American Charities May Legally Have to Divest from Fossil Fuels


Student groups have long called for their educational institutions to divest from the destructive fossil fuel industry (and ideally reinvest in renewables). This passionate demand from students has seen success at various schools around the world, and their fight in the USA may have gotten easier thanks to a change in law by the Biden administration. Large schools in the states tend to have a charitable arm to give out scholarships and collect donations from wealthy benefactors (who donate to dodge taxes, but that’s a separate issue). Charities in the states are obligated to serve the public interest, and investing in the destruction of the planet is not in the public interest according to the Biden administration. Let’s hope the divestment movement continues to grow!

Like other public charitable institutions, Harvard is legally bound to serve the public interest in exchange for privileges such as tax exemption. Harvard is also required to manage its endowment prudently, in order to further its mission of educating young people and creating a more just world.

Fossil fuel investments are incompatible with those obligations. Fossil fuels are not only the primary contributor to climate change; their extraction and refinement also emit toxic pollutants—often in Indigenous and low-income communities, where environmental racism is most acutely felt. For decades, fossil fuel companies have obscured the scientific reality of climate change and thwarted climate policy; in recent years they have also attacked climate scienceand funded research—including at Harvard—that tacitly furthers their agenda. Sea level rise caused by climate change even threatens Harvard’s campus.

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Learn Faster by Knowing Less

tape and tool

People learn when they can experiment with whatever they are working with, be it something physical like carpentry or something mental like philosophy. Teachers can even encourage faster learning by letting students essentially play with what they have and stepping back. Providing too much instruction means students don’t need to create a process for themselves so they learn to cope, instead they learn to follow the instructions. A recent study showed demonstrated that how make choices as learners impacts how quickly we learn.

This observation means the brain is primed to learn with a bias that is pegged to our freely chosen actions. Choice tips the balance of learning: for the same action and outcome, the brain learns differently and more quickly from free choices than forced ones. This skew may seem like a cognitive flaw, but in computer models, Palminteri’s team found that choice-confirmation bias offered an advantage: it produced stabler learning over a wide range of simulated conditions than unbiased learning did. So even if this tendency occasionally results in bad decisions or beliefs, in the long run, choice-confirmation bias may sensitize the brain to learn from the outcomes of chosen actions—which likely represent what is most important to a given person.

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Today Scholars go on Strike to Bring Attention to Racial Injustices

The recent strike by NBA and WNBA players has shown that reactionary and direct labour action can make meaningful change beyond just the workplace. In the WNBA & NBA, the workers (players) refused to play in protest of police bracingly killing non-white people, the strike resulted in basketball arenas being used as a voting station in the coming American election. The media attention the workplace action got can’t be ignored either.

In the world of academia a similar action is happening today. Scholars across North America will put down their work to draw attention to the racial injustice happening on campuses. They won’t stop teaching though, you can attend online session today to learn about the troubles facing radicalized individuals and precarious workers on the front lines of postsecondary education. One such event is embedded above.

Scholars across Canadian universities are outraged at the relentless anti-Black police killings of Black people in the U.S. and in Canada. As athletes have done, so, too, must academics. We will be joining thousands of academics in higher education in a labour action known as Scholar Strike to protest anti-Black, racist and colonial police brutality in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. Scholar Strike for Black Lives in Canada will take place on Sept 9th & 10th, 2020. For these two days, we will pause our teaching and all administrative duties. We will use this time to organize public digital teach-ins on police brutality and violence in our communities from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

The program of public digital teach-ins through Sept 9 & 10 and other relevant resources will be released soon. We have confirmed a key note address by journalist and activist Desmond Cole and cross-campus digital teach-ins that will bring together activists, artists and scholars from York University, University of Toronto, Ryerson University and OCAD University.

Check the strike out and learn something.

Learning About Moral Philosophy Reduces Meat Consumption


A taste of a postsecondary level moral philosophy class can turn you off of tasting meat. It’s been debated for thousands of years if learning moral philosophy actually changes how people live. Does knowing about the complexities of ethics actually make you more ethical? Short answer: yes. In a recent study a team of researchers and philosophers tested out if moral education about meat consumption would change their diet.

And it worked! Not only were students in the meat ethics sections likelier to say they thought eating factory-farmed meat is unethical, analysis of their dining cards — basically debit cards issued as part of UC Riverside’s meal plan that students can use to buy meals on campus — suggested that they bought less meat too. Fifty-two percent of dining card purchases for both the control and treatment groups were of meat products before the class. After the class, the treatment group’s percentage fell to 45 percent.

This effect wasn’t driven by a few students becoming vegetarians, but by all students buying slightly less meat. It’s possible this effect was temporary; the authors only had a few weeks of data. But it at least lasted for several weeks.

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The Physics Travel Guide

Sometimes learning stuff can be difficult due to obscure terms and references to concepts that you might not know. Physics is filled with terms and concepts that are intimidating to learn right from scratch. Enter the Physics Travel Guide. The guide is a resource meant for adults who need an aspect of physics explained to them in a clear way without a priori knowledge. So if you’re wondering how something in the field of physics functions – check out the guide.

The Physics Travel Guide tries to fill a gap because textbooks and lectures usually don’t acknowledge that there is a difference between pedagogy and andragogy. Textbooks and lectures explain things linearly and try to be pedagogical. “Pedagogy” is a synthesis of the two Greek words “paidos” (child) and “ágō” (to lead) and literally means “to lead a child”. In contrast, “andragogy” means literally “to lead a man” and is the study of methods and principles to teach adults. It’s clear that you can’t teach children and adults in the same way.

This Physics Travel Guide has the needs of adults in mind, is non-linear and ideally suited for self-directed learning.

Check it out.

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