Some Other Stuff I Want to Share, Volume II

What would happen if you gave a homeless person a pre-paid debit card? That’s what a writer for the Toronto Star explored in 2010Related: NPR has a story about a charity which gives money to impoverished people in developing countries, with no strings attached. The results are similar.

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If you’re not following CGP Grey’s videos on YouTube, you should be. He creates great, incredibly informative videos on topics you’d not think to explore. I asked him which one was his favorite, and he said it was this one, below, explaining the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. If you’re a long-time Now I Know reader, you may have seen this before, as I mention it in the bonus fact of this issue of the newsletter.

While we’re on the topic of CGP Grey, you should probably follow him on Twitter, as he makes other interesting observations such as this one. And if you’re a redditor, he has a subreddit which he’s active on, here.

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Two long-ish quotes about the education system: I found both of the mind-boggling, and am passing them along without further comment:


Anne Ruggles Gere, a professor at the University of Michigan, serves as director of the Sweetland Center for Writing, which oversees first-year writing at the university. She speaks with SAT essay-graders often. “What they tell me is that they go through a very regimented scoring process, and the goal of that process is to produce so many units of work in a very short period of time,” she says. “So if they take more than about three minutes to read and score these essays, they are eliminated from the job of scoring.” According to Perelman, especially speedy graders are rewarded for their efforts. “They expect readers to read a minimum of 20 essays an hour,” he says. “But readers get a bonus if they read 30 essays an hour, which is two minutes per essay.”


Back in California, when I raised the issue of too much homework on that e?mail chain, about half the parents were pleased that someone had brought this up, and many had already spoken to the math teacher about it. Others were eager to approach school officials. But at least one parent didn’t agree, and forwarded the whole exchange to the teacher in question.

As the person who instigated the conversation, I was called in to the vice principal’s office and accused of cyberbullying. I suggested that parents’ meeting to discuss their children’s education was generally a positive thing; we merely chose to have our meeting in cyberspace instead of the school cafeteria.

He disagreed, saying the teacher felt threatened. And he added that students weren’t allowed to cyberbully, so parents should be held to the same standard.

I explained that we never intended for the teacher to read those notes. This was a forum where we were airing our concerns.

What was frustrating me was that the underlying issue of ridiculous amounts of busywork was getting buried beneath the supposed method we had used to discuss the issue.

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Quick Hits: 

Originally published on October 29, 2013
  • jillrdu

    Busywork in education extends to the contractors who write/edit the textbooks… I used to do math contract work. We miss math errors because the publisher suddenly demands that any math problem with an answer of sixty nine in digits be rewritten because teachers complain that the students giggle and then get out of control. So instead of checking the math, we’re forced to recheck 1200 pages of textbook plus ancillaries for this one thing. Just one example of hundreds from my career. I retired just in time.

    Loving your Stuff pages, heading out on an overnight with Now I Know to read in the car. Thanks Dan.

    • Dan Lewis

      That’s horrible. 🙁

      Oh, and don’t read and drive, thanks!

  • invalidusername

    Hey Dan. Enjoying these pages, they’re great. Suggestions for layout (as you said in the Now I Know newsletter): A few images relating to the links/snippets, and Arial or Helvetica for the font, and a slightly larger font size. Thanks for all the awesome reading material every day!

    • Corinne

      I agree with all of this. Some images/embedded videos would be grand. This’s seriously awesome, love getting these!

    • Dan Lewis

      Thanks, appreciate it!

      • invalidusername

        No problem and thanks again 🙂

  • tekiebelu

    I really enjoyed this one even more than the first! The format was easy to read and in bite-size chunks. This would work great for a newsletter; excellent job!

  • x_anima

    I love the additional info! I love random facts.

    Layout wise, perhaps a darker background with an inner white box for the text? My eyes had a bit of a tweak out with bright white background and small black/blue font and links. Love the idea though, keep ’em coming!

  • BlownSave

    Dan, good stuff here. These tidbits are a great, simple addition to to your “Now I Know” information, which is awesome. I think this would be a great addition to your newsletter.

  • BonafideView

    Dear Dan,
    The extra bonus facts are extra fun for when I have extra time.
    The depth of your main offering is always appreciated; I always learn something from it and often forward it on to persons who may be interested in it.
    If you only had time to do one part of your research writing, your longer entry is my preference. That gracious offering makes you unique among bloggers.
    Given the above opinion, your random facts are definitely unusual, informative and enjoyed by this reader.
    Thank you for sharing all of your hard work.