5 Useful Tips On How to Succeed in School

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By Jacob Hallman | Updated February 4, 2019 | 4 minute read

When it comes to how to succeed in school, there are many ways to approach.

When I was in college, I would get advice like “Have a schedule and stick to it,” “find a mentor,” and “follow your passion.”

I also got lots of advice promoting the value of networking, which is a nice start: Books, Reading, and the Social Aspect Of Learning

But this is not enough if you want to learn how to succeed in life after school.

Education and learning are not synonymous.

Education comes from institutions designed to promote learning, but learning starts with you and me caring enough to push ourselves.

Learning is completely different from thinking.

We gather knowledge and apply it to learn.

We can explain that knowledge to others.

We enjoy learning as it is associated with pleasure.

Learning is not always easy, but it provides great opportunity and improve our quality of life.

So let’s get real about how to succeed in school with five actionable steps. This isn’t a cheap, low input high reward method to getting into Harvard.

The methods will require changing the way you think. But I think the result will be worth it for you.

how to succeed in school

Below are five tips for how to succeed at anything (including school) and make sure your education never gets in the way of your learning.

Avoid busy. Busy is lazy. It means you aren’t thinking through your behavior.

If you go from task to task without taking the time to consider why you do those activities, your enthusiasm will dry up like a sponge on a hot summer day.

As Thomas Frank shows, tricks like speed reading to get everything done are not shortcuts in the long run. Reading comprehension gets sacrificed for speed. Usually, busyness with out direction is taking steps backward.

Stop and think about that.

Why do you do what you do?

Why are you reading this article?

It’s time to act with thoughtfulness as you choose tasks to engage with.

If you decide to do nothing, do nothing only. Being clear about how you spend your time will help to enjoy time for play and time for work alike.

Apply your learning. Because anything less is foolish.

The plan here is very simple.

If you let your learning make you smart and stop there, you are a fool. If you let your learning drive you to action, you will get rich.

People value others who take action.

You will make a better life for yourself if you are willing to move towards things you know you care about. Learning should always have a purpose.

Have you read the speech by President Theodore Roosevelt about the man in the arena?

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

No one cares about the accuser. The accuser is on the sideline.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

So as you plan to do something, remember that there is no shame in failure.

Planning to fail is a horrible thing to be avoided, but a well-thought out plan that didn’t work out is an opportunity to learn. It is a chance to get back up and try again.

Make your yes really count. Don’t use it for the small things.

Teachers will always require certain things in school.

Math class will be one of them. The SAT will be another.

However, most schools have tremendous extracurricular opportunities. The fact is that there are too many for any one person to take on.

So make a polite refusal of “no” be your first instinct. And save your “yes” for the things that you really care about.

If someone really wants you involved, they should be able to convince you that the commitment is worth your time.

Strong views, loosely held. Speak confidently, but stay open to reason.

When working in team projects, take the time to think through your position and your work.

Then defend the points you believe with a lot of passion and clearly developed thoughts.

But if someone disagrees with you, make a point of listening to them. If their logic is better, you should be open to changing your mind.

Ignore the noise. Your biggest heroes are still imperfect.

Life can be bigger than you ever dreamed once you realize that everything around you was created by someone who isn’t any smarter than you are.

You can build and make things too such as businesses, products, music, and paintings.

You’re smart, so focus on what you know and love. And don’t worry about what anyone says.

As Teddy Roosevelt pointed, the world will always have its critics.

Own your future, not theirs, and make some waves.

Where are you going to learn?

You can find public and private schools, charter schools or even a home school. Public and private colleges get competition from for-profit colleges and online courses.

These legit options can boost your skills if you put in the time to learn with them.

But none of those schools can do your learning for you.

Without education, you can find always find learning.

But without learning, there is no education.

Are you looking for a real education filled with real learning and not just a nice degree? You should meet our tutors.

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Sweet and Sour Summers

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Sweet and sour summers can make a huge long-term impact on how your son or daughter live once they enter college and adult life.

But we aren’t talking about strawberry lemonade tea here. What does this term mean exactly?

The mission of the sweet and sour summer is to expose teenagers to the realities of life. For some people, life is caviar and Kobe steak filled with summer tans and chiseled physique. For others, life consists of surviving under a bridge and constantly struggling to get a good night of sleep.

Both possibilities are very real in this giant world. The sweet and sour summer is 3 months of work designed to prove just that.

Sweet summer

A sweet summer starts with an internship shadowing a very cool job. Your job is to make a connection with your child to the coolest job your personal network of friends and family can offer. Here are some ideas (but the sky is the limit):

  • Lobbyist
  • Surgeon
  • Professional athlete
  • Video game designer
  • Stockbroker
sweet and sour summer studygate
Life as a surgeon isn’t as easy as a fist bump, but it’s still pretty cool

Your teenager can shadow your friend for 4-6 weeks and have a very nice time. More importantly, they will get to observe professional standards of communication and see how the world works.

Sour summer

A sour summer consists of finding the toughest and most grimy job you possibly can within your network of contacts, then sending your teenager to work on it. Here are some job ideas, but they are not comprehensive:

  • Roofer
  • Trashman
  • Farm worker
  • Dishwasher
  • Construction worker
sweet and sour summer studygate
Construction consists of lifting heavy things, long hours, and unbearable heat

Besides making the connection, your role in the sour summer is to make sure that your teenager works harder and longer than anyone else on that team. This takes some trust in your connection, but the result will leave your child open to hard work when they get home at the very least!

Why bother?

As the developing and developed world come closer together, it’s important for young people to understand that life can be whatever they want it to. The Western world is still a place of possibility where hard work smartly applied can make for huge results. The possibilities are endless, but many of them depend on the choices we make.

By experiencing the sweet and sour summer, you can help your child see the wide range of possibilities that exist in this big and beautiful world.

Physics and our universe: 10 things you didn’t know about Stephen Hawking

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Physic and our universe make for a fascinating discussion. Stephen Hawking made an incredible impact on the world for his ability to understand the universe in complex ways. Here are some of his greatest ideas about aliens and black holes, plus a little about his background.

Hawking believed in aliens

Hawking believes in a low probability of finding intelligent alien life in the next 20 years. With a huge universe, Hawking thinks it’s very likely  intelligent alien life exists somewhere. However, the cosmologist also thinks humans should be careful about contacting them. Such life forms would likely try to destroy us or at least use earth for resources. In 2010, Hawking publicly stated

if aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.

Even so, Hawking supported Breakthrough listen, a research program dedicated to finding alien life but not contacting it.

Hawking was a pop-culture icon

An increasing number of scientists today are developing public personas of their own, but none has made an impact like Stephen Hawking. For years, he’s made public appearances and guest starred on popular TV shows like The Simpsons, Futurama, The Big Bang Theory, and Star Trek. These cameos often showcase his staggering intelligence and trademark dry humor alongside some light good-natured self deprecation. As a result, he’s become a household name for people of all ages. References to the scientist can also be found in a number of songs, comics, video games, and movies. This proves he really influences every part of pop culture.

