Intelligence = Technology to videotape
Stupidity = Engaging in Voyeurism as another human suffers
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In an engaging preface, James Paul Gee hits right between the eyes with this opening:

After many years of studying people I have become intrigued, as have many others, by how a species named for its intelligence (Homo sapiens: wise or knowing man) can sometimes be so stupid.

With that opening salvo on human stupidity, he provides contrasting examples of intelligence balanced by stupidity:

  1. Building in the desert vs polluting the limited water supply for those cities.
  2. Public health campaigns around the world vs endless wars.
There are many other examples in a straightforward, forthright style that is refreshing and engaging. . .and, it needs to be because in a world where most reading is happening online (IMHO), books may be a dying breed.
Below are some of my notes as I read this book…they are quotes from the book:
  1. While many educational dollars have been spent on getting American kids to learn more “STEM”–so that we can compete with the Chinese and the Indians in a global economy, it is said–it does not appear that such learning, in and of itself, leads to any respect for evidence or arguments founded on evidence.
  2. …I want to warn that digital tools are no salvation…they are great tools with which to become dumber just as they are great tools with which to become smarter.
  3. True conservatives want to be cautious and incremental in the face of complex problems for fear that large changes may have bad unintended consequences. They are humble about how much better we can make an imperfect world through large-scale social engineering.
  4. True liberals see change as redesigning systems and practices that have become dangerously outdated or unfair. They do not want to “tinker” while people suffer.
Again, I love the inherent authority in the author’s voice as he makes these assertions.
  1. Paraphrase: Humans often believe things that are manifestly false [because] it is a human trait.
  2. “The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others.” Nietzsche
  3. Confirmation or myside bias: built-in mental bias that makes humans favor information that confirms their beliefs. The human confirmation bias is strongest with highly emotionally charged issues or deeply entrenched beliefs.
  4. The confirmation bias leads to polarization.
  5. We call ourselves “pro-life” because we oppose abortion and yet oppose universal health care and thus let thousands of children and adults die because they lack health insurance. We claim that Jesus Christ, a dirt-poor champion of the poor and the unwashed, preached a “prosperity gospel” and wanted us all to be wealthy. [Ouch!]
  6. The deeper problem is why humans care so little about evidence, truth and the well-being of others even when, in the end, their actions undermine themselves, their societies, and their world.
  7. Digital and social media are allowing large groupsof people to organize bottom-up without a formal institution.
  8. Our formal institutions of education have, by and large, given up the task of deep education for the short-term goals of test passing and tuition payments.
  1. The value of reflection: Before acting, an animal can think about what might happen and devise an effective plan of action. After the action, the animal can reflect on what happened and think about whether the results of the action were good or bad. Then the animal can plan a more effective action if necessary.
  2. With mentorship, the 5 conditions look like this (gee, where were these all my life?):
    1. initial mentorship to get us prepared to learn from experience in specific areas
    2. lots of prior experience
    3. clear goals
    4. something being at stake (emotionally engaging)
    5. opportunity to act
  3. This is all called the circuit of reflective action…a type of interactive conversation with the world.
  1. The memory I am recalling will make me consciously or unconsciously think of related memories. When this happens, I can sometimes think that was true of one memory was true of another.
  2. Our memories, unlike those of computers, are often updated and changed when we recall or use them.
  3. Human memory was not built (by evolution) to be accurate, fair, objective, or fixed. It was designed to help us make sense of the world, see connections, and find patterns, all in the service of accomplishing goals, surviving and flourishing in the world, and fulfilling our needs and desires. Human memory is practical, and is not a disinterested search for truth, but a search for effective action in the world.
  4. If you want accuracy in dates and details from humans, they have to have meaning inside a story the human really cares about. Humans prefer stories to hard facts. We find comfort in stories that evade facts in favor of fantasies.
Great points!!
  1. A narrative is any use of language in which specific events are said to have happened one after the other.
  2. A story is a narrative with a “plot.” A plot is a framework imposed on a narrative that give sthe narrative a beginning, a middle and an end. A story gives meaning or significance to events. It tells us not just what happened, but why it happened or what these happenings meant to or for us or others.
  3. The human mind cannot accept suffering, death, coincidences, inexplicable events, unintended consequences. The human mind needs to find pattern, purpose and hope in the world.
  4. A human can find meaning and purpose by believing that he or she is acting out the history and contributing to the future of a family, social group, culture, race or nation. His or her sufferings can be seen as contributions to the group. The group, rather than the individual, can be seen as the truly effective and in-control actor on the world’s stage.
  5. “Comfort stories”
  6. A Christian would live a life of poverty, disavow all status, and serve others, especially others who are poor, of low status, sick and in need…there are actually next to no Christians (except Mother Teresa, I can’t think of anyone. Ouch).
These are some of my notes so far on reading the book. I look forward to the author getting to the core of his argument–essentially, what we can do about stupidity in school reform–going forward. 

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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