The ‘Overqualified’ Trap

by July

The ‘Overqualified’ Trap Can Hit You at Any Time – WSJ (PDF)
You don’t have to be near retirement to battle a perception that you’ve accomplished too much; here’s what to do about it

Has this happened to you or to others you know?  Do you agree with the reasons and the advice given in the article?   Your thoughts?



by Can you guess?

Idea for a Friday funday, stolen from a friend on Facebook.

You’ve been kidnapped. Your captors allow you to continue posting online, to pretend everything is all right. What would you post to alert your friends that something is very wrong?

“I can’t wait to wear my new shoes from Wal-mart in the 10k”
“My blockhead kid got thrown off the football team for drinking again”.
“That LaBron guy really should just stick to basketball”.


by S&M

Silly maps time! Does anyone want to chat about condiments? There’s no mayo on this map—maybe it’s too politically charged. What are your favorites, and do you see people eating the one depicted for your state?

We are not big on condiments in our household. I use mustard and tamari (not together), and make liberal use of lemon juice and olive oil. My son doesn’t like any. If he gets fries, I’ll dip a few in ketchup, but otherwise I don’t like it or mayo. Cinnamon-sugar and butter also show up fairly often for both of us, but idk if they count as condiments.

This Map Reveals the Most Popular Condiments in Every State

Recent changes to the Endangered Species Act

by WCE

The New Endangered-Species Regulations Are Good for Species


Under the old rules, in which all listed species receive full protection by default, listing the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act would be the surest and fastest way to deter many landowners from helping recover the species. Landowners would have no incentive to plant milkweed, which the species relies on exclusively to lay eggs and as a food source for its caterpillars. Planting milkweed would create monarch habitat, which could then make landowners subject to burdensome regulations. Harming a butterfly or its habitat — even inadvertently, as part of everyday land-use activities — could trigger the act’s full civil and criminal penalties.

Some landowners might even be encouraged to preemptively destroy existing monarch habitat, a phenomenon that has been well documented for other endangered species. For example several studies have found that timber owners in North Carolina began cutting trees earlier, or clear-cutting forests entirely, to avoid land-use restrictions that would have arisen if their forests became old-growth habitat for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.

The new rules aim to change that. In the case of the monarch, a less-stringent threatened listing could allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to encourage participation in voluntary conservation measures without creating perverse incentives that would undermine the butterfly’s recovery. The Environmental Defense Fund, for example, has been developing a habitat-exchange program that offers incentives for farmers to plant milkweed. Similar programs could be encouraged or developed under the new threatened-species listing rules, which could be crafted to support — not undermine — ongoing voluntary conservation efforts. For instance, rules could be issued that allow landowners enrolled in a voluntary conservation program to be exempt from certain land-use regulations.

College admissions

by Rhett

There is a popular and persistent image of college admissions in which diversity-obsessed universities are using affirmative action to deny spaces to academically talented affluent students while admitting low-income students with lower ability in their place. Boeckenstedt says the opposite is closer to the truth. If you’re an enrollment manager, he explains, the easiest category of students for you to admit are below-average students from high-income families. Because their parents can afford tutoring, they are very likely to have decent test scores, which means they won’t hurt your U.S. News ranking.


Daycare Health Nazis!

by MooshiMooshi

I have always wondered if one of the reasons parents demand antibiotics for their sick kids is because of daycare/school health policies. Back when my kids were in daycare, the rule for both pinkeye and ear infections was that they could come back in after treatment with an antibiotic for 24 hours. We had to show the prescription. It was a particular problem with my oldest. The daycare would call and say he looked fussy, could I come get him. I would schlep him to the doctor even though I often thought there wasn’t much wrong because I knew it would make it easier to get him back into daycare on a timely basis. Our pediatrician at the time loved, loved, loved ear infections. I don’t think there was a single visit that my kid did NOT get diagnosed with an ear infection. He always prescribed an antibiotic. I was often a skeptic about the diagnosis, but it worked for me because I would only have to be out of work for a day before I could bring my kid back to daycare.

