Monday, September 24, 2018


Thomas Paine famously saidThe World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.These words have never been more relevant according to many. Do your research and write an essay on the dangers of tribalism.  
Familiarize yourself with the issue
·         Why toxic tribalism is destroying our society and what to do about it
Reading material to make notes on
·         Tribalism remains man’s most dangerous instinct
·         Tribalism overrules reason and makes difficult times more dangerous
Videos to take notes from
·          The dangers of tribalism
·         Our tribal intelligence (Scroll down for the video)

Sunday, September 9, 2018


Superior cognitive skills are what have made countless intellectual achievements, innovations and discoveries possible. They enable us to correctly judge situations, grasp  their implications and see their significance. They provide the opportunity to make the world a better place. However, scores on reading comprehension and maths have been dropping over the years. Does this mean we are not as sharp as we used to be? Do your research and find out why we are losing some of our cognitive skills and what can be done about it.  It is suggested that you do this research over a couple of days. When you are ready, write your essay.
Familiarize yourself with the issue
·         Cognitive function: definition and assessment  (Register for the full video; it is a wonderful site)
Reading material to make notes on
·         Air pollution causes huge reduction in intelligence, study finds
·         Air pollution linked to decline in cognitive performance
·         What you read matters more than what you might think
Videos to take notes from

·         Maryanne Wolf on the reading brain

Thursday, August 30, 2018


When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty. We need a new literacy for the digital age”
By: Maryanne Wolf
Published: The Guardian, 25 August 2018 ·
Level of difficulty: **
·         The evolutionary roots of the reading brain
·         Psychotactics: why slow reading beats speed reading
·         Skimming versus close reading
1.      Why is the obsession of people with electronic communication described in the text significant?
2.      Would it be correct to say that our brain has developed over millennia in response demands made on us or would it be better to say that our brain evolved over the millennia as it was programmed to do?
3.      What would be the logical conclusion to be drawn from the above?
4.      Sherry Turkle states that we should:
·         Not be too eager to innovate
·         Respond with caution to innovations
·         Focus on deep reading skills nevertheless
·         Focus on deep reading skills also
5.      It is necessary to pay careful attention to the development of the reading circuit because unlike other abilities….
6.      Does it really matter that much if our reading circuit is changing to adapt to the way we consume digital media or use electronic communication? Why or why not?
7.      What does “this” refer to in the phrase “bear this out”?
8.      Students’ avoidance of classic literature is significant because it implies that there is a widespread loss of…
9.      What interesting conclusion may be drawn from the experiment conducted in Norway?
10.  Ziming Liu proved in his experiment that we only touch the surface/ barely penetrate the surface / glide along the surface of a reading passage because we don’t skim/ scan/preview/predict/read/write properly. Mark as many as necessary.
11.   A lot of bookworms claim they prefer the actual book to the screen when reading this may be the case because they……..The screen on the other hand doesn’t give them the opportunity to…
12.  What frightening finding did the US media researchers make?
13.  We understand from the text that the loss of deep reading processes should concern us all because it hampers our efforts to…
14.  The writer of the texts advocates a return to the cultivation of deep reading skills / advocates a two pronged approach / advocates a focus on what exactly we lose.
15.   The only way we can aspire to the kind of society described in the last paragraph is by fostering the development of….
Discuss the reasons why many visitors to this blog find the reading questions too tough. Hint: they all require critical thinking and deep reading skills.
If, like me, you have been wondering why students who logically should be highly intelligent manage to be, well to be blunt, seriously lacking when attempting deep reading tasks like the ones on this blog and the inferential questions they include, here is your answer. I read the text and prepared the task you have before you with the very greatest pleasure. I hope you find it useful.
1.      Because the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain’s ability is subtly, rapidly changing as a result. (Needs to be added for the answer to make sense)
2.      The first
3.      Each of our deep reading skills may be under threat
4.      The last
5.      It is not given to human beings through a genetic blue print
6.      Yes it does because the slower time-demanding slow reading skills are indispensible to learning at any age.
7.      The negative effects of screen reading can appear as early as fourth and fifth grade
8.      The ability to read with a level of critical analysis sufficient to comprehend the complexity of thought and argument found in more demanding texts
9.      Digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in older high school and college students.
10.  All true for the first lot, read
11.   Need a knowledge of where they are in time and space that allows them to return to things and learn from re-examination / look back
12.  Negative effects of screen reading can appear as early as fourth and fifth grade
13.  Navigate a constant bombardment of information
14.  Advocates a two pronged approach
15.  A bi-literate brain

