How journalism changed America

For more than 300 years, investigative journalism has been a driving force in the American reform tradition.
Now a collection of these articles has been assembled by a Knight-Ridder editor and a New York University journalism professor.
In Muckraking: The Journalism That Changed America, Judith and William Serrin include passionately written material published from mid-1700 to today.
Although the term “muckraking” was coined to describe shameful conduct, the authors say it should be an accolade. They agree with the famous saying that “The job of a journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
The book is divided into 13 sections, including those on the poor, politics, America at war, railroads, and oil.
In the early years of American history, journalists such as Frederick Douglass rallied public opinion to end slavery. In the same era, Edwin Markham pushed child-labor reform laws.
There is one of the Watergate articles by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Among other well-known reporters are John Steinbeck, Drew Pearson, Edward R. Murrow, Nellie Bly, Lincoln Steffens, and David Halberstam.
The interesting stories include that of Robert S. Abbott. He founded the Chicago Defender in 1905 with 25 cents in capital and a borrowed card table. Within 10 years, it became the most important black newspaper in the country. Heurged Southern blacks to move north.
Some of the important material came from smaller publications such as the National Catholic Reporter, a weekly; McClure’s; The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald; Jewish Frontier; and Harpers.
These reporting gems show how strong American journalism can be.

Muckraking! The Journalism That Changed America edited by Judith and William Serrin, New Press, 392 pages, $25.


Comments or questions are welcome.

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Good college courses for kids

If your student is deciding on a major course of study, the beginning pay in various careers may be of interest.

Jobs that are most in demand and pay more. They are technical felds requiring a specific degree, such as health care, engineering or computer science.

On average, these are the starting earnings of some degrees: chemical engineering, $63,773 per year, computer and information sciences, $58,677 and economics, $51,062.

Researchers for Money magazine say the visual and performing arts pay an average of $35,073 for the first year; English, $35,453, and liberal arts, $36,715.

Author tells how to make your brain work better

In his new book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, John Medina uses plain English to describe how the brain functions at work and at school. Medina is the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University.

Though there is quite a bit of technical material in the book, readers can get the nuts-and-bolts advice and information from the one-page summary at the end of each chapter. There is an associated Web site and a DVD is included. Medina’s rules include:

* Exercise boosts brain power.

* We don’t pay attention to boring things.

* Sleep well because that’s when the brain processes the day’s learning.

* Stressed brains don’t work very well.

* Vision trumps all other senses. People begin to pay less attention to long texts. He advocates more instruction using pictures.

* We are powerful and natural explorers. The greatest brain rule is the importance of curiosity, but curiosity is not stressed in the educational system. Only grades are valued.

Regardless of age, Medina says, we can and should be life-long learners.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina, Pear Press, $29.95

Shopping, buying encouraged by brain activity

There’s a reason why you go to the store for one item and come back with five or six. Shopping boosts your mood and makes you feel good.

That’s the conclusion of Gregory Burns, author of “Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment” (Henry Holt).

Burns writes that “recreational shopping” and “retail therapy” have a real chemical reward.

Shopping triggers release of brain chemicals that give you a shopping high. It’s genetic. With Christmas coming soon, science has new information that could help you keep spending in line and help you understand the highs of buying the lows of buyer’s remorse.

Blame your buying partly on the brain chemical dopamine. It plays a crucial role in our mental and physical health and is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Dopamine is released when we experience something new, exciting, or challenging.

Shopping can be all of those things, according to Burns, an Emory University neuroscientist. Dopamine is like a fuel injector for action, he writes. It urges you to seal the deal, even though you may never use the item. Once you have it, however, you get a let-down feeling.

To make better shopping decisions, experts recommend:

* Buy only what’s on your list.

* Use cash or debit cards to keep you from buying things you can’t afford.

* Window-shop when stores are closed or your wallet is at home.

* Don’t shop with friends or relatives. The novelty puts you at a higher risk of buying things you don’t need.

Christopher Columbus still inspires Us

The courageous voyage of Columbus, which inspired the world for centuries, has recently been the target of criticism by those who think a man from the 1400s should have thought more like a fellow from 2006.

It’s an unfair assessment of the man.

In 1492, when Columbus set out on his voyage of discovery, the Americas were unknown to Europeans and Asians. Although some evidence exists that the Basque and Vikings both had sailed to the Americas, no written map existed.

Columbus did what no one else had and he did what was inevitable: He linked the continents for exploration ó and exploitation. Columbus wasn’t the first person to exploit a discovery. Conquest and exploitation were a way of life among people who lived in the Americas long before Columbus arrived. Indeed, every discovery of every sort is followed by exploitation.