In that era, no one questioned that ear infections should automatically get antibiotics, but the thinking started to change a couple of years later. But it was too late for my kids. I can’t help but think of all of the antibiotic prescriptions that have been handed out simply because that is what the daycares want.

The school nurse at my kids kindergarten was also very overaggressive. She would send kids home for the slightest things, usually with orders to take the kid to the doctor asap. We always called her the Nurse Nazi. My kids, especially number two, quickly figured out it was a free ticket home. We went to the pediatrician for minor problems many times. When my daughter went for her pre-kindergarten nurse check (yep, we have nurse checks here), the Nurse Nazi eyed her up and down, and then looked sternly at me and said “She is VERY SMALL for a kindergartener, don’t you think?”. I was panicking… “no, no, no, you can’t exclude her from kindergarten because she is small!!!!”. I truly think that the nurse was hoping we would give up on the kindergarten idea for another year.

Have you encountered school policies that encouraged overtreatment? Or have things gotten better since mine were small? This article seems to think there are still a lot of problems.

On the history of urban transportation

by WCE

In 1994, Cesare Marchetti, an Italian physicist, described an idea that has come to be known as the Marchetti Constant. In general, he declared, people have always been willing to commute for about a half-hour, one way, from their homes each day.

This principle has profound implications for urban life. The value of land is governed by its accessibility—which is to say, by the reasonable speed of transport to reach it.

The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

Regulating technology

by WCE

This article on regulating technology interested me but it leaves out what I find to be the key question- the cost of enforcing regulation against bad actors, especially bad actors in countries with weak governments. We have laws about cell phone calls, for example, but only reputable companies obey them. Perhaps cyber security law will wind up being enforced by a new branch of the military or the NSA will become part of a global cyber security organization.

Tech Firms Need More Regulation (The Atlantic)
The industry must cooperate to solve problems—but government must take a more active role as well.

Would you sail around the world?

by Rhett

Would you sail around the world?

A few ground rules.

1. There would be no negative financial impact.
2. You’d have 2 years including 3 months of training.
3. The boat would have 4 bedrooms 2 baths, AC, internet, washing machine, etc.
4. You can pick the age you want to go. 55 when the kids are out of the house and it’s just you and your spouse. 42 when the kids re 12 and 9. 28 before kids, etc.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

What’s your preferred browser now and how has it changed over time?

Upcoming topics:
Wednesday — Would you sail around the world? (Rhett)
Thursday — Regulating technology (WCE)
Friday — Writing style (Rocky Mountain Stepmom)
Sunday — Politics open thread

Shortage of eligible men

by Denver Dad

Fewer people are getting married because there’s a shortage of economically stable single men, says study

Marriage isn’t as popular as it once was. In fact, the marriage rate in the U.S. is the lowest it’s been in at least 150 years, reports PBS.

A new study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, may have one explanation as to why: There aren’t enough “economically attractive” men — ones with a good income and a stable job — for single women to marry.

In the study, researchers examined couples in heterosexual marriages from 2008 to 2012 and 2013 to 2017, compiling character profiles (education and income levels) of the husbands. When they analyzed the pool of available men for these economically attractive traits that demographically-similar single women might look for, there was a shortage of potential matches.The researchers hypothesized that potential husbands for the single women had an average income nearly 60 percent higher than the actual pool of available men. They were also 30 percent more likely to be employed and 19 percent more likely to have a college degree compared to current bachelors.

In other words, the researchers say there’s a shortage of available men who are economically attractive, which they define as “partners with either a bachelor’s degree or incomes of more than $40,000 a year.”