Saturday, August 25, 2018


Support for sustainable fashion, eco-fashion or green fashion is growing each passing day as people become increasingly aware of the negative impact of the fashion industry on people and the planet. Do your research- preferably over a couple of days - and write about the issue. Discuss the effects of the fashion industry on people and the planet, what sustainable fashion is and how it can rectify the problem and what people can do. All the information you need is in the links below.
Familiarize yourself with the issue:
·         Burberry under fire for destroying 38 million dollars worth of clothes
·         Upcycled denim and sustainable lace: fashion to feel good about
Reading material to make notes on:
·         Sustainable fashion matters
·         Shop less, mend more: making more sustainable fashion choices
·         The importance of sustainable fashion
·         Ten ways to make fashion greener
·         What is sustainable fashion?
Videos to take notes from:
·         How to engage with ethical fashion?
·         Life in the slow lane: sustainable fashion

·         Fast fashion’s effect on people, the planet and you

Thursday, August 23, 2018


“From fireside folk tales to Netflix dramas, narratives are essential to every society – and evolutionary theorists are now trying to figure out why, writes David Robson.”
By: David Robson
Published: BBC, 3 May 2018
Level of difficulty: **
This is a tough level one or an easy level two
·         The storytelling animal
·         The Epic of Gilgamesh
1.       Read the first section of the text on the Epic of Gilgamesh and answer the questions:
a.       Why is it so surprising that the Epic of Gilgamesh is still being read today?
b.      What proof do we have of the past popularity of this work? Two answers
2.       Read the section titled “Escapism” and answer the questions:
a.       How do we reach the conclusion that stories must have been popular before writing was invented?
b.      What might have been the purpose of these early stories?
c.       The amount of time people spend reading fiction can’t be pure escapism because it would involve…
d.      What proof can you find for Joseph Carroll’s theory as to the purpose of reading fiction?
e.      Reading fiction is good for society as a whole because ……..
3.       Read the section titled “Paleolithic Politics” and answer the questions:
a.       The formation of bigger societies directly impacted the main themes in stories by leading them to….
b.      What is the advantage of making moral decision making the main theme of stories?
c.       The purpose of the Epic of Gilgamesh was to put across the lesson that…
d.      What additional purpose of storytelling is revealed through the study of the oldest stories in the world?
e.      What does “these themes” in the phrase “how these themes are also evident” refer to?
f.        What conclusion can be drawn from the study involving 200 novels?
g.       Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair are similar in the sense that both works show that ………………… a serious mistake.
4.       Read the section titled Bonnets and Bonobos and answer the questions:
a.       Read the description of some of the characters in Austen’s novels. What conclusion can we draw from these descriptions about her?
b.      Why do the bad guys in stories look the way they do? To make clear that…
c.       The ultimate purpose that the above characters serve is …..
d.      What interesting observation did Ian McEwan make?
e.      McEwan states that thanks to these universal tendencies we are able to…
Use all the information you have gleaned to write an essay in which you discuss the reasons why storytelling is important for a community
This purpose of this reading task is to introduce students to inferential questions albeit very simple ones. The logic, however, is all there. The fact that the text is a pleasure to read should also help matters along. The task is worth taking your time over for this reason. The way the questions have been put in four groups in accordance with the subtitles in the text will also make it possible to take breaks. This structure will be repeated in future tasks where there are no subtitles and students have to add them.
1.       a. Because it is 4000 years old/ b. Later iterations of the poem can be found over the next millennium; many of its basic elements can be found in so many of the popular stories that have come since
2.       a. The cave paintings in sites like Chauvet and Lascaux in France from 3000 years ago appear to depict dramatic scenes that were probably accompanied by oral storytelling. / b. Giving, providing (etc) important lessons / c.  An awful lot of time and energy / d. Brain scans have shown that reading or hearing stories activates various areas of the cortex that are involved in social and emotional processing . / e.  The more people read fiction, the easier they find it to empathize with other people.
3.       a. Communicate the right social norms / b. Moral decision making translates to real life behavior. / c. If even the heroic king has to respect others, so do you. / d. To offer a collective memory of times long past / e. Cooperation and friendship / f. Our interest in cooperation hasn’t dwindled with the increasing individualism of the industrial revolution / g. A quest for social dominance at the expense of others

4.       a. Writers like Austen are intuitive evolutionary psychologists with a stunningly accurate understanding of sexual dynamics that would pre-empt our recent theories. / b. They are members of an out-group. / c. Reinforcing our own sense of altruism and loyalty to the group/ d. The systematic nonintrusive observations of troops of bonobo show all the major themes of the 19th century novel. / e. Enjoy literature from a time remote from our own , or from a culture that was profoundly different from our own.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


