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.)

Excellence in balance

My sister-in-law recently wrote this piece on modern work and its relationship to family and community. So I’m taking this opportunity to thank Adam, Aidan, Amy, Audrey, Debbie, James, John, Michael, Michael, Owen, Ollin, Rora, and Stephanie: you past-or-present teammates have all contributed materially to our shared success, and every single one of you has done it on hours that corporate America would consider unworkable.

(Goes to show you what real A-players can do.)

Thank you all for making work fit into your lives instead of the other way around, without ever compromising the quality of your work.

Learning styles

What skills should tutors have for accommodating visual / auditory / kinesthetic learners? None, I’m afraid; that’s simply not a thing.

And yet, many students’ lived experiences suggests that it is. Why?

I suspect it’s for more or less the same reasons that September babies are overrepresented among elite athletes: a small preference or advantage early on leads to more practice with a particular method, which becomes self-reinforcing.

More valuable than identifying learning styles, I think, is identifying skills that are necessary, but whose absence can go unnoticed.

(Then again, maybe the real moral of the story is that utility can be more important than truth.)