How to Reciprocate

“Mill’s defense of the feelings and the imagination has two components. The first is that bringing analytical power to bear on a problem is not enough, especially if one’s goal is to make the world a better place. Rather, one must have a certain kind of character: one must be a certain kind of person, a person who has both the ability and the inclination to take the products of analysis and reassemble them into a positive account, a structure not just of thought but also of feeling that, when joined to thought, can produce meaningful action.”

How to Think is a short book about the process of thinking, good, honest, productive thinking.

The idea that thinking isn’t thinking unless it includes a “positive” outcome directed from our human being (feeling) toward a potential for action, is a great idea. It’s an idea that would include ethics in design, substance with know-how, and individuality with mass, complexity perspectives. It is a worldview that includes reciprocity.

This type of deconstruction>construction also makes me think of how I read>write the world around me. How I have the ability to produce meaningful action via so many of the technology and mediums that I use.


More: I’ve highlighted a similar idea in recent books and tv shows that I’ve watched.

More: Also from How to Think is this fantastic quote “Knowledge may be analog, decision making is digital, that is, binary

(“Non-perspective” is useful, but it’s a starting point not an end point.)


Dreams of Education

I don’t quite know how to explain what I am about to say, but sometimes when I am falling asleep, it is my hands that begin to dream first, before my brain does.

Butt-dialing’ has emerged in recent years as a beautiful means of describing unintentional cellphone calls. The implication is that the butt has no intentions, and can carry out no actions, but by a technological glitch has done something by accident…

This is such an interesting blog post, because it breaks down into parts a whole (the human body) in intentional contexts that almost always consider that whole as a whole and nothing less.

I often find myself imagining the relationship of cells and organs to a body as an analogy for people and communities to a society. Obviously, this analogy is limited because of this idea of intention, but it’s also interesting to think that the presence/lack of intention in each of these examples is flipped: Generally, with the cells/body example it is the larger entity that had intention; and with the people/society example, it is the smaller one.

But, is this so obvious?

This post challenges my generalizations, and in doing so challenges the habitually anthropomorphic ways that I see the world.

Anyway, I also see a connection here to education. Breaking down an overarching learning goal, subject, or theme, and letting the individual skills engulf the body in change, slowly, skill by skill.

Recently, I try to get my student to not think of themselves as “learning English” but to add to their perspective that they are developing strands and skills like speaking for fluency, listening for main ideas, listening for chunks of words, writing for structure, writing for accuracy, and reading for pleasure, just to name a few.

Then, if they do this, they can start to feel the dream enter through that smaller skill, slowly engulfing the larger entity of learning English.

Maybe for them it’s as difficult as me considering that a part of my body, like the hands, have intention of their own. Or, that butts can dial. This is the dream, though. This is how it spreads.


More: about scale here and here

Destroy and Create

Learning requires forgetting.

This very morning I was listening to a 3-part podcast episode about destruction, death, and black holes. One of the themes is that with destruction comes creation. For example, black holes actually create galaxies as they destroy all matter. (although this idea seems under debate)

There’s a destruction that comes with creating, and also with learning. Listening as I rode into work it reminded me of, and helped me to understand better, point 4 on this list I came across last week.

I’m not sure how fine the line is that the podcast episode draws between the ideas of “destroying” and “decision making”, but there’s something to this in educational realms. As a teacher, I help my students practice and create knowledge that bring them closer to their goals, and at the same time destroy that which impairs their progress.

My students and I break apart what they know and bring to class; we look, analyze, add to, and remove from it; then piece it back together. Destroy and create. This is the process of thinking and education.



Human Nature is a good podcast about humans and their relationship with nature. Each episode usually presents the story of someone who has experienced a life change or has gone on a journey or had a thoughtful experience, and nature is involved. The stories aren’t all that ‘magical’ or epiphanic, they’re human.

Asking for Blog Suggestions

“Instead – I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging.”

I will be on hiatus from this blog and from twitter for a few months. DMs are still open, use email if you have it.

In case yon haven’t read the “Small b Blogging” post, the link is above. The article describes nicely the stabilization of blogging that seems to be happening now.

One of the inherent features of small b blogs is that they are difficult to come by way of the wind. It’s easy to find the Big B blogs (both in general, and within the topic specific ‘strong circles’ out there), but is takes a little effort to dig up people just writing what they think, what they notice, what they process, mostly for themselves.

I prefer following these types of small b blog, and preferably in a cross-section of many disciplines. So, I realize that I need to do a bit of work and a bit of asking.

Can you recommend a blog that you enjoy?

Generalism in Education

“All told, the implication is that working generalists are “professional amateurs.” We’re relegated to the level of oxymoron. If that is what I am, I’d like redeem the term.”

