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Was the Facebook Mood Manipulation Experiment Worth It?

Receiving some bad news

In terms of recent news that generated outrage, few stories in the past month can compete with the Facebook “Mood Manipulation” Experiment. If the story escaped your notice, here’s the basics: A study conducted by Facebook’s data team filtered 689,003 users’ News Feeds for positive or negative keywords. The test was to see what impact this had on the users’ subsequent posts. Needless to say, users with only positive Feeds were more likely to say something positive. Negative Feeds led to more negative posts.

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High School Cancels Summer Reading Over ‘Controversial’ YA Book

lilbrother_doctorowUntil recently, a Florida high school had a summer reading program that had everyone in the school, regardless of grade level, reading the same book. However, the school’s administration canned the program over the content of this year’s book, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

The reasoning is a bit odd. The school, or at least, the librarians and English teachers responsible for actually reading the book and writing discussion materials for the students, vetted it and found nothing inappropriate about it. The plug was pulled at the last minute by the school’s principal, who’s reasoning seems to be primarily based on online reviews. Those reviews mentioned that the book had a “positive view of questioning authority” and “lauding hacker culture.” The principal also said that he had received parent complaints about profanity, though the author insists the only profanity is one indirect reference.

(Even if the book was foul-mouthed, let’s all just admit that shielding 14- to 18-year-olds from naughty words is a losing battle. Personally, those were my peak cursing years.)

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Trying to Turn English, Reading, & Literature Into a Numbers Game

readingbabyThere’s a problem that always seems to be at the root of the debate over education policy: When do we standardize and when do we personalize? If we don’t standardize enough, there’s no guarantee that everyone will receive the same opportunities and the same basic education. If we don’t personalize enough, we can ignore some really basic common sense in the interest of keeping everything “equal.” This post is about the second problem.

The institution of the Common Core Standards in most states tries to find measurable ways to ensure schools are meeting their state standards. For math, that’s not too hard. You just set the grade you should know your multiplication tables and the grade you should tackle geometry. For reading, things get trickier. That’s where the Lexile system comes into place. (more…)

North Carolina County Celebrates Banned Book Week By Banning Invisible Man

Book banning always struck me as a special kind of terrible. Not necessarily because of direct harm done — a student forbidden from reading, say Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is not a different end result than just not having that book on the syllabus — but because of the principle. There’s no greater insult to the very idea of education and to the discerning capabilities of young minds than to say, “You students can’t handle this book. You need to be protected from it.” (more…)

Five Books We Want To See As Movies

oryx-and-crakeOryx and Crake — Margaret Atwood

The premise: In a post-apocalyptic world, one of the only remaining survivors reflects on how his best friend brought about the end of civilization.

Why film it? Look at The Hunger Games. Dystopian sci-fi is in. Look at The Walking Dead. Apocalyptic sci-fi is also in. With Oryx & Crake, you get it both ways: a frighteningly believable and self-destructive future society and a planet after a disaster rapidly being reclaimed by animal and plant life. Plus, while the book can stand on its own just fine, there is a sequel (The Year of the Flood) and a third book due out later this year. And movie studios love franchises.

Who’d make it? It would be great if somebody like Terry Gilliam could make it. Despite the bleak material, the books are pretty funny at times and it would need a director who would be comfortable with some of the more unhinged parts. But there’s no chance a studio looking to make a franchise would let someone that out of control near it, so my guess would be Alfonso Cuaron, who brought a lot of visual flair to another more down-to-earth sci-fi movie, Children of Men.

What are the odds it’ll happen? 5/10 — There’s a chance nobody wants to touch this series until they see how it wraps up when the last book comes out this year. There’s just as good of a chance that nobody wants to touch this series at all since the last film adaptation of a Margaret Atwood book, The Handmaid’s Tale, was pretty poorly received.

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15 Examples of Insane Textbook Writing

Writing textbooks has got to be pretty tedious work. So you can hardly blame the writers when they slip in something that seems a little bit… off. My theory is that one of three things happens:

#1. The writer slips something in to see if anybody notices.

A word chart that says "OMG WTF STFU PWN3D"

Best optometry chart ever.

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Sad News: Jurassic Park Proven Scientifically Impossible

The triceratops scene from Jurassic Park, with a tear added to the dinosaur's faceI have news that’s incredibly disappointing to my younger self, age 3 to 9. Sadly, we’ll never be able to build a real-life Jurassic Park, because the half-life of DNA strands only lasts 521 years.

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