We are now past the mid-way point in February, which is technically the shortest month, but is also the one that—for me, anyway—feels the longest. Especially this year, for all of the reasons that you already know. At this point, if you keep monthly reading goals, even vague ones, you may be looking for few a good, short novels to knock out in an afternoon or two. Last year, I wrote about the best contemporary novels under 200 pages, so now I must turn my attention to my favorite short classics—which represent the quickest and cheapest way, I can tell you in my salesman voice, to become “well-read.”
All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. Every contact leaves a trace.
This is the promise of the internet: one of community, shared equity, and equality. Through those those things, I still hope we may better understand each other, and through that, find peace.
I have been fortunate to have partnered with Bonython School in Canberra for several years now. It has been wonderful to watch the careful and thoughtful way the leadership team and the staff as a whole have worked on growing a culture of Inquiry from the ground up. As is the case for several schools I work with, one feature of their work is the expectation that educators will engage in their own inquiry journeys throughout the year. I invited deputies Marc Warwick and Amanda Hawkins to chat to me about their approach, late last year and share some key moments from our conversation including some teacher reflections here.
Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation.
SIFT has its limits. It’s designed for casual news consumers, not experts or those attempting to do deep research. A reporter working on an investigative story or trying to synthesize complex information will have to go deep. But for someone just trying to figure out a basic fact, it’s helpful not to get bogged down. “We’ve been trained to think that Googling or just checking one resource we trust is almost like cheating,” he said. “But when people search Google, the best results may not always be first, but the good information is usually near the top. Often you see a pattern in the links of a consensus that’s been formed. But deeper into the process, it often gets weirder. It’s important to know when to stop.”
It is interesting to think about this alongside pieces from Tim Harford and Edward Snowden which both emphasise the importance of curiosity. Caulfield is not against curiousity, but instead about not being pulled down the rabbit hole.
That natural human mind-set is a liability in an attention economy. It allows grifters, conspiracy theorists, trolls and savvy attention hijackers to take advantage of us and steal our focus. “Whenever you give your attention to a bad actor, you allow them to steal your attention from better treatments of an issue, and give them the opportunity to warp your perspective,” Mr. Caulfield wrote.
Are you exposing yourself to new inputs and new situations, and challenging yourself to find more interesting ideas?
Are you pushing the ideas you have further, making them more complete, turning them from hunches to notions to ideas to theories?
Are you publishing your theories, sharing your reasoning and having your ideas collide with the real world in service of making things better?
The collage was designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and the cut-outs were assembled in Michael Cooper’s London photographic studio. Michael and his team toiled hard to construct the ‘cast of extras’, using a mix of photos sourced from the BBC Hulton Picture Library, images from private collections, waxworks and personal artifacts, including a gnome owned by Ringo Starr.
I say wait and take your shot when it counts right. I worked for the government and for many years I didn’t question what I was doing, I didn’t see anything that was truly meaningfully wrong. Over time, I encountered more and more rough edges on the system, more things that made me raise my eyebrow. I began to look and the more I looked the more I found, the more I found the more it affected me and eventually ultimately it changed me. I think that openness to inquiry is the most essential part, because we’re taught myths everywhere – Edward Snowden
It was interesting thinking about this alongside Tim Harford’s discussion of being curious when it comes to data.
My book The Data Detective is out today in the US and Canada. (The same book is called How To Make The World Add Up elsewhere in the world.) To celebrate publication, Riverhead Books have teamed up…
Trust, too, is key to the wellbeing of the teaching profession. Schools need to cultivate cultures of trust. Teachers need to be trusted by parents, the media, and government. Trusting teachers to be the professional experts they are allows teachers to focus on their core business of teaching and supporting the students in their care. Looking after staff is key to retaining them within positive cultures of people working together for the good of their community. Nuanced attention to staff wellbeing takes intentionality, thoughtfulness, a framework for decision making, time, and often money.
I know some people say there are no stupid questions. I don’t really subscribe to that, I’ve heard some real doozies. But surround yourself with smart enough people to answer your stupid questions and you just might find out something interesting.
Interesting tools and resources I’ve come across recently.
Pausing and taking stock of the big ideas that call out to us is how we honour the poetic. Big Ideas or what Christine McDougall of Syntropic Enterprises calls Source Ideas are clues from the Universe. Reminders that we are called here to play full out. To be stewards of gifts that are ours alone to tend to but not ours to own.
Big Ideas wollup us awake. With the emotion required to get us in motion.
And if we sow the seeds of that great idea in the right ecosystem, magic happens.
There is a simple step you can take to avoid most trackers: stop Gmail from automatically loading images, since images are where the majority of these pixels hide.
Based on the existing data, and to the best of my understanding of having read every paper, authorization application and preprint on the efficacy of these vaccines, I can, without a hesitation, say that of the ones I know are being considered in various places in the US, UK and Europe—Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, J&J, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax—I would be happy with receiving *any* of them. I would easily recommend *any* of them to anyone I know, whatever they were offered. (I have not yet read the Sputnik paper, but the numbers look excellent. I know there are issues of trust there, but I don’t have any a priori reason to think that it also wouldn’t work well). If we were to find real efficacy differences, we’d give the higher efficacy ones to the elderly (whose immune systems tend to work less well). But, as a country, and as the world, as things stand, all of these vaccines will do the job of eventually getting us out of this pandemic—once enough people are vaccinated.