#1 in education & they’re reforming – Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced w/’topics’ as country reforms its #education system


“Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.”


via Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with ‘topics’ as country reforms its education system – Europe – World – The Independent.

Rat Neuroscience and Chicago Politics

Professor Peggy Mason is experimenting with rats and thinking about politics [insert punchline here] Mason has shown that rats will overcome their most basic fears to free an imprisoned comrade. Or would it be “com-rat”.

Rats for example, hate light and they hate being in the middle of a room. But a rat will put her primal rodental fears behind her plus learn new, foreign behaviors to open a cage for the sake of a sister rat’s liberty.

You could call rats racist. A rat from a white family will not instinctively go through all those behavioral changes for the sake of a brown one. But it turns out that like governor George Wallace of Alabama rat racists can be redeemed. A rat will come to the rescue of any rat that reminds her of a rat with whom she’s had a positive social experience. When she sees a speckled rat in the trap, somewhere in her little ratty hippocampus he’ll think, “My college roommate was speckled” And will race to its rat rescue.

Maybe exposure-based prosociality is the neurological explanation of why like parks and beaches make life better. Chicago’s master planner Daniel Burnham insisted on abundant public spaces for us. He believed they foster community. If you spend a whole Cubs’ season, with all the trauma that entails, sitting next to a guy from Sri Lanka chances are you will, thereafter cop a better attitude toward all Sri Lankans – depending on how rat-like you are. But on Saturday nights you’re not just cruising bars hitting on everything in sight. You are expanding your dendritic arbor. It ain’t just horny, it’s neuroscience. Decades of positive interracial experiences seem to have rat-ified our national politics all the way to the White House. We’re pretty rat-like about gays and lesbians too. When I was in high school “homosexual” meant “target” now it mostly means “target audience”.

And so it proceeds, as we are positively interact with more varied populations our definitions of “normal” expand beyond imagination. If professor Mason is right who knows? Years from now when discussing political news someone will say, “I smell a rat here” the response may well be, “I sure hope so.”

Why Aren’t More Americans Fired Up About Inequality? | ThinkProgress

Why Aren\'t More Americans Fired Up About Inequality? | ThinkProgress

John Jost, a professor of psychology and political science at NYU, and various colleagues over the years have developed a theory called “system justification” that shows how people are “motivated to defend, bolster, and rationalize the social systems that affect them — to see the status quo as good, fair, legitimate, and desirable,” because it serves their own internal needs and desires as humans.   It helps them “manage uncertainty and threat and smooth out social relationships,” and “enables people to cope with and feel better about the societal status quo and their place in it,” as the authors write.

People do not always defend an unjust status quo and system justification varies across groups and situations.  Similarly, system justification may be motivated by different reasons for those who are relatively advantaged or disadvantaged within society.  But for most of us, it appears that there’s a powerful need in our own lives to reduce difficult feelings and anxieties when confronting the limitations of our social and economic order.  As Jost and his co-authors note:

In several studies we find that giving people the opportunity to justify the system does indeed lead them to feel better and more satisfied and to report feeling more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions (e.g., Jost et al., 2008; Wakslak et al., 2007). Furthermore, chronically high system-justifiers, such as political conservatives, arehappier (as measured in terms of subjective well-being) than are chronically low system-justifiers, such as liberals, leftists, and others who are more troubled by the degree of social and economic inequality in our society (Napier & Jost, 2008a).

The hedonic benefits of system justification, however, come with a cost in terms of decreased potential for social change and the remediation on of inequality. Wakslak and colleagues (2007) demonstrated thatsystem-justifying ideologies, whether measured or manipulated through a mindset-priming technique, do indeed serve to reduce emotional distress — including negative affect in general and guilt in particular — but they also reduce “moral outrage.” This last consequence is particularly important, because moral outrage motivates people to engage in helping behavior and to support social change (Carlson & Miller, 1987; Montada & Schneider, 1989). Thus, the reduction in moral outrage made people less inclined to help those who are disadvantaged, measured in terms of research participants’ degree of support for and willingness to volunteer for or donate to a soup kitchen, a crisis hotline, and tutoring or job training programs for the underprivileged (see also Jost et al., 2008).

Why Aren\’t More Americans Fired Up About Inequality? | ThinkProgress.