Cell Phone Etiquette

by Seattle Soccer Mom

Recently, DS and I finally convinced DH that he should always keep his phone on silent/vibrate mode rather than having it chime whenever he receives a text or email. DH’s rationale for having a sound notification what that if he was in meetings, then he would know if he received a text. But he didn’t want to keep his phone on the table because that would be rude to his client (he’s a structural engineer). In contrast, at my office, everyone has their phones on silent mode but you put your phone face up on the table so if someone texts you, you can see it as it flashes on the screen. That way you can ignore most of them and respond later – but if you get a time-sensitive text, you can respond. DH feels this is rude. I feel it is rude for people’s phones to be making noises during meetings.

Later we had a discussion about cell phone use and public restrooms. I was at work and using the restroom when a colleague came into the restroom, having a phone conversation, continued the phone conversation while she used the restroom, and then continued on after exiting the restroom (and without washing her hands!!!). I shared this story with DS and DH to get their reactions. DS agrees with me that you should not have a phone conversation while in the restroom. DH however thought it was similar to the bus. Annoying but a quick phone call is ok. His point of view is that a public restroom and a bus are both public spaces. DS and I feel that restrooms are more private spaces and are not analogous to the bus.

Which brings us to bus/mass transportation etiquette. I don’t mind a quick 2 minute phone call along the lines of “I’m stopping at the store on the way home, do you want me to pick anything up” or “the bus is running late.” But long phone calls (and FaceTime calls) are super annoying.

Fellow Totebaggers, what are your thoughts on cell phone etiquette? Are there grievous offenses that irritate you to no end? What’s your workplace culture like when it comes to cell phone use?

Safe cities

by S&M

This has a link to a listicle, but it might be more fun to talk about how to measure something as broad and nebulous as “safety”, or about the implications of one of their main findings:

Despite having many elements, city safety is indivisible. The different kinds of security covered by the index require distinct interventions, often by different agencies or actors, such as health systems for medical care and police for public order. Amid this diversity, though, statistical analysis of the SCI2019 results shows that performance in each of the pillars correlates very closely with that in every other. In short, cities tend to do well, middling or poorly across every security pillar rather than having good results in one and lagging in others. This is consistent with expert commentary that, rather than representing clearly distinct fields, different kinds of safety are thoroughly intertwined and mutually supportive.

Service planning and provision must take this into account. Technological investments for infrastructure, for example, can bring health benefits, while enhanced cyber-security will protect the ability of the city to provide every kind of security, not just protection of digital systems.

Safe Cities Index 2019

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I’m curious.  What color is your couch (couches)?  Neutral (gray/beige/white) or more colorful?   Leather?  What size(s)?  Standard, loveseat, sectional, or combination?  In your family who makes decisions on these choices?  And do you call it a couch or a sofa?

Upcoming topics:
Wednesday — Safe cities (S&M)
Thursday — Cell Phone Etiquette (Seattle Soccer Mom)
Friday — Declassified government documents (Rhode)
Sunday — Politics open thread

Warren Buffet’s 6 pieces of wisdom

by Fred

Billionaire Warren Buffett just turned 89—here are 6 pieces of wisdom from the investing legend


Marry the right person
It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things.

Invest in yourself
First, “learn to communicate better both in writing and in person.”
Next, take care of your body and mind — especially when you’re young. “You get exactly one mind and one body in this world, and you can’t start taking care of it when you’re 50.

Associate yourself with ‘high-grade people’
One of the best things you can do in life is to surround yourself with people who are better than you are

Work for people you respect
“Try to work for whomever you admire most. It won’t necessarily be the job that you’ll have 10 years later, but you’ll have the opportunity to pick up so much as you go along.”

Ignore the noise
The best strategy, even when the market seems to be tanking, is to keep a level head and stay the course

Success isn’t measured by money
For him, it all boils down to if the people you’re closest to love you.

Questionable work behavior

by Swim

After my post about being annoyed at hearing nail clipping at work, here is a topic suggestion:

What have you seen or heard at work or any other environment that made you raise your eyebrows?

What have you done yourself that might raise some eyebrows, and why?