Hawking was a betting man

Stephen Hawking loves making science bets, but his track record does not impress. He once bet that the existence of the Higgs boson would never be proven. However, scientists found the Higgs boson at CERN in 2012 thanks to the Large Hadron Collider.

Before that, Hawking teamed up with fellow theoretical physicist Kip Thorne in a bet against John Prescott about the black hole information paradox. Hawking and Thorne believed the information that falls into black holes get destroyed, but Prescott said no. The public found out about the original bet in 1997. But it wasn’t until 2004 that Hawking officially admitted his opinion on the matter had evolved.

Hawking was a mediocre student

Like many of our greatest thinkers, school was initially not a great time for Stephen Hawking. Hawking earned average grades at best. In 2010, professor Hawking admitted that he was a lazy student from grade school all the way to his time at Oxford. He didn’t really learn how to read until he was 8:

I wasn’t the best student at all. My handwriting was bad and I could be lazy.

Even so, his schoolmates saw his potential for greatness and nicknamed him Einstein. Fortunately, one math teacher inspired him in both math and science. Mr. Tata opened his eyes to a blueprint of the universe itself. Once he was diagnosed with ALS, Hawking really began to consider his own mortality. He focused on his work to make something of himself in the time he had left.

Hawking was a great rower

While at Oxford, the young Stephen Hawking felt bored with classes and needing social interaction. To try something new, he joined the school’s boat club. Before his illness, he was one of the most important members of his crew. With his strong voice and slight build, the role fit him perfectly.

Hawking actually proved to be a bit reckless, steering his crew through narrow spaces and often damaging the boats as a result. One of his crewmates even labeled him the adventurous type. His dedication made him very popular with his crew and soon his social life was booming with parties and friendly practical joking.

Hawking was British

The casting of British actor Eddie Redmayne as Hawking for the 2014 film The Theory of Everything may have surprised some people. After all, the computerized voice we know and love has an accent that’s decidedly not British.

Today, the digitized voice has become his trademark. However, Stephen Hawking really was born and raised in England. In 1985, he underwent a life-saving tracheotomy after contracting pneumonia. Unfortunately, the operation robbed him of his ability to speak. He began using a specialized computer program to communicate. Hawking spoke with an American accent using his now computerized voice. He also underwent many upgrades to his method of communication after 1985, but he copyrighted his voice and kept it as part of his identity.

Hawking was a prolific writer

Even though he can’t physically write or speak, his old speech system worked well. Hawking wrote five books with it including A Brief History of Time which topped the Sunday Times bestseller list for over five years, longer than any other book besides the Bible and Shakespeare works.

Though he was already famous within the scientific community, Stephen Hawking truly came to the public’s attention in 1988 with the release of A Brief History of Time. He had wanted to write a science book that would actually connect with readers, and he succeeded by covering everything from black holes to quantum theory. It became a best-seller, spending almost 150 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and selling over 10 million copies.

However, Hawking’s more impressive feat came in completing this comprehensive work even with nearly full paralysis and an inability to speak. Hawking authored many other books afterwards as well including George’s secret key to the universe, a science book for children.

Hawking’s speech synthesizer was state-of-the-art

Stephen Hawking synthesized voice is instantly recognizable to anyone who hears it. Despite his medical issues, his amazing speech generating device allows him to communicate. The first model worked entirely via a clicker clutched in his hand. This led him to select words and commands on a device attached to his wheelchair. However, ALS paralyzed Hawking’s body. He lost the use of his clicking hand. This resulted in an update that allowed him to choose words by moving his cheek muscle. As his condition got worse, a team at Intel added more updates. This made it possible for Hawking to more quickly open documents, construct sentences, and prepare full lectures.

Hawking never won a Nobel Prize

Stephen Hawking was a genius and his theories advanced our understanding of the universe. But his trophy case is missing one of the highest honors in science. Hawking earned other great distinctions by becoming a fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. He also received twelve honorary degrees over the years. However, his known work is the theory that predicts that black holes emit radiation that gradually evaporates.

Because Nobel Prizes are reserved for confirmed discoveries and Hawking radiation is still technically theoretical, no award has yet been granted.

Hawking inspired the world for decades after his diagnosis

After noticing some newfound clumsiness and slurred speech, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS in 1963. The doctors told the ambitious 21 year-old that he only had two years to live. Shortly before this bad news, he had met a pretty girl at a party. Despite his diagnosis he and Jane Wilde began dating and were soon engaged, which Hawking credits with giving him something to live for. Against all odds, Hawking continued to try to live normally for as long as possible.

ALS did eventually take its toll, but not his life. Thanks to groundbreaking technology and the help of family and friends over 50 years later he defied the odds.

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Tutor from home: A guide with industry suggestions

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by Jacob Hallman

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot how to tutor from home and actually provide a learning service that students will love. I also spent some time reading two classic marketing books: Persuasion by Robert Cialdini and Contagious by Jonah Berger.

This post shares the knowledge of these two authors and more, filtered through everything I know about tutoring online.

4 Questions For You To Ask When Searching For Tutoring Platforms To Tutor From Home

  1. What is their specialty and does that align with yours? There is so much competition in this industry that very few companies actually try and tutor every single subject.
  2. How much do they charge in fees or pay you hourly? There is no industry standard here, and the rates can change over time. Good tutors are like gold to companies, so negotiate after a few weeks esp. if you’re in a rare subject and paid hourly.
  3. How much traffic do they actually get? If they have good BBB ratings, Glassdoor reviews, and high DA scores, it will be competitive to secure work there. If they have a smaller online impression, it will be easier to establish an account.
  4. Can you find work yourself? If you want to go FT and live in a developed country, it would be better in the long run to find your own clients if you can afford to earn little to nothing at the outset. For everyone else, tutoring platforms are best.

