Monthly Archives

June 2016

How to Discuss Politics (Or Any Other Sensitive Topic) Without Hostility

By | Conflict Resolution, How to Discuss Politics | No Comments

We live in a polarized society.  It is difficult for people who hold different viewpoints to have a reasonable discussion.  If someone disagrees with us, they are crazy, stupid, or out of touch.  Facebook is the worst culprit.  Take a look at virtually any political meme on Facebook.  It will tell you just how stupid the other side is and just how smart the people are who agree with the meme.

This is a formula for disaster.  We have to learn to speak to each other.

Why Debates Don’t Work

It is possible.  The key to having a difficult discussion is to stop thinking of it as a debate and to start thinking of it as a kind of shared problem solvingRead More

Is Radical Individualism Destroying our Moral Compass?

By | The Problem We Face | No Comments

We seem to have retreated into a kind of private morality.  But a private morality is a contradiction in terms.

Individual rights are the bedrock of a free society.  In a liberal democracy, individuals have the moral right to make their own choices free from arbitrary intrusion – subject to the constraint that they do not interfere with the same freedoms in others.  However, although rights are essential for the functioning of a free state, they are insufficient as guides to guides to moral action. Beyond the idea that we should respect the rights of others, a rights-based morality tells us little about how we ought to act toward others or who we ought to be.  In a liberal democracy, such questions – that is, questions about the nature of the good — are properly left to the people. Read More

Values are Inescapable Aspects of Everything We Do

By | Values Matter | No Comments

We often think of values and morality as if they were something optional, limiting, oppressive or perhaps imposed on us by some external authority.  But this is not necessarily so. Everything we do is in some way organized by our value systems.  They are inescapable.  And if that is true, then it would be a good idea for us to become aware and take control of the values we live by.

Values matter.   Value are judgments about the extent to which something is good and bad, right or wrong, or worthy or unworthy.  Values  include judgments of what it is that we think is important in life.  If something is important, it has value to us.   Values range in their degree of importance.  We may call some values moral values because we think that they should be upheld by all people, regardless of who Read More

How to Be Happy

By | Social Values | No Comments

happy-girl-300x225If you ask people what they strive for in life, many people will say that they wish to be happy.   Of course, this makes good sense.  But what do we mean by happiness?   And how can we attain it?  The answers to these questions are not so clear.

So we want to be happy.   How can we make this happen?    One way to live a happy life is by continuously asking ourselves what I like to call “The Most Important Question”.  What is that question?

Is what I am doing good?” Read More

What Really Motivates Children (And Adults) in Life?

By | About Education, Education | No Comments

childworkinghardNot rewards or punishments…or even intrinsic motivation.  In fact, the entire distinction between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivation is a flawed one.

What motivates Molly to do her math homework?  Her inherent love of mathematics?   Probably not.  In general, we don’t first love mathematics and therefore do mathematics.  It’s just the opposite:  We come to love mathematics when we get good at it. Read More

Why We Need to Transform our Approach to Parenting

By | Child Centered Parenting, Parenting | No Comments

whos-in-charge1We are often told that it is good for parents to be “child-centered”.  This parenting style emerged as an alternative to what was called “adult-centered parenting”, where parents set the rules and children were simply expected to follow them.  In contrast, child-centered parenting is parenting organized around the needs and interests of the child, rather than those of the parent. While this sounds nice, child-centered parenting tends to produce entitled, narcissistic children who lack the capacity Read More

Why Reading Really Matters

By | Education | No Comments

Child Reading A Book In The GardenBrooke was shocked when her daughter, Mattie, came home with a grade of 59 on her 6th grade Social Studies test. “But I know Mattie studied. I saw her reading her textbook and looking over her notes. I can’t understand why she wasn’t ready for the test. In elementary school, Mattie was considered a good reader. In middle school, her grades are slipping and it’s hard to figure out why.” Read More

How to Make a Horse Drink

By | Education | No Comments

offerkideducation“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”

This is a time honored adage, to be sure. For years, I’ve heard variants of it from secondary school teachers and college professors alike. You can make students come to class, but you can’t make them care about their learning. Read More

How to Parent with Attitude

By | Parenting | No Comments


David Elkind, the famous developmental psychologist, once wrote that “parenting is an attitude”.   I recall that when I read this statement, many years ago, I didn’t quite understand it.  I had a glimmer of what he meant, but I kept thinking: What type of attitude?  And it can’t just be an attitude, right?  After all, a parent actually has to do something to raise children.

I think I understand now what Elkind meant.  There is, as you know, a lot of advice out there, from a variety of “experts”, about how to parent children.   Some advocate using rewards and stickers; others speak of the importance of reasoning with children.  Still others talk about how to talk so that kids will listen.  And the advice goes on.

Read More