Smart people acting dumb

by Becky

We all know people that seem smart in whatever realm they need for their job but not particularly clever overall. This article touches on rationality as a cognitive component separate from intelligence, as well as people relying on gut instinct over evidence. Do you think being rational is a separate skillset from general intelligence?

Why the smartest people can make the dumbest mistakes

How family traditions start

by Rhode

Why this teenager greets his younger brother in a costume every day after school

I saw this video while dying from a norovirus this week. I love how the family has these videos and the brothers have this bond. You know this started as a way for the older brother to embarrass his younger brother and it took on a life of its own. Have you done something (or had something done to you) that seemed annoying, stupid, or insignificant in your life, yet turn into a tradition?

Trying to minimize the impact of your vacation

by MooshiMooshi

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the negative impacts of vacation travel, including the the impact of air travel on climate change, the way that AirBnB can drive up rental costs for locals (and even drive locals out of touristy neighborhoods), and the overall ethics of travel to poor countries or neighborhoods that can sometimes feel like the privileged gawking at the poor. There is a great example of that in the film Gully Boy, a recent Indian film that is grittier than the usual Bollywood film.

I found this article in the New York Times which discusses the angst of vacationing. The writer talks about the issues and ultimately comes up with a set of guidelines which I mainly agree with. When I travel to Europe, I realize I have to fly, but once there I try to stick with trains, which I think are far more pleasant than those low cost flights anyway, or bicycles. I also am a big believer in staying in one place for longer amounts of time. Not only does that minimize fuel consumption, but I feel like I also connect better and get to know a place better. And that is a big point that this article makes – travel is a gift, but also expensive ecologically, so try to make it high value.

. Do you really need to take that many trips a year? There are platitudes aplenty about travel — it inspires, it educates, it reduces bigotry. But not all trips meet those standards: Consider an educational exchange program in Vietnam compared to a week at a resort in the Maldives. Most leisure travel, of course, falls somewhere in between. So I recommend setting a high bar for your travel, making sure any trip maximizes your connection with the place you’re visiting, whether that be through volunteer activity, seeking out a particularly responsible tour operator or traveling where you have friends who can help you live truly local.

The author, however, admits he has trouble giving up AirBnB. Sorry, but I will not go there. I hate what AirBnB is doing to so many cities, where entire buildings are now taken up with short term tourists, and neighborhoods are drained of real residents. I stay away from AirBnB and its ilk, and still have no trouble finding decent interesting places to stay.

In the end, while I think we should all be more mindful of the costs of our vacations, and try to create higher-return trips, I actually think mindless business travel is far more the culprit. I have to travel for a conference planning meeting every September, and I hate it. We could do every bit of the work via video conference. I use Webex for lots of meetings now and it works REALLY WELL. I honestly think a huge proportion of flight-heavy business travel could be eliminated and no one would ever notice a difference. That is where travel environmentalists should focus their efforts. A corporate tax on travel, perhaps?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Can you relate?

19 Hilariously Real Costco Tweets Someone Needs To Frame Immediately
“Just changed my relationship status from ‘Single’ to ‘Costco Member.'”

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Sneakers or tennis shoes?  (S&M)
Thursday  — Trying to minimize the impact of your vacation  (MooshiMooshi)
Friday  —  Spend $1000 on your hobby  (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Low cost but high impact purchases

by Finn

What inexpensive purchases have you made that have had an outsize positive impact? For this discussion, let’s set an upper limit of about $500.

Here’s one example: a little over a year ago, after our cable company had changed to all digital signals, which left us with a TV in our kitchen without any source media, we spent about $20 on an Amazon Fire Stick. That one-time cost made available on that TV all sorts of media; we started with a a lot of YouTube videos and some Amazon Prime videos, then I discovered an app that opened the door to a bunch of K-dramas, where I was able to watch a couple dramas recommended by DD, which gave me something else to share not just with DD, but with some of her friends as well. All for a $20.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread today.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Influential media characters  (July)
Thursday  — Open thread
Friday  —  Low cost but high impact purchases  (Finn)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Deep concentration — a crucial 21st century skill?

by July

… the greatest driver of both personal satisfaction and economic value in the work you do is your ability to sustain states of deep concentration on a single task. “To do good physics work,” he quotes the eminent physicist Richard Feynman saying, “You need absolute solid lengths of time … it needs a lot of concentration.” This is true of most knowledge work, and, Newport points out, the ability to produce unique work of merit has never been more highly rewarded in the marketplace.

