People have different “gender identities,” no disputing that, but I don’t believe this is a valid, coherent way to classify people.

If a transgender individual says “I am a woman” to mean “I feel a certain way,” and I say “I am a woman” to mean “I belong to a certain biological category,” we are not conveying the same thing. Increasingly, the new meaning of “woman” has become “anyone who calls oneself a woman.”

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This renders the category useless. Whenever I point this out, someone links me to a source explaining the “difference” between sex and gender.

It seems like the point of the link is to say there is such a thing as “gender identity,” a person’s internal sense of manhood or womanhood. Not everyone feels aligned with the category they are placed into from birth; there is a vast spectrum of variety in how people describe their identities. …


You can infer causation from correlation. Sometimes you must!

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Correlation does not equal causation. With these five magic words, you can dismiss any observational study as irrelevant in an argument. You could even link to the Spurious Correlations webpage, suggesting that your opponent’s claiming something as silly as “Per capita margarine consumption influences the divorce rate in Maine.”

It’s true that association between two variables can be the result of lurking variables — if variables A and B are strongly correlated, it could be because variable C causes both. It’s also true that correlation alone can’t demonstrate whether “A causes B” or “B causes A” is more likely. …


This evergreen political topic is quite thorny.

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When public health officials urged “non-essential” businesses to close, pro-life politicians were quick to declare abortions non-essential. The nation had seen millions of legal abortions after Roe v. Wade, with no sign of its overturn anytime soon; this was now the surest way to get them to stop. It may seem like “exploiting a crisis,” but once you see where they’re coming from, you can’t blame them for wanting to protect innocent children’s lives.

Thanks to the thoughtful writings of some pro-life apologists, I’m no longer torn on this issue. It’s clear to me that fetuses have the same right to life as anybody else, and bodily autonomy doesn’t justify violating this right. Yet so much popular pro-life rhetoric fails to recognize why some people object to these points (and what actually makes those objections wrong). …


It makes me feel like such a star
When folks ask how I got so far.
They want to know my secret diet,
But if they did, they wouldn’t try it.

I started eating smaller amounts,
Tracking all the calorie counts.
It brought me pride each time I found
The scale said I’d lost another pound.

One-day, three-day, five-day fasts —
Incredible how I could last.
When starving got too much to endure,
Puking brought me back to pure.

Fueled by Halo Top, Diet Cokes,
And never-forgotten fat girl jokes,
I pushed onward in my ways,
The only thing that earned me…


Satire.

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Organized religion is such a sham
With all its commandments and tasks.
I’ve found my own path to spiritual truth —
“Buddhism,” I’ll say if asked.

You’ll find yourself much more at peace if you know
That desire is the source of all strife.
Just heed the wise words of the cool Dalai Lama
(But ignore how he said he’s pro-life).

He says we should kindly give money we have
To those who have need of it more.
The rich ought to value such pure selflessness,
So I vote to share theirs with us poor.

It’s better than throwing your income each week
At church leaders who sit on gold thrones.
I don’t need sermons to teach me what’s right:
The whole week, I seek truth on my…


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“Growing up, what messages did you hear about your body?”

One day at the eating disorder treatment center I attended, we were asked this question in group therapy, given some time to journal. What was shared really struck me.

Despite our different backgrounds, different weights, and different disordered behaviors, we had surprisingly much in common. As one fellow patient put it, we were raised to believe “hating your body was part of being a woman.”

Years ago, anyone would have agreed on what that meant. Being born with a certain body meant you were born into a set of body standards, measured against others with that kind of body. I was not judged as “short” for being 5'4.5", as a man would; this was considered a fine height for me when I stopped growing. I did not feel proud when my armpits started to sprout hair; I felt disgusted and was told to shave. …


Why the more traditional approach provides stronger preparation for “real science.”

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K-12 science curricula are increasingly scaling back the amount of knowledge that must be taught. The rationale? “Since scientists don’t just sit around memorizing stuff, students shouldn’t either.”[1] If less student time is spent listening to explanations and practicing with worksheets, more time can be spent learning through hands-on exploration and discovery.

This approach is often called inquiry-based learning, and it actually has a poor record of improving learning outcomes. Science and math scores on international tests are negatively correlated with inquiry-based instruction and positively correlated with a lecture style.[2][3] Controlled experiments find this effect too![4][5]

As much as “testing” is decried, such data is important — there’s little use for scientific knowledge if it can’t be dug up and applied, and the standardized, impersonal nature of tests makes them so valuable compared to subjective, bias-prone alternatives.[6] And bear in mind, the PISA science questions are not simple fact recall; they often involve open-ended reasoning, such as evaluating experimental design.[7] Directly instructed students still do better. …


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I’ve written two articles so far on why direct instruction beats inquiry learning. Why would an 18 year old who hopes to homeschool her kids care so much?

It’s because direct instruction is under direct attack. So much of the growing hype about what we’ll see in the future of education — virtual reality simulations of authentic settings, self-paced student-centered learning, open-ended creativity-promoting projects— rests on the assumption that learning is best when the instructor is teaching less. This comes after decades of consistent research finding that minimal guidance doesn’t work as well.

I think it’s important to learn from our mistakes before we commit even costlier ones. …


Direct instruction is consistently found to lead to better learning outcomes, but critics still believe that less guided methods based on inquiry and open-ended problem solving could improve education. What if we applied their same logic to unproductive weight loss methods?

~~~

It’s the 21st century. So many aspects of everyday life have been revolutionized by new inventions — the way we communicate, the way we travel, the way we consume entertainment. Yet despite all these amazing changes, there’s something that’s stayed the same: the way we lose weight.

The mindset of “burn more calories than you consume” is the same as it was decades ago, as are the prescribed methods of exercising, eating protein and fibrous vegetables, limiting high-calorie junk foods, and keeping track of calorie intake. Many people find it all tedious and laborious and get frustrated with their weight loss efforts, killing any natural enjoyment they could have associated with eating and being physically active. In an age where more people than ever are struggling with weight-related issues, we need a new approach. …


Inquiry learning versus direct instruction — what’s the difference?

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I.

Brandon’s looking forward to chemistry today. There’s going to be another lab activity!

He gets in his small group and reads the procedures in the “Kool-Aid Lab” packet. Apparently, his group members need to get three cups to fill with equal volumes of water and varying amounts of Kool-Aid powder.

Brandon, the bright go-getter of the class, divides the tasks among them. Once all the cups have been filled with water, one cup receives with the standard amount of Kool-Aid powder; one groupmate writes “1 M” on it in neat Sharpie. A cup with twice the concentration reads “2 M,” and a cup with half reads “0.5 …

About

Lucia B.

Baby names, dietetics, and learning sciences enthusiast. “21st century skills” skeptic. Future wife and mother. Carnegie Mellon class of 2022. Pronouns: I/me

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