Thinking about your thinking: 7 ways to improve critical thinking skills

When I was in 7th grade, my U.S. history teacher gave my class the following advice: Your teachers in high school won't expect you to remember every little fact about U.S. history. They can fill in the details you've forgotten. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically. I didn't realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. My high school teachers gave similar speeches when describing what would be expected of us in college: it's not about the facts you know, but rather about your ability to evaluate them. And now that I'm in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the "real...

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Experimenting with Homeschooling offers an opportunity to cultivate the virtues of independence & original thinking

I was homeschooled for eight years, from age 11 through to college, before it was a novel way for tiger parents to show off their dynamic commitment to their children's education. Now, if millions of parents and families are suddenly going to be homeschooling their kids for the coming weeks (and, let's be honest, quite likely beyond), it's worth trying to think about how to do this in a manner as smooth, healthy and wise as possible. Learning at home is quite different from learning at school. It requires us to reorient how we think about learning in general, and how we approach the process with our children - maybe even with ourselves, too. Historically, education has been the province of parents. But the question of how kids spend their time, and learn, and grow, is one to which society...

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Time management: 6 techniques from the Stoic philosopher Seneca

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not." ― Seneca Locked in prison by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) in Shakespeare's Richard II, Richard II gives a haunting speech about his hopeless fate. One line stands out, as it captures perfectly, the reality of nearly every human being — indeed, it sounds like it was cribbed from Seneca's On The Shortness of Life. "I wasted time," Richard II says, "and now doth time waste me." We think that...

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Anger is temporary madness: A Stoic guide to anger management

People get angry for all sorts of reasons, from the trivial ones (someone cut me off on the highway) to the really serious ones (people keep dying in Syria and nobody is doing anything about it). But, mostly, anger arises for trivial reasons. That's why the American Psychological Association has a section of its website devoted to anger management. Interestingly, it reads very much like one of the oldest treatises on the subject, On Anger, written by the Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca back in the first century CE. Seneca thought that anger is a temporary madness, and that even when justified, we should never act on the basis of it because, though 'other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity: others come in mild attacks and grow unnoticed, but men's minds plunge abruptly into anger. ... Its intensity...

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How to turn yourself into a Super-Learner

Whether you're taking up the oboe or finessing your Finnish, scientific research offers tips to aid learning. If your aim for 2020 was to learn a new skill, you may be at the point of giving up. Whether you are mastering a new language or a musical instrument, or taking a career-changing course, initial enthusiasm can only take you so far, and any further progress can be disappointingly slow. From these struggles, you might assume that you simply lack a natural gift - compared to those lucky people who can learn any new skill with apparent ease. However, it needn't be this way. Many polymaths - including Charles Darwin and the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman - claimed not to have exceptional natural intelligence. Most of us have more than enough brainpower to master a new discipline, if we apply...

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SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Why We Need Leisure, or What To Do When You Have Nothing To Do

'Idle hands are the devil's workshop,' we're told. This adage sometimes informs our mad scramble to make ends meet, quite often going non-stop and mostly living to work, with hardly a moment to see who, what and where we are in the vast context of our lives. Many of us are going nowhere fast. Though taking personal responsibility is correctly connected to paying the bills, and is crucial to any kinds of individual growth, there is another type of responsibility we have to ourselves that quite often gets lost in the shuffle in any real and valuable sense. On this week's MindMatters we look at philosopher Josef Pieper's classic book Leisure: The Basis of Culture and use his ideas as a point of departure to discuss how we spend our free time (since, for the time being, we now seem...

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Coronavirus hysteria is giving people vivid dreams – here’s why

Ronald Reagan pulled up to the curb in a sleek black town car, rolled down his tinted window, and beckoned for Lance Weller, author of the novel Wilderness, to join him. The long-dead president escorted Weller to a comic book shop stocked with every title Weller had ever wanted, but before he could make a purchase, Reagan swiped his wallet and skipped out the door. Of course, Weller was dreaming. He is one of many people around the world — including more than 600 featured in just one study — who say they are experiencing a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams. Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to wellbeing while we're awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious. Nightmares,...

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Origins of language pathway in brain date back 25 million years

Scientists have discovered an earlier origin to the human language pathway in the brain, pushing back its evolutionary origin by at least 20 million years. Previously, a precursor of the language pathway was thought by many scientists to have emerged more recently, about 5 million years ago, with a common ancestor of both apes and humans. For neuroscientists, this is comparable to finding a fossil that illuminates evolutionary history. However, unlike bones, brains did not fossilize. Instead neuroscientists need to infer what the brains of common ancestors may have been like by studying brain scans of living primates and comparing them to humans. Professor Chris Petkov from the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, UK the study lead said: "It is like finding a new fossil of a long lost ancestor. It is also exciting that there may be an...

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Charles Eisenstein: The Coronation

For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan's beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them? Covid-19 is showing us that when humanity is united in common cause, phenomenally rapid change is possible. None of the world's problems are technically difficult to solve; they originate in human disagreement. In coherency, humanity's creative powers are boundless. A few months ago, a proposal to halt commercial air travel would have seemed preposterous. Likewise for the radical changes we are making in our social behavior, economy, and the role of government in our lives. Covid demonstrates the power...

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14 Ways to improve mental health during the world’s biggest psychological experiment

Try to stay mindful, fully present in the here-and-now, and enjoy the silence. For this, too, will pass. What we were warned about but turned a blind eye to and did not expect in the Western world to this extent, happened: we found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. Social distancing, quarantine and hygienic practices are essential behavioural methods in such times to reduce spreading of the new virus and mortality. But these precautionary measures, whether imposed or consciously chosen to protect ourselves and the persons at risk against the coronavirus, could be challenging for us humans as we are social beings. They can be particularly tough to those who are prone to anxiety and depression. Comment: No, the above are not "essential behavioural methods" given what we now know about Covid-19 - and the hype that surrounds it....

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