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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Taking Notes

Notes on The Vigorous Mind:
  • "What is it about growing up that tamps down and displaces curiosity with boredom, disinterest,and indifference?  Some people might place the blame for its loss on our system of schooling, which tends to reward the right answers more than the right questions, so that teachers feel under pressure to "teach to the test.'" (p. 89)  (oh, yes, this is the bane of our current system and often kills the creative and curious spirit in both teachers and students)
  • "Penicillin was born out of mold.  Chemotherapy drugs were derived from mustard gas used as chemical warfare in World War I....Antidepressants were developed during research on antituberculosis agents.  Viagra was initially studied for use in high blood pressure and chest pain...." (93) (all of the above and several others mentioned were found in the search for something else)
  • "Every thought we have is an event that exists physically in the neurological pathways of our brain.  The more often we repeat a certain thought, the more robust the particular pathway needed for that thought becomes.  And interestingly, the more we repeat a certain thought pattern, the more readily that neural pathway fires in the future.  Neuroscientists call this increase of ease in neural firing kindling, and we can leverage this physiological mechanism to increase our individual curiosity." (97)

Cummings also advises stepping out of the box and becoming curious about things you are not normally interested in.


  1. Interesting quotes, Jenclair. I especially like the part about "increase of ease in neural firing" is "kindling". Made me think of my Kindle and all the books waiting for me on it! LOL

  2. Kay - The Kindle does provide kindling for the mind, doesn't it? :)

  3. Great quotes. I have already put this on my wish list after you first mentioned it. This connection of mustartd gas and chemotherapy drungs is new to me... Oh my God...

  4. Caroline - The mustard gas/chemo connection is startling isn't it? Every time I think of mustard gas, I think of Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est." Ironically, he refers to the gas as "obscene as cancer"--and now we have chemotherapy as a result of research on mustard gas.

  5. I am going to have to get this book. I love the quote about schooling. Whenever I volunteer at my son's school, I understand why he comes home a zombie. They move onto a new activity about every 20 minutes...not enough time to really get into the "zone" and let their creative juices flow. I understand the teacher has a lot to cover, especially when test time is around the corner, but I don't think it benefits our kids brains. Kids need time to explore and find things out for themselves, and have time to ask questions when they reach a point in their activity that they are unfamiliar with or need clarification. Stifling is the word that comes to mind when I think about school these days.

    Sorry for such a long post! I obviously feel strongly about the issue! My husband and I have had numerous discussions about whether we are doing the best for our kids by having them in the current school system.

  6. Lisa - Teaching to the test is what teachers are required to do. Which is not the same as teaching thinking skills or creating an inquisitive mind, is it?

    Stifling is a good description, and it is stifling for both the students and the teachers.

    Education has gotten on the wrong track, I think, despite the good intentions.