One of the advantages of getting a nerd education is that the technical components of that education are usually problem related – more so for physics and chemistry, less so for biology and the social sciences. Hence one has plenty of opportunity to make mistakes, live with failure, and generally learn that we learn more from failure than from success. Indeed, we may even learn that small failures are the prevention of large failure.
Of course, there are those who assert than nerds and geeks and wonks naturally have more failures, often because of their social skills, or rather, the lack of them. My mother cannot go for any reasonable length of time, a month or so, without commenting on how poor my social skills are but that I somehow managed to not be a total and abysmal failure as a parent. She has yet to comprehend what I am saying when I reply with an assertion that the two are related.
Of course, this is not something that shul, especially today when it appears that a central and inviolable component of educational correctness is that no child may ever be told they have not been exceptional and superior, an institutional fossilization of Garrison Keeler’s tag line about Lake Woebegon children. It is thus with somewhat of a core warmness that I read that
over-protective parents were partly to blame for leaving kids
vulnerable to abusers stalking the web. By shying away from any risk,
parents ensured that kids would not know to protect themselves from web
paedophiles, not to mention all the other demons of the modern popular
The discouraging derivative then is that this is published in an English news paper and Americans are still blissfully building children who bear an amazing resemblance to those little marshmallow Easter confections called Peeps.
The excursion from there is a bit of a roller coaster ride. I read that a chemist who published an article in American Scientist, the house rag of Sigma Xi, the research society, back in 1955, speculating on the origin of life on Tellus, has had to retract the article because it is being misused by Creationists. [Link] This is clearly bitter sweet. It must be horribly bitter for a scientist to discover at age 84 that his work is being abused and misused by fanatics. At least Darwin was dead before his work was misused by the National Socialists.
The sweet part is that this man had the strength to retract the article rather than permit it to be used to corrupt the minds of others. No one can ever hence get away with telling this fellow to be a mensch.
Incidentally, I see that Sigma Xi is having financial problems, apparently because it is losing relevance to its membership. Can this be yet another symptom of the decline of this great nation? Is this a case of sunshine researchers, to paraphrase Paine, leaving under the cold winds of social decay and superstition abounding, or merely a failure of the organization to keep up with the times of Generations X, Y, and Z?
Along those lines, I see that 0.2 of the American consumerate is willing to implant their children with RFID chips to permit tracking. [Link] Can a national mandate be far behind? Of course this is the same consumerate who include 0.1 who claim the internet brings them close to the deity while 0.06 aver it distances them. But what of the other 0.84? Could we hope they view the internet as an artificial human construct with no untoward connection with the deity? Or just apathetic and consumerish?
We also note that (modern) republicans are less likely than (modern) democrats to frequent social networking sites (0.22 versus 0.32), but what do remaining majorities tell us about these partisans? Is their general avoidance, or at least, non use, of social networking sites an indications of antisocial behavior? Or is it a recognition of that same artificiality spurned for the real thing?
One thing about those majorities, however, is that their confidence that Americans can solve our national problems is eroding. [Link] While 0.72 of (modern) republicans think we can chart our course, only 0.53 of (modern) democrats and 0.56 of independents do. Is this an indication of the bankruptcy of our political system, especially its partisan structure, or merely a bankruptcy of our society as a whole? Is this indicative of a national maturity or a national senility?
The answer apparently lies in the rostral anterior cingulate contex, which is the recently established part of the brain where optimism resides. [Link] So at least we know where it should be even when we do not have any.
The question that slowly surfaces is whether we have had enough little failures to avoid a big one? Or are we compounding them into such? Perhaps if we were more mindful of those failures we should be learning more than we seem to be now.