This link will help answer some of these questions above: https://www.reddit.com/r/tutor/comments/abcsh5/comprehensive_tutor_company_list/

9 Marketing Tips That Set Your Online Tutor From Home Service Apart

  1. Sell a high quality sandwich at a steakhouse. You can do this be seeing what other tutors in your subject are offering, then do that even better and do it with some creativity. Ex: Your sandwich has Kobe beef and lobster tale on buttered Brioche, but your competitor offers high-quality steak.
  2. Promote your service offline at public libraries, friends, and schools and always follow the 80-20 rule when in conversation. If more than 20% of talk time is about what you offer, it’s too much.
  3. Make your selling point crystal clear. If an 8-year-old couldn’t see the benefit of working with you and feel excited about that, then it’s too complicated.
  4. Decide what kind of influencer you are with this short quiz: https://platformuniversity.com/quiz/ (I’m not affiliated with this site) PRO TIP: To avoid spam, use reddit@mailinator.com for the email address prompt at the end. Then double down on this influencer personality by positioning yourself as such to your students.
  5. Advanced bid offer. Find a big project, and make a bid that is exaggerated but not so ridiculous as to be unacceptable. Then follow up with a message that says even though you have many ratings (if you do), you are currently not too busy. Then mention either a better price or faster delivery than you initially offered. Just make sure you can deliver on your promises!
  6. When negotiating fees, remember there is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay. However, there is also an obligation to make a concession to someone who has made a concession to us. Make it your goal to end the transaction with the student feeling good to facilitate ease of future cooperation together.
  7. Use humor with a bait and switch technique: You flunked out of college after you accidentally blew up the lab, but not before you had an affair with the professor running the lab and the dean found out. You tried to transfer credits to a community college to save the degree, but then the school closed due to financial difficulty. Actually, there is no blown up lab, no affair, and no community college. But you are a hell of a student accounting tutor for the past 3 years with a 3.0GPA.
  8. Turn the student from a customer into a collaborator by asking good questions about the project. Make requests for context, syllabi, reading materials. This shows you want to understand their need clearly. Here’s a link for how to optimize this approach: https://blog.studygate.com/index.php/2018/03/07/market-yourself-to-students/
  9. Humans are phenomenal suckers for flattery. Find ways to compliment your student and their ability to learn.

And above all, remember the golden rule of online tutoring: there is no convenience a student will not resort to to avoid the real labor of thinking.

How tutors use Uber for learning to make $1,000+ monthly working online

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by Jacob Hallman

After running tutoring sites for the last 5 years, I have seen tutors make anywhere from $50-$50,000 annually using Uber for learning platforms. Most tutors I have seen make well under $5,000 annually however. Of course, there are definitely other ways to make money online and I realize these numbers won’t pay the rent, but online tutoring is an awesome job if you like to learn (yes, tutoring is a great way to teach yourself) and convenience matters a lot to you.

By the end of this post, you should have a game plan for earning more cash tutoring online.

Platforms: benefits and drawbacks

I have seen some Redditors knock tutoring platforms as leeches, but the reality is more nuanced. If you have great people skills and know how to market yourself, yes, you should be able to find work on your own. The advantage of finding a tutor platform, however, is credibility boost. If you are an XYZ tutor, that means you stand for quality. Students trust XYZ, so they can easily trust you too.

The biggest truth that most people miss about tutoring online is that they focus on the commission rate as the sole indicator of the platform value. Tutors should measure the ability of a platform to drive traffic to their account. If traffic volume is high, tutors can afford to distinguish themselves and charge higher prices through the value provided by the site brand.

International college students and the parents of HS students are willing to pay more for good help, and the lowest price doesn’t always win as society continues to place a higher value on education.

For the best platform: Measure customer acquisition time

When considering tutoring platforms as an earnings resource, measure how much time you actually spend looking for work before you get it, online or otherwise. For example, Uber won’t pay a driver until the ride begins no matter how far they are away from the passenger, but this is still time spent for the driver. This global calculation can help you measure total hours of work. How much time would you otherwise spend looking for work on your own?

A nice perk many platforms offer is to charge you a lower rate when you accumulate successful transactions and reviews. A notable exception to this is Wyzant, which is shifting in 2019 to a flat 25% rate for all tutors. This is remarkable because they are the only company offering a flat commission rate regardless of site experience and they are actually raising rates for their most experienced tutors. Still, this and other online commission rates are well under the 60%-70% rate many brick-and-mortar tutor companies take.

In general, I think that office hours are generally too intimidating for college students and that learning should be more efficient. This makes education Uber-for-learning system where tutors offer blazingly fast support and students can pay as they go. This is the future of learning as more teachers realize their students can already google everything anyway.

Online tutoring: The 4 best strategies

Even if you tutor exclusively through Reddit, the most successful tutors I have met do the following things:

  1. They clearly define a specific skill set. This makes it easy for students to know what is offered. For example: Complete solution to programming, maths, statistics and science problems at one location is delivered here!!
  2. They brag about themselves in a way that is constructive. You don’t have to be a rock star, but you should be specific. For example: I am a mechanical engineer currently working for a Fortune 500 chemical manufacturing company. I volunteer with local middle and high schools as a STEM mentor and tutor. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a GPA of 3.96 while majoring in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Business Administration.
  3. They care about their profile picture if they have one. It communicates friendliness and confidence, but it isn’t snobby. Great tutors come across as teammates.
  4. They message in a way that is casual and helpful when asking followup questions. Less important than the grammar is the enthusiasm, especially since standards of writing online are changing so rapidly. Messaging a student is actually a lot like using Reddit. Don’t message 5 times if the other person isn’t responding. Don’t write in caps unless you are yelling. Be helpful and engaging.

TL;DR

In the world of tutoring, care, speed, and competence = $$$ Just read the last 4 points only.

Change How You Learn With Genetic Engineering CRISPR

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Imagine you were alive back in the 1980s. You were told that computers would soon take over everything. Shopping, dating, the stock market, everything would be connected via a kind of web. You would also own a handheld device orders of magnitudes more powerful than supercomputers.

It would seem absurd. Right?

Instead, science fiction became our reality.

We’re at a similar point today with genetic engineering.

A very short and incomplete history of genetic modification

Humans have been engineering life for thousands of years, but a recent breakthrough will change how we live and alter what we perceive as normal forever.

James Watson and Francis Crick defined the structure of DNA in 1953. This code of life, Deoxyribonucleic Acid defines our very existence. This is a complex molecule that guides the growth, development, function, and reproduction of everything alive.

Information is encoded in the structure of the molecule. Four nucleotides are paired and make up a code that carries instructions. Change the instructions and you change the being carrying those instructions. As soon as DNA was discovered, people tried to tinker with it.

The past 50 years

In the 1960s, scientist bombarded plants with radiation to cause random mutations in the genetic code. The idea was to get a useful plant variation by pure chance. Sometimes it actually worked too.

In the 1970s, scientists inserted DNA snippets into bacteria, plants, and animals to study and modify them for research, medicine, and agriculture. The earliest genetically modified mouse was born in 1974, making this animal a standard tool for research and saving millions of lives.

In the 1980s, we got commercial. During this time, the first patent was given for a microbe engineered to absorb oil. Today we produce many chemicals by means of engineered life, like life-saving clotting agents, growth hormones, and insulin. Before, we had to harvest these products from the organs of animals.

The genetically modified food went on sale in 1994: the Flavr Savr tomato. It was a tomato with a much longer shelf life thanks to an extra gene that suppresses the build-up of a rotting enzyme. The 1990s also had a brief foray into human engineering. To treat maternal infertility, babies were made that carried genetic information from 3 humans. This made them the first humans ever to have 3 genetic parents.