At exactly the same time it has never been harder to accomplish. Our time and focus are constantly fractured and fragmented and this makes it harder to find and make use of sustained blocks of time in states of deep focus. We’re constantly interrupted by email and text and social media as well as our own desire to ‘check the internet’… I mean ‘research’ something.

Over time this shapes how we function. Day after day of scattered reactivity driven by our inboxes versus sustained effort in thinking about the most important problems in our world results in our losing the ability to sustain the habits of mind that allow us to our best work. It’s a bit like the way we’re losing our ability to read deeply- a topic I recently wrote about that also has direct relevance for schools.


It seems as if many totebaggers spend their work days checking in on this blog and other online sites.  Does at least part of your job require sustained “states of deep concentration on a single task”?  Or does your job mainly require you to shift your focus constantly to new tasks?  Or both?

After seeing that I was having trouble becoming too distracted to focus deeply on tasks, I found that getting back into the habit of reading books helped “rewire” my brain to be able to concentrate over longer periods.  (Check out the link to Forgetting How to Read to learn more about this.)

Your thoughts?  In particular, how does this relate to students?

Do most schools think about limiting focus and distractions and NOT constantly switching activities as highest-value learning environments? They do not. In fact they are probably more worried about “keeping students engaged” through group work or consumer-facing technologies or activities designed to pander to rather than reverse short and skittish attention spans. The overuse of group work might be an example in some cases.

Gaming the college financial aid system

by Becky

We frequently discuss here whether the cost of some schools is worth the premium price for those of us who make too much to qualify for much financial aid but not enough to afford exorbitant tuition. Here is an article on how some families have decided to game the system. Your thoughts? How far would you go to make school affordable for your kids?

Parents Are Giving Up Custody of Their Kids to Get Need-Based College Financial Aid
First, parents turn over guardianship of their teenagers to a friend or relative. Then the student declares financial independence to qualify for tuition aid and scholarships.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Here’s a question that came up on Reddit.

A stranger becomes you for 24 hours, what is one question they would ask you when the 24 hours is up?

Highest-rated answers:

1. “Why do you still work there?”

2. “Is there any way to turn the volume down on your thoughts?”

3. “Why don’t you own any shoes?”


5. “Are your friends on holiday or something?”

6. “Nothing. They’d just walk away in silence while avoiding eye contact.”


by S&M

We’ve talked all about destinations and what happens in-flight with seat selection, meals, etc, but how do you like to spend your layovers? Do you ever get to your home airport early to enjoy its amenities, or linger in the airport after arrival?

After TPA’s renovation a few years back brought in lots of restaurants from around town, I was tempted to find a way to spend time there. When we once got to the airport and learned our flight had been delayed, we went straight to Colombia and had a good meal. On another delay, en route to my nephew’s wedding, I noticed much too late that I could’ve spent the past couple of hours in a spa getting my legs waxed, and maybe getting a massage.

To kick conversation off, here are recommendations of airport restaurants. Have you been to any of them? Did it deserve this praise?

Fine dining at airports around the world

Your latest food finds

by July

I learn about many of the latest food trends from my kids.

Why everyone is obsessed with Jollibee fast food — from its sweet spaghetti to fried chicken better than KFC

I only noticed a Jollibee location as I walked by it recently because my son had raved about it.  I would have tried it out except there was a long line of customers waiting to place their orders.  Maybe next time.  I’m curious.

