Sunday, July 27, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Climate documentary 'broke rules'
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
The Great Global Warming Swindle, a controversial Channel 4 film, broke Ofcom rules, the media regulator says.
In a long-awaited judgement, Ofcom says Channel 4 did not fulfil obligations to be impartial and to reflect a range of views on controversial issues.
The film also treated interviewees unfairly, but did not mislead audiences "so as to cause harm or offence".
Plaintiffs say the Ofcom judgement is "inconsistent" and "lets Channel 4 off the hook on a technicality."
Hundreds of people... were misled and it seems Ofcom didn't care about that
Sir John Houghton
It is seen in some "climate sceptic" circles as a counter to Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, and credited with influencing public perception of climate science. It has reportedly been sold to 21 countries and distributed on DVD.
"It's very disappointing that Ofcom hasn't come up with a stronger statement about being misled," said Sir John Houghton, a former head of the UK Met Office and chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific assessment.
"I know hundreds of people, literally hundreds, who were misled by it - they saw it, it was a well-produced programme and they imagined it had some truth behind it, so they were misled and it seems Ofcom didn't care about that," he told BBC News.
I think this is a vindication of the credibility and standing of the IPCC
Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC
Ofcom defines a misleading programme as one by which the audience is "materially misled so as to cause harm or offence", and that Swindle does not meet this "high test".
"The programme has been let off the hook on a highly questionable technicality," said Bob Ward, former head of media at the Royal Society, who played a prominent role in co-ordinating objections to the film.
"The ruling noted that Channel 4 had admitted errors in the graphs and data used in the programme, yet decided that this did not cause harm or offence to the audience."
Plaintiffs accused the programme of containing myriad factual inaccuracies, but Ofcom says it was "impractical and inappropriate for it to examine in detail all of the multifarious alleged examples... set out in the complaints."
The regulator also says it is only obliged to see that news programmes meet "due accuracy".
The broadcaster argued that the judgement vindicated its decision to showcase the documentary.
"Ofcom's ruling explicitly recognises Channel 4's right to show the programme and the paramount importance of broadcasters being able to challenge orthodoxies and explore controversial subject matter," said Hamish Mykura, the station's head of documentaries.
"This is particularly relevant to Channel 4 with its public remit and commitment to giving airtime to alternative perspectives."
On another issue - whether contributors to the programme had been treated fairly - Ofcom mainly found against Channel 4 and the film's producer WagTV.
Former UK chief scientific adviser Sir David King had been misquoted and had not been given a chance to put his case, the regulator said.
Ofcom also found in favour of Carl Wunsch, an oceanographer interviewed for the programme, who said he had been invited to take part in a programme that would "discuss in a balanced way the complicated elements of understanding of climate change", but which turned out to be "an out-and-out propaganda piece, in which there is not even a gesture toward balance".
The film alleged that the IPCC's scientific reports were driven by politics rather than science, and Ofcom ruled the organisation had not been given adequate time to respond.
"I think this is a vindication of the credibility and standing of the IPCC and the manner in which we function, and clearly brings out the distortion in whatever Channel 4 was trying to project," said Rajendra Pachauri, the organisation's chairman.
Ofcom's Broadcasting Code requires Channel 4 to show "due impartiality" on "matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy".
Human hands are driving climate change, Ofcom acknowledges
The last segment of the programme, dealing with the politics of climate change, broke this obligation, Ofcom judged, and did not reflect a range of views, as required under the code.
But the main portion of the film, on climate science, did not breach these rules.
Ofcom's logic is that "the link between human activity and global warming... became settled before March 2007".
This being so, it says, climate science was not "controversial" at the time of broadcast, so Channel 4 did not break regulations by broadcasting something that challenged the link.
"That's a very big inconsistency," said Sir John Houghton. "They said it's completely settled, so why worry - so they can just broadcast any old rubbish."
While some of the 265 complaints received by Ofcom were short and straightforward, one group assembled a 176-page document alleging 137 breaches of the code.
Channel 4 will have to broadcast a summary of the Ofcom ruling, but it brings no sanctions.
