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Miscellany

Miscellany Education

According to a 2021 study published by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, “noninstructional spending” at universities is growing faster than “instructional spending”; between 2012 and 2018, “colleges and universities prioritized hiring less expensive and often less credentialed instructional staff and more expensive administrative staff.”

Miscellany Education

Primary school students in eastern Nigeria are encouraged to focus on their education with a song whose lyrics translate as “Education is sweet but hard to learn, but with patience, you can succeed if your parents have the white man’s money.”

Miscellany Education

After he was captured by pirates, Diogenes of Sinope was sold as a slave to Xeniades, who had the Cynic philosopher educate his sons. “At home he taught them to attend to their own needs,” writes Diogenes Laërtius in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, “to live on plain food and water, to wear their hair short and unadorned, to go barefoot and without a tunic, and to be silent and keep their eyes lowered when walking in the streets.”

Miscellany Education

On January 9, 2022, sixteen elite U.S. universities were sued in federal court for offering fraudulent financial-aid packages, overcharging more than 170,000 financial-aid recipients, and conspiring to “reduce or eliminate price competition” in order to establish “a uniform and lower level of aid to all prospective students.”

Miscellany Education

A 2006 University of Cambridge study found that meerkats teach pups how to hunt by first introducing them to dead prey, then to injured prey; when the pup is ready, the adults present them with live prey. “There were clear post-provisioning costs involved in feeding pups live prey,” the researchers wrote. If the prey escaped, the adults were able to recapture it only about 26 percent of the time. “On around 7 percent of occasions, helpers further modified the prey before returning it.”

Miscellany Education

Abdul Kassem Ismael, a tenth-century Persian grand vizier and author of an extensive Arabic dictionary, had a library of 117,000 volumes. According to one account, the scholar declined an invitation to serve in the court of the Samanid ruler Nuh II, insisting that four hundred camels would be required to transport his library. Other accounts report that Ismael did undergo the trip, and that the camels were lined up in the alphabetical order of the volumes they carried.

Miscellany Education

The Umayyad poet Dhu al-Rumma, of the Bedouin tradition, was known to ask his listeners to transcribe his poems as he was reciting them, declaring that a book “does not forget or alter words or phrases which have taken the poet a long time to compose.”

Miscellany Education

In October 2021 U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo tweeted that “parents should decide what their children are taught in schools.” One user responded, “Why even have teachers?” and another, “Why send children to school at all?” A third user quipped, “I think teachers should decide what surgeries people need to have.”

Miscellany Education

In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education produced the report A Nation at Risk, which urged educational reforms such as assigning more homework to students. Three years later, educational researcher Bill Barber protested that homework was “peripheral” to the nation’s problems. “We are nothing but amateurs if the best we can muster up for students,” he wrote, “is a recommendation that they ought to get more of the same thing.”

Miscellany Education

Edith Wharton’s childhood German tutor, Anna Bahlmann, also taught her English and American literature; Norse, Greek, and Roman mythology; and history, art, and architecture. In 1878 Wharton called Bahlmann her “supreme critic” in a letter. Bahlmann is mentioned only four times in Wharton’s memoir and only once by name. One scholar suggested that Wharton’s “conviction about her intellectual and artistic isolation…compelled her to deny her closeness to her teacher.”

Miscellany Education

The first-century Roman writer Gaius Julius Hyginus relates the story of Agnodice, a young Athenian woman who traveled to Alexandria to study medicine. On her return to Athens she disguised herself as a man in order to practice, and was brought before the court of the Areopagus. “You men are not spouses but enemies,” Agnodice’s patients protested, “since you are condemning the woman who discovered health for us.” Around 500 bc, the law forbidding women to study medicine was repealed.

Miscellany Education

Fairy wren nestlings learn “passwords,” or unique single notes, from their mothers while still in their eggs; after birth they must use the passwords when calling for food, or the mothers will abandon the nest. In a 2012 study, scientists in Australia experimented with switching eggs and mothers, and found that passwords were not genetically inherited; the chicks assumed the passwords of their adopted mothers.

Miscellany Education

In 1961 Mary Ingraham Bunting established the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study, a research center for women with PhDs or “the equivalent” in creative achievement who had been forced to leave academia and the workforce. A 1960 brochure advertising the program warns that “this sense of stagnation can become a malignant factor even in the best of marriages,” but that women no longer need be “crusaders and reformers” because “the bitter battles for women’s rights are history.”

Miscellany Education

The title track of Van Morrison’s 1990 album Enlightenment opens with the lyrics “chop that wood, carry water,” a reference to the popular Zen Buddhist dictum that before enlightenment, one must chop wood and carry water, and that after enlightenment, one must chop wood and carry water. The origin is a verse by the late eighth-century Chinese poet ­Layman Pang, who declared that his “supernatural power and marvelous activity” was “drawing water and carrying firewood.”

Miscellany Education

Animal cognition researcher Irene Pepperberg wrote in her study of the African gray parrot Alex that the intelligent bird often became restless when asked to focus on a single task: “He will cease to work, begin to preen, or interrupt with many successive requests.” In 1996 Alex appeared on the television show Turning Point to demonstrate that he could name the colors, shapes, sizes, and materials of different objects. In the middle of this exercise, he began to respond to Pepperberg’s questions with remarks like “Want to go back” and “Want to go eat dinner.”