Fast forward to today and you will find super-muscled pigs, fast-growing salmon, featherless chicken, and see-through frogs. On the fun side, we made things glow in the dark. Fluorescent zebrafish are available for as little as ten dollars. All of this is already very impressive, but until recently gene editing was extremely expensive, complicated, and took a long time to do.

The game changer

This has now changed with a revolutionary new technology now entering the stage—CRISPR. Overnight, the costs of engineering have shrunk by 99%! Instead of a year, it takes a few weeks to conduct experiments, and basically everybody with a lab can do it. It’s hard to get across how big a technical revolution CRISPR is. It literally has the potential to change humanity forever.

But why did this sudden revolution happen and how does it work?

The oldest war on earth

Bacteria and viruses have been fighting since the dawn of life. So-called bacteriophages or phages hunt bacteria. In the ocean, phages kill 40 % of bacteria every single day. Phages do this by inserting their own genetic code into the bacteria and taking them over to use them as factories. The bacteria try to resist but fail most the time because their protection tools are too weak.

However, bacteria sometimes survive an attack. Only if they do so can they activate their most effective antivirus system: they save a part of the virus DNA in their own genetic code in a DNA archive called CRISPR. Here it’s stored safely until it’s needed.

CAS9 is the game changer

When the virus attacks again, the bacterium quickly makes an RNA copy from the DNA archive and arms a secret weapon—a protein called CAS9. The protein now scans the bacterium’s insides for signs of the virus invader by comparing every bit of DNA it finds to the sample from the archive. When it finds a 100-percent perfect match, it’s activated and cuts out the virus DNA, making it useless. This protects the bacterium against the attack.

What’s special is that CAS9 is very precise, almost like a DNA surgeon. The revolution began when scientists figured out that the CRISPR system is programmable. You can just give it a copy of DNA you want to modify and put the system into a living cell. If the old techniques of genetic manipulation were like a map, CRISPR is like a GPS system. Aside from being precise, cheap, and easy, CRISPR offers the ability to edit live cells, to switch genes on and off, and target and study particular DNA sequences.

It also works for every type of cell: microorganisms, plants, animals, or humans. But despite the revolution CRISPR is for science, it’s still just a first generation tool. More precise tools are already being created and used as we speak.

The end of disease?

In 2015, scientists use CRISPR to cut the HIV virus out of living cells from patients in the lab, proving that it was possible. Only about a year later, they carried out a larger scale project with rats that had the HIV virus in basically all of their body cells. By simply injecting CRISPR into the rats tails, they were able to remove more than 50 % of the virus from cells all over the body. In a few decades, a CRISPR therapy might cure HIV and other retroviruses. Viruses that hide inside human DNA like Herpes could be eradicated this way.

CRISPR could also defeat one of our worst enemies—cancer. Cancer occurs when cells refuse to die and keep multiplying while concealing themselves from the immune system. CRISPR gives us the means to edit your immune cells and make them better cancer hunters. Getting rid of cancer might eventually mean getting just a couple of injections of a few thousand of your own cells that have been engineered in the lab to heal you for good.

The first clinical trial for a CRISPR cancer treatment on human patients was approved in early 2016 in the US. Not even a month later, Chinese scientists announced that they would treat lung cancer patients with immune cells modified with CRISPR in August 2016. Things are picking up pace quickly.

And then there are genetic diseases

There are thousands of them and they range from mildly annoying to deadly to entailing decades of suffering. With a powerful tool like CRISPR, we may be able to end this. Over 3,000 genetic diseases are caused by a single incorrect letter in your DNA. We are already building a modified version of CAS9 that is made to change just a single letter, fixing the disease in the cell. In a decade or two, we could possibly cure thousands of diseases forever. But all of these medical applications have one thing in common: they are limited to the individual and die with them, except if you use them on reproductive cells or very early embryos.

But CRISPR can and probably will be used for much more: the creation of modified humans—designer babies—and will mean gradual, but irreversible changes to the human gene pool.

Form follows instruction: Designer babies

The means to edit the genome of a human embryo already exists. The technology is still in its early stages, but it has already been attempted twice. In 2015 and 2016, Chinese scientists experimented with human embryos and were partially successful on their second attempt.

They showed the enormous challenges we still face in gene editing embryos, but also that scientists are working on solving them. This is like the computer in the 1970s. There will be better computers.

Regardless of your personal take on genetic engineering, it will affect you. Modified humans could alter the genome of our entire species, because their engineered traits will be passed on to their children and could spread over generations, slowly modifying the whole gene pool of humanity.

The revolution will start slowly

The first designer babies will not be overly designed. It’s most likely that they will be created to eliminate a deadly genetic disease running in a family. As the technology progresses and gets more refined, more and more people may argue that not using genetic modification is unethical, because it condemns children to preventable suffering and death and denies them the cure.

But as soon as the first engineered kid is born, a door is opened that can’t be closed anymore. Early on, vanity traits will mostly be left alone. But as genetic modification becomes more accepted and our knowledge of our genetic code enhances, the temptation will grow. If you make your offspring immune to Alzheimer, why not also give them an enhanced metabolism? Why not throw in perfect eyesight? How about height or muscular structure? Full hair? How about giving your child the gift of extraordinary intelligence? Huge changes are made as a result of the personal decisions of millions of individuals that accumulate.

This is a slippery slope—Modified humans could become the new standard

But as engineering becomes more normal and our knowledge improves, we could solve the single biggest mortality risk factor: aging. Two-thirds of the 150,000 people who died today will die of age-related causes. Currently we think aging is caused by the accumulation of damage to our cells, like DNA breaks and the systems responsible for fixing those wearing off over time. But there are also genes that directly affect aging. A combination of genetic engineering and other therapy could stop or slow down aging, maybe even reverse it.

We know from nature that there are animals immune to aging such as lobster. Maybe we could even borrow a few genes for ourselves. Some scientists even think biological aging could be something that eventually just stops being a thing.

We would still die at some point, but instead of doing so in hospitals at age 90, we might be able to spend a few thousand years with our loved ones. Research into this is in its infancy, and many scientists are rightly skeptical about the end of aging.

Dream big!

The challenges are enormous and maybe it is unachievable, but it is conceivable the people alive today might be the first to profit from effective anti-aging therapy. All we might need is for someone to convince a smart billionaire to make it their next problem to solve. On a bigger scale, we certainly could solve many problems by having a modified population. Engineered humans might be better equipped to cope with high-energy food, eliminating many diseases of civilization like obesity. In possession of a modified immune system, with a library of potential threats, we might become immune to most diseases that haunt us today.

Even further into the future, we could engineer humans to be equipped for extended space travel and to cope with different conditions on another planets, which would be extremely helpful in keeping us alive in our hostile universe.

Nothing wrong with progress, But.. a few grains of salt

Still, a few major challenges await us: some technological, some ethical. Many of you watching will feel uncomfortable and fear that we will create a world in which we will reject non-perfect humans and pre-select features and qualities based on our idea of what’s healthy.

We are already living in a genetically modified world

Tests for dozens of genetic diseases or complications have become standard for pregnant women in much of the world. Often the mere suspicion of a genetic defect can lead to the end of a pregnancy. Take Down syndrome for example, one of the most common genetic defects. In Europe, about 92 % of all pregnancies where it’s detected are terminated.

The decision to terminate pregnancy is incredibly personal, but it’s important to acknowledge the reality that we are pre-selecting humans based on medical conditions. There is also no use in pretending this will change, so we have to act carefully and respectfully as we advance the technology and can make more and more selections.

Powerful and imperfect solutions

But none of this will happen soon. As powerful as CRISPR is—and it is, it’s not infallible yet. Wrong edits still happen as well as unknown errors that can occur anywhere in the DNA and might go unnoticed. The gene edit might achieve the desired result—disabling a disease, but also might accidentally trigger unwanted changes.

We just don’t know enough yet about the complex interplay of our genes to avoid unpredictable consequences. Working on accuracy and monitoring methods is a major concern as the first human trials begin.

And since we’ve discussed a possible positive future, there are darker visions too. Imagine what a state like North Korea could do if they embraced genetic engineering. Could a state cement its rule forever by forcing gene editing on their subjects? What would stop a totalitarian regime from engineering an army of modified super soldiers? It is doable in theory. Scenarios like this one are far, far off into the future, if they ever become possible at all. But the basic proof of concept for genetic engineering like this already exists today.

The technology really is that powerful

While this might be a tempting reason to ban genetic editing and related research, that would certainly be a mistake. Banning human genetic engineering would only lead to the science wandering off to a place with jurisdiction and rules that we are uncomfortable with. Only by participating can we make sure that further research is guided by caution, reason, oversight, and transparency.

Let’s wrap this up: Conclusion

Do you feel uncomfortable now? Genetically speaking, most of us have something wrong with us. In the future that lies ahead, would we have been allowed to exist? The technology is certainly a bit scary, but we have a lot to gain. Genetic engineering might just be a step in the natural evolution of intelligent species in the universe. We might end disease. We could extend our life expectancy by centuries and travel to the stars. There’s no need to think small when it comes to this topic. Whatever your opinion on genetic engineering, the future is approaching no matter what. What has been insane science fiction is about to become our new reality, a reality full of opportunities and challenges.

Original content by Kurzgesagt – In A Nutshell

Study Tips: Human thinking explained

human thinking explained

It isn’t easy to have human thinking explained. For most of us, thinking is at least somewhat unpleasant. We try to avoid it, where possible.

The reality is that we all have blind spots in our thinking due to the fundamental way that our brains work. One way of modeling how the brain operates is as though there are two systems at work.

Drew and Hazelyn

Psychologists call them system one and system two, but maybe it’s useful to think of them as characters. So let’s call system one Hazelyn and system two Drew.

Drew represents your conscious thought, the voice in your head. This is the voice that says, “I am who you think you are.” He’s the one capable of following instructions. Drew can execute a series of steps too. But Drew is lazy. It takes effort to get Drew to do anything, and he is slow. But he’s also the careful one, capable of catching and fixing mistakes.

Now meet system one, Hazelyn. She is incredibly quick, which she needs to be since she’s constantly processing lots of information coming through your senses. Hazelyn picks out the relevant bits and discards the rest, which is most of it. She also works automatically without Drew being consciously aware of it.

The way I like to think of these characters is related to one of your main memory structures. Hazelyn’s automatic responses are made possible by long-term memory. This is the library of experiences you’ve built up over your lifetime.

In contrast, Drew exists entirely within working memory so he’s only capable of holding four or five novel things in mind at a time. This is perhaps one of the best-known findings from psychology. Our capacity to hold and manipulate novel information is incredibly limited like when trying to remember a string of random numbers.

But we are able to overcome these limitations if the information is familiar to us.

How to test Drew

Let me give you four random digits “8102″. Now these would normally take up most of your working memory capacity just to remember. But if you reverse them, 2018, they are now just the present year.

The process of grouping things together according to your prior knowledge is called chunking. You can actually hold four or five chunks in working memory at once. So the larger the chunks the more information you can actively manipulate at one time.

Learning is then the process of building bigger chunks by storing and further connecting information in long-term memory. This is essentially passing off tasks from Drew to Hazelyn. In order for this to happen, Drew first has to engage with the information actively, often multiple times.

For example, when you were first learning to tie your shoelaces, you probably recited a rhyme to help you remember what to do next. You used up all your working memory in the process. But after doing it over and over and over again, it gradually became automatic. Drew doesn’t have to think about it anymore because Hazelyn gets it.

Musicians and sports stars refer to this as muscle memory. Of course, the memory is not the muscles. It’s still in the brain, just controlled by Hazelyn. Slow and deliberate conscious practice repeated often enough leads to automatic processes.

99% of the time what appears to be superhuman ability comes down to the incredible automation skills of Hazelyn and developed through the painstaking deliberate practice of Drew. What’s interesting is that it’s actually possible to see how hard Drew is working just by looking at someone.

Here’s an exercise

I’m going to show you four digits, I want you to read them out loud and then after two seconds, I want you to say each number, but adding one to each digit.

So, as an example, 7 2 9 1 should be… 8 3 0 2. This is called the Add One task and it forces Drew to hold these digits and memory while making manipulations to them.

Now it’s important to say the numbers at the end of two seconds, but this time try to add three. Ready? Here’s another one:

4739

 

 

 

 

What you’re unaware of is that as you’re completing this task, your pupils are dilating. When Drew is hard at work as he is in this task, you have a physical response. This includes increased heart rate, sweat production, and pupil dilation.

When this research was originally carried out, the researchers made a surprising observation. When the participants were not engaged with the tasks and were just chatting with the experimenters, their pupils didn’t really dilate at all. This indicates that the Add One and Add Three tasks are particularly strenuous for system two. Most of our day-to-day life is a stroll for Drew with most tasks are handled automatically by Hazelyn. We spend a lot of our lives lounging around. Our brains also spend most of their time doing the mental equivalent.

And I don’t mean to make that sound like a bad thing! This is how our brains evolved to make the best use of resources. For repetitive tasks, we developed automatic ways of doing things, reserving Drew’s limited capacity for things that really need our attention. In some circumstances, there can be mix-ups of course.

For example, if you spend any amount of time in Australia, one of the first things you will need to relearn is to turn the lights on by flicking the switch down. If you grew up in North America, Drew, “knows” that “down” was “off” in Australia. Oops!

Drew endorses the idea of flipping the switch down to turn off without being consciously aware that the answer came from Hazelyn. He goes forward without checking it. After all, the direction sounds reasonable and Drew is lazy.

So how do you get Drew to do more work?

