Well, I have trouble watching action movies.
It’s not like I don’t like exciting battle sequences. It’s just that in those movies, most of the scenes feature random people falling victim to what happens.
That’s not even a problem, either. If those events were real, that kind of stuff would happen. It would be crazy to pretend they wouldn’t.
But the people watching the movie don’t ever spare a second thought for all of those anonymous extras who die. Instead, they are extremely affected by the deaths of the main characters.
To me, the main character dying and the poor people who die on the side of the road are the same. They’re all people who are living and thinking in a fictional world. There shouldn’t be any difference between them. But as long as the hero survives and laughs with the girl, it’s a happy ending. And if the hero dies, it’s a sad ending.
I don’t understand how that works.
To me, if anyone, any single person in the movie, dies, it’s a sad ending. The only difference between those sad endings is if the fictional hero ends the movie feeling pain for the fictional masses who die. But that hardly ever happens.
Why do the hero-style main characters always end the movie smiling and laughing? Why does the audience think it’s a happy ending?
There is nothing shameful about needing help to function. Whether it’s help in the form of medication, therapy, support groups, mental health hotlines, or the inbox of a friend— it’s okay to need a crutch to lean on. It doesn’t make you any less capable or competent. It doesn’t make you weak. And it doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human. It’s makes you a person who is wounded and searching for a way to heal. It makes you someone with the courage to acknowledge that they have needs and the strength to get those needs met. And although it may be true that not everyone needs these things to cope, it’s a lie to think that everyone else can function without support. No one gets through life without some form of help. No one is impervious to the struggle and strain and heartbreak that come with taking up space. We all have a difficult time coping, and at some point, we all need help. You are not an exception. You’re important and you matter. Your life matters. And if asking for help is going to make things more manageable, if it’s going to ease your pain and help you fight the darkness you carry, then you have every right and reason get support. Always.
But now I want to turn to the violence we do to our children by forcing them into schools. When schooling is compulsory, schools are, by definition, prisons. A prison is a place where one is forced to be and within which people are not free to choose their own activities, spaces, or associates. Children cannot walk away from school, and within the school children cannot walk away from mean teachers, oppressive and pointless assignments, or cruel classmates. For some children, the only out—the only real way to quit—is suicide. As writer Helen Smith put it in her book, The Scarred Heart, in describing the suicide of a 13-year-old girl who had been regularly bullied in school: “After missing fifty-three out of the required one hundred and eighty days of school, she was told that she would have to return to school or appear before a truancy board which could then send her to a juvenile detention center. She decided the better alternative was to go into her bedroom and hang herself with a belt. … In times past, she could have just dropped out of school, but now kids like her are trapped by compulsory education.”
Lots of words have been spent on the problem of school bullying and related problems such as students’ general unhappiness, boredom, and cynicism in school. Nobody has found a way to solve these problems, and nobody ever will until we grant children the freedom to quit. The only way to solve these problems, ultimately, is to do away with the coercion.
When children are truly free to walk away from school, then schools will have to become child-friendly places in order to survive. Children love to learn, but, like all of us, they hate to be coerced, micromanaged, and continuously judged. They love to learn in their own ways, not in ways that others force on them. Schools, like all institutions, will become moral institutions only when the people they serve are no longer inmates. When students are free to quit, schools will have to grant them other basic human rights, such as the right to have a voice in decisions that affect them, the right to free speech, the right to free assembly, and the right to choose their own paths to happiness. Such schools would look nothing at all like the dreary institutions we call “school” today.
Don’t fool yourself. English isn’t inherently superior, or easier to learn, or more sonically pleasing. Its international usage comes from forceful assimilation and legacy of colonialistic injection. It isn’t a deed that one should take pride in.
I’d read enough blog posts and magazine articles and books about how the internet makes us lonely, or stupid, or lonely and stupid, that I’d begun to believe them. I wanted to figure out what the internet was “doing to me,” so I could fight back. But the internet isn’t an individual pursuit, it’s something we do with each other. The internet is where people are.
It is the second job of literature to create myth. But its first job is to destroy it.
After spending all day in school, our children are forced to begin a second shift, with more academic assignments to be completed at home. This arrangement is rather odd when you stop to think about it, as is the fact that few of us ever do stop to think about it.
Instead of assuming that homework should be a given, or that it allegedly benefits children, I’ve spent the last few years reviewing the available research and talking to parents, teachers and students. My findings can be summarized in seven words: Homework is all pain and no gain.
The pain is obvious to kids but isn’t always taken seriously by adults. Backpacks stuffed with assignments leave students exhausted, frustrated, less interested in intellectual pursuits and lacking time to do things they enjoy. “Most of what homework is doing,” says literacy expert Harvey Daniels, “is driving kids away from learning.”
