Three things I’m grateful for today

  • Pretty much everyone I talk to these days has a higher-than-usual level of difficulty and frustration, but we’re all working hard to keep that stuff from leaking into our conversations unwittingly. I really appreciate that emotional effort.  I’m also grateful that being on the receiving end of that effort helps me do my part on the sending end.
  • My AMC students are hitting that wall where they realize that what they’ve always done before isn’t going to keep working, and they have to pick up entirely new skills. Scary …and exciting! Seeing that realization dawn really makes this work feel worthwhile for me.
  • I’m grateful to have a job that I like enough to keeping working hard at, even when things are rough.

Get more of this and my book. For free.

The importance of judgment

Amy Coney Barrett recently delivered a speech in which she pronounces poignant as “POIG-nunt.” (Here’s the clip.)

Mispronouncing a word doesn’t make you “dumb” or “less than” or anything of the sort. But it does suggest that you are not routinely engaged in vigorous discussions with brainy sorts. And that strikes me as a real problem for someone whose job relies on good judgment and access to a wide variety of perspectives, and whose job performance directly affects the well-being of many.

It’s not a guarantee.  But it’s a strong indicator. It’s hard to imagine that someone living a life of the mind, routinely debating or discussing with others, would get to age 48 without noticing a habitual mispronunciation of an 11th-grade word. It points to educational quality and more. A sort of dog whistle that gets blown for you. The only tricky part is noticing it when it happens.

This leads me to question her “fine legal mind” PR. Elitist? Sure, I’ll cop to that. Reading too much into one tiny thing? Maybe, sure. But what worries me is that maybe this is an early warning, a “canary in a coal mine.”

For my money, Amy Coney Barrett pulled back the curtain on something very important about her background and experience in the time it took her to say that single word.

What do you think?

(See also Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.)

Behind-the-scenes wisdom for parents

This summer, Julia Gooding of One Sky Education interviewed me in order to introduce me to her clients.

We had a much more powerful conversation than I expected! Find it here.

In particular, there’s a lot of valuable but hard-to-find advice here for parents who want to help but don’t want to helicopter, as well as parents of AMC competitors.

(It’s 26 minutes in all, so check the top comment to skip to the part that’s most interesting to you.)

Learning vs education

Today Seth Godin posted:

Education is the hustle for a credential. It exchanges compliance for certification. An institution can educate you.

Learning can’t be done to you. It is a choice and it requires active participation, not simple adherence to metrics.

Learning is the only place to find resilience, possibility and contribution, because learning is a lifelong skill that isn’t domain dependent.

Most of the learning moments in our lives are accidental or random. A situation presents itself and if we’re lucky, we learn something from it.

I agree that learning is where it’s at, which is why we’re introducing a few new offerings in the coming weeks. If you’re on our mailing list, you’ll see those shortly. (And if not, let me know, and I’ll be happy to add you.)

But I also think that if you can rack up an educational credential as part of the learning process, it’s worth going for it. And that’s why we also continue to help students prepare for standardized tests, math competitions, and classwork.

To sum up: It’s great if you join us because you want the STEM grades and the test scores. But once you’re here, it’s the learning that’ll really blow your doors off!

So… let’s get to it.