Researchers have found at least one way. When they gave out a clearly printed test including the “Bat and Ball”question to incoming college students, 85% got at least one wrong. When they printed the test in a hard-to-read font with poor contrast, the error rate dropped to thirty-five percent. The harder to read test resulted in more correct answers. The explanation for this is simple. Since Hazelyn can’t quickly jump to an answer, he hands off the task to Drew who then invests the required mental effort to reason his way to the correct answer.

When something is confusing, Drew works harder. When Drew works harder, you’re more likely to reach the right answer and remember the experience.

This is something the advertising industry can use to its advantage.

Here’s a billboard with no clear meaning:

human thinking explained studygate

There is no logo and no indication of what it is for. This seems to go against all the basic principles of advertising. The viewer should see what the product does, how it’s better than the competition, and observe clear branding. The goal is usually to make the message as easy to understand as possible so Drew doesn’t have to work very hard.

But if you look at a lot of effective advertising today, it’s changed to be more confusing. There really is an “Un” advertisement campaign in Sydney, Australia, and they are everywhere. With “Un” there is no stress, just unstress. No hassle, just unhastle. With “Un” you can undo what you did, you can undrive through the car wash with the window down or unbreak dance in front of your teenage son. And his friends. “Un” makes life relaxing and unreal. “Un” your life. Be happy and live for now. Don’t worry. Unworry.

Can you guess what the ads were for?

They’re actually for insurance.

Now that advertising is everywhere, Hazelyn is skilled at filtering it out. If I see another insurance ad, I never would give it a second thought. But if something doesn’t make sense, my mind refers it to Drew.

This same realization has been happening in education. Lectures which have long been the dominant teaching method are now on the decline.

Like the old form of advertising, they’re too easy to tune out and often, especially in science lectures, too many new pieces of information are presented. That exceeds Drew’s capacity because he doesn’t have big enough chunks to break the material into.

In place of lectures, universities are introducing workshops, peer instruction, and formats where students are forced to answer more questions, and do more work than just listen and take notes.

This will undoubtedly make Drew work harder, which is good because that’s how learning happens, but a lot of students don’t like it because it requires more effort. Just as it’s hard to motivate someone to get off the couch and exercise, it’s hard to get Drew to give his full effort. There’s an appeal to doing things you already know.

That’s why we need Hazelyn to push Drew and do something new.

Original content by Veritasium

How long will you live?

How long will you live? 10,000 years ago, the average human life lasted just over 30 years, and then a hundred years ago that number was up to 50. If you were born in the last few decades in the developed world, then your life expectancy is 80 years. But that is of course assuming that no major breakthroughs happen during your lifetime that can slow the process of aging.

That may be a very bad assumption.

According to Dr. Fiona Ginty, aging is not always recognized as a disease. There are plenty of diseases we do acknowledge like diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. At their core, aging may be responsible for all of them.

And yet aging seems natural because it’s something that we do from birth and for a while it makes us better. Bigger, stronger, faster, more intelligent. But then at some point in your life it reverses and aging makes our bodies decay and degrade.

Why do we have to age?

Scientists are now realizing there is a fundamental cellular mechanism at the heart of aging. Do we age at the macroscopic level because our cells are aging at the microscopic level? To a great extent, yes. There’s only a finite number of times a cell will divide.

The key discovery was made by a biologist named Hayflick. He was studying normal human cells. He found that they can only divide a finite number of times, usually about 50. Beyond that, the cell becomes senescent, which means it’s an aged cell. It can divide no longer. It lives for a little while but it’s the accumulation of these senescent cells in our bodies that leads to aging on the macroscopic scale.

So it’s as though cells have this little timer inside them that tells them when to stop dividing. But how do they know, and what is that timer?

Telomeres

According to Dr. Ginty, “telomeres are like how your shoelaces have a little bit of plastic at the end to stop them from fraying.” So when your telomeres wear out, the chromosomes stop multiplying. When they work, they keep the chromosome together and stop them from sticking to other chromosomes. Dr. Ginty explains that every time a cell divides, it loses about 200 base pairs of telomere due to the mechanics of the action. “There’s only so much space when DNA polymerase does its job of replicating when it’s copying.”

So the telomere getting shorter is like your molecular clock. The cellular clock inside each cell that tells it how many times it has divided. Would you want to have your telomeres measured?

Well, we can at least lengthen our telomeres!

There have been associations made with lifestyle and exercise showing that longer telomeres are associated with a more active lifestyle.

If we could stop the telomeres from shortening, maybe the cells would live forever. There’s another enzyme involved called telomerase, and it keeps rebuilding.

Telomase

Telomase rebuilds the telomere, and there is one animal that doesn’t seem to age—the lobster. It just gets bigger over time. It doesn’t get weaker and its chromosomes don’t change. It has long telomeres that do not shorten, so it only dies when it gets eaten by something else like a human. So how can we be more like a lobster?

how long will you live? studygate

Well, that answer is a little complicated.

Unfortunately, cancer is a perfect example of telomerase being hyperactive. In the end, it becomes an unregulated growth situation. —This is the double-edged sword of telomeres and telomerase. Cancer cells have really long telomeres, and they can divide indefinitely, and that is the problem with cancer. Cancer is dividing cells that won’t stop and they won’t die. So, in a way, cancer is the immortal cell living within us.

So maybe we have telomeres that shorten for a very good reason; otherwise they could become cancerous. One of the theories there is that the cells divide that limited number of times because it stops them from accumulating damage that may be detrimental. Telomeres might stop cells from becoming cancerous.

Over the past hundred years, developments in medicine have increased human lifespan more than we could have imagined, and I can only expect that the next hundred years will bring similarly incredible results. I’m not sure where or how they will take place, but you can bet that your life expectancy today will not be the actual age at which you die.

Original content by Veritasium

Is Our Food Becoming Less Nutritious?

food becoming less nutritious studygate

Is our food becoming less nutritious? Many people claim that the nutrient content in our food has been decreasing over the decades. But is this really true, and should we be worried?

A study published in 2004 looked at 43 different common garden crops. It examines how their nutritional value had changed between 1950 and 1999. What they found was that on average, the protein content of those plants decreased by about 6%, Vitamin C decreased 15%, and vitamin B2 by a whopping 38 percent. They also noticed declines in minerals like iron and calcium. Now, there is some debate around the numbers because. How well could we really have measured those nutrients back in 1950? But there is still concern that the food we’re eating today might be less nutritious than the same vegetables 50 years ago. Several other recent studies also suggest a pattern is emerging.

So if we’re witnessing a nutrient collapse, what’s causing it?

One factor that many people point to is depletion of the soils. Given plants to draw their nutrients up from the soil, intense farming practices were thought to be the cause of nutrient depletion. If you look at micronutrients, there are decreasing levels in plants. But, farmers have always (besides the Dust Bowl of the 1930s) put a lot of effort into maintaining their soils. They used fertilizers to ensure that the plants have all the nutrients they need. This makes makes the soil depletion argument less convincing. We’re still getting big plants. They wouldn’t grow that well if they didn’t have the nutrients they need in the soil.

