A Few Random Education Items

Sorry if this feels like a tab dump. I stored up a bunch of things I’d hoped to say more about, but it’s clearly not happening. From the top, please!

So, let’s start by talking about online college courses. First up is this nice little infographic. One little detail left out is that some schools have moved entire courses to “online only” as far as I can tell. It makes scheduling a whole lot easier, both for classes that many students must take (say, history 101) and for classes with limited interest (“seminar in 20th century politics”). I’ve taken multiple online classes, with satisfactory results. Here’s some perspective on online classes from a guy who actually understands higher ed.

Of course, not everybody makes it through college. Many drop out because they have trouble with the work, and many others drop out because they have trouble with money. Federal policies may make the latter worse. You know what might also be making things worse? Wall Street.

So, before you can get into college and start amassing student loan debt, you have to actually get into college, right? So is anybody at all surprised that upper class kids do better on the SAT?

Back to the beginning now. It turns out that all the calculators, manipulatives, and fun songs do less to teach kids math than good old fashioned “drilling the basics.” I’m not sure why it is that every few years we get away from the old-fashioned way of teaching math that actually works. I suspect it’s because the teachers get bored with the basics.

And finally, the silliness that is a super-hard kindergarten admissions exam. It seems to me that when I was 5, all they wanted to know was “does she know letters, numbers, and colors?”

What I Learned This Semester

The fall semester is over and grades are filed. Let me fill you in on just a few new discoveries! Maybe it will help you impress a friend while watching Jeopardy someday. Ok, probably not.


  • You can always find a place to park on campus for an 8 AM class. The bad news is that it’s still an 8 AM class. 
  • It’s a little shocking how many people will simply stop showing up to class without bothering to drop.
  • Equally amazing is the number of people who plan on taking a hard class twice to get a better grade.
  • Online coursework takes discipline that many people simply don’t possess. “Oh, I don’t have to worry about those 3 assignments until December!” Right. That’s the same December when you have all those finals, remember.
  • You can’t expect people to know how to pronounce words in a language they don’t speak.
  • It seems like every new textbook comes with a DVD or passcode to a website of “helpful” study materials. Most of these are not quite as “helpful” as advertised.


  • I had mistakenly thought the old Lincoln Highway followed the route of US 30 west to Oregon. Turns out it changes route numbers and goes through Northern Nevada.
  • If you tried to turn the events surrounding the Cal Neva in the late 50s and early 60s into a novel, nobody would believe it.
  • It turns out that Nevada voters in 2014 get to decide on a change to our State Constitution to allow greater taxation of the mining industry.
  • Most people don’t think to use hyperlinks in lieu of citations.


  • In a Spanish class, nobody expects you to know Japanese.
  • Flashcards are still important for learning a foreign language.
  • “Textbook/Workbook” is a nice way for a publisher to make everybody buy new books.

Anatomy and Physiology:

  • Reticular connective tissue looks a little like a cherry tree in blossom.
  • There’s an area of your brain that handles a reflex to turn your head and look before you even form the question “What was that streak of orange and roaring noise?” Of course in Vegas it’s a coin flip whether that particular combination is a tiger or a sports car. Likewise about which would be more dangerous to encounter while walking about.
  • Fancy color pictures of cadavers aren’t as useful as you’d think for learning anatomy.
  • Weight training does not produce more muscle cells, just muscle cells with more stuff in them.
  • Beta blockers are great for recovering heart attack patients, but lousy for anybody trying to improve their blood pressure through diet and exercise.

Ok, here’s the In Closing bits: you know I wouldn’t deprive you of a bunch of NSA, privacy, and Edward Snowden links, right?; on wages, fair wages, poverty, homelessness, and related issues; loopholePalestinians; the next big fight in CONgress; worst CEOs; and just in time for Christmas, bad gifts.