Virginia Postrel on textiles and technology, nature and magic

Here’s a great highlight from a fascinating and very entertaining podcast from a16z: Textiles as Tech, Science, Math, Culture… or Civilization. Recommended. Sonal Chokshi: “We suffer textile amnesia because we enjoy textile abundance.” … Viginia Postrel: “This really has mostly happened in my lifetime – I’m sixty – where textiles have just become so abundant and so cheap that we…

Resource recommendation: online card-sorting game maker from Flippity

Flippity.net has a load of clever templates that turn Googlesheets into various educational things. We’ve just used the “Manipulatives” template to make this card-sorting game to help teachers learn about the different levels of our Indonesian literacy curriculum during online training. It’s easy to use, keeps things simple, and just works. Recommended. P.S. Thanks Flippity!

What’s reading worth? OECD data on the economic returns to literacy

This OECD data records an average 7.5% increase in a person’s wages (8.8% for non-native speakers) for every one standard deviation increase in literacy proficiency, averaged across 24 OECD countries. That’s equivalent to slightly more than two-and-a-half years’ additional salary over a 35 year working life.* According to this data the UK’s return to a one standard deviation in literacy…

Educated (11): Truth in context

Another aspect of the limits of knowledge is the contingent nature of most of what we know: Truth is usually* truth-in-context. A pair of non-parallel lines will only ever cross once… on the infinite flat plane of Euclidian geometry.** Swans are only white… as far as Europeans knew before someone saw a black one in Australia. It’s safest to walk…

Educated (10): Limits to knowledge

An education should give us an awareness of the limits of knowledge. Most obviously: That there are things that we (humans) don’t understand; That some of those things we may never understand (or at least, in our lifetimes); That we (as individuals) can’t possibly know everything that is known; … and so what we do know is necessarily incomplete; ……

Educated (9): taxonomy and the fruits of knowledge

You’re probably familiar with the old saw “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” This response to the smart alec’s observation that a tomato is not (botanically speaking) a vegetable points out that the distinction is meaningless in the kitchen.* Think a little harder and it gets…

Educated (7): you, life and other people

If you can raise your children to like and believe in themselves, and to be interested in life and other people, the rest is detail. Cousin-in-law Most of the important bits of “educated” are absorbed rather than taught. Schooling and opportunities help, but the slow drip of love and respect from people you love and respect is indispensable. Which leads…

Schopenhauer on reading yourself stupid

Schopenhauer had quite a lot to say about reading. He liked good books, but was highly skeptical of most books, and especially of contemporary ones. Here he is – in dialectical* opposition to most of my other posts about reading – on the effects of reading too much: When we read, someone else thinks for us; we repeat merely his…

Educated (6): none the wiser

Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle … to tell him whether there was anyone wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess answered that there was no man wiser. … When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? and…