Watch 21 Animated Ideas from Big Thinkers: Steven Pinker, Carol Dweck, Philip Zimbardo, David Harvey & More

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better known as the Royal Society for the Arts, and best known simply as the RSA, was founded in 1754. At the time, nobody could have imagined a world in which the people of every land, no matter how far-flung, could hear the same talks by well-known scholars and speakers, let alone see them animated as if on a conference-room whiteboard. Yet even back then, in an era before the invention of animation and whiteboards, let alone computers and the internet, people had an appetite for strong, often counterintuitive or even contrarian ideas to diagnose and potentially even solve social problems — an appetite for which the RSA Animate series of videos was made.

We can't understand what goes right and what goes wrong in our societies without understanding how we think. To that end the RSA has commissioned animated videos based on talks by psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist on our "divided brain," former political strategist (and current RSA Chief Executive) Matthew Taylor on how our left and right brains shape our politics, psychologist Steven Pinker on language as a window into human nature, philosopher-sociologist Renata Salecl on the paradoxical downside of choice, psychologist Philip Zimbardo on our perception of time, "social and ethical prophet" Jeremy Rifkin on empathy, philosopher Roman Krznaric on "outrospection," journalist Barbara Ehrenreich on "the darker side of positive thinking," and behavioral-economics researcher Dan Ariely on drive and dishonesty.

Economics is another field that has provided the RSA with a surfeit of animatable material — even of the kind "economists don’t want you to see," as the RSA promotes economist Ha-joon Chang's talk on "why every single person can and SHOULD get their head around basic economics" and "how easily economic myths and assumptions become gospel."




Freakonomics co-authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make an appearance to break down altruism, and "economic geographer" David Harvey attempts to envision a system beyond capitalism. And on the parts of the intellectual map where economics overlaps politics, the RSA brings us figures like Slavoj Žižek, who "investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving."

As, in essence, an educational enterprise, RSA Animate videos also look into new ways to think about education itself. Educationalist Carol Dweck examines the issues of "why kids say they’re bored at school, or why they stop trying when the work gets harder" by looking at what kind of praise helps young students, and what kind harms them.

Education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson explains the need to change our very paradigms of education. And according to the RSA's speakers, those aren't the only paradigms we should change: Microsoft Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin argues that we should re-imagine work, and technology critic Evgeny Morozov argues that we should rethink the "cyber-utopianism" that has exposed harmful side-effects of our digital world.

httvs://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&list=PL39BF9545D740ECFF&index=11&t=0s

But it is in this world that the RSA promotes "21st-century enlightenment," a concept further explored in another talk by Matthew Taylor — and one of which you can get a few doses, ten minutes at a time, on the full RSA Animate Youtube playlist. Watch the complete playlist of 21 videos, from start to finish, below.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

What to Wear to a Successful PhD Thesis Defense? A Skirt’s Worth of Academic Rejection Letters

Some people are paralyzed by rejection.

Others, like Michigan State University’s Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD candidate, Caitlin Kirby, sport rejection like a mantle of honor... or more accurately, a pleated skirt falling to just below mid-thigh.

"Successfully defended my PhD dissertation today!" Kirby wrote in a Tweet that has since garnered over 25,000 likes. "In the spirit of acknowledging & normalizing failure in the process, I defended in a skirt made of rejection letters from the course of my PhD."

The custom garment, which Kirby teamed with a dark blazer and red waistband, was organized in two tiers, with a tulle ruffle peeping out beneath.

MSU’s Career Services Network’s Director of Employer Relations, Karin Hanson, told the Lansing State Journal that rejection comes as a shock to many high achieving MSU students.

Kirby’s decision to upcycle 17 disappointing letters received over the course of her academic career was partially inspired by a Parks and Recreation episode in which the skirt of Leslie Knope's wedding dress is a wearable collage of newspaper articles about the character, drawn from earlier episodes

More to the point, Kirby’s skirt is part of an ongoing campaign to acknowledge rejection as a necessary, if painful, part of academic growth.

The whole process of revisiting those old letters and making that skirt sort of reminded me that you have to apply to a lot of things to succeed. It seems counterintuitive to wear your rejections to your last test in your Ph.D, but we talked about our rejections every week and I wanted them to be a part of it.

And, as she later noted in a tweet:

Acceptances and rejections are often based on the traditional values of academia, which excludes POC by not valuing the approaches, research questions, and experiences that POC tend to bring to their work.

