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An Ode To Middle Age via James Parker at The Atlantic

Many Christians around the world have given thought to the truth, “Dust you are, and to dust you will return.”
Of course, our return to dust is grounded in the expectation that our dust will one day see our Redeemer through resurrected eyes.

James Parker ruminates on middle age and expresses some wonderful phrases as he does.
You know you’re not at the beginning, observation of the life spans of others suggests you’re not at the end.
But it’s a season where understanding of your capacities and the extent of your capacities are in some sort of balance.
Except when they’re not.

From Parker:

Strange new acts of grooming are suddenly necessary. Maybe you’ve survived a bout of something serious; you probably have a couple of fussy little private afflictions. You need ointment. It feels like a character flaw. Maybe it is a character flaw.

You’re not an apprentice adult anymore.

You know yourself, quite well by now. Life has introduced you to your shadow; you’ve met your dark double, and with a bit of luck the two of you have made your accommodations. You know your friends. You love your friends, and you tell them.

Limits, limits, thank God for limits. Thank God for the things you cannot do, and that you know you cannot do. Thank God for the final limit: Death, who now gazes at you levelly from the foot of your bed, and with an ironical twinkle, because you still don’t completely believe in him.

Middle age is when you can throw your back out watching Netflix.

read the whole article at The Atlantic.


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The Myth of ‘Learning Styles’ (via Olga Zhazan at The Atlantic)

The Atlantic is a print and online journal that deals with culture and politics.
This article about people having different learning styles (i.e. visual or aural), a proposition that simply entered public consciousness as truth a decade or two ago, has had profound impacts for teachers and communicators.
The substance of the article is the concept of people being able learn more effectively through the means that is most suited to them is not proven and doesn’t hold true when tested.
The rise of the proposition has more to do with individualism and self-esteem philosophies than effective education.
Just because you prefer a particular means of information communication, it does not necessarily follow that that particular means is actually most effective in every situation.

[a] study published last year in the British Journal of Psychology found that students who preferred learning visually thought they would remember pictures better, and those who preferred learning verbally thought they’d remember words better. But those preferences had no correlation to which they actually remembered better later on—words or pictures. Essentially, all the “learning style” meant, in this case, was that the subjects liked words or pictures better, not that words or pictures worked better for their memories.

A takeaway from this is to focus not so much on the learner, but on what is the best means of communicating the information at hand.
There will be different communication techniques that are appropriate for different outcomes, but the outcome should be a primary determiner of means, rather than the preference of the learner.

Read the whole article online at The Atlantic.


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The Secret Life Of ‘Um’ (via The Atlantic)

An interview by Julie Beck of The Atlantic featuring N.J. Enfield, a professor of linguistics from Sydney, that explains how vocal fillers like ‘um’ are as much a part of spoken communication as other parts of speech.

An excerpt:

One of the big traffic signals that manages that is these hesitation markers like “um” and “uh,” because they can be used as early as you like. Of course, they don’t have any content, they don’t tell you anything about what I’m about to say, but they do say, “Wait please, because I know time’s ticking and I don’t want to leave silence but I’m not ready to produce what I want to say.”
There’s another important reason for delay, and that is because you are trying to buffer what we call a “dis-preferred response.” A clear example would be: I say “How about we go and grab coffee later?” and you’re not free. If you’re free and you say, “Yeah, sure, sounds good,” that response will tend to come out very fast. But if you say “Ah, actually no, I’m not really free this afternoon, sorry,” that kind of response is definitely going to come out later. It may have nothing to do with a processing problem as such, but it’s putting a buffer there because you’re aware saying “No” is not the thing the questioner was going for. We tend to deliver those dis-preferred responses a bit later. If you say “no” very quickly, that often comes across as blunt or abrupt or rude.
The way we play with those little delays, others are very sensitive to what that means. A full second is about the limit of our tolerance for silence. Then we will either assume the other person’s not going to respond at all, and we just keep speaking, or we might pursue a response.

Read the whole interview at The Atlantic.