Video: Interview with John Jost

A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior

This my first REAL MOOC experience.  I watched Michael Sandel’s fantastic in Harvard’s fantastic “Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do?” But ‘Irrational Behavior’ is a much more serious attempt at pedagogy. An hour’s worth of lectures this week plus a quiz and a written paper.  For our trouble we get a certificate at the end signed by Prof. Ariely himself. The course also has incredible google+ community.   After watching the first couple of lectures I spent an hour chatting with an amazing and delightful international cohort.  We talked about whether it was rational for Amber in India to horde gold in his house.  Whether Peruvians were awed by Milton Friedman and I told them about America’s $75,000 magic happiness number.

We come together as students and share our tales as comrades.  It’s everything Al Gore would have  dreamed! … It’s not too late to join us.

Relational Models Theory

With just four fundamental forces nature creates hydrogen, hippopotami and hydrodynamics.  The entire human genome is accomplished with four bases. Prof Alan Fiske, author of RMT, says all our social interactions are managed by four, not five or three, four models that we mix, match and recombine.  Machines for connecting to the web should  be irrelevant.  Once you get online they are just browser containers.  But in addition a market price relationship based on rational value, I have a communal sharing relationship with my manufacturers, I feel like part of the team.  I’m happy to hear good news about our company and the products it sella sno ofter feel a vague or explicit disgust for those deluded zealots.

Fiske’s theory is a fun and powerful to analyze any relationship, except mine with chocolate which is simply submissive.

Relational Models Theory

Relational models theory posits that people use four elementary models to generate, interpret, coordinate, contest, plan, remember, evaluate, and think about most aspects of most social interaction in all societies. These models are Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, and Market Pricing. Scores of studies have demonstrated that people in all cultures use these models to organize much of their everyday social cognition. 

Communal Sharing  (CS) is a relationship in which each member of the group as equivalent and undifferentiated with respect to the domain in question. Examples are using a commons (CS with respect to the utilization of the particular resource), people intensely in love (CS with respect to their social selves), people who “ask not fro whom the bell tolls” common well-being), (CS with respect to shared suffering or common well-being) people who kill any member of an enemy group indiscriminately in retaliation for an attack (CS with respect to collective responsibility).

In Authority Ranking (AR) people have asymmetric positions in a linear hierarchy in which subordinates defer, respect, and (perhaps) obey, while superiors take precedence and take pastoral responsibility for subordinates.  Examples are military hierarchies (AR in decisions, control, and many other matters), ancestor worship (AR in offerings of filial piety and expectations of protection and enforcement of norms), monotheistic religious moralities (AR for the definition of right and wrong by commandments or will of God), social status systems such as class or ethnic rankings (AR with respect to social value of identities), and rankings such as sports team standings (AR with respect to prestige).  AR relationships are based on perceptions of legitimate asymmetries, not coercive power; they are not inherently exploitative (although they may involve power or cause harm).

In Equality Matching (EM) relationships people keep track of the balance or difference among participants and know what would be required to restore balance.  Common manifestations are turn-taking, one-person one-vote elections, equal share distributions, and vengeance based on an-eye-for-an-eye, a-tooth-for-a-tooth.  Examples include sports and games (EM with respect to the rules, procedures, equipment and terrain),  baby-sitting coops (EM with respect to the exchange of child care),  and restitution in-kind (EM with respect to righting a wrong).

Market Pricing (MP) relationships are oriented to socially meaningful ratios or rates such as prices, wages, interest, rents, tithes, or cost-benefit analyses. Money need not be the medium, and MP relationships need not be selfish, competitive, maximizing, or materialistic — any of the four models may exhibit any of these features. MP relationships are not necessarily individualistic;  a family may be the CS or AR unit running a business that operates in an MP mode with respect to other enterprises.  Examples are property that can be bought, sold, or treated as investment capital (land or objects as MP), marriages organized contractually or implicitly in terms of costs and benefits to the partners, prostitution (sex as MP), bureaucratic cost-effectiveness standards (resource allocation as MP), utilitarian judgments about the greatest good for the greatest number, or standards of equity in judging entitlements in proportion to contributions (two forms of morality as MP), considerations of spending time efficiently, and estimates of expected kill ratios (aggression as MP).

To learn more, go to this readable, non-technical introduction to relational models theory.

For social scientists, this 2005 chapter is an overview of relational models theory and research.

Here is a fairly complete bibliography of research on relational models theory, updated fairly regularly.

Relational models international Skype lab meeting schedule.

The original creator of relational models theory (and of this page) is Alan Fiske, Professor of Anthropology at UCLA.

Or straight from the horses’s mouth: