“One flesh” is the biblical definition of marriage in two brief but freighted words. This expression names marriage as one mortal life fully shared. The word one bespeaks a life fully shared, and the word flesh suggests the transient mortality of this life.

Raymond Ortlund, Jr., Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel

The Importance of Memory in Instruction

Education Next has a good interview with Clare Sealy about the importance of semantic memory in instruction. This is a good reminder and corrective for those who favor more progressive pedagogies, which tends to focus more on experiential inquiries while neglecting the actual assimilation of content.

I do think Sealy under-appreciates episodic memory moments, which often rev up motivation, expand neural associations, and rejuvenate semantic memories, but she makes an excellent point that they are wasted if used unthinkingly. 

  • Two forms of memory: Episodic & Semantic
  • Episodic
    • Autobiographical episodes of life
    • Automatic
    • Usually easily forgotten
    • Highly contextual
      • Bundled with sensory experiences & emotions
      • Goosed by novelty
  • Semantic
    • Requires effort & practice
      • Taking notes, review, recall, synthesize
    • Longer lasting
    • Better at enabling transfer of learning to new contexts
      • Not dependent on contextual tags
      • Essential prerequisite for creativity & critical thinking
    • Lots of semantic memory gives you “an augmented reality, everything [you] see is overlaid with additional layers of meaning and possibility” (Ian Leslie)
  • An experience can be “memorable” without us remembering much about it
    • Episodic imprint of emotional significance
      • Recall of contextual tags
    • No transfer into semantic memory
    • Therefore, an engaging instructor may actually not be effective
      • “Fun” lessons makes us think about medium of lesson, not message
      • A science experiment may cause lots of thinking not so much about the content  but about the preparation, protocol, monitoring, etc.
        • More effective to teach concept first & use experiment to consolidate/confirm learning
      • Similarly, researching a topic might teach more about doing research than the topic itself
        • If concept important, extra time needed to think about it before or after the research
      • “Rich tasks” in math instruction
        • “Discovering is seen as more creative, requiring more imagination, more interesting and therefore much more likely to result in children really understanding the math conceptually, rather than just regurgitating a procedure.”
        • “Counter intuitive as it may seem, children do not become independent problem solvers by independently solving problems.”
        • Need to teach necessary math to solve problem first
    • Illusion of learning when it might actually be highly contextual
      • Recall drops when context (class, school) changes
  • Research on effective teaching (Principles of Instruction (Barak Rosenshine), What Makes Great Teaching (Coe et al), What Works Best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW performance (Centre for Education and Statistics of New South Wales, Australia))
    • Explicit explanations in small, carefully thought-out steps
    • Lots of opportunity to practice before going onto next small step
    • Esp. in early knowledge acquisition phase of learning
    • Spiraling back to review previous material
      • In different contexts, less tightly cued
        • Moving from performance (cued semantic memory practice) to learning
  • Possible to overstate separateness of episodic & semantic memory
    • Hard thinking can reach into both
    • Episodic highlights can complement semantic learning
    • Kids who don’t have rich episodic memories benefit from exposure to life experiences, expanding horizons
      • Including very young kids

The Repair Shop

My father passed away recently. The last week or so of his decline, I found myself binge watching The Repair Shop on Netflix. It’s a British show where people bring in old and broken family heirlooms and a TV guild of craftspeople and restoration experts fix them.

I began to watch these episodes regularly, one (or more) a night. At some point, I began to wonder why I found the show so appealing. There’s a bit of history education vis a vis Antiques Roadshow. There’s a bit of skill admiration, like watching elite athletes or chefs on competitive cooking shows. The mutual admiration and cooperative friendship within the shop is heartwarming, too.

Ultimately, though, I think the fundamental premise of the show is what gets to me: it’s the about the loving restoration of things to former (and future) glory. What a redemptive premise for our ramshackle world!

