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Teaching as Shouting (or Tough Love Gets the Best Results)
Studies show that students flourish best when under constantly under a moderate amount of stress.
So I’ve gotten several emails about this article by Joanne Lipman in the WSJ. The bottom line is that the teachers who get the best results are all about really tough love. The best way to motivate students is to challenge them with realistic (and therefore tough) assessments of their shortcomings. It’s a good idea to shout at them when they’re slacking off. And to let them fail when they’ve actually not made the grade through lack of effort or natural gifts.
Studies show that students flourish best when constantly under a moderate amount of stress. Those are the students who don’t think of themselves as stressed at all. The best way to handle stress is to routinely experience it. As Aristotle says, the best way to come to possess the moral virtue of courage is actually to be in situations where courage is required to live well. The more the virtue becomes you’re own, the easier it is to keep your head, choose well, and even be happy in risky situations. Now we should be happy that today’s students almost never find themselves in situations (such as battle) where their lives are on the line. The downside is that they really are a little less than than they might be. But they all face situations where they can display grace under pressure. The more they experience the pressure, the more they can handle the pressure, the more virtuous or self-possessed they really are.
Studies also show that catering to or flattering students actually undermines their self-esteem. Real self-esteem—pride as opposed to vanity—comes from pleasurable reflection on real accomplishments, on meeting real challenges, on magnanimously or generously displaying one’s personal greatness. So the best teachers are stingy with praise in order that it really mean something. And they praise students not only or even mainly for their intellectual accomplishments but for their “class.” Being classy is just knowing how to act as a responsibly relational being in a particular situation. It’s not some pretension of the privileged, unless by being privileged you mean having been given the challenge of living well as a free and relational person. Poverty is no barrier to being classy, as anyone with classy eyes notices every day.
Studies also show that the best teachers typically use what are viewed as relatively old-fashioned “teaching methods.” Those who do the studies expected the stellar educators be all about collaborative learning, high technology, and other allegedly “powerful” practices. But effectively tough teachers actually focus their efforts on challenging students by giving them personal responsibilities—attentively listening to lectures, memorization, and one’s own reading and writing. Mathematics—numerical calculation—doesn’t become one’s own without really knowing the multiplication tables. And the more of Shakespeare you’ve memorized, the more his poetic narratives really become a part of you. It’s not that memorization is everything, but it turns out to be foundation on which “higher order” learning is built. Those who write memorable novels or music know how indebted they are to their hugely time-consuming acquisition of the disciplined craft and insight of others. They know that “critical thinking” or “problem solving” can’t be divorced from the content of who we are and what we do.
Creativity, it turns out, has to be learned or, better, always depends on a huge amount of disciplined learning. What passes for creative innovation is sloppy and fashion-driven without really knowing what there is to know about history or philosophy or music. Telling students to “be your own person” or “be creative” without being clear on what you really have to do to achieve such high possibilities is especially pernicious flattery. It’s better to tell students to do as well as you can, do the duties you’ve been given, and even “make the difference” you really can make in the place where you live.
So the Aristotelian point of this article is that intellectual virtue depends on moral virtue. It’s relevant everywhere from grade school to graduate school. It’s the only point that can justify, for example, the continued existence of residential college these days. It explains why it’s only those colleges that have real missions that aim higher than productivity or wealth and power have much of a future.
I now have to admit that I really don’t teach like this. I’ll explain why later. But for now let me say that the article is a riff on the experience of a legendary teacher of music. It turns out to be a great argument for teaching music these days. Some say that nobody much need play music anymore, because it’s so easy to be a consumer of the productions of others. All we need do is to teach kids to appreciate music. But excellent musical performance requires all the virtues that I’ve been talking up, including grace under the pressure of performance. Maybe students these days should be pushed—even shouted at—to work on making their musical potential real, just to give them a realistic assessment of what’s required to be all you can be, as well of what’s required to be really creative and innovative. It's also, of course, a realistic assessment of what you can't be.
Those who possess musical excellence are a true meritocracy of talent and virtue. So too, it just occurred to me, are those who display excellence in competitive sports. So I’m tentatively dissenting from those who say high school and even non-scholarship college sports are nothing but an expensive diversion from real education. If you want to know more, watch the teaching method—including shouting—employed by the noble philosopher-coach Eric Taylor on the classic TV series Friday Night Lights. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
I actually long for the day (which comes after I die) when lots of teachers of philosophy and literature can convince their students that what you’re doing in my class requires even more discipline—the right combination of intellectual and moral virtue—than football or music.
One reason for what might be regarded as my untough, unloving, and otherwise inferior teaching method is that I both stink at and was never pushed in sports and music.
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.