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Sunday, January 31, 2016

#SundayReads 31-Jan-2016

Charlie Writes:

During our sabbatical time, reading has become a priority. Noticing Kajsa Hallberg-Adu's weekly reading list inspired me to report in on mine as well. Not sure I'll be able to keep up the tempo, but it will keep me accountable....

Readings this week:

Children of the Earth: My Memories of EARTH University's History, Jose A. Zaglul, EARTH University, 2010. 221 pages.

This paperback, available in English translation as well as the original Spanish version, is sold at the Gift Shop on the EARTH University Campus in Guacimo, Costa Rica. Dr. Zaglul is the founding president of EARTH University, another institution benefitting from the Master Card Foundation scholarships program. Mary Kay and I had visited their Guacimo campus in Costa Rica for two days last week, and were eager to read the founder's take on the challenges of creating a university on a former banana and livestock plantation in the humid tropics of Limon province. The campus has about the same land area as Stanford University and teaches tropical agriculture.

I was very interested to read about the origins of their yearly international festival, organized by the students themselves, which has as one object the funding of travel for family members of graduates who would not be able to attend commencement otherwise. Also fascinating was the similarity of emphasis on entrepreneurship and ethics, with the additional "justice" component in their educational model. I think there should be ongoing collaboration between the schools, and hope that I can contribute to making that happen. While there, we had dinner with five students from Ghana, who explained how they had endured a "crash" course in Spanish while living with local farming families for the trimester before starting classes. We were humbled to even imagine attempting college in a foreign language, but they seemed to be thriving.

Liz Coleman speaks on Liberal Arts Education

The problem is there is no such thing as a viable democracy made up of experts, zealots, politicians and spectators.

Vulnerability in Teaching

Vulnerability as a teaching strategy. Some motivation for me to share my struggles in CS111 this past term on our blog.

Against The Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, Peter L. Bernstein, John Wiley & Sons, 1996. 0-741-12104-5

A romp through the history of probability and statistics, concentrating the later chapters on the famous economists and behavioral scientists who presaged Freakonomics. The final few chapters' discussed the "porfolio insurance" meltdown of the 1990s and what it implied about the hubris of quants. These guys developed illiquid derivatives that proported to re-allocate risk, making the market safer. At the time, the author seemed convinced that the regulation of this activity was un-necessary, as the big banks just were too big to fail. Written a dozen years before the sub-prime mortgage collapse, it was odd to contrast with the events recorded in the book and movie The Big Short.

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