Ofsted says tests narrow learning
Ms Gilbert's warnings have been ignored by some schools
England's education inspectorate, Ofsted, says some schools narrow the curriculum by "teaching to the test".
Chief inspector Christine Gilbert wrote to a Commons select committee, drawing on inspection evidence to bolster comments she had made.
Her remarks are given added bite by the furore over delayed test results, and renewed questioning of the value of the "Sats" children take at 11 and 14.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said teaching to the test was wrong.
Ms Gilbert's letter to the MPs on the committee was sent a month ago but has just been published. Their report on the assessment system had supported the idea of national tests, but said an "over-emphasis" on results could distort how children were taught and compromise their access to a balanced education.
In the letter, Ms Gilbert says the most successful schools "focus on national testing and assessment without reducing creativity in the classroom".
"However, in some schools an emphasis on tests in English, mathematics and science limits the range of work in these subjects in particular year groups."
These are often Year 6 and Year 9 - in which children take their Sats.
Teaching is sometimes too narrowly focused on exam techniques at the expense of understanding, she says.
This is not a new warning from Ofsted - what is clear is that schools are ignoring it.
As Ms Gilbert puts it, more recent evidence "suggests the continuance of these trends".
Some schools complain they are pre-judged by Ofsted inspection teams on the basis of their pupils' results.
Concern about this has added to the volume of complaints from schools about the lateness and alleged unreliability of this year's results.
Ms Gilbert says Ofsted "does not rely on published test data alone".
Mr Balls told the MPs last week that in his view the majority of teachers are not "teaching to the test".
He said: "Where it is happening, it is the wrong thing to do. The new curriculum should be broad and engaging, we are embedding creativity into the curriculum.
"A well-rounded understanding of the subject is a better preparation for the test. Part of learning is the ability to reproduce it in the exam.
"The principle of externally-assessed tests is the right one - the question is how best to deliver that."
More results due
On Tuesday, another update is due on the results website for schools from the test contractor, ETS.
By the last update, last Friday, 29% of the results of English tests taken by 14-year-olds had still not been issued.
ETS said 93% of pupils' maths results were available and 91% of science. About one in five primary schools had still not received a full set of marks.
No equivalent figure was given for secondary schools.
Marking is still going on. Some markers have not been able to enter marks into ETS' online database.
Some schools have had unmarked scripts returned to them.
Others say they do not know the whereabouts of their bundles of scripts.
The National Union of Teachers is one of the unions opposed to the testing system.
Its acting general secretary, Christine Blower, said: "The current unwieldy testing system, which is this summer now in crisis, highlights the obvious.
"All of the evidence points inexorably in one direction; that of the government suspending the current national curriculum testing arrangements, and commissioning a fundamental and independent review of the tests."
An inquiry into what has gone wrong is being conducted by a former chief inspector, Lord Sutherland.
The Tories have announced their own inquiry into the whole examination and testing system in England.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Se julgavam que o último
grito em matéria educativa
eram os artifícios para
simplificar os exames de
Matemática e fazer de todo
o aluno um génio em potência,
esqueçam. Há mais e bem melhor
do que isso. Na Maia, um sistema
revolucionário vai permitir aos
mais tenros rebentos em idade
escolar andarem mais leves e
deixarem de vez aquelas terríveis
mochilas que os fazem parecer
turistas de inter-rail. Além do mais,
é simples e conciso. Basta pôr tudo
numa pen drive. E a dita cuja no
bolso. O velho Caderno Diário do
tempo dos avós dará, assim, lugar a
um novo Caderno Digital. A heróica
tarefa tem já data de arranque e no
próximo ano lectivo a felicidade
invadirá o básico. Pelo menos os
lugares (além da Maia) onde a tal
pen drive substituir os pesados
livros e cadernos.
Para quem não sabe o que é
uma pen drive, digamos que é
uma espécie de disco rígido de
computador disfarçado de caneta.
