Why teens are wired for risk

Why teens are wired for risk

Kind of important for higher education to think about, no? 

Scientists typically refer to “the teenage brain” in 13- to 17-year-olds, but that doesn’t mean that college students are totally “adults” yet. In fact, research from the National Institutes of Health has shown, the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with inhibition of risky behavior, doesn’t get fully developed until age 25. The connections between the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain are also developing in teenagers. And a number of deep structures in the brain are influenced by changes in hormones, which may lead to heightened emotions.


Education and Start-ups

From Will Dropouts Save America?

If start-up activity is the true engine of job creation in America, one thing is clear: our current educational system is acting as the brakes. Simply put, from kindergarten through undergraduate and grad school, you learn very few skills or attitudes that would ever help you start a business. Skills like sales, networking, creativity and comfort with failure.

No business in America — and therefore no job creation — happens without someone buying something. But most students learn nothing about sales in college; they are more likely to take a course on why sales (and capitalism) are evil.

Moreover, very few start-ups get off the ground without a wide, vibrant network of advisers and mentors, potential customers and clients, quality vendors and valuable talent to employ. You don’t learn how to network crouched over a desk studying for multiple-choice exams. You learn it outside the classroom, talking to fellow human beings face-to-face.

I’ve worked at start-ups— three of them, in fact — but I doubt this writer has. While people may think that if you clone a Steve Jobs you’ll get twice as many start-ups, it simply isn’t true. 

The real brakes on a start-up have nothing to do with leadership or mentoring, or any of that Great Man bullcrap. The real brakes on start-ups is always second and third round hiring. You get a small group of people together (I was employee #12 at one company) and you have talent wall-to-wall. You succeed at that scale and go to hire more people and with each round it becomes increasingly hard to find the sort of well-rounded problem-solvers and niche experts you need. 

Does education produce those people? The people that actually make the start-up work? I’m not sure, but that’s the question to be asking. Whether people want to admit it or not, we’ve got a surplus of Steve Jobs in this country — but they can’t do anything without a workforce.


That people can see goods and services in the shop window but have no money to buy them is the classic failure of capitalism. That people have money but there are no goods in the shop window is the classic failure of socialism. Not to be too simplistic but our current problem looks more like the first than the second.

That people can see goods and services in the shop window but have no money to buy them is the classic failure of capitalism. That people have money but there are no goods in the shop window is the classic failure of socialism.

Not to be too simplistic but our current problem looks more like the first than the second.

Karl Smith


I don’t think you can call it remediation anymore when 1/3 of your students require it. At some point the problem is not the students or the high schools, but that we’ve built a higher education system based on false assumptions about who our students are and what they have when they get here.

Our failure isn’t that the students need to be remediated. Our failure is our misaligned priorities require that we call it “remediation”.


From Klein’s The student debt crisis in one chart (article here)


The Partisan and the Political

The Partisan and the Political

This is right, mostly:

But by conflating partisanship and ideology, elite discourse tends to discredit the latter; thus, just as elites tend to cloak their ideological program in the veil of post-partisanship, contemporary popular movements sometimes attempt to do the same. But they, too, are ideological whether they want to be or not. Some of this is on display in the Occupy Wall Street protests: these have been characterized by an almost obsessive desire to avoid specific ideologies or even specific demands, in a way that tends to grate on those of us with more traditional leftist sensibilities. Doug Henwood recently commented on this in a post where he lamented the ideological confusion of the protesters, and quoted a 25-year-old photographer stating that the protests were “not about left versus right” but about “hierarchy versus autonomy”.

The uncharitable reading of this is that it reflects a naive avoidance of politics and the worldview of, as Doug puts it, bourgeois individualism. But a more generous reading is that this man is simply partaking of the same collapsing of ideology and partisanship that pervades the society he grew up in. If you’re 25 years old, there’s a good chance you haven’t had much or any contact with what remains of an actual “left” in this country; instead, your experience of politics will be one in which “left versus right” is used interchangeably with “Democrats versus Republicans”. In other words, a discourse in which ideology is reduced to an empty, symbolic partisanship.

Rather than an attempt to deny ideology and politics, we can see statements like the one I quoted as an attempt, however confused, to reclaim them from the clutches of the major parties and their hack apologists. Because whatever they might say, Occupy Wall Street has an ideology, even if it is still an inchoate and jumbled one.


It’s Not How Many Followers You Have, It’s Who Follows You

It’s Not How Many Followers You Have, It’s Who Follows You

Yglesias gets it right — a lot of these viral success stories sold as the annals of  meritocracy are anything but. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, it just happens a lot less than you’d think.


Inequality and economic growth. From the IMF, which I hope is using this to rethink its approach…


The crowdsourcing scalability problem (or the thinness of the cognitive surplus gruel)

I’m sure someone has mentioned this, but the interesting thing if you look at Wikipedia is how many editing hours have gone into each page. Shirky says there’s a hundred million hours put into Wikipedia. There’s an estimated 342,768 full articles in Wikipedia

That’s about 291 hours per article. I don’t know what they get to write an article at Britannica, but I imagine it is something less than a sixth of a year.

If my math is wrong, feel free to correct it. This is back of the envelope stuff. (and yes, I’m aware that many articles in Britannica are re-edits — feel free to include in that sixth of a year all edits from the 11th edition until now if you want, I think the core claim does not change).

If my math is right, you can only crowd-source a very limited set of things before general productivity collapses. And as all good economists know, productivity is the key to quality of life — the quality of life, ironically, that allows us enough time to edit Wikipedia articles for free…aka the “cognitive surplus”…


Leisure Leaf-Diving with fam unit, on a fine New England autumn weekend.


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