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A College-Prep, Independent Day
School for Grades 8-12


From the Academic Dean: Brain Blogs
Posted 01/14/2015 03:42PM

The recent terrorist attack in Paris, France was as much an assault on freedom of speech as it was an attack designed to thrust fear into the heart of a historically rich and thriving cultural center of the world. I have faith the French will rise above this senseless act of violence and strengthen their resolve to side with championing freedom of the press, intellectualism, and pluralism.

That event is on my mind this week as I think of how fortunate we are to find free access to so many fine thinkers and writers and speakers within our own society. Today, I would like to highlight two amazing women who host two blogs I pay close attention to, and I invite you to engage with them as well.

Annie Murphy Paul: The Brilliant Blog http://anniemurphypaul.com/blog/

Annie Murphy Paul is a book author, magazine journalist, consultant, and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better. Paul’s blog highlights how research in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience is bringing to light methods that can help us learn to be smarter and aid us in succeeding in school, getting ahead at work, playing a sport or a musical instrument, and speaking a second language.

Recently, Paul delivered an engaging talk on situational intelligence, which can be viewed here. In that talk, Paul discusses the new perspective on intelligence: it is mutable and dependent upon situations. That is to say, different situations can evoke or suppress intelligence. The old view on intelligence as a fixed quality has given way to neuroplasticity. Paul encourages us to consider the micro-environments that influence our intelligence, from the physical to the social and emotional. In this new view on intelligence, IQ is not one permanent number. IQ can wax and wane. But above all, Paul emphasizes how intelligence is expandable and how we can grow intelligence.

Maria Popova: Brain Pickings http://www.brainpickings.org/

Maria Popova has previously written for WiredUK, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and she is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow. Her blog offers “inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life,” something which resonates with York’s philosophy of education, especially our PATH program. According to Popova, “The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.”

I love Brain Pickings for its inter-disciplinary — even anti-disciplinary — stance. Just like any day at York, which challenges students to find stickiness between courses (as Mr. Hunt models with his hands coming together, fingers interlacing, and pronouncing, “Connections!”), Popova’s blog is a delightful, quirky at times, intersection of science, art, history, politics, psychology, and design. Some of my favorite recent posts include musings on living in the present with Alan Watts, illustrating the sleep habits of famous writers, and resolutions for 2015 (i.e., personal refinement through the reading, or rereading, of fifteen influential, creative minds, including Bruce Lee, Thoreau, Carol Dweck, and Seneca.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

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