É pequena e tem vindo a ganhar
memória, como se fosse uma
esponja ou uma amiba. No curto
espaço de escassos centímetros
armazena-se hoje o que há 30
anos exigiria salas inteiras. É
o progresso. E como deixar as
crianças longe dele? De modo
algum. Assim, tira-se-lhes peso das
costas e põe-se-lhes tudo no bolso.
“Menino, onde estão os trabalhos
de casa?” “Tá tudo aqui na pen
drive, stôr.” E os cadernos? E os
apontamentos da aula de ontem?
Pen drive, claro. E os conteúdos,
perdão, os livros? Na pen drive,
onde haviam de estar? O projecto
tratará do assunto.
E as canetas, os lápis, as
borrachas, aquelas coisas que
servem para escrever, para apagar,
para rascunhar e escrever de novo?
No museu. Porque agora há a pen
drive. Escrever é só no computador,
com teclas. À mão cansa. E a caneta
pesa. E não cabe na pen drive.
alunos vão começar a
atirar para a pen drive
tudo o que puderem.
Até o lanche há-de um dia,
miraculosamente, ser-lhes servido
numa pen drive. Exagero? Esperem
pelo futuro. Até lá, porque as coisas
são assim mesmo, há que pensar
em que ranhura vão os pequenos
estudantes encaixar a respectiva
pen drive. Terão um computador
para cada um, certo? Ou vão
fazer fila no computador único da
aula, para descarregar a “mala”
enquanto os outros ficam a ver?
Dúvidas ridículas. Certamente que
os autores do projecto pensaram
em tudo. Como tornar produtivo
tal sistema, como evitar que as
crianças não tragam na pen drive o
que habitualmente trazem (jogos,
fotos, brincadeiras, etc.), como
fazer disto tudo uma coisa eficaz
e responsável. Sim, porque até
os professores já trazem tudo o
que precisam em pen drives. Eles
e os gestores, os empresários, os
corretores da bolsa. As pastas que
trazem na mão é só para disfarçar.
Na verdade, tudo aquilo de que
realmente necessitam já vem no
bolso, no disco de plástico.
Os anos que perdemos
numa confusão de
papéis! Agora, o
admirável mundo novo
das pen drives, além
das maravilhas na redução de
peso, trará conteúdos didácticos,
quadros interactivos, jogos
pedagógicos. Trará até interfaces
da escola com a autarquia. E da
escola com os pais. E de todos uns
com os outros, que é para isso que
estas coisas servem.
Se trará ou não melhores alunos
é o que ninguém consegue ainda
saber. Mas isso é porque ainda não
conseguem metê-los em pen drives,
embora o desejassem. Há-de chegar
o dia e, nessa altura, serão mais
portáteis. Em lugar das carrinhas
para levá-los até à escola, bastará
um distribuidor de pen drives. E
com um saco bem pequeno.
Quando finalmente dermos
cabo do mundo, podemos deixar
as sobras numa pen drive. Assim,
os extraterrestres não terão
dificuldade em encontrá-lo. Desde
que tragam com eles um laptop,
claro. Nas viagens intergalácticas,
há que andar sempre prevenido.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Sonja Lyubomirsky's Amazon Blog
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– William James
Why are some people happier than others? What are the benefits (and costs) of happiness? And is it possible to become happier than you currently are, and to stay that way?
These are some of the questions that I hope to address in my new blog, which also appears on the Psychology Today blog site. They are also the very questions that I tackled in my recent book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. My other goal is to comment on how research on emotions and well-being can inform our understanding of current events, as well as our own behavior.
I am an experimental social psychologist who has been doing research on happiness for almost 20 years. Along with my students and my collaborator Ken Sheldon, I have conducted the first experiments (called “randomized controlled experimental intervention studies”) that try to increase and maintain people’s happiness. In broadest terms, my research suggests that lasting happiness is attainable, if you are prepared to do the work. Much like with permanent weight loss and fitness, becoming lastingly happier demands making some permanent changes, requiring effort and commitment every day of your life.
