Sunday, 31 March 2019

The real reason why Donald Trump was elected president and why he might be elected again

Well, no, it wasn’t interference by Russian secret services (at least not on a super massive scale), it wasn’t Facebook, nor YouTube. No grand conspiracy theory will explain the Trump phenomenon. It was unfortunately the Americans themselves, or rather the American majority who voted for Trump. And they might do it again, despite a disastrous first term, despite the obvious ignorance of their president, who doesn’t even read the newspapers, may it be out of a lack of reading skills or out of fear of destroying his grand illusion of being almost universally loved (most probably a combination of both).

Sad as it may seem, the real reason for Trump’s election has got to do with sexism (“Yes, we rather want to have a strong groping alpha male than a woman president who fights for equal rights, peace and education”).

How do I know? Well the data are here. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in his book Everybody Lies analysed big data Google Searches via Google Trends and found that searches for "Trump for president" peaked in areas with racist and sexist searches.

But can that be really true? The majority of Americans are sexist and racist? No, of course not, however the connection is there.

For simplicity’s sake let’s assume there are two kinds of people: the includers (who do not exclude people without any a priori reasons and the excluders (who exclude people a priori for fear their communities are threatened). These tendencies have both a genetic component as well as an environmental one (mostly education). The genetic compentent being most probably due to alleles on the OXTR gene, with the includers having the genotypes AA/AG and the excluders genotype GG. 

The excluders tend to quickly establish hierarchical relationships and punish deviation from the norm as they see their community under threat.

The includers (people with a high level of the hormone oxytocin) have made great progress in the past decades: (near) equal women’s rights, gay rights, inclusion of all kinds of divergent people.

The excluders have seen their world view increasingly under attack due to these developments and they are afraid of going any further. Feeling threatened in their core values, they are fighting back voting for an incompetent alpha male rather than a competent female politician. Yes, sadly, for many people nowadays it seems more ok that an alpha male gropes women without being punished as long as he builds walls and keeps potential threats away.

Those people long for they old order, in which they can orientate themselves more easily. Rapid social and technological changes scare them. Trump epitomizes everything that stands for that old order: America first, men first, white people first, American cars first etc.

However, that is the world of yesterday and it won’t come back and politicians like Trump can only promise to bring it back. People have to wake up. If these tendencies increase the world will become an even sadder and more depressed place than it is already nowadays.

Most young people usually have no big problem with the challenges of this rapidly changing world. They are the first to embrace diversity, technology. It’s the old folks, who have lost their openness and flexibility who are scared of diversity, technology and many more imaginary threats. What the old folks don’t realize they are harming the most precious thing they have: their children.

A globalized world can’t work without a high amount of openness. And this is what we are seeing everywhere in the world right now. A crumbling world community. Another current example is called “Brexit”. And it doesn’t stop there. It is time to listen to our children, like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, even if some of us might not feel that comfortable with their message.

By Andreas Hofer
For Paige.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Why gifted and creative kids fail in schools

Many parents of highly gifted kids know that school can be a rollercoaster ride for both their child as well as themselves. Highly gifted kids are also called orchid children, who might thrive if they grow in the right climate or they might just as well wither away.

As a parent of two gifted children I have been watching their school career in astonishment and bewilderment.

My older son was able to read at the tender age of two:

as well as being able to learn very quickly almost anything he was interested in:

My younger son has always been less theoretical, more practical and less widely interested in learning abstract concepts. Initially interested in technology and not in books he nevertheless learned to read with the help of books that interested him (trains, etc.).

My older son has hated school from Day 1. Refusing to do the tasks at school as well as his homework. He would rather cry for an hour than do work he could have finished in a few minutes. His grades have always been average to bad.

My younger son despite not being such a super-learner has found school very easy so far. He does most of the work the teacher gives him in less than half the time and then leans back in his chair. When the teacher offers him more work or more challenging work he politely refuses.

What account for the difference in academic success in not the boys` intelligence, obviously. It is their personality. Both children are introverted as the majority of gifted kids, but there is a crucial difference:
My older son is INFP, which means that he has a very creative intelligence with strong interests in languages, writing, stories and history). His strength Is finding patterns in areas concerning the humanities, but is not considered gifted in our school system.

My younger son is INTJ, which means he is interested in science and technology and his intelligence is way more structured and follows rules. His strength is understanding rules concerning technology and the natural world. He is considered gifted in our school system.

It is mostly these creative kids who fail in schools. What's more, not all gifted kids are math whiz kids. The might be interested in reading and history instead. Very logical kids, on the other hand, might struggle with language learning and learning to read. 

The injustice here probably seems obvious to most readers. However, this is one thing that many teachers completely fail to understand at school.  Spotting a gifted child might be very hard. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • high degree of introversion (not all gifeted kids are introverted, though)
  • highly sensitive kids (might be depressed or bipolar)
  • outcasts and victims of bullying, consider themselves "different"
  • clumsy or dorky kids (might be bad at sports and/or crafting)
  • extremely reluctant to do tasks they consider boring or futile
  • reluctant to make small talk and talk about banal things
  • highly socially minded (fight for environmental and social issues, protect underdogs)
  • absent mindedness (remeniscent of ADHD)
  • often might seem childish or clownish
  • are often emotially behind their developmental age and cry easily
  • have a good sense of humour, which might be rarely visble, however
  • uncoventional thinking and little respect for traditions
  • often like fantasy and science fiction

dedicted to my son, Andrej

dedicated to Sir Ken Robinson, one of the most inspirational people in the education space