‘Goodbye, Organization Man’

David Brooks, writing for the New York Times:

A few generations ago, people grew up in and were comfortable with big organizations — the army, corporations and agencies. They organized huge construction projects in the 1930s, gigantic industrial mobilization during World War II, highway construction and corporate growth during the 1950s. Institutional stewardship, the care and reform of big organizations, was more prestigious.

Now nobody wants to be an Organization Man. We like start-ups, disrupters and rebels. Creativity is honored more than the administrative execution. Post-Internet, many people assume that big problems can be solved by swarms of small, loosely networked nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. Big hierarchical organizations are dinosaurs.

An interesting thought.

‘Off the Drugs, Onto the Cupcakes’

Abby Ellin, writing for the New York Times:

Research has found that food and drugs have similar influence on the brain’s reward center. A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that sugar, not fat, stimulates cravings.

And a widely cited study from that year found that Oreo cookies activated the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure or reward center, as much as cocaine and morphine, at least in laboratory rats.

That’s the scariest thing I’ve read all week.

‘Supreme Court ruling has wiped out 11 “do it on a computer” patents so far’

Joe Mullin, writing for Ars Technica:

Most recently, on Thursday September 11, a Florida court knocked out a patent held by a company called Every Penny Counts, or EPC. Lee explains that the company held a patent “on the concept of subtracting a small amount of money from each of many payments in order to accumulate a larger sum of money—using a computer.” Every Penny Counts has been suing financial companies since 2007.

It’s about time!

‘The Way to Beat Poverty’

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, writing for the New York Times:

James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, says that our society would be better off taking sums we invest in high school and university and redeploying them to help struggling kids in the first five years of life. We certainly would prefer not to cut education budgets of any kind, but if pressed, we would have to agree that $1 billion spent on home visitation for at-risk young mothers would achieve much more in breaking the poverty cycle than the same sum spent on indirect subsidies collected by for-profit universities.

Second, children’s programs are most successful when they leverage the most important — and difficult — job in the world: parenting. Give parents the tools to nurture their child in infancy and the result will be a more self-confident and resilient person for decades to come. It’s far less expensive to coach parents to support children than to maintain prisons years later.

‘When Less Is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in School’

Peter Gray, writing for Psychology Today:

In sum, Benezet showed that kids who received just one year of arithmetic, in sixth grade, performed at least as well on standard calculations and much better on story problems than kids who had received several years of arithmetic training. This was all the more remarkable because of the fact that those who received just one year of training were from the poorest neighborhoods—the neighborhoods that had previously produced the poorest test results. Why have almost no educators heard of this experiment? Why isn’t Benezet now considered to be one of the geniuses of public education? I wonder.

Well. That’s interesting.

‘Shop Class as Soulcraft’

Matthew Crawford, writing for thenewatlantis.com:

Today, in our schools, the manual trades are given little honor. The egalitarian worry that has always attended tracking students into “college prep” and “vocational ed” is overlaid with another: the fear that acquiring a specific skill set means that one’s life is determined. In college, by contrast, many students don’t learn anything of particular application; college is the ticket to an open future. Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement. Somehow, every worker in the cutting-edge workplace is now supposed to act like an “intrapreneur,” that is, to be actively involved in the continuous redefinition of his own job. Shop class presents an image of stasis that runs directly counter to what Richard Sennett identifies as “a key element in the new economy’s idealized self: the capacity to surrender, to give up possession of an established reality.” This stance toward “established reality,” which can only be called psychedelic, is best not indulged around a table saw. It is dissatisfied with what Arendt calls the “reality and reliability” of the world. It is a strange sort of ideal, attractive only to a peculiar sort of self — gratuitous ontological insecurity is no fun for most people.

As Sennett argues, most people take pride in being good at something specific, which happens through the accumulation of experience. Yet the flitting disposition is pressed upon workers from above by the current generation of management revolutionaries, for whom the ethic of craftsmanship is actually something to be rooted out from the workforce. Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because one wants to get it right. In management-speak, this is called being “ingrown.” The preferred role model is the management consultant, who swoops in and out, and whose very pride lies in his lack of particular expertise. Like the ideal consumer, the management consultant presents an image of soaring freedom, in light of which the manual trades appear cramped and paltry.

I recommend reading the full piece.

‘Learning How to Exert Self-Control’

Pamela Druckerman, writing for the New York Times:

At age 84, Mr. Mischel is about to publish his first nonacademic book, “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control.” He says we anxious parents timing our kids in front of treats are missing a key finding of willpower research: Whether you eat the marshmallow at age 5 isn’t your destiny. Self-control can be taught. Grown-ups can use it to tackle the burning issues of modern middle-class life: how to go to bed earlier, not check email obsessively, stop yelling at our children and spouses, and eat less bread. Poor kids need self-control skills if they’re going to catch up at school.