Cory Leonard

Posts Tagged ‘education’

The Non-Cognitive Voodoo that You Do

In career on December 5, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Got skills? Yes, but what about the other kind? (The kinds that the OECD emphasizes as a critical set of skills for primary and secondary schools.)


Sometimes called “soft” skills, character skills, or social and emotional skills, non-cognitive skills include traits like motivation, sociability, empathy, attention, self-esteem, and self-regulation. These skills have traditionally been undervalued, but there is hard evidence that they are more critical to a person’s success in life than almost anything else.

There are also broader benefits of non-cognitive skills to society at large, including less crime, better health, higher civic engagement, higher employment, and a generally more trusting, inclusive society.

So how do we translate all of these studies demonstrating the importance of non-cognitive skills into education practice?

According to Heckman, mentoring, family engagement, and personalized education are critical because skill formation is dynamic — in other words, skills beget skills. Therefore, it’s important to promote policies that help develop non-cognitive skills. This begins with early childhood education and interventions, but it continues throughout a child’s education into adulthood, with work-based apprenticeship programs that build attachment, interaction, and trust.

“We need a much more comprehensive notion of what education means today — the key is attachment, engagement, and a deeper understanding of mentoring and learning. It also means when we measure education, we have to go beyond academic measures and measure non-cognitive skills. Start early, go broadly, and go far beyond school,” Heckman said.

Via Asia Society | ‘Start Early, Go Broadly, and Go Far Beyond School

The “Big Five” key personality skills of conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability, openness, and extraversion are part of the “Rosetta Stone”–according to Richard D. Roberts, Jonathan E. Martin, and Gabriel Olaru. These factors are well-researched, beginning with Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal in 1961 and being more well-known by academic researchers in the 1980s.

The extent to which someone is open, conscientious, extraverted, agreeable and neurotic determines success in life just as much as (and in some cases, notably thick men who wish to avoid jail, more than) their academic ability. It is not enough to be smart, you must be tenacious as well.

via The Economist | Blighty – “Not just smart but persistent as well

This idea has been widely reinvigorated by educators and popularized by David Brooks in The Social Animal.




Should You Love Your Job? Expectations and the Rest of Your Life

In career on May 23, 2014 at 8:22 pm


An argument about unhappiness among recent college graduates–a particular subclass–and at best, an effort to explain how social media plays into misshapen expectations about post-collegiate life.  Also, a great implicit argument for a broad liberal education–as that will help you figure out what a good life is, after all.

Sure, some people from Lucy’s parents’ high school or college classes ended up more successful than her parents did.  And while they may have heard about some of it from time to time through the grapevine, for the most part they didn’t really know what was going on in too many other peoples’ careers.

Lucy, on the other hand, finds herself constantly taunted by a modern phenomenon: Facebook Image Crafting.

Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation.  This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery:

via wait but why: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.


Another aspect to this comes from unrealistic expectations about he working world.  One common message from higher education is to “do what you love”–but the reality experienced by alumni is much different.

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like nonwork?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.

via Do what you love, love what you do: An omnipresent mantra that’s bad for work and workers..

Take Gordon Merino, waxing all philosophical about the topic.  He back up the issue to Kant, asking the big question of what work we should do, noting that “doing what you love” rarely plays into the career plan for society’s most important figures:

The universally recognized paragons of humanity — the Nelson Mandelas, Dietrich Bonhoeffers and Martin Luther Kings — did not organize their lives around self-fulfillment and bucket lists. They, no doubt, found a sense of meaning in their heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but they did not do what they were doing in order to achieve that sense of meaning. They did — like my father and some of those kids from town — what they felt they had to do.

Dr. King taught that every life is marked by dimensions of length, breadth and height. Length refers to self-love, breadth to the community and care of others, and height to the transcendent, to something larger than oneself. Most would agree with Dr. King’s prescription that self-fulfillment requires being able to relate yourself to something higher than the self. Traditionally, that something “higher” was code for God, but whatever the transcendent is, it demands obedience and the willingness to submerge and remold our desires.

via Opionator | The Stone | A life beyond do what you love.



Beauty and Power in Books & Ideas

In ideas on May 6, 2014 at 5:00 am

The life of the mind, a love of literature and ideas, and a society in crisis: themes from David Brooks on the connection between Isaiah Berlin and a momentous visit to Anna Akhmatova.

Berlin and Akhmatova were from a culture that assumed that, if you want to live a decent life, you have to possess a certain intellectual scope. You have to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness and make subtle moral and emotional judgments.

Berlin and Akhmatova could experience that sort of life-altering conversation because they had done the reading. They were spiritually ambitious. They had the common language of literature, written by geniuses who understand us better than we understand ourselves.

via Love Story –


Just keep studying. (The liberal arts crisis will pass.)

In career, tech on February 25, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Everyone seems to want to work at Google. And they want to talk about the end of liberal arts. If you aren’t following Scott Sprenger’s Humanities+ blog you should do so; he marshals all of the latest posts–and has been cited by a number of others such as Andrew Sullivan , Inside Higher Ed and the CHE.

Meanwhile, Thomas Friedman visits the Mountain View, California campus to figure out what hiring managers look for in new candidates.  Friedman learns that cognitive ability, leadership, and humility make all the difference.  

To continue this theme with we get more from Adam Gopnkik  on “liberal arts versus the world,” via GPS, one of the consistently best programs on CNN.  Gopnik talks about why studying lit isn’t elitist, the link between pop culture, the world of ideas and a lot more:

Apple is primarily an enterprise in the arts and design, perhaps before anything else. But I also think it’s true that we don’t have to apologize for the humanities and the arts in that way, because the truth is that in every civilization that we know of, that interests us at all, there’s an ongoing conversation about books and pictures.

via Are the humanities worth studying? – Global Public Square – Blogs.

via .