So why else might nutrients be declining?

Another possibility is that it’s selective breeding. If you look at crops like corn today, they’re barely recognizable when you compare them to the wild corn from which these were bred. Since the advent of agriculture, we have been breeding our food crops. The result has been higher yields, resistance to pests, and adaptation to changes in the climate. We’ve been successful. Crops are now bigger and grow faster than ever before. But are they more nutritious? Maybe we’ve accidentally been breeding the nutrition out of our foods in pursuit of other objectives. It’s tough to really assess how big of a factor selective breeding is. We can’t easily compare this produce to the same produce a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago.

So we need something else to be able to determine whether it’s selective breeding causing this decrease or something else. What would be really helpful would be a plant that has never been selectively bred. Where would you find one like that?

Well, this is where weeds come in handy. In North America, there is a wild flower called goldenrod. It’s an important source of protein for bees, but not humans. So it has remained wild and untouched by selective breeding, but how would you know what goldenrod was like 100 or 200 years ago?

Fortunately, the Smithsonian Institute has been keeping hundreds of samples of goldenrod dating all the way back to 1842. Using these samples and samples they collected in 2014, scientists were able to compare modern goldenrod with goldenrod from over a hundred years ago. The results were astounding. They found that there was a 30% decrease in the amount of protein in the goldenrod pollen over that period.

If it’s not selective breeding, what else has contributed to goldenrod becoming less nutritious over the last 150 years or so?

One rather surprising idea was that carbon dioxide could play a vital role. CO2 basically increases the growth of all plants. Over the last couple of centuries, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased a lot. It has gone from about 280 parts per million to over 400 parts per million today. Now, that might not sound like a lot, but if you’re thinking of it as plant food, we’re talking about an increase by almost 50%, and we can see the impact from space. It’s called the greening of the planet.

Scientists have been tracking the impact of CO2 on plants via experiments called FACE, which stands for Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment. Their experiments run by injecting more CO2 into the area where plant crops are grown, and they find that wheat, barley, rice and potatoes; they will grow faster if there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere.

But here’s the thing. They don’t necessarily become more nutritious, they simply put on more carbs. In other studies conducted in Japan and China, scientists pumped carbon dioxide into rice crops to simulate the kind of CO2 concentrations expected in 50 years time. On average, protein levels fell by 10 percent, iron by 8 percent, and zinc by 5 percent, But a lower concentration of nutrients doesn’t necessarily correlate with a decline in the plant’s nutrient contents. It’s called the dilution effect.

So what does all this mean for us?

By 2050 scientists estimate that up to a hundred and fifty million people in the developing world may be on the verge of protein deficiency, due to the decreasing levels of protein in their staple foods. So does that mean we should all be taking vitamins and supplements? Well, no. At least, not yet.

The nutrient declines are small enough that you should still be able to get everything you need from a well balanced diet, Including plenty of fruits and veggies. But, the increasing levels of CO2 and the dilution effect may be exacerbating the obesity epidemic. The thinking goes like this: We feel full, or satiated, when we’ve consumed a certain amount of protein. So if the protein levels are going down We may have to eat more food, more carbohydrates, and more fats to achieve the same level of protein. And that may make us fatter. While this is still a contentious theory, what is becoming increasingly clear is that the changing atmosphere, specifically the rising level of CO2, is changing the food we eat.

Content courtesy of Veritasium

The Scientific Benefits of Boredom

scientific benefits of boredom studygate

The scientific benefits of boredom might not be obvious. But they are very real. In a recent study participants were placed in a room for between 6 and 15 minutes. They were given nothing except a button that they knew would shock them if they pressed it. They were asked to entertain themselves with their thoughts, but they could self administer the shock if they so chose. So what happened? Well, 25% of women and 67% of men shocked themselves. This is despite the fact that they had previously told the experimenters that they would pay money to avoid the shock.

Apparently they’d rather experience physical pain than just be bored; to have nothing to keep them occupied but their thoughts.the scientific benefits of boredom studygate

But they are not alone. Around 95% of American adults report participating in some leisure activities over the past 24 hours. But only 17% say they spent any time at all just relaxing and thinking, because that apparently is boring, and being bored is unpleasant.

What is boredom?

Well contrary to popular belief, it’s not when you have absolutely nothing to do. It’s just when none of the options you have available appeal to you.

Boredom is characterized by a lack of concentration, restlessness, but also feeling lethargic. It’s really a state of being underwhelmed. And there are now more ways than ever to avoid boredom. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, not to mention my smartphone I have waiting in line, sitting in a coffee shop, stopped at a traffic light.

Many people reach for their phones to stave off boredom, and nowhere is sacred. Do you ever just let yourself be bored?

But are we losing anything by avoiding boredom? Well, scientific research says yes, and what we’re losing is important. When you’re bored your mind wanders. That’s only natural. The state of boredom is one where your attention is not focused on anything in particular.

Boredom studies show..

This mind wandering is useful for creativity. Researchers gave study participants the most boring process possible: reading the phone book. Then, they asked participants to be creative; generate as many ideas as they could for what you could do with a plastic cup. Those in the most boring read the phone book condition generated the most creative solutions compared to less bored controls.

A major reason many researchers suspect that we experience boredom is because it gives you an indicator of your current state. If you find yourself feeling bored, you know something about that situation isn’t working for you.

When you’re in class and you’re a bit bored do you ever just pull out your phone and have a look at stuff? Exactly.

So the paradox of boredom is that it makes you feel tired, sluggish and just disinterested. But it may actually spur you to action. It may get you to make changes that would be positive for your life.

In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences. Boredom is both a warning that we’re not doing what we want to be doing, and a push that motivates us to switch goals and projects.

Good things happened to those who are bored

Studies have also shown that boredom may make you more altruistic. Perhaps the acute sense of aimlessness you experience when you’re bored gets out of control, and makes you question what you’re doing with your life as a whole. But the silver lining is that it may trigger you to think about others and what you can do to help them. And that provides an immediate and concrete purpose to a life that might momentarily feel like it’s lacking one.

Studies designed to induce boredom have shown that more bored participants are more likely to donate to charity, or to give blood since they have free time on their hands. You know, just 2 hours or an hour and a half or so of boredom. So apparently the opportunity to do meaningful, even if unpleasant activities have more value if you’re bored than if you’re not.

the scientific benefits of boredom studygate

Similarly, this aimless state seems to cultivate thoughts about what you want to do with your life. To think of your life as a story and consider where you want it to go in the future. This is called autobiographical planning. When given tasks that only use a fraction of mental capacity, study participants frequently thought of the future and their plans for it. In this way being bored is essential for goal-setting. If your brain is always consumed with other stimuli, you’ll rarely ponder the bigger picture and set long-term goals for yourself and consider how to achieve them.