What about all the juice bars that sell expensive “healthy” fresh juice that promise to cure everything that ails you?  My daughter has to have her regular fix and has convinced me to try some, but I’m not sold on their promises.  When you become a member of Pressed Juicery you get discounts on their juice bottles and shots.

I’ve noticed that power “bowls” have become options even at Taco Bell and other fast food places.  Impossible burgers are becoming available at more places, including Burger King.  People have become obsessed with hard seltzer.

What recent food discoveries have you made?  Maybe they’re only new to you.  Have you tried new ethnic foods lately?  Do you consider these fads or do they have staying power?  Have your go-to foods or restaurants changed very much recently?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you have songs that pump you up, whether for exercising or other activities?  I saw this request on Twitter:

i need your most “buckle up and get shit done” song for a playlist to pump me up tomorrow morning

Many years ago there was a time I used to play “Centerfield” at full volume every morning on my way to work to get my blood going for the day’s challenges.

Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today
Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today
Look at me, I can be, Centerfield

The odds of needing long-term care

by July

Do you think much about long-term care needs?  What has been your experience with family or friends?  What are your plans?

The duration and level of long-term care will vary from person to person and often change over time. Here are some statistics (all are “on average”) you should consider:

Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years

Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)

One-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years

How Much Care Will You Need?

Do these costs-of care numbers seem reasonable?

The Odds on Needing Long-Term Care – WSJ

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

A starter topic from Finn:

Say you have a source of clean, free electricity at home, with the catch that it is not unlimited, is only available when you and your family are away from home, and you have no way to store that electricity.  How would you make use of that electricity?

Raj Chetty’s plan

by Dell and WCE

The Economist Who Would Fix the American Dream
No one has done more to dispel the myth of social mobility than Raj Chetty. But he has a plan to make equality of opportunity a reality.

WCE has this comment.

I enjoyed this article on how economist Raj Chetty is using big data to identify areas of opportunity in the United States. I especially appreciate how his work is bipartisan and how he’s trying to keep it that way. While I don’t think we understand the laws of economics as well as we understand the laws of physics, I believe there are negative consequences to violating either, due to unintended consequences. Chetty wants us to improve society for the long-term in ways that obey the laws of economics.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.  For those of you who are old enough, what do you remember of it?  What about other iconic events like Watergate in the 70s, the Challenger disaster in 1986, and 9/11 in 2001?  What are your very first memories as a child?

Water parks

by Lemon Tree

It is amazing that this water park stayed in business for as long as it did. I was so intrigued by this story that after I read it I went on YouTube to find videos of the rides mentioned.

Do any Totebaggers remember Action Park? What about other water parks of your youth? Good memories or bad? Do you like going to them as an adult?

Remembering Action Park, America’s Most Dangerous, Daring Water Park

Paying the kids’ bills

by July

This is not a new topic, but recent articles have highlighted how some parents are sacrificing their own retirement security by helping pay their adult kids’ bills.

Adult children are costing many parents their retirement savings

Clients delay retirement to help kids pay for cars, weddings

This chart seems to indicate a trend.

In a recent Ameriprise survey, just over half of respondents told the financial services firm the next generation will have a harder time paying for expenses such as a first car or a first home, and a third said they have delayed retiring or would do so to support their kids.

The survey showed a clear desire among clients to do more for their children than their parents did or were able to do for themselves. For example, 80% of clients said they have helped or intend to help their children buy their first car, but only 54% said their parents had done them that favor. Forty-percent of respondents said they have helped or intend to help their children buy their first home, but only half that number report their parents did the same for them.

How would you answer the survey questions?  Did your parents help you with these expenses?  Did you or do you intend to help your children?  What other expenses fall into this category?  Do our kids have a harder time than previous generations paying for some of these expenses?

Commonly spoken languages

by AustinMom

This was an interesting map. Note, that it excludes English and Spanish. I find it to accurately reflect my experience in my state. I regularly hear people speaking Vietnamese, and Arabic. I know people who speak Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and Hindi with family members at home, but usually speak English if an English speaker is present. What about other totebaggers? What languages do you regularly hear?