Touring for Pleasure, Traveling for Knowledge

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Literary Excursions -

The writer Chris Wallace reviews a pile of travel books to discern the difference between mere sightseeing and a transformational trip:

In other words, I was touring, to use Paul Bowles’s classic distinction, rather than traveling — seeking enjoyment rather than experience. I had failed to abide Camus’s dictum that the trip ought to be the highest form of asceticism. “There is no pleasure in traveling,” he wrote in his notebooks. “I look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing. If we understand by culture the exercise of our most intimate sense — that of eternity — then we travel for culture.” One imagines he is using the Bowlesian distinction here, meaning capital-T Traveling — to find communion with the universal and, ultimately, with the deepest, “most intimate sense” of oneself. Camus goes on to say: “Pleasure takes us away from ourselves in the same way as distraction, in Pascal’s use of the word, takes us away from God. Travel, which is like a greater and a graver science, brings us back to ourselves.”

via Literary Excursions –


‘Strings Attached’ Co-Author Offers Solutions for Education –

In career on October 4, 2013 at 1:45 am

Why tough teachers make a difference in the lives of their students, and some counterintuitive insights via Joanne Lipman:

  1. A little pain is good for you.
  2. Drill, baby, drill
  3. Failure is an option
  4. Strict is better than nice
  5. Creativity can be learned
  6. Grit trumps talent
  7. Praise makes you weak …
  8. …while stress makes you strong.

via ‘Strings Attached’ Co-Author Offers Solutions for Education –

What College Professors Can Expect

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2013 at 10:47 pm

How prepared are students that are the products of No Child Left Behind for university life?

Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. I had too many students. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had 129 AP students (as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes). A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing. Do the math. Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. Let’s assume that 160 actually turn it in. Let’s further assume that I am a fast reader, and I can read and correct papers at a rate of one every three minutes. That’s eight hours—for one assignment. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.

From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.

via A warning to college profs from a high school teacher.

via A warning to college profs from a high school teacher.

Notions of Success and Why Liberal Arts Really Matter

In career on August 9, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Plato answered the question on the end of a liberal education.

I have posted about Mark Edmunson previously, and recommend his reframing of the debate about the value of a liberal education.  He suggests that “skills” are not the real value-added component.

But the humanities are not about success. They’re about questioning success — and every important social value. Socrates taught us this, and we shouldn’t forget it. Sure, someone who studies literature or philosophy is learning to think clearly and write well. But those skills are means to an end. That end, as Plato said, is learning how to live one’s life. “This discussion is not about any chance question,” Plato’s Socrates says in “The Republic,” “but about the way one should live.”

That’s what’s at the heart of the humanities — informed, thoughtful dialogue about the way we ought to conduct life. This dialogue honors no pieties: All positions are debatable; all values are up for discussion. Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks for the spirit of the humanities in “Self-Reliance” when he says that we “must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.” He will not accept what the world calls “good” without consideration: He’ll look into it as Socrates did and see if it actually is good. When Montaigne doubts received opinion and asks himself what he really knows and what he does not, he is acting in the spirit of the humanities. “Que sais-Je?” or “What do I know?” was his motto.

via Why major in humanities? Not just for a good job — for a good life. – The Washington Post.

He also elevates Socrates as the spokesman for this view of a humanities education, where the goals are to “question those values” [in society] and to “help them work their way to insight and virtue” rather than merely helping them climb a ladder.

I cannot agree more fully with Edmunson’s distinction. The educators who influenced me the most were at various levels of accomplishment within their respective systems. They has a wide range of professional credentials–some impressive, others more pedestrian. They all had one thing in common: a focus on the need to question, think, explore, and consider what was really happening.


Why Do I Teach? – Gary Gutting

In career on May 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Another version of Delbanco’s arguments–focusing on the value of a liberal education and the “dialogue” that students enter into with great ideas, authors, and worlds:

I’ve concluded that the goal of most college courses should not be knowledge but engaging in certain intellectual exercises…The goal of the course is simply that they have had close encounters with some great writing.What’s the value of such encounters?

They make students vividly aware of new possibilities for intellectual and aesthetic fulfillment—pleasure, to give its proper name.  They may not enjoy every book we read, but they enjoy some of them and learn that—and how—this sort of thing Greek philosophy, modernist literature can be enjoyable.  They may never again exploit the possibility, but it remains part of their lives, something that may start to bud again when they see a review of a new translation of Homer or a biography of T. S. Eliot, or when “Tartuffe” or “The Seagull” in playing at a local theater.

College education is a proliferation of such possibilities: the beauty of mathematical discovery, the thrill of scientific understanding, the fascination of historical narrative, the mystery of theological speculation. We should judge teaching not by the amount of knowledge it passes on, but by the enduring excitement it generates. Knowledge, when it comes, is a later arrival, flaring up, when the time is right, from the sparks good teachers have implanted in their students’ souls.

via Why Do I Teach? –

via Why Do I Teach? –

How to Read in 2013 – Ross Douthat

In politics on January 1, 2013 at 12:55 am

Unlike my waistline, political discourse in the US needs serious broadening.  So I heartily recommend Ross Douthat’s advice on the NYT.  He recommends expanding our horizons by reading from other political perspectives, broadening geographic representation (Le Monde? Folha de Sao Paulo?) and adding  links to gReader (or your mail box if you so choose to proceed old school) from “outside existing partisan categories entirely” such as First Things, Reason magazine, Jacobin, or The New Inquiry.

Good advice, indeed via How to Read in 2013 –