Columbus let the Old World know about the riches and opportunities of the New World. But he is faulted for things he couldn’t control, like the spread of disease, and for things that seemed altogether reasonable to a 15th century explorer, like evangelizing the local population. There is an implicit, and silly, assumption among the politically correct critics of Columbus that the Americas would be somehow purer had Columbus not explored there. But the fact is, it was inevitable that the continents would be linked, if not because of Columbus, perhaps at the hands of some other, even more politically incorrect human.

Columbus was a man whose own vision and courage set in motion an entire world history. That is an incredible accomplishment.

What does Roy G. Biv tell you?

A mnemonic is a rhyme or formula used to assist in remembering facts.
For example, many remember how to adjust their clocks for daylight savings
time with the formula: Spring forward, fall back. Other mnemonics use the
first letter of a series of words to form a new word. For example, the
admonition to writers is KISS — Keep it sweet and simple.
Below are mnemonics common in some circles, but less well known generally.
Combine your knowledge with the process of elimination to match them.

1. Roy G. Biv
2. Every good boy does fine.
3. Do men ever visit Boston?
4. My very earnest mother just served us nine pickles.
8. Bless my dear Aunt Sally.

A. Order of British peerage.
B. Names of the Great Lakes.
C. Treatment for a sprain.
D. Colors in the visible spectrum.
E. The names of the planets in order outward from the sun.
F. Types of skin cuts.
G. Order for algebraic operations.
H. Lines of the treble clef.

1. (D.) Colors in the spectrum: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
2. (H.) Lines of the treble clef are E, G, B, D, F. Spaces spell FACE.
3. (A) British titles in order of rank: Duke, marquis, earl, viscount and baron.
4. (E.) The planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.
5. (B) The great lakes: Huron, On-tario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
6. (C.) Treatment for a sprain: Rest, ice, compression, elevation.
7. (F.) Types of cuts are puncture, abrasion, incision and laceration.
8. (G.) The algebraic order: Brackets, multiply, divide, add, subtract.

How the ‘foot, yard, and inch’ came to be

Pre-metric measurements had some interesting, if inexact, origins. Though they have been standardized in countries that use them, they are still difficult for the rest of the world to understand, and even more difficult to explain. For example:

The Foot. This unit of measurement was determined by the length of King Charlemagne’s foot and modified in 1305 to be 36 barleycorns laid end to end. (No measurement for the barleycorn is given.)

The Inch. The width of King Edgar’s thumb was officially designated as an inch. It was three barleycorns across.

The Yard. The distance from King Henry I’s nose to his fingertips. The distance is also twice as long as a cubit.

The Mile. In the Roman legionary, the mile was the distance covered by 1,000 double steps. Queen Elizabeth added more feet so the mile would equal eight furlongs.

The Furlong. The length of a furrow a team of oxen could plow before resting.

The Acre. The amount of land a yoke of oxen could plow in one day.

The Fathom. The span of a seaman’s outstretched arms; 880 fathoms make a mile.

The National Geographic News Service, which collected this information, says the metric system has a more scientific origin, though the common person may think it almost as difficult to understand.

The Metric System. Based on the meter, which is defined precisely as 1,650,763.73 wave lengths of orange-red light emitted by the krypton-86 atom, or originally one-ten-millionth of the length of the longitude from the North Pole to the equator. The meter is exactly 39.37 inches. Or it measures about 118 barleycorns, however you choose to think about it that way.

Accelerated Learning 2.0

I just put up a new slide presentation on about Accelerated Learning

Here are the main points

  1. You can learn anything you want to learn
  2. Learning how to learn is the most important thing you can do
  3. You can learn faster by knowing how the brain works
  4. To earn more you need to learn more
  5. You can achieve any goal by developing the skill needed to achieve it

elearning 101 web links for June 27, 2008

U.S. Department of Education Releases Report on the Status of online learning.

“Education in this country has evolved dramatically from the days of one teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Today, student learning is no longer confined to a physical space. Computers and the Internet have broken through school walls, giving students greater opportunities to personalize their education, access distant resources, receive extra help or more-challenging assignments, and engage in learning in new and unique ways.”

Personal Learning Determines Success

According to education experts, personal learning in distance learning programs plays the most important role in the success of ones completion. “The students decide on their own success”, said Dr. Ralf Andreas Thoma, head of studies Betriebwirtschaftliches Institut & Seminar Basel AG / Switzerland.

Online classes reshape schooling

“Enrollment on rise as high schoolers enroll in AP courses”

Online learning can help minority students

“As online learning becomes more of a strategic resource for K-12 and higher-education institutions to supplement traditional courses, education leaders are starting to discuss how online learning can help support minority students’ instructional needs.”

Cognitive and social impact of technology

Presentation slides from Leading Learning conference

“My focus was on retaining the needed elements of education – transforming learner and society, deep understanding, cultivating capacity for ethical thought, and emphasizing “what it means to be human” – while fostering greater innovation in teaching and learning through the opportunities of technology. It’s a tough balance to get right.” George Siemens