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January 2007

Harvard begins using Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA)--tagline, "Life is not like a multiple choice test"--to try to determine ". . . how students in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences progress in acquiring critical-thinking skills during their College years, and how they compare to students elsewhere."

Interesting bit from the CLA website:

Though some institutions are attempting to address the issue of training for analytical writing in a variety of contexts, there are two remaining problems. First, there is no check to ensure that writing intensive courses are meeting the goal of teaching the analytical writing skills. Second, the unfortunate result of a writing intensive mandate for some classes is that students may feel that writing in courses that are not designated as writing intensive is unfair because no writing credit is earned. This creates additional social pressure on instructors to do away with written responses in their courses unless designated to do so by their institution. The message inferred by the students and others may be that analytical writing is not a fundamental part of learning and performance in every subject and every class. Evaluating schools on the basis of analytical writing is a major start to changing that message.

Your choice: optimism . . .

17 of the "world's smartest scientists and academics" discuss what they're optimistic about.

Noted historian Paul Johnson argues that there's hope for the Middle East.

. . . or pessimism.

M.D. Jerome Groopman notes that, sadly, doctors still screw up too often in diagnosis.

Caroline Glick argues that Iran will have the Bomb very soon and that, "As a result of the Arab-Islamic-Leftist campaign to demonize Israel that has been going on systematically for more than six years, today throughout the world there is a large and growing sense that wiping Israel off the face of the earth wouldn't be particularly objectionable."

Fantasy baseball appeals to lots of people. But what if you don't like baseball? Well, now there's fantasy Congress, fantasy fashion industry, fantasy movie moguls, fantasy music, fantasy TV, and fantasy tabloids. The Washington Post briefly explains.

Last week I linked to a story about how HP scientists may be able to extend Moore's Law another few years. This week it's Intel's and IBM's turn.

Last week I linked to a story about a possible breakthrough in cancer treatment involving turning back on cancer cells' mitochondria. This week it's turning back on the anti-cancer p53 gene.

Sing along with Paul Simon: "These are the days of miracle and wonder".

Reinhardt on economics textbooks

Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt discusses choosing a textbook for his principles of economics class. Includes this lovely crack:

On the one hand, multi-color printing permits authors to present beautifully crafted graphical or tabular displays that enhance the pedagogic value of the books. On the other hand, however, many of the books now weave the main text through a dizzying melange of cartoons, barely relevant colored pictures, multi-color insets and multi-color sidebars that tell interesting stories or distill the most important points in the adjacent paragraph. The idea seems to be that youngsters who grew up on ESPN and video games would be alienated by clean, serious and well organized textbook pages. Next, no doubt, will come vanilla flavored paper — perhaps even pizza-flavored, with simulated beer stains — and crossword puzzles for added diversion.

(Link via Greg Mankiw.)