The redemption of the term ‘generalist’ can probably be taken up in fields in addition to design, including education, or at least extend into the field of “educational design”.

In reading this article, I get the sense of how the author is someone who could dive into any specific area of design, based on need, and be successful. She might not be able to dive as deep as a specialist in that area (tho that probably depends more on time restrictions, one skill of a generalist is skill acquisition) but she sure will be able to know which questions to ask of a specialist consultant, and/or be able to advance a project to a certain point prepping it for a specialist, and act as reliable communicator between that specialist and others.

Everyone starts out learning the basics of education, dipping into different STEM subjects through secondary and post-secondary school. Eventually, they start to specialize in a discipline, learning the basics, the concepts, the vocabulary, the gathered information from past practitioners, and the implications of practice today. Everyone starts out learning on a general front, and gradually specializing to a certain degree.

That degree might end up being narrower or wider. The wider front of practice, the generalist, is obviously different from the general learning of someone figuring out the basics at the start of the learning process. Yet, as mentioned in the article, the value of the more-general-than-specialized practitioner are not always discerned by colleagues and managers. The article highlights the tension for designers looking for work and the expectations placed on them for landing a job early in their career as reasons for this. I would add that value from generalists often comes in the form of absences, from less time efficiency pitfalls to avoiding miscommunications – not always the easiest benefits to notice.

If you’re someone in education who hires others, I urge you to think about the the value of generalists. When people hire I think many tend to look for specialists, the applicant who maximizes that job description that was conveniently constructed with the help of that HR form. Think about how specialized you really need that new hire. Think about how valuable someone with more general skills, yet also capable at filling that position, will be at communicating with others and understanding the roles around them. Think about how much more nimble your team will be in the future.

With so much change in education these day, people who can do many skills well will set your organization apart.

Education, Grades, and Personalities

“The risk of writing an essay that contests the theories promulgated by a professor or teacher’s assistant may be too consequential when the goal is to secure a job or a place in grad school upon which a GPA may be heavily dependent.”

Unfortunately, this is all too real of a situation in higher education.

My own experience involves an instructor being attentive to questions and papers that were within his specific area of concern, while minimizing his attention to the rest. He would published student work to his personal blog (with consent) when it supported what he also wrote about, providing amazing opportunities for feedback and discussion for that student. For other papers, he checked-in with a few sentences of comments.

He was a popular figure in the world of education, and I can only speculate here, he was used to the popularity that comes with social media spaces, and not with the more intense direct communication of a shared space of about 10-15 students. It was an awkward class, one where he was noticeable not present for most of the time.

At the end, this instructor chided our class for being concerned about our grades. He told us that we should only worry about what we are learning and disregard the desire to get good grades.

Which is…one way to look at it.

Grades are an easy thing to sacrifice if you are doing it on behalf of others. As the quote above suggests, there are implications of grades that go beyond my opinions or my professor’s.

The article doesn’t offer any real solutions to this problem. I can’t think of any either, without getting into a deep exploration of the issue. Education’s in an odd place. The good comes with the bad right now because it’s tough for trending opinion to tell the difference.

Recalibrate with Old Books

“Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

One of the better books I’ve read in the past few years is Being Digital, a 1996 book about the digital age. It was informative because of the amount of information about basic digital infrastructures is presented so clearly. It was also fascinating to read an account of the digital state of of the world in 1996.

Some might think that reading a book in 2018, written in 1996, about the digital world, might be a waste of time. It isn’t. There are so many reasons to read old books.

  • Concepts in their younger stages have a type of basic clarity and focus that gets lost with age.
  • In the Information Age so much content gets skipped over and goes undigested, there’s no reason to put a time limit on content.
  • Good ideas, ideas that inspire, are increasingly littered through history.
  • It’s a difficult endeavor to analyze myself in the moment, just as it’s difficult for society to see itself in a historical perspective. Looking back reveals new perspectives.
  • Reading thoughts of other people’s analysis in their moment, their era, fills in gaps about how I understand here and now.
  • Old books are multilayered – I can compare them to now and have a better understanding of from then to now.
  • People thought differently in different times, reading old books builds diversity of thought.

I get frustrated when I see people comment that an article, book, idea, even a meme, is old because it is a decade, a few years, or even “months/weeks old now.” There’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to do this in our media platforms.

When I find myself focused too much on the trending, or even the future, I feel that stagnant perspective. That social algorithm that keeps trying to send me content based on what I liked just yesterday. I know that I need to older writings to move myself forward.

Recalibrate. Read old books.

More: I came across the C.S.Lewis article through this post.