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Thoughts Left Lying Around

July 12, 2013

1. Pedagogy is underdeveloped relative to its importance to human progress. Learning how to learn is arguably the most important thing you can learn, however until recently, the answer was “learn Latin” or similar nonsense. Maybe signaling theory plays a role: Students don’t care about learning and teachers don’t care (enough) about effective teaching. Academics are the types of people who are innately good at learning, so it’s second nature to them, so maybe they don’t feel the need to develop it more.

As human knowledge continually expands, it will get harder and harder to reach the frontier of that knowledge so you can make a contribution to it. Pedagogy will thus gain increasing relative importance to society over time.

2. To understand something, it seems quite important for a student to actively ponder it for a long time. You can’t become an expert by passively absorbing what others tell you – you must chase your questions. Instruction has a component of tricking students into thinking deeply about serious questions in the field for a long time. For macro, good subjects are price adjustments, Says law, OLG, why no one cares about capital unemployment, and other such simple yet hard-to-answer subjects.

Are there any questions you’ve asked yourself which have led you to have a profoundly better understanding of your field?

3. “Ums and Ahs” are unfairly scapegoated for poorly organized speech. They let the listener know you are thinking, and how long they can expect to wait for an answer.

When I eliminate them from my speech, people immediately attack me for not listening to them within a half a second of when they stop talking. People assume that silence means you don’t care about what they’ve said rather than you are trying to eliminate filler words. Adding a filler word means “I’ve heard you, and I’m thinking about what you’ve said”.

In longer speeches, ums and ahhs are indicators of a poorly rehersed speech, so rather than being bad in and of themselves merely signal that you’re not prepared.

4. The U.S. is an oddball on capital punishment. The U.S. is almost unique in the world for executing people without judicial review. Perhaps only China and Russia join the U.S. in this regard, although it is hard to find statistics on it, as most countries are embarrased to admit it is practiced. Even Russia denies execution of non-criminals (which is clearly not true).

Use of the death penalty around the world (as of February 2011).

Blue – Abolished for all offenses (96)
Green – Abolished for all offenses except under special circumstances (9)
Orange – Retains, though not used for at least 10 years (34)
Red – Retains death penalty (58)*
* While laws vary among U.S. states, it is considered retentionist because the federal death penalty is still in active use.

Interestingly enough, many governments use torture.

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