Does a phone get rid of your boredom? Yeah, actually, thinking about it, it does. So every time you’re waiting for something, you have a decision to make, which seems like a tiny one. Pull out your phone for a few seconds or minutes, or just be bored; experience only your thoughts.

But hey, boredom might not be a big deal! Right?

And if you don’t give it much thought the obvious action is to see what’s new on your app of choice. And in making that decision you are alleviating a moment of boredom. But you are also likely making yourself less creative, less altruistic, less likely to assess your current state and less likely to set goals for your future.

In short, you are the real world example of someone shocking themselves to avoid the unpleasantness of boredom. Except in your case, the pain goes much deeper to the very nature of who you are, and who you will become. So think carefully before pressing that button.

Turns out that being bored is apparently something our brains need to do.

Content courtesy of Veritasium

5 Reasons Why Finland Has The Best Education System

Why Finland has the best education studygate

There are many reasons why Finland has the best education system in the world, but here in the United States, we still love to brag about being number one.

Except when it comes to education. To learn about the state of education in the US, click here.

In education, the US regularly ranks around 37th in the world. Frankly, many of us are lucky we can spell USA well enough to chant it in sporting events!

But Finland consistently rates among the best in the world in education. The small Nordic country best known for giving the world Nokia phones, angry birds, and heavy metal music is actually a leader in world education.

Not only does Finland have the highest high school graduation rate in Europe but on International tests, Finnish students regularly rank near the top in reading, math and science.

And the Finns do this without overloading kids with endless hours of homework or turning school into mindless drudgery.

So why does Finland have the best educational system on earth (or maybe Singapore too)?

Here are the 5 reasons that set Finland apart:

Reason number 1: No child gets left behind

Finland provides all families, particularly low-income families, with a huge social safety net. The Finish government sends a baby box of supplies to every family with a newborn child. From then on, childcare is heavily subsidized. This allows most families to send their children to some form of early childhood education.

Finland’s public schools also concentrate on making sure that every student achieves basic proficiency in the subjects that they study. This is one of the reasons why the achievement gap that exists between the rich and poor is so low in Finland.

Reason number 2: They’re way more relaxed

Finnish children don’t even start school until they turn 7. Once they’re in school, they get almost triple the amount of recess time as American students. They’re rarely assigned homework until high school and they almost never take standardized tests. In fact, Finnish students are only required to take one standardized test and that’s not until the end of high school.

Reason number 3: Teachers are actually respected

Becoming a teacher isn’t easy in Finland. There are only 8 universities that offer the Master’s programs required to earn a teaching credential. Furthermore, only one in ten applicants get accepted to the programs, so it’s no surprise that teachers in Finland receive roughly the same level of respect as doctors and lawyers. Thanks to powerful unions, Finnish teachers only spent 4 hours a day in the classroom and take 2 hours a week for professional development. They also don’t have to deal with merit pay.

Reason number 4: Finns believe that less is more

When it comes to education, patience, hands-on learning, and focusing on problem-solving are more important than listening to lectures, mindless test preparations, and memorization of information that students will probably forget as soon as they leave the exam room. Finnish teachers don’t race through lessons to cram as much information as possible into student’s heads so that the students can then spit that information back out on a standardized test. Instead they give a priority to moving slowly and taking as much time as necessary to thoroughly investigate fewer topics but in much greater depth.

Reason number 5: Finns have fewer social problems

Finland may not be a socialist paradise, but it’s pretty close. Almost everyone in Finland is middle class, so income inequality is a big issue. Almost all Finnish kids come to school well fed, rested, and ready to learn. There are no metal detectors and no cops patrolling the school hallways. Finland also has far fewer immigrant students. Only one in forty students in Finnish schools have immigrant parents compared to US public schools where one in five have immigrant parents.

That means there are not nearly as many kids in Finland schools who are trying to learn math, science and history in a completely new language while also trying to learn that new language itself.

What can Americans learn from this?

So should we in the US just admit that the Finns know education better than we do and go ahead and abandon our system and adopt theirs?

That would be quite difficult.

There are plenty of ways to learn from countries like Finland that do things very differently but have a proven track record of achieving better results. Our role is to be more open to what educational innovators are doing around the globe. If we could stop shouting ‘We’re number one” long enough to listen, that will be a great start.

Content courtesy of The Young Turks

Why Singapore Education Is Better And What the United States Can Learn From It

why education in singapore is better studygate

This article describes the state of education in Singapore. To read about the state of education in the US, click here.

They budget for education in both money and land resources

Every weekday morning across the small island nation of Singapore, children arrive at state schools while the children come from different economic and cultural backgrounds. They are all offered the same quality of instruction with 20% of the national budget devoted to education.

Singapore has developed a well-resourced and world-leading educational system. With the world becoming much smaller and more globally competitive, we will explore what’s going on in the Singapore education system and find what we can replicate in the United States.

Teachers receive highly focused training

What’s remarkable about the places that out-compete America is that they focus on collaborative environments where kids and teachers can thrive. They also focus on building the best professional class of teachers possible.

Teachers are the heart of education so it stands to reason that schools that trains teachers are the heart of the whole education system. In Singapore, the National Institute of Education trains all teachers in the school system. Top performing students are selected for specific subjects and teaching positions. The candidates are then given a rigorous 21st century training to prepare them for a lifelong career in education. The Singapore education system is always open to look at new domains of study. The total ultimate focus is, “how do we prepare a better teacher so they can bring the best education to the students in the classroom?”

Walking around this campus demonstrates how importantly the government views the National Institute of Education. Singapore is a nation where square footage for the land is worth its weight in gold and diamonds, and the government still gives nearly 40 acres devoted to teacher education and development!

Teachers operate in a collaborative environment

Kids in school are happy to learn there, but equally important is what the teachers are doing in every classroom. Teachers can explain what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and the connection between what they’re doing and the learning that kids are accomplishing.

In math classes, there is a really interesting pedagogical method focused on visualization instead of memorization. Students use blocks to see what’s more and what’s less.

You also see as part of this a real focus on language immersion so that kids are understanding what more than means and what less than means. Overall, there is a recognition that post-secondary education is important for all students—not only the top performers!

Real-world education

The state of the art Institute of Technical Education involves businesses in shaping their curriculum and preparing students for employment. Students develop and market products that require some scientific knowledge such as dish soap. Then they pick up other basic skills for entrepreneurship when they go and work for someone else. They learn to appreciate how business or operating will be able to contribute more to the organization.

At the Tampines school, eight-year-old students learn how to us MS Excel. The education system engages with them in such a way that technology is infused as a tool to accomplish tangible objectives. Teachers are constantly working with each other in a collaborative and trusting environment to enhance this effort.

Accountability is replaced with empowerment

Finally, teachers do not talk about test-based accountability. Principals don’t talk about test-based accountability. This is the education standard in Singapore.

Originally posted in AFTHQ.