Monthly Archives: September 2013

Intelligence as a skill: learning, mistakes, and fear of failure

Just one more post from Mistakes Were Made (but not by me!), by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. This time the topic is education, specifically how fear of failure inhibits learning, and how we’d be wiser to think of intelligence as a learned skill (or set of skills) than as an inborn trait.

“Making mistakes is central to the education of budding scientists and artists of all kinds, who must have the freedom to experiment, try this idea, flop, try another idea, take a risk, be willing to get the wrong answer.” (p. 233)

The current focus on constant testing in schools, the authors say, “has intensified the fear of failure,” which inhibits risk-taking, which of course is essential to creativity and any real learning that goes deeper than rote memorization.

But there’s more to it: Continue reading


How books can open your mind

In this brief talk TED staffer Lisa Bu talks about the death of a dream, and how she found a new dream through books. Growing up in China, Bu wanted to be an opera singer. But her parents, who survived the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, had other ideas. They wanted their daughter to find a safe, well-paying job — specifically, to be an engineer like them. It didn’t matter if she liked the job or not.

No adults took her dreams of opera seriously. By age 15 she was too old to begin training. The dream ended. Searching for a new dream, she turned to books. Eventually she moved to the US.

I hope you’ll listen to her talk, which is short even by TED standards. Here I only want to highlight a few of the points she makes about books. Continue reading

Why grammar matters

As an editor, I deal with a lot of writing that needs help. Poor grammar is actually one of the easier things to fix (as opposed to poor organization, or worse, an unsupported thesis). But why does grammar matter, anyway? Isn’t fussiness about grammar just a form of snobbery?

Mark Goldblatt makes a concise case for grammar in a recent Wall Street Journal column. He gives this sentence as an example: “Oedipus attempts to avoid his fate by running away from home, it’s a decision he will come to regret.” Goldblatt writes: Continue reading

Animated poem about a kite… and so much more

I’ve featured animated poems a few times before on this blog. Here’s one I enjoyed after finding it on Open Culture. This video of Leonard Cohen’s “A Kite is a Victim” is an example of how a good reader and clever animator can add something to a poem that you won’t find on the printed page… even though the performance feels faithful to the original.

The poem itself is rich in metaphor. It’s about a kite but so much more.

The video may be new to me, but it’s been around a long time. It’s part of Poets on Film No. 1, an animated short released by Canada’s National Film Board in 1977.