Monday, January 6, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

To counter the intellectual jock sniffing I've done this season on Sunday Hangovers and my last post, I'm providing a couple of articles from The Atlantic that take a justly cranky and reasonable view about our sports-obsessed culture. 

First up is "The Case Against High-School Sports" by Amanda Ripley, which points out the outrageous costs and mental energy we put toward high school athletics in American culture. As a lot of people know, football costs a tremendous amount of money, and the author details a school district in Texas that eliminated all of their sports programs and the academic benefits they reaped from such a move. She also questions the reasoning behind the claim that sports motivate students to do well in school. It might help a small percentage, but what about the majority of students? 

Of course, I read this article the day after I went to a local high school basketball game. At least basketball is one of the cheaper sports. 

Next is "How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers" by Greg Easterbrook. Like churches, the NFL enjoys tax-exempt status. (The tax-free status of churches could be the source of a rant for another day). As the author puts it, "That's right--extremely profitable and one of the most subsidized organizations in American history, the NFL also enjoys tax-exempt status. On paper it is the Nonprofit Football League." 

In a more positive note for those of us who still believe in physical books and magazines, Scientific American (SA) has an article by Ferris Jabr called the "Why the Brain Prefers Paper." The writer culled a good bit of research, but here are some juicy snippets from the article because SA is smart enough to not give away their articles for free unless you go to your public library (or use a database) to read it:

  • "Despite all the increasingly user-friendly and popular technology, most studies published since the early 1990s confirm the earlier conclusions: paper still has advantages over screens as a reading medium. Together laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicate that digital devices prevent people from efficiently navigating long texts, which may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. Whether they realize it or not, people often approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper. And e-readers fail to re-create certain tactile experiences of reading on paper, the absence of which some find unsettling."
  • Here's a visual aid that explains how "the physicality of paper explains this discrepancy." 
  • For educators, this conclusion merits attention: "When reading on screens, individuals seems less inclined to engage in what psychologists call metacognitive learning regulation--setting goals, rereading difficult sections and checking how much one has understood along the way."  

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