The Second Post of the Day About Why There Is Only One Post Today

Writer: Second PostUnder normal circumstances, I would not be writing this second post today. I would just let it go with the single post. In fact, I discussed the fact that I might only post one article in a day when I announced the new schedule, Goodbye Morning Music and Anniversary Posts. And if ever there would be a day in which I should get away without doing a second post, it would be today — at least in a case where nothing terrible happened.

My 83-year-old father started urinating blood while doing some construction work for a lady friend of his who lives about an hour and a half away. But because my father is very much a Great Generation man, he said nothing until the work was done. Then he drove himself to the emergency room — an hour and a half away back at home. But after 5 hours at the hospital, he looked terrible. They had put a catheter in him, which was filling bright red. And they sent him home with a referral to a urologist. But he was sweating and his hands were shaking wildly.

Back to the ER

I tried to get him to go back to the emergency room. But he insisted that it only hurt when he urinated. But after 24 hours, even he couldn’t take it any more. This is a man who gets dental fillings without novocaine. In one way, I’m really impressed with this because I’m a wimp when it comes to pain. On the other hand, this “real man” nonsense bugs me. But if he admits to pain, I know it’s bad.

When I got him to the hospital, he could barely walk. He was hunched over, breathing hard, sweating profusely.

When I got him to the hospital, he could barely walk. He was hunched over, breathing hard, sweating profusely. They got him in very quickly and I hung out in the waiting room. At that point I felt great because I knew he would be taken care of. But the hours ticked past. It was time well spent. I got to read a number of long-form articles that I haven’t had time for. The internet connection at the hospital was great! I suppose I could have worked on my second post, but I find writing on my phone to be pretty hard.

Finally, I asked what was going on and they told me that they were preparing for his release. That was good, because I had been worried that they were going admit him. Anyway, they let me go back and I talked to the doctor and nurse and they told me that they were just getting the catheter installed and that I was welcome to come into the room. I said, “No, no, no!” But given that my father is hard of hearing, I asked that they call me before releasing him, because he often leaves without knowing what he’s supposed to do.

This Is Not the Second Post

It was still over another hour. And, of course, they didn’t call me in. But when he burst through the doors, I could see that there was nothing to be concerned about. The change was so stark and I knew it wasn’t due to any drugs that they had given to him. He was clearly ill when he walked in and he looked liked his normal self when he came out. Apparently, there had been three blood clots in his bladder, and that was undoubtedly what was causing all of his pain.

Interestingly, after telling me repeatedly that he only had pain when he urinated, he told me that when the doctor asked him what his pain was like on a scale of 1 to 10, my father said, “Ten when I urinate; five otherwise”! Thanks for all the honesty, dad!

Anyway, this is the second post today that would have been about something else if all this hadn’t happened. But I’m glad it all worked out well.

How We Make Education Worse Than Random

Education: Boy Studying - Lewis Hine

There are a lot of aspects of education that that are complicated and that we don’t pay enough attention to. Commenter Colin Keesee brought my attention to a curious fact about sports. Since there are date cutoffs for which league a child will play in, those who just miss the cutoff will be up to 12 months older than those who just make the cut off. Thus they will be up to 12 months bigger and more physically and mentally developed. This is all discussed in an interview Malcolm Gladwell gave with ESPN, Q&A with Malcolm Gladwell.

The result of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The older students get more playing time and attention, thus making them even further ahead of their younger competitors, who would often have as much if not more talent. In the interview, this is applied in terms of hockey and the NHL, but the data do not show what they claim (the correlation is in the opposite direction that the theory would indicate). But the point is a valid one.

I remember in little league baseball, there was a huge difference in the size of the boys. I’m sure some of this had to do with the ages of the boys. But another issue is just that some boys mature faster than other boys. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, they are all arbitrary. Just because a boy is small an uncoordinated at 8-years-old does not mean that he won’t be big and graceful at 14.

We have a great problem with focusing on early bloomers. Mozart was an early bloomer but Beethoven really wasn’t. And Einstein wasn’t. And certainly Cervantes wasn’t…

But what I noticed in my very limited experience with organized sports was that far more coaching time was spent with the boys who needed the least help. And the reason for that is obvious enough: people think that greatness is something you are born with. Thus, why waste your time coaching an incompetent given that they are never going to be any good?

Education for Those Who Don’t Need It

Throughout my life, I’ve been shocked that this attitude is everywhere. I don’t really care about sports. But this is applied to math and writing and every other human activity that involves education. Because I do have a knack for systems and analysis, I’ve look back in horror at the way people “taught” me to write and play chess — two things I’m rather good at, but only because I taught myself in adulthood.

It’s especially true with chess education which is concrete. When I teach a child to play chess, I first teach them the moves, but then we go on to basic tactics like combinations and forks. And I teach basic strategy from the beginning. What’s so frustrating about all this is that the way chess is normally taught goes entirely against the march of human progress. We don’t expect each generation to rediscover the entire intellectual history of humanity. But we do when teaching chess.

Interest Trumps Natural Ability

The way I learned to write was very interesting in that it shows someone with mediocre talents can become pretty good if they are obsessed with it and work on it a lot. I know lots of people who used to be better writers than I am and who still know a lot more about the mechanics. They were born with more talent. I was born with more interest. And interest trumps talent.

My favorite example of this is Mozart, because everyone thinks of him as the ultimate example of intrinsic greatness. But it just isn’t true. He was trained from the youngest age. And he worked very hard. After he studied counterpoint in France, his compositions took a great leap forward. None of this is to say that he didn’t have natural ability, although I do wonder how much of that was in the genes and how much of it was being surrounded by music even before his birth.

Education Often Makes Things Worse

We have a great problem with focusing on early bloomers. Mozart was an early bloomer but Beethoven really wasn’t. And Einstein wasn’t. And certainly Cervantes wasn’t — having written his only great works starting in his late fifties — and mostly in his middle to late sixties.

The universe is a cruel and fickle place. The problem I have is that as a species, we haven’t learned to push against that. In fact, in education, we have a strong tendency to reinforce it, or even make what would normally be random be distinctly unjust.