Weekend Reading

Well, it’s the weekend again, which means lots of time spent on homework. Here’s a pile of reading I collected from this week, in no particular order.

Amanda Ripley, one of my favorite writers, has an excellent piece in The Atlantic called “The Case Against High-School Sports”. Her thesis is that one of the reasons why the United States education system ranks so poorly in the world is all the money we spend on sports. I never played a sport in high school, nor did I want to (I was always more into music as my extracurricular), but I confess this idea never occurred to me. It’s intriguing.

Another article from The Atlantic about education: My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me”. An intrepid father did his middle-school-aged daughter’s homework for a week to see what it was like. He was swamped. I don’t remember having that much homework in middle school (or high school, for that matter). I never went to bed past midnight, like his daughter often does. Unfortunately, it sounds like a lot of the work is busywork:

Another exercise required Esmee [his daughter] to find the distance from Sacramento—we were living in California—to every other state capital in America, in miles and kilometers. This last one caused me to question the value of the homework.

Honestly, what is the point of that exercise?

Moving on from education and The Atlantic, an article from Slate, on what would happen to humans stranded in the late Devonian period. (The Devonian period was from 420 million to 360 million years ago, long before humans evolved. The question poses hypothetical time travel to that time and assumes the humans were stranded.) As someone who sees a potential novel idea in just about everything, I may be writing some fiction inspired by this topic…

Sorry, I’m not done talking about education. Another article from Slate about online certificates and how they threaten tradiional degree programs.

An excellent post by John Schindler, a professor whose work I admire, about the importance of espionage war. (He calls it “special war” and from what I can tell, that refers to espionage.) Basically, the US is in trouble unless we can get our act together, because we’re bad at special war, but Russia is very good at it:

Unfortunately there is one country that excels at special war, and that’s Russia. Moscow’s proficiency in these dark arts goes back to the late Tsarist period, when the regime’s solution to a rising terrorism problem was to penetrate terrorist groups while creating some of their own: a politically tricky strategy that worked nearly perfectly, as long as one is willing to close one’s eyes at key moments. Proficiency in espionage, subversion, and terrorism was perfected under the Soviets, yet the skills of Russian intelligence in this domain have, if anything, increased under the rule of President Putin who, by virtue of being a onetime KGB counterintelligence officer, fully comprehends the power of special war.

And finally, a semi-old (as in from July 2012) article in Wired about the rabies virus. This article is dedicated to my mom, who loves all things medical. I’d be especially intrigued to hear her thoughts on the idea that some people can survive rabies without medical treatment.