Now I Know is free but is supported in part by generous readers who contribute $5 or more a month. Supporting Members get added to a special list called the "Now I Know Member Letter," and other benefits which I'll come up with as time goes by. This is the sample version of the Now I Know Member Letter - the once-weekly email (Wednesday afternoons, ET) sent to Supporting Members. Want to become a Supporting Member of Now I Know? Sign up here, and thanks! -- Dan
What would happen if you gave a homeless person a pre-paid debit card? Thatâ€™s what a writer for the Toronto Star explored in 2010. Related: NPR has a story about a charity which gives money to impoverished people in developing countries, with no strings attached. The results are similar.
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If youâ€™re not following CGP Greyâ€™s videos on YouTube, you should be. He creates great, incredibly informative videos on topics youâ€™d not think to explore. I asked him which one was his favorite, and he said it was this one, below, explaining the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. If youâ€™re a long-time Now I Know reader, you may have seen this before, as I mention it in the bonus fact of this issue of the newsletter.
While weâ€™re on the topic of CGP Grey, you should probably follow him on Twitter, as he makes other interesting observations such as this one. And if youâ€™re a redditor, he has a subreddit which heâ€™s active on, here.
Two long-ish quotes about the education system: I found both of the mind-boggling, and am passing them along without further comment:
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Anne Ruggles Gere, a professor at the University of Michigan, serves as director of the Sweetland Center for Writing, which oversees first-year writing at the university. She speaks with SAT essay-graders often. â€œWhat they tell me is that they go through a very regimented scoring process, and the goal of that process is to produce so many units of work in a very short period of time,â€ she says. â€œSo if they take more than about three minutes to read and score these essays, they are eliminated from the job of scoring.â€ According to Perelman, especially speedy graders are rewarded for their efforts. â€œThey expect readers to read a minimum of 20 essays an hour,â€ he says. â€œBut readers get a bonus if they read 30 essays an hour, which is two minutes per essay.â€
Back in California, when I raised the issue of too much homework on that e-mail chain, about half the parents were pleased that someone had brought this up, and many had already spoken to the math teacher about it. Others were eager to approach school officials. But at least one parent didnâ€™t agree, and forwarded the whole exchange to the teacher in question.
As the person who instigated the conversation, I was called in to the vice principalâ€™s office and accused of cyberbullying. I suggested that parentsâ€™ meeting to discuss their childrenâ€™s education was generally a positive thing; we merely chose to have our meeting in cyberspace instead of the school cafeteria.
He disagreed, saying the teacher felt threatened. And he added that students werenâ€™t allowed to cyberbully, so parents should be held to the same standard. I explained that we never intended for the teacher to read those notes. This was a forum where we were airing our concerns.
What was frustrating me was that the underlying issue of ridiculous amounts of busywork was getting buried beneath the supposed method we had used to discuss the issue.
Now I Know: The Week in Review
In case you missed any of the Now I Know issues since last Wednesday (ok, a few Wednesday ago, this is a sample!), I talked about the man who took the iconic photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight, the surprising safety value of roundabouts, a man who avoided death many times over, despite a lot of accidents, one of the the first fatal car accidents, and a guy who went on a rampage with a self-armored bulldozer. All are about transportation to some varying degree, which is either a coincidence or my unconscious doing weird things.
Some readers took exception to an aside I had in the bonus fact of the Wright brothers' one, where I said that it was "patently false" that the photographer was involved in the first airplane crash. The readers argued that the photographer was correct, as there were no airplanes before the Wright brothers' -- it's not a plane if it's not able to fly -- and I think that's probably a correct observation. So I took that line off the archived version.
Also, a few people wrote in to tell me about the Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England, which looks absolutely terrifying.
As always, thanks for supporting Now I Know.