Category Archives: non-fiction

“Our views about insomnia are continuing to evolve.”

For many years, insomnia was considered to be primarily a symptom of another illness, writes Wallace Mendelson in The Science of Sleep. During his 40-plus years as a sleep researcher, Mendelson has seen many views evolve, and this is one … Continue reading

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“I have no idea what I’m doing! I’m going to fail!”

Angela Duckworth had a rough start with her first class in neurobiology – she failed the first two exams. She was advised to drop the course.  But she refused to quit.  Instead she believed that she could figure it out … Continue reading

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“Sadly, the reality is that more and more students entering the educational pipeline have had curdled childhoods.”

It is not poverty per se that distinguishes these students, Karen Gross writes, but it’s a childhood burdened by “hunger, exposure to or experience with drugs, alcohol, abandonment, frequent moves, abuse, self-harm or harm of others.” Do we know which … Continue reading

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“My students call this a ‘quarter-life crisis.’”

Cathy Davidson, author of The New Education, describes the twenty-fifth birthday parties that many of her college students throw “to commemorate their collective indecision and existential sense of uselessness.”  They have degrees, credentials, and honors, but few job prospects. Davidson … Continue reading

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“What does the continual repicturing of Austen say to us?”

If British novelist Jane Austen – now dead for 200 years – could see the picture of her that is in cash registers and wallets in England on the newly-issued ten pound note, she would probably laugh. The bankers selected … Continue reading

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“I want to show you the world, as it is all around us, all the time.”

How does Karl Ove Knausgaard’s collection of letters for his unborn daughter compare to Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me? All three are beautiful explorations of ideas; all are meant to guide, … Continue reading

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“When McGraw-Hill Education polled more than 600 college faculty in 2017, 70% said students were less willing to ask questions and participate in class than they were five years ago.”

I’m with the 70%. At some point in every class, I say, “What questions do you have about this?” Seldom do students respond. However, if that same question is included in a quiz, about a third ask for more information … Continue reading

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“Science needs its adventurers.”

It’s hard to imagine a more exciting scientific adventure than the one described in Altered Traits.  Forty years ago, when Ritchie Davidson and Daniel Goleman were grad students, their advisors told them that studying meditation would be a career-killer. But … Continue reading

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“Rock and roll when first encountered seemed to represent two fears: a fear of the future and a fear of the past.”

Some feared, Christopher Hill notes, that this new kind of music had the power to lead Americans to radical decadence in the not-too-distant future. Others, who had experienced gospel music, recognized “the testifying quality, the clear sense that there were … Continue reading

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“In 2016, for the first time, the majority of entering college students described their mental health as below average.”

If you teach college students, stop what you are doing and get your hands on this book. The data collected here will change how you see the people who sit in front of you. Twenge argues that the generation born … Continue reading

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“He didn’t fit in.”

Even though he was wealthy and influential, Charles Dickens didn’t fit into middle-class life in Victorian England for many reasons. Here are three: He made fun of “society” people in his novels. Instead of writing anonymously, as the other novelists … Continue reading

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“Who is it you are writing for? It surely could not be the average person who just enjoys a good read.”

The reader who asked Jonathan Franzen this question touched a nerve. Franzen’s answer — a 30-page essay titled “Mr. Difficult” — describes two models for relationships between writers and readers. In the “Status” model, writers aim to create great art, … Continue reading

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“Education, when rightly understood, will be found to lie in the art of asking apt and fit questions…”

Bronson Alcott continues, “…and in thus leading the mind by its own light to the perception of truth.”  Using discussion questions to develop ideas instead of using the rote learning method to reinforce “the” right ideas was considered outrageous in … Continue reading

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“More often than we think, our limits are self-imposed.”

I once asked the director of our program for non-traditional college students what the biggest challenge was for these students.  Was it ability?  “No,” she said. “It’s their perception of their abilities.  They don’t think they’re smart enough. Then they … Continue reading

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“When I was younger, anxiety sometimes flat-out crippled my ability to work.”

In every class I teach, there is at least one student who will talk with me at some point about how high levels of anxiety are preventing him or her from completing assignments. This memoir by Andrea Petersen provides a … Continue reading

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