Friday Finds (Launch, Learning, Girard, Pop Music)


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Hi friends,

The theme of this year has been massively ramping up our ambitions for Write of Passage. We now have a team of 16 full-time employees, and on Monday, I plan to publish our vision for the first time.

The next cohort begins October 5th, and the enrollment window opens on Monday. To receive emails about the cohort, click here.

Here's what I want to share this week:

  1. Practice Analytically, Perform Intuitively: One of my mottos for improving any skill. Deconstruct your craft whenever you study it. Break it down. Think logically. Then, once it's time to perform, shift to intuition, and follow your instincts. Read my essay here.
  2. What I Learned From René Girard: No philosopher has shaped my worldview more than Girard. In particular, he showed me the dangers of obsessively chasing status because it blinds us to unconventional opportunities. Here's my Twitter thread about Girard. Or if you prefer a video, you can watch it here.
  3. What is Write of Passage: For so long, we've been looking for a way to describe the emotional experience of Write of Passage. I think we finally have it, both in the form of this new website and this little video we made about the course.

Also, we just updated the Founding Director of Product job description for our high school writing program. This person will essentially be the "CEO" of this new product. You can apply here.

Today's Finds

Founders Podcast: The host David Senra has devoted his life to studying great entrepreneurs. He's read more than 270 biographies and distills key insights from a biography into each episode of his podcast. I recommend this episode about Walt Disney or this one about Steve Jobs. If you'd like an overview of lessons he's learned running this podcast, this is a good interview with him.

Benjamin Bloom: The most important education researcher you've never heard of. One of the biggest problems with the education system is how we systematize the wrong things. We emphasize curriculums when we should really be doubling down on learning science, to give kids more freedom to pursue their obsessions. In 1968, Bloom published a paper on Mastery Learning. The concept is simple. Instead of advancing to the next grade after a year, you move on only once you've mastered the material (ie. scoring 100% on the test). If you don't know the material, you don't move on. Simple as that. Bloom also developed a taxonomy of learning. With it, he argues that there are multiple steps to the learning process. 'Recall' (the process most school's follow) is the most basic. 'Creation' (what school's should do more of) is the most advanced and the ultimate end state of learning. Finally, there's Bloom's Two-Sigma Problem. He found that one-on-one tutoring using mastery learning led to a two-sigma improvement in student performance. Perhaps, the most crucial question in education is: how can we achieve those same results without hiring one-on-one tutors for every student? Learning apps are the answer. In some ways, they're already better than tutors. Software has infinite patience. Unlike humans, it doesn't get tired and it's rate of improvement is faster too. When a tutor learns a better way to teach, the knowledge stays with them unless they share it. But when a software program learns something, the knowledge is distributed to every other app in the next software update. If you're interested in learning and want to look for under-valued ideas, study Bloom's work.

Ivan Illich: A strangely underrated philosopher, especially when you consider how clearly his books are written. Above all else, Illich was skeptical of scale and institutional structures. He believed in the power of individuals. When it came to cities, he critiqued the way cars pull people apart even though they help us move faster, (which theoretically brings people together). Just look at urban sprawl. Cars divide cities when urban planners slap a highway in the middle of a neighborhood. The cars are in control now. Too many cities serve cars, when cars should be serving cities. Illich was also skeptical of formal education. He didn’t believe schools could achieve universal education, and wrote: “The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.” For a summary of his work, I recommend this interview with his biographer David Cayley (here’s the transcript). All of Illich’s books are short. I recommend this one about school or this critique of our industrial economy.

Economics as a Moral Philosophy: I‘ve always been annoyed with the idea that economics is a complete science. It isn’t. Humans are too unpredictable and the ideas break down too often. But in particular, everybody should know the basics of microeconomics. Though this article doubles as a critique of the discipline, I like the idea that economics is a value system that shapes our decision-making in ways so ingrained in society that they’re invisible to us.

The Note that Defines Pop Music: YouTube is the best thing that’s ever happened to music education. It's instant, fun, and visual in a way it’s never been before. This video is a good example. Listen to enough pop music and you’ll start hearing the same note over and over again. It’s called “The Supertonic,” otherwise known as the second note in the scale. Supertonic strategy has taken over the pop world. While we’re at it, I also recommend this sample deconstruction from Daft Punk’s “One More Time.”

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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