Postpartum Depression

I’m not sure how accurate this is, but I’ve generally observed that pregnancies in organizations, including my church, tend to come in waves. Perhaps it has to do with menstrual syncing (although that might not be a thing) or perhaps it has to do with a more general syncing of social seasons and moods. Anyways, there seems to be times when our church is suddenly busy following up and providing meals for newly (or re-newly) minted moms.

This has been on my mind because of an NPR Lifekit episode (yes, another one) that I’ve recently listened to, this one on postpartum depression. The linked article itself provides a pretty good summary and outline of the episode, and the audio is worth listening to. The issue has gotten more awareness in recent years, but I don’t think it’s still dealt with openly by most women who suffer from it. I recommend also giving a listen to this episode of Other People’s Problems where therapist Hillary McBride shares a bit of her session with a mom suffering from postpartum depression.

I wonder if our follow-up ministry to moms can provide some rudimentary training to gently probe whether PPD is an issue.

The Way of the House Husband

I saw this manga in the library and had to check it out. It’s John Wick meets Mr. Mom: a fabled yakuza retires to bring his extreme sensibilities to domestic life. 

It’s clear The Way of the House Husband is a fledgling effort — its humor is broad and mostly one-dimensional — but its silliness still brought a smile to my face. If you’re looking for more effortlessly charming fare, I’d highly recommend Yotsuba&! — a favorite of both me and my 12-year-old son.

Lifekit: Answers to Your Screen Time Questions

NPR’s Lifekit has an episode about parenting concerns around screen time. My notes:

  • “…it takes a village to raise children; it takes an online village to help keep them safe” — Ana Homayoun
    • Notice signs of problematic overuse
      • Affecting everyday living (hygiene, moodiness, habits, diet)
      • Bring concerns to a professional (pediatrician, counselor, etc.)
  • When should kids get their first phone?
    • Circumstances: Why does the child need a phone? Why does the child want a phone? Is it for safety or social reasons?
    • Maturity: This is about your individual child — don’t go by just age or grade. How do they respond to something when it doesn’t go as planned? Are they impulsive? Do they take care of their belongings?
    • Start slow
      • Start with flip phone or entry-level smartwatch first (GizmoWatch, Relay, Jitterbug.)
        • Can always upgrade later
      • Designated no-phone times (night; until after homework)
  • How do I help my child handle cyberbullying?
    • Admit ignorance and listen to kids
    • Rehearse the parting line: a scripted response to uncomfortable content
      • “My mom checks my phone, so please don’t send me that kind of stuff.”
      • “Can we talk about this in person later?”
  • How do I talk to my kid about online porn?
    • Initiate the conversation
      • Kids might be interested for a variety of reasons (curiosity, exploring identity, peer pressure, etc.)
      • Texas Tech University study: more parents talked about porn with middle-school-aged children, less consumption in college & less negative impact on self-esteem if partners viewed porn
  • How do I help them balance homework with screen use?
    • Build intrinsic motivation and self-regulation
      • Don’t be constant enforcer
      • Instead be advocate for their goals
        • Help break focused work into chunks
        • Suggest ways to keep up motivation

Words for Granted: Philistine

Words for Granted is a new podcast I’ve subscribed to, largely on the basis of its fascinating episode on the etymology of the the word “philistine.” The original Philistines might have been raiders from Crete and were petrified in the Hebrew Bible as enemies of ancient Israelites. By the Middle Ages, though, philistinism in the West came to connote worldly sophistication until a town & gown incident in the German university town of Jena was condemned in a homily at the church memorial service, where it started to take on more of its modern meaning of cultural barbarism. Its usage continues to twist with freighted meaning even today, given the incendiary politics of the Middle East.

As my brother-in-law likes to say, “Language matters,” and this podcast shows that language is never neutral.

The episode is part of a stretch of episodes on loaded words tied to ethnic groups: gothic, bohemian, philistine, and cannibal. Each one is worth a listen.