Archive for February, 2009

The Kids Aren’t Alright

February 19, 2009 5 comments

The theory of Operant Conditioning (B.F. Skinner) is a vague memory for many of us, a relic of our first year psych class.  Positive and negative reinforcement and punishment. Buzz words often bandied about in discussions of dog training and child rearing, occupations perhaps not as dissimilar as they first appear. 

In this new day and age of Education, our youth are exposed to all kinds of philosophies and theories about how to best shape and encourage our children into the generations of the future.  Most people would agree that rewarding good behaviour is the strongest motivator–imagine the number people eager to hold doors open for others if we were all paid $2 each time.  The philosophies of child rearing seem to discourage, as does our society, punitive measures in favour of rewards methods.  

Today rewards are given as encouragements for attempting something.  Admittedly, this is a necessary intermediate stage. The young should be encouraged and rewarding for trying new things, even if they are as terrifying as going to school all by their lonesomes.  The flaw, it recently occurred to me, is in the failure to shift this process.  

For the sake of clarity, let us discuss dog training for a moment before extrapolating to other thing. In training a dog to roll over, the first step is to reward any behaviour that resembles the desired result.  Treat for lying down. Treat for rolling onto the back. Treat for going completely around.  This is the way the behaviour is shaped and reinforced.  However, at some point treats will not be given for the attempted behaviour, rather for the result alone.  

It occurs to me, being a teacher, that the schooling and parenting has failed many of today’s students.  Rewarding the attempt has been the norm for many students throughout their careers.  Children are told consistently that if they try hard they will succeed.  They can be anything they want.  Such ideas can be inspiring for a toddler (for an almost painfully cliche example, just ask Obama).  However at some point students have to be taught that it is not the effort that is important but the result.  Returning failed tests and poorly written papers to students, their initial response through teary eyes is almost always “But I tried so hard!”  Students today just don’t seem to understand that effort does not necessarily produce good results.  It is inarguably a component of good results, but not the sole ingredient.  

But are the kids to blame?  Or are we as parents and educators the ones who have consistently rewarded the effort to blame?  To return to the somewhat inflammatory dog example, we have expected the dog to roll over, yet constantly given treats when it got halfway there.  Is it the dog’s fault it never learned?

Categories: Opinions

Random Amusicry

February 18, 2009 Leave a comment

First, I’ve listened to Merriweather Post Pavilion a whole bunch of times now and I can’t decide if I love it or hate it.  My experience with the last four Animal Collective albums has been similar – save for Sung Tungs, which I’m relatively sure I like. I think?

Second, the interweb is a strange and glorious place.  It’s well known that message boards attract a lot of hate and vile commentary ripe with irrationality.  Of particular amusement to me at the moment is this “Fuck the Killers” thread on the Coachella site.  Awesomeness.  Oh, by the way, T-minus 57 days to Coachella!

Finally, the video of the first majestic single from Doves is out.  Pure genius – they’ve always been a full class above most bands placed in that broad misnomer of a “Brit Pop” genre.  Murmurs from those who have heard the album is that it may be their magnum opus – it’s out April 6th. Watch below (via

Categories: Music

Cerebral Recipes [03]

February 11, 2009 Leave a comment

**Author: Mandeep–Originally posted on**


My gym plays bad music.  Very bad dance music… it’s just plods along at the same synthy tempo… every single song.  It’s like listening to a metronome on speed, in hell.  The following playlist resolved the pain this morning on the way to work…

Recipe to De-dancify the Music in Your Head on a Wednesday Morning Commute:

Doves – Firesuite
My Bloody Valentine – Soon
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Straight Up and Down
Mark Ronson – Inversion
Elbow – Forget Myself
And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Will You Smile Again
PJ Harvey – Kamikaze
Cat Power – Love & Communication

Listen here:

Categories: Cerebral Recipes, Music

The Science of Clean

February 7, 2009 Leave a comment

It is 4:30 on a nondescript Saturday afternoon.  I have just finished cleaning up a mess involving red wine that was made last night during a friendly jam session.  The aforementioned incident involved me falling off the ball, which could be metaphoric, but was most literal as well.  In a dramatic display (read-absurd), onlookers witnessed a glass of red wine being kicked–nay, booted–bathing the white door behind it with a six foot swath of crimson.

Another post regarding late night antics? No my friends. The revelation that crystalized for me while I was cleaning up regards the products we use to maintain our white doors.  As I write, the legacy of the cleaning spray I used still lingers on my tongue.  Perhaps this sensitivity to such products comes as a result of not really doing much cleaning. But it made me stop and think. All of those cleaning solutions that cut through grease and grim so effortlessly are loaded with caustic chemicals, yet we think nothing of spritzing them all over our bathrooms and kitchen surfaces without a second thought.

I wonder what effect constant exposure to such harsh chemicals has on the body long term?

Categories: Opinions Tags: ,

Six Degrees of Separation

February 1, 2009 Leave a comment

*Originally posted on–Author: Mandeep*

1. Firstly, this is old news, but it was on a playlist today and almost I forgot that Radiohead does a very faithful cover of the Smiths’ Headmaster Ritual. Almost too faithful, but good stuff…

2. Speaking of the Smiths, Moz will be at Coachella. Surprisingly, this will be my first time seeing him. Probably all the better that I found ways to miss him during my teenage angst years….

3. Speaking of angst, Andrew Coyne, a true and committed small-C conservative, expresses a lot of it with the Tory budget.

4. Speaking of conservatism, read an excerpt of Will Bunch’s new book, “Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future” here. People forget very easily that Reagan’s economic plans weren’t all that sound. Neither was Star Wars at the time… Oh Ronald Reagan, you so crazy…

5. Speaking of crazy (ok, easy segway, I admit), Israel bombs Gaza again, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatens a “disproportionate” response if the stray rockets don’t stop. Um, that whole thing eariler, where you killed a lot of women and children… wasn’t disproportionate?

6. Speaking of religious fundamentalism that leads to nothing but pain and suffering, these awesome posters are making their way to the TTC soon. I ordered the t-shirt online and got it last week. I thought of wearing it to work on Friday… hmm, maybe next week.

Categories: Ear Candy, Opinions
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