Kirby’s letters were culled from a variety of sources—scholarship applications, submissions to academic journals, and proposals for conference presentations.  Unfortunately and We regret to inform you are recurrent motifs. About 8 letters were left on the cutting room floor.

But she is prepared to lower her hemline, when she starts applying for jobs, following a stint at the Research Institute for Urban and Regional Development in Dortmund, Germany, the result of a successful Fulbright application.

Follow Kirby’s example and turn your temporary setbacks into a power skirt, using the tutorial above.

via Boing Boing 

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, resurrects Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Coddling of the American Mind: Malcolm Gladwell Leads a Conversation with Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff & Lenore Skenazy

From the 92nd Street Y in New York City comes a wide-ranging conversation featuring Malcolm Gladwell, Jonathan Haidt (NYU), Greg Lukianoff (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), and Lenore Skenazy (founder of the Free-Range Kids movement). Here's a quick summary of the ground they cover:

Civil discourse is in decline, with potentially dire results for American democracy.

On college campuses across America, visiting speakers are disinvited, or even shouted down, while professors, students, and administrators are afraid to talk openly, for fear that someone will take offense. Political discussion on social media and television has devolved into a wave of hyper-partisan noise. A generation of overprotective parents are reluctant to let their children play outside without supervision. How did we get here? And how can we change the way that we engage with one another?

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind sounds the depths of this generational crisis. Join us for a lively discussion with the authors, president of the non-profit Let Grow and founder of the Free-Range Kids movement Lenore Skenazy, and #1 New York Times bestseller Malcolm Gladwell on how we as citizens can engage with one another across the political spectrum.

If it's not already clear, the conversation is based on Lukianoff and Haidt’s book The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. Skenazy is the author of Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). If you sign up for a free trial with Audible, you can download copies of both books.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Why Learn Latin?: 5 Videos Make a Compelling Case That the “Dead Language” Is an “Eternal Language”

"I tried to get Latin canceled for five years," says an exasperated Max Fischer, protagonist of Wes Anderson's Rushmore, when he hears of his school's decision to scrap Latin classes. "'It's a dead language,' I'd always say." Many have made a similarly blunt case against the study of Latin. But as we all remember, Max's educational philosophy overturns just as soon as he meets Miss Cross and brings up the cancellation to make conversation. "That's a shame because all the Romance languages were based on Latin," she says, articulating a standard defense. "Nihilo sanctum estne?" Max's reply, after Miss Cross clarifies that what she said is Latin for "Is nothing sacred?": "Sic transit gloria."

From ad hoc and bona fide to status quo and vice versa, all of us know a little bit of Latin, even the "dead language's" most outspoken opponents. But do any of us have a reason to build deliberately on that inherited knowledge? The video at the top of the post offers not just one but "Three Reasons to Study Latin (for Normal People, Not Language Geeks)."




As its host admits, "I could tell you that studying Latin will set you up to learn the Romance languages or give you a base of knowledge for fine arts and literature. I can tell you that you'll be able to read Latin on old buildings, hymns, state mottoes, or that reading Cicero and Virgil in the original is divinely beautiful." But the number one reason to study Latin, he says, is that it will improve your language acquisition skills.

And language acquisition isn't just the skill of learning languages, but "the skill of learning other skills." It teaches us that "thoughts themselves are formed differently in different languages," and learning even a single foreign word "is the act of learning to think in a new way." Study a foreign language and you enter a community, just as you do "every time you learn a new profession, learn a new hobby," or when you "interact with historians or philosophers, interact with the writers of cookbooks, or gardening books, or even writers of software." Latin in particular will also make you better at speaking English, especially if you already speak it natively. Not only are you "unavoidably blind to the weaknesses and strengths of your native meaning carrying system — your language — until you test drive a new one," the more complex, abstract half of the English vocabulary comes from Latin in the first place.

Above all, Latin promises wisdom. Not only can it "train you to conceptualize one thing in the context of many things and to see the connections between all of them," it can, by the time you're understanding meaning as well as form, "grow you in big-picture and small-picture thinking and give you the dexterity to move back and forth between both." Just as you are what you eat, "your mind becomes like what you spend your time thinking about," and the rigorously structured Latin language can imbue it with "logic, order, discipline, structure, precision." In the TED Talk above, Latin teacher Ryan Sellers builds on this idea, calling the study of Latin "one of the most effective ways of building strong fundamentals in students and preparing them for the future." Among the timeless benefits of the "eternal language" Sellers includes its ability to increase English "word power," its "mathematical" nature, and the connections it makes between the ancient world and the modern one.

