May 12th, 2012

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Negative Learning

This article explores ways in which classrooms may make people less intelligent and less able to learn.  Which is not news to many of us.

That question about whether IQ is static?  Depends on which part you're discussing.  Everyone has a maximum potential, along with factors such as thought speed, fascination with concepts, and leaping to insights.  There will always be a bunch of average people, some smarter people, and some less smarter people.  But not all that many people reach their maximum.  The unusually self-driven will hit it regardless of environment, but most people are dependent on environmental support to make serious progress.  For many, the environment isn't that great, so they don't get nearly as far as they might.  So there's usually a difference between where someone is and where they could be -- which means expansion is often possible.  And of course there are plenty of ways to make someone dumber, or make them seem  dumber; this article only touched on one.
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The Books I Didn't Buy

We went to a bookstore today.  And ... I didn't buy anything.  This is rare for me.  We had some spending money, but not much.
I found some stuff that was casually interesting, but at $15 for a trade paperback or $25-30 for a hardback, it has to be pretty thrilling.  Some of this stuff I'd pick up if it was on sale or in paperback, but nothing I couldn't do without.

There were several things by authors I like, but with only so-so topical interest to me in this particular book.  A few things by different writers that looked promising but didn't hold my interest for more than half a page.  Several dozen trivial variations on the same basic book, and my gods have people gone overboard with chicklit urban fantasy.  If I can tell before picking up the book that, three pages into it, I will be yelling the wrong heroine name, that is not a good sign.

I kept thinking things like, "Oh, an angel book, I like those ... meh.  rix_scaedu does funner angels than this."  "Oh, a unicorn ... meh.  aldersprig's Unicorn/Fantasy series is more interesting."  "Oh, vampire ... vampire ... vampire ... wow, these kinda suck and not in a good way.  Donor House by kajones_writing has way more tension and relationship diversity."  "Hmm, nonfiction, here's a writing book, but it's $20 and I haven't even chipped in for haikujaguar's Three Micahs in hardcopy yet."

There was no shortage of stuff, but it just didn't hold my interest.  I suddenly realized that the bookstore, which I have always loved and always will love, suddenly has a new kind of competition for my extremely limited spending money.  There's this bookshelf in my head, which is stocked with incredibly innovative stuff, coming out from my crowdfunding friends.  It's not only fun when that's the shelf I'm looking at here on my computer.  It's actually strong enough to outcompete paper books when I'm in a bookstore, if they're below "must have now!" status.  Because I can drop $2 or so on a crowdfunding project and have it mean something in terms of sustaining a project I love, rather than spend $15 or $20 on something of casual interest.  This is the first time I can think of this happening, and I'm curious if anyone else has had a similar experience.

I lament the passing of bookstores.  I don't want them to go away.  But for gods' sake they need to have books in them that are fresh and exciting and hooky, or they might as well be furniture stores.  Gah.  I am not sure how to fix this.  I can't really say, "Gee, I'd love to have a shelf of "these began as crowdfunded projects" titles," because almost all crowdfunded hardcopies are self-published or alternatively published, and bookstores won't stock them.