This map shows the most commonly spoken language in every US state, excluding English and Spanish

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

“What people consider luxury items has changed throughout the years,” said Mr. Amaro. In our always plugged-in moment, headphones can easily outrank clothing as an important investment. “I don’t think as much about the clothes I’m wearing every day,” said the Brooklynite Mr. Kellogg, “but my headphones, my phone, I use those constantly….they just feel ubiquitous in our lives [in a way] that maybe other markers of luxury aren’t.”…

Do AirPods Make You Look Rich_ These Millennials Think So – WSJ

What do consider luxury status symbols, either for yourself or for others?  What makes a person look “rich”?

Tech based education may save money, but also may leave many students behind

by MooshiMooshi

This article, found in the Chronicle of Higher Education, details an innovative way of teaching remedial math that was enthusiastically adopted at many schools. The idea, called the emprorium model, was to have lots of students working with online math software as tutors circulate around the room, swooping in and helping as needed. This was supposed to be beneficial because it lets students work at their own pace, and spend enough time mastering each concept before moving on. It also means that students are actively learning by solving problems rather than passively listening to a lecture. Active learning in STEM has been shown in many studies to be a superior learning method.

I also suspect that many cash strapped schools, especially community colleges, were enthusiastic because the emporium model looks like it could save money because fewer instructors are needed.

Virginia Tech uses this model and it has worked out well for them. However, according to the article, two new studies have come out that found that the emporium approach many not work so well for very underprepared students, especially at community colleges.

“The Kentucky study found that students were 10 percentage points less likely to pass their courses in one semester, compared with peers in a traditional class. The Tennessee study found that while students passed the remedial math course taught in the emporium model at about the same rate as those taught conventionally, they struggled more in other ways, later on.”

A Tech-Based Model to Teach Math Has Spread Across Higher Education. But for Some Students, Could It Do More Harm Than Good?

I am not surprised that Virginia Tech has more success with this model than the community colleges in the KY and TN studies. Research on online education in general finds that marginal students do not do as well in online courses as they do in traditional face to face courses. They probably need more interaction with faculty and more direction. In fact, one of the studies found that the self paced nature of emporium classes was a problem for many students who waited until the last minute to try to complete all the work. They also noted that the mastery model was a problem – students could not move on until they had mastered each module, and often got stuck.

The observation in the TN study that students who took emporium classes did not do as well in later math courses as students who took traditional courses is particularly interesting to me. In general, I wish more education researchers would look at performance in followup courses when they study approaches. I think that is a very important measure of learning that often gets ignored. My pet theory on this result is that online math learning modules often stress rote performance at the expense of understanding. While being able to solve problems quickly and correctly is important, students need to also understand what they are doing. I think an understanding gap can become very apparent in later courses, and that may be what is going on here.

Have any of you seen courses like these? What is your general opinion on computer-based education – salvation or destroyer? Or in between?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is a rather provocative statement.

“autism spectrum”

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

This is longish, but I found it very interesting. It’s about the “autism spectrum”.

As you can see, the various parts of the [visible light] spectrum are noticeably different from each other. Blue looks very different from red, but they are both on the visible light spectrum. Red is not “more blue” than blue is. Red is not “more spectrum” than blue is. […] Autism isn’t a set of defined symptoms that collectively worsen as you move “up” the spectrum…[A]utism isn’t one condition. It is a collection of related neurological conditions that are so intertwined and so impossible to pick apart that professionals have stopped trying.

“It’s a Spectrum” Doesn’t Mean What You Think

Food delivery robots coming to your campus…

by MooshiMooshi

This article from the Chronicle profiles on campus food delivery robots. One company called Kiwi has been delivering food to students by robot for a couple of years and is trying to expand to other schools, including Rutgers and Stanford. Another company is partnering with Sodexho, the big campus dining hall company, to start a service at George Mason. In fact, these aren’t truly robots since they are remotely piloted. I guess they are dronebots.