We call violence an ‘epidemic’ – and there is reason to take that literally. The good news? From Chicago to Glasgow, treating violence like an infectious disease has had impressive results.
By: Samira Shackle
Published: BBC, 24 July 2018
Level of Difficulty: **
·         Let us treat violence like an infectious disease
·         Dr. Gary Slutkin’s Cure Violence
·         You will find many videos about the VRU on the net so watch them if you wish. But you will need to have the English subtitles switched on as the speakers all have broad Scotish accents you may find hard to follow at this level
1.       Why do you think the boy with the knife wound did not react the way the doctor expected him to? Tweak the text. Why is this incident significant?
2.       What surprising conclusion was reached by the world health organization?
3.       What misguided view has prevented the tendency to violence from being treated like obesity or smoking for example?
4.       What was the reason for McCluskey’s initiative? The realization that…
5.       What was the reason for the above? Tweak the text.
6.       It was VRU’s view that violence……………………issue that caused the massive drop in rates of violence.
7.       The reason why violence is more predominant in certain areas of the city than others is the fact that…
8.       Despite findings to the contrary, the most widely practiced measure against violence is firm policing because…
9.       Read the account of Slutkin’s work. What long term measure needs to be taken to tackle the spread of infectious diseases? What short term measure also needs to be taken and why?
10.   How did Slutkin change behavioral norms? By resorting to…
11.   What does “This” refer to in the phrase “This was a radical departure…”?
12.   The mistake made by the authorities and law enforcement is failing to realize that…
13.   A. What widely held prejudice does Slutkin object to concerning the perpetrators of violence? The belief that the perpetrators of violence are predominantly… (Use your own words to draw a conclusion)
B.      What does he state to be the real reason?
14.   What was significant about the methods Slutkin used to try to reduce violence in Chicago?
15.   A. Read Cole’s story. What is his job in Cure Violence?
B. How effective violence interrupters are is linked to….
C. What makes Cole an ideal violence interrupter?
        16.  Read the two paragraphs detailing how Cure Violence operates. We understand from this
                Section that:
·         Cure Violence provides a quick fix
·         Cure Violence plays the long game
·         Cure Violence operates like the police
        17    What is the major problem with a system like Cure Violence?
         18  Kennedy’s model differs from Cure Violence in that includes the threat of…. because…
         19   The program in Scotland is unique because it is….
         20   Glasgow’s navigators are different from their Chicago counterparts in that…
         21   Why is it important to make maximum use of the “reachable – teachable moment”?
         22    What unique set of circumstances has enabled the program in Scotland to be successful?
         23    We understand from the comparison to AIDS the main reason Cure Violence doesn’t   always get the support it needs is….
        24     Murray’s approach to tackling violence can best be summarized as…
        25     What proof can you find in the text that Alan has undergone a transformation?
        26.    What proof can you find in the text that Murray’s views have also changed?
Use all the information you have gleaned to write about how best to tackle the increasing amount of violence. Justify your position.
This text details a novel approach to dealing with violence, one that has worked remarkably well in the US and Scotland. Proof is offered and we are encouraged to change our mindsets and look at the problem differently. The task can be done in one sitting; alternatively, breaks can be taken as I did while writing the questions.
1.       Because he wanted to have a scar like his friends / Because all his friends had scars (Because he had just joined the club will not be enough on its own as it is not clear enough on its own) Because it is indication of how bad the situation had become
2.       Glasgow was the murder capital of Europe
3.       The assumption that violence is innate and immutable behavior and that people engaging in it are beyond redemption
4.       Traditional policing was not actually reducing violent crime
5.       It was poverty, inequality, things like toxic masculinity, alcohol use that caused violence
6.       Is a public health
7.       Violence spreads between people
8.       Being tough on crime is a vote winner
9.       Large structural factors need to be tackled. People need to be made to change their behavior. It takes a long time to improve structural problems
10.   Outreach workers from the same group
11.   Flu causes more flu, colds cause more colds and violence causes more violence
12.   Behavior is formed by modeling and copying
13.   African American or Mexican American / Patterns of behavior
14.   They were the same steps as the WHO takes to control outbreaks (of cholera, TB or HIV)
15.   A. To calm people down before the dispute escalates into violence
B.  How credible they are
C. He has served a long prison sentence and can speak from experience
16. F, T, F
16.   It takes a lot of workers to get results
17.   Strong penalties / it was politically necessary
18.   It is run by the police force with support from the government
19.   Glasgow’s navigators are not assigned to specific localities; instead, they work in accident and emergency departments and approach people who come in after a violent incident.
20.   Because in six or 12 weeks, they’ll be in a different mindset
21.   Scotland has an unusual level of political consensus, with successive governments funding this work.
22.   Is the way people understand the problem
23.   Engineering out the issue rather than waiting for it to happen
24.   I just want a peaceful life,” he says. “I never wanted that before, I just wanted to take drugs.”
25.   He says:“I know from my previous roles in policing over the years, I could have arrested that guy 10 times in a row and I wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference to his behaviour. By supporting him and connecting with him, I can make a long-term, sustainable change to his behaviour,” he says.