun and stuff than you is taking its toll. The screen is a mirror of failed expectations and we're all paying the price.

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  • Florida may be the butt of many jokes, but its higher education system is second to none.
  • However, the state's PreK-12 education lacks comparatively, giving Massachusetts the top spot for the best education overall.
  • Americans believe their state governments should prioritize education, but much work needs to be done to catch up to other countries.

Let's face it, the other 49 states aren't always kind to Florida. We roll our eyes at how the state horked a national election, made mothers terrified of bath salts, and plays host to python sex parties. We laugh when its citizens threaten each other with turtle armies or a major newspaper endorses a Florida congressional candidate who believes she was abducted by aliens (#onlyinflorida).

Comedian John Oliver summed up how other states feel about their southern kin best when he said: "I mean come on, Florida. You're Florida!"

But the Sunshine State deserves more respect in the eyes of the other states. According to the U.S. News & World Report's 2019 Best States ranking, Florida has the best higher education system in the nation and one of the best education systems overall.

Florida #1 in higher education

(Photo: Jackson Myers/Flickr)

Florida State University is ranked number 70 among the U.S.'s 100 best colleges, one of three top ranking higher education schools in Florida.

The U.S. News & World Report's annual ranking compares states based on eight key categories: education, health care, the economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment. State rankings are based on how they perform in predetermined metrics, with scores weighted on citizen priorities as determined by a survey.

Metrics for the higher education rank included the number of citizens holding degrees, costs of attending college, student debt burden, and time it takes to complete a two- or four-year program.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, "the state recently announced a 9.5 percent increase in its college graduation rate over the last five years." It has decreased the cost of pursuing a bachelor's degree, too, reducing it to less than $10,000 after financial aid for the average student.

Under these standards, Florida has set a high bar. It beat out Washington, Wyoming, and California (which took second, third, and fourth respectively). This is the third year in a row Florida has taken the top spot, and the state sports three of the country's 100 best colleges.

"It is no surprise that U.S. News & World Report has again named Florida the top state in the nation for higher education," Governor Ron DeSantis said in a news release. "Our state colleges and universities have prioritized affordability and pathways for career and life and, as a result, they are transforming our state. I look forward to celebrating continued success as we build on this positive momentum."

Ranking the nation's education systems

However, Florida's sterling score did not carry over to PreK-12 education. It lingered in the middle of the pack, coming in at 27. Instead, Massachusetts ranked number one in primary and secondary education. These results were based on metrics such as preschool enrollment, SAT and ACT scores, standardized test scores in math and reading, and high school graduation rate.

To determine which state had the best overall education system, U.S. News & World Report then combined state scores for PreK-12 and higher education (weighing each as 50/50). In order, the top ten are:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Jersey
  3. Florida
  4. Washington
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Nebraska
  7. Virginia
  8. Vermont
  9. Iowa
  10. Utah

Of the 10 states with the best overall education, seven appeared on U.S. News & World Report's best states list. Florida ranked 13th.

You can read U.S. News & World Report's methodology here.

Still room to improve

To weigh its index score, U.S. News & World Report's surveyed more than 50,000 Americans over three years. The survey asked residents in each state how they felt their governments handled key categories and where they wanted resources to be focused. The respondents had to rank each category — 1 being the most important, 8 the least.

Americans felt strongly that state governments should make education a priority (15.8 percent). Only health care received more support and just barely (16 percent). Other categories such as natural environment (8.4 percent), crime and corrections (9.9 percent), and infrastructure (12.9 percent) received less enthusiasm.

Increased public support has likely played a part in advancing the nation's educational systems. The national high school graduation rate is 85 percent, the highest it has ever been. Millennials have become the most education generation, earning more bachelor's degrees than Gen X or the baby boomers.

But there's still room for improvement. Graduation rates for whites, Asians, and Pacific Islanders continues to outdo rates for blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. School funding remains tied to local property taxes, meaning schools in poor districts that need money are unlikely to get it. Higher education can be prohibitively expensive. And education is still not a right in the United States, unlike other democracies.

States like Florida and Massachusetts can serve as examples to help each state develop a more productive and charitable education system. They can keep the python sex parties, though.