Food-Delivery Robots Are the Next Big Thing for Campus Dining. No, They Don’t Accept Tips.

I am trying to figure out how this will work on a practical basis. Rutgers, for example, is incredibly spread out around New Brunswick. Maybe they only work within a certain radius? At urban campuses like NYU or BU, how would they navigate streets and traffic?

And this part of it I find slightly horrifying

fleets of pixel-faced robots, each about the size of an Igloo cooler, piloted remotely by low-wage workers in Colombia, rolling around idyllic greens and quads to deliver nourishment to busy students.

So is it all about replacing on campus workers with workers overseas? I can remember the people who worked in my undergraduate dining hall – a mix of students and immigrants from the Azores who mainly spoke Portuguese. At my current university, the dining workers all seem to be elderly Polish ladies, as well as students. But I guess people in Colombia are cheaper.

But judging from the photo, the robots are kind of cute, like coolers on wheels. I’d like to see these at campgrounds. And I bet liquor stores near campus would find them useful…

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is how Americans spend their money based on their education level

Here’s the spending for those with graduate degrees.

Do these numbers, at least the percentages, seem consistent with your observations?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Food delivery robots coming to your campus… (MooshiMooshi)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  No post
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Estate planning conflicts

by L

How many plot points in movies, murder mysteries, etc., hinge on estate planning or the lack thereof? And in real life, what family conflicts have you seen caused by estate planning?

We watched all 20 seasons (!) of Midsomer Murders and easily over half of the cases turned on who was named as the heir in the murdered person’s will!

Mental illness

by July

This recent comment seemed to set off a spirited discussion on the treatment of mental illness:

I believe we have redefined normal life suffering as pathological.

I thought of this when I read about Dr. Paul McHugh, a “professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a tenacious skeptic of the crazes that periodically overtake his specialty”.

First, let’s be clear that he believes “mental illnesses are real things . . . that need to be studied, and can be treated”.  On the other hand, he believes some illnesses are “iatrogenic—a Greek word meaning “brought on by the healer”—implanted by the therapeutic process that purports to discover them”

Dr. McHugh gives some examples of iatrogenesis:  some cases of recovered memory, transgender/sex reassignment surgeries, and PTSD.

Dr. McHugh argues that the treatment of returning soldiers for the liberally applied PTSD diagnosis is another example of iatrogenesis. Such diagnoses are far rarer among Israel Defense Forces veterans, who experience plenty of trauma. Israelis “know that you can get a terrible psychological reaction out of a traumatic battle. And they do take the soldiers out, and they tell them the following: ‘This is perfectly normal; you need to be out of battle for a while. Don’t think that this is a disease that’s going to hurt you, this is like grief. You’re going to get over it, it’s normal. And within a few weeks, after a little rest, we’re going to put you back with your comrades and you’re going to go back to work.’ And they all do.”

By contrast, American psychiatrists say: “ ‘You’ve had a permanent wound. You’re going to be on disability forever. And this country has mistreated you by putting you in a false war.’ They make chronic invalids of them. That’s the difference.”

Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes – WSJ

What are your thoughts?

Some related links if you feel like reading some more:

The Real Problems With Psychiatry
A psychotherapist contends that the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” that defines all mental illness, is not scientific but a product of unscrupulous politics and bureaucracy.

Psychiatry’s Incurable Hubris
The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association voted to declare that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness and thus should be removed from the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” of illnesses.

The obvious question—how scientific is a discipline that settles so momentous a problem at the ballot box?—was raised by the usual critics.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I’m not a regular churchgoer so when I attended a funeral mass recently I was a bit surprised to see two large projector screens that gave lyrics and other guidance for the attendees.  The music style was mostly contemporary, including a Carrie Underwood song.

What have you seen that’s relatively new in houses of worship?  Do you like the changes or do you agree with this writer?

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals
Christians need to understand that relying on screens and other technology is not leading to better worship, it’s ruining it.