Latin used to be more a part of the average school curriculum than it is now, but the debates about its usefulness have been going on for generations. Why Study Latin?, the 1951 classroom film above, covers a wide swath of them in ten minutes, from reading classics in the original to understanding scientific and medical terminology to becoming a sharper writer in English to tracing modern Western governmental and societal principles back to their Roman roots. And as the School of Life video below tells us, some things are still best expressed in Latin, an economical language that can pack a great deal of meaning into relatively few words: Veni, vidi, vici. Carpe diem. Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto. And of course, Latin makes every expression sound weightier — it gives a certain gravitas, we might say.

If all these arguments have sold you on the benefits of Latin, or at least got you intrigued enough to learn more, watch "How Latin Works" for a brief overview of the history and mechanics of the language, as well as an explanation of what it has given to and how it differs from English and the other European languages we use today. You might then proceed to the free Latin lessons available at the the University of Texas’ Linguistics Research Center, previously featured here on Open Culture. The more Latin you acquire, the more you'll see and hear it everywhere. You might even ask the same question Max Fischer poses to the assembled administrators of Rushmore Academy: "Is Latin dead?" His motivations have more to do with romance than Romance, but there are no bad reasons to learn a language, living or otherwise.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A New Interactive Visualization of the 165,000 Most-Frequently Assigned Texts in College Courses

For some of us, it’s been a little while since college days. For others of us, it’s been a little while longer. We might find ourselves asking, if we hear news of on-campus activism and unrest (surely unheard of in our day)—

“Do they still read the classics down at old Alma Mater U.?”

Maybe that’s the problem, eh? Too much Marxist theory, not enough Plato? Well, you may be pleased, or not, to learn that classics still regularly—routinely, even—appear on college syllabi, including both The Republic and the Communist Manifesto, in courses taught all over the world, from San Antonio to Tokyo to Karlskrona, Sweden.




As we informed Open Culture readers in 2016, Columbia University’s Open Syllabus Project culled data from over 1,000,000 syllabi from university websites worldwide, to find out which books have been most frequently taught over the past decade or so. Since then, that number has risen to 6,000,000 syllabi. Still, the most-taught books at the top of the list remain largely unchanged.

As two of the project’s directors pointed out soon after the site’s launch, “traditional Western canon dominates the top 100, with Plato’s Republic at No. 2, The Communist Manifesto at No. 3, and Frankenstein at No. 5, followed by Aristotle’s Ethics, Hobbes’s Leviathan, Machiavelli’s The Prince, [Sophocles’] Oedipus and [Shakespeare’s] Hamlet.” These numbers have moved a little, edged downward by writing and research guides, but not by very much.

William Strunk's classic writing guide Elements of Style sits at number one. Other top titles include calculus and anatomy textbooks, other works of Enlightenment philosophy, and texts now central to the Western critical tradition like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, and Edward Said’s Orientalism.

The top 50 is almost totally dominated by male writers, though some of the most frequently-taught novelists include Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, Anne Moody, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Alice Walker. The most-taught books tend to fall into either philosophy, literature, textbook, or guidebook, but the overall range in this list of 165,000 texts encompasses the entire scope of academia around the globe, with more contemporary study areas like gender studies, media studies, digital culture, and environmental studies prominent alongside traditional departments like physics and psychology.

A new interactive visualization from Open Syllabus turns this trove of data into a color-coded stippling of different-sized dots, each one representing a particular text. Float over each dot and a box appears in the corner of the screen, showing the number of syllabi that have assigned the text, and a link to a profile page with more detailed analysis. Called the “Co-Assignment Galaxy,” the infographic does what a list cannot: draws connections between all these works and their respective fields of study.

The Open Syllabus Project was already an impressive achievement, a huge aggregation of freely accessible data for scholars and curious laypeople alike. The addition of this user-friendly cluster map makes the site an even more indispensable resource for the study of how higher education has changed over the past decade or so, and how it has, in some respects, remained the same. Enter the Open Syllabus Project's Co-Assignment Galaxy map here.

via John Overholt

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Richard Feynman’s Technique for Learning Something New: An Animated Introduction

I sometimes wonder: why do people post amateur repair videos, made with smartphones in kitchens and garages, with no obvious commercial value and, often, a level of expertise just minimally above that of their viewers? Then I remember Richard Feynman’s practical advice for how to learn something new—prepare to teach it to somebody else.