We parents, meanwhile, turn into nags. After being away from our children all day, the first words out of our mouths, sadly, may be: “So, did you finish your homework?” One mother told me it permanently damaged her relationship with her son because it forced her to be an enforcer rather than a mom.
The surprising news, though, is that there are virtually no pros to balance the cons. Even if you regard grades or test scores as good measures of learning, which I do not, doing homework has no statistical relationship to achievement in elementary school. In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores, but it’s usually fairly small. And in any case, it’s far from clear that the former causes the latter. And if you’re wondering, not a single study has ever supported the folk wisdom that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits such as self-discipline, responsibility or independence.
5 examples of how the languages we speak can affect the way we think
I wanna make a mini-zine about dandelions, do you have a favourite recipe with or use for or picture of dandelions? Do you have stories or feelings to share about them? Tell me! Here or at email@example.com
I ADORE dandelions… All I’ve done with them is make fritters though, which seems to be *the* most common culinary thing to do, so not sure that’s very interesting… But wanted to signal boost this, at the very least! :)
I made dandelion coffee this morning! Mostly following this recipe. I think I didn’t make it strong enough/didn’t make enough though, but it was nice! Quite bitter, and smelt a bit like treacle/molasses while it was brewing. :)
To say, “This is my uncle,” in Chinese, you have no choice but to encode more information about said uncle. The language requires that you denote the side the uncle is on, whether he’s related by marriage or birth and, if it’s your father’s brother, whether he’s older or younger.
“All of this information is obligatory. Chinese doesn’t let me ignore it,” says Chen. “In fact, if I want to speak correctly, Chinese forces me to constantly think about it.”
This got Chen wondering: Is there a connection between language and how we think and behave? In particular, Chen wanted to know: does our language affect our economic decisions?
Chen designed a study — which he describes in detail in this blog post — to look at how language might affect individual’s ability to save for the future. According to his results, it does — big time.
While “futured languages,” like English, distinguish between the past, present and future, “futureless languages,” like Chinese, use the same phrasing to describe the events of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Using vast inventories of data and meticulous analysis, Chen found that huge economic differences accompany this linguistic discrepancy. Futureless language speakers are 30 percent more likely to report having saved in any given year than futured language speakers. (This amounts to 25 percent more savings by retirement, if income is held constant.) Chen’s explanation: When we speak about the future as more distinct from the present, it feels more distant — and we’re less motivated to save money now in favor of monetary comfort years down the line.
But that’s only the beginning. There’s a wide field of research on the link between language and both psychology and behavior. Here, a few fascinating examples:
Navigation and Pormpuraawans
In Pormpuraaw, an Australian Aboriginal community, you wouldn’t refer to an object as on your “left” or “right,” but rather as “northeast” or “southwest,” writes Stanford psychology professor Lera Boroditsky (and an expert in linguistic-cultural connections) in the Wall Street Journal. About a third of the world’s languages discuss space in these kinds of absolute terms rather than the relative ones we use in English, according to Boroditsky. “As a result of this constant linguistic training,” she writes, “speakers of such languages are remarkably good at staying oriented and keeping track of where they are, even in unfamiliar landscapes.” On a research trip to Australia, Boroditsky and her colleague found that Pormpuraawans, who speak Kuuk Thaayorre, not only knew instinctively in which direction they were facing, but also always arranged pictures in a temporal progression from east to west.
Blame and English Speakers
In the same article, Boroditsky notes that in English, we’ll often say that someone broke a vase even if it was an accident, but Spanish and Japanese speakers tend to say that the vase broke itself. Boroditsky describes a study by her student Caitlin Fausey in which English speakers were much more likely to remember who accidentally popped balloons, broke eggs, or spilled drinks in a video than Spanish or Japanese speakers. (Guilt alert!) Not only that, but there’s a correlation between a focus on agents in English and our criminal-justice bent toward punishing transgressors rather than restituting victims, Boroditsky argues.
Color among Zuñi and Russian Speakers
Our ability to distinguish between colors follows the terms in which we describe them, as Chen notes in the academic paper in which he presents his research (forthcoming in the American Economic Review; PDF here). A 1954 study found that Zuñi speakers, who don’t differentiate between orange and yellow, have trouble telling them apart. Russian speakers, on the other hand, have separate words for light blue (goluboy) and dark blue (siniy). According to a 2007 study, they’re better than English speakers at picking out blues close to the goluboy/siniy threshold.
Gender in Finnish and Hebrew
In Hebrew, gender markers are all over the place, whereas Finnish doesn’t mark gender at all, Boroditsky writes in Scientific American (PDF). A study done in the 1980s found that, yup, thought follows suit: kids who spoke Hebrew knew their own genders a year earlier than those who grew up speaking Finnish. (Speakers of English, in which gender referents fall in the middle, were in between on that timeline, too.)
But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.
We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.