The extra accountability of making a public record might provide added motivation, though not nearly to the degree of making teaching one's profession. Nobel-winning physicist Feynman spent the first half of his academic career working on the Manhattan Project, dodging J. Edgar Hoover's FBI at the beginning of the Cold War, and making major breakthroughs in quantum mechanics.




But he has become as well-known for his teaching as for his historic scientific role, thanks to the enormously popular series of physics lectures he developed at Caltech; his funny, accessible, best-selling books of essays and memoirs; and his willingness to be an avuncular public face for science, with a knack for explaining things in terms anyone can grasp.

Feynman revealed that he himself learned through what he called a "notebook technique," an exercise conducted primarily on paper. Yet the method came out of his pedagogy, essentially a means of preparing lecture notes for an audience who know about as much about the subject as you did when you started studying it. In order to explain it to another, you must both understand the subject yourself, and understand what it's like not to understand it.

Learn Feynman’s method for learning in the short animated video above. You do not actually need to teach, only pretend as if you're going to—though preparing for an actual audience will keep you on your toes. In brief, the video summarizes Feynman’s method in a three-step process:

  1. Choose a topic you want to understand and start studying it.
  2. Pretend you’re teaching the idea to someone else. Write out an explanation on the paper…. Whenever you get stuck, go back and study.
  3. Finally do it again, but now simplify your language or use an analogy to make the point.

Get ready to start your YouTube channel with homemade language lessons, restoration projects, and/or cooking videos. You may not—nor should you, perhaps—become an online authority, but according to Feyman, who learned more in his lifetime than most of us could in two, you’ll come away greatly enriched in other ways.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Art & Cooking of Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keeffe, Vincent Van Gogh & More

Mexican cuisine is as time-consuming as it is delicious.

Frida Kahlo fans attracted to the idea of duplicating some dishes from the banquet served at her wedding to fellow artist Diego Rivera should set aside ample time, so as to truly enjoy the experience of making chiles rellenos and nopales salad from scratch.

Sarah Urist Green’s Kahlo-themed cooking lesson, above, adapted from Marie-Pierre Colle and Frida’s stepdaughter Guadalupe Rivera’s 1994 cookbook Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo, is refreshingly frank about the challenges of tackling these types of dishes, especially for those of us whose grandmas ran more toward Jell-O salad.

Her self-deprecation should go a long way toward reassuring less-skilled cooks that perfection is not the goal.

As she told Nuvo’s Dan Grossman:

The art cooking videos are immensely fun to make… And what I’m trying to do is reach people who aren’t necessarily outwardly into art or don’t know whether they’re into art so they’re not going to click on a video that’s strictly about art. But if you can present art ideas through a cooking tutorial perhaps they’ll be more open to it. I love to cook. And I love to think about that side of art history.

To that end, she takes a couple of bite-sized art breaks, to introduce viewers to Frida’s life and work, while the tomatoes are roasting.

As tempting as it is for old Frida hands to skip this well-charted terrain, doing so will not make dinner ready any faster. Why not enjoy the non-cooking related sections with the easiest item on the menu—a tequila shot?

Don't trick yourself into thinking there's nothing more to learn.

For instance, I did not know the Spanish for “I can’t get over this hangover,” but Frida’s pet parrot did. (Didn’t know that either.)

Green also offers some quick how-tos that could come in handy for other, less time-consuming dishes, like a sandwich or a plate of homemade pasta—everything from how to make homemade tomato sauce  to denuding prickly pear cactus pads of their non-edible spines.

If you’re undaunted by the Frida recipes, perhaps you should proceed to Salvador Dali’s towering Bush of Crayfish in Viking herbs, or the Futurists’ highly suggestive Meat Sculpture. Other recipes come from Vincent Van Gogh and Georgia O'Keeffe. See above.

Books referenced in the videos include: Dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe; A Painter's Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe; Dali's Les Diners de GalaVan Gogh's Table at the Auberge Ravoux: Recipes From the Artist's Last Home and Paintings of Cafe Life; and again Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo.

View the full playlist of The Art Assignment’s Art Cooking episodes here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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