In later blogs, I will discuss how and why this is so and identify for you the major determinants of happiness. Today, I hope to stir your interest in the topic by describing some of the happiness-increasing strategies that researchers have studied and concluded to be most successful. This list won’t make any of you spill your evening tea, but take note that all the strategies have been supported by empirical research. (They are discussed in a lot more detail in The How of Happiness.) Also, as I argue in the book, you do not need to attempt the entire list of happiness activities, but should choose to focus only on the 1 to 4 strategies that “fit” you best – the ones that seem most natural and enjoyable to you
Counting Your Blessings
One way to practice this strategy is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down the 3 to 5 things for which you are currently thankful – from the mundane (your flowers are finally in bloom) to the magnificent (your child’s first steps). Do this once a week, say, on Sunday night. Keep the strategy fresh by varying your entries and how you express them as much as possible. And if there’s a particular person who has been kind or influential in your life, don’t wait to express your appreciation. Write them a letter now, or, if possible, visit and thank them in person.
Practicing Acts of Kindness
These should be both random (let the dad with the crying baby go ahead of you at the check-out counter) and systematic (read a newspaper to an elderly neighbor). Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects – it makes you feel compassionate and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and earns you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness. These are all happiness boosters.
This strategy involves such practices as looking at the bright side, finding the silver lining in a negative event, noticing what’s right (rather than what’s wrong), feeling good about one’s future and the future of the world, or simply feeling that you can get through the day. One way to practice this strategy is to sit in a quiet place and take 20 to 30 minutes to think about and write down what you expect your life to be 10 years from now. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams. Then, write about what you imagined.
Learning to Forgive
Let go of anger, resentment, and feelings of vengeance by writing – but, not sending – a letter of forgiveness to a person who has hurt or wronged you. The inability to forgive is associated with persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge, while forgiving allows you to move on.
Increasing “Flow” Experiences
When you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing that you don’t notice the passage of time, you are in a state called “flow,” a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. So, become fully engaged at work, at home, and at play. Try to increase the number of flow experiences in your life, whether it’s completing a project at the office, playing with your children, or enjoying a hobby. Seek work and leisure activities that engage your skills and expertise.
Investing in Relationships
One of the biggest factors in happiness appears to be strong personal relationships. Indeed, having the support of someone who deeply cares about you is one of the best remedies for unhappiness. Thus, this strategy involves putting effort into healing, cultivating, and enjoying your relationships with family and friends. Act with love, be as kind to the people close to you as you are to strangers, affirm them, share with them, and play together.
Remember the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff? There’s a time to think about the bad stuff in your life, but dwelling on your problems excessively is unhealthy. Very happy people have the capacity – even during trying times like a parent’s chronic illness – to absorb themselves in an engaging activity, stay busy, and have fun. To practice this strategy, pick a distracting, attention-grabbing activity that has compelled you in the past and do it when you notice yourself dwelling.
Savoring Life’s Joys
Pay close attention and take delight in momentary pleasures, wonders, and magical moments. Focus on the sweetness of a ripe mango, the aroma of a bakery, or the warmth of the sun when you step out from the shade. Some psychologists suggest taking “mental photographs” of pleasurable moments to review in less happy times.
Taking Care of Your Soul
Studies show that religious and spiritual people are happier and healthier than others, though researchers don’t yet know why. Perhaps the social support of belonging to a close-knit religious group is valuable, as is the sense of meaning and purpose that comes from believing in something greater than yourself. If you are so inclined, join a church, temple, or mosque; read a spiritually-themed book; or volunteer for a faith-based charity.
Committing to Your Goals
People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. Find a happy person and you will find a project. However, being dedicated to any pursuit won’t make you happy if you’re just doing it for superficial reasons such as making money, boosting your ego, or succumbing to peer pressure.
Using Your Body: Exercise, Meditation, Smiling, and Rest
Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, stretching, meditating, smiling and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term and promote energy and strong mental health. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying and increase long-term happiness.
Conclusion for today: The secrets to happiness are simple to learn, but not simple to carry out. However, with determined effort and commitment, anyone can learn practices and habits that will help them achieve higher levels of happiness and – even more important – to maintain those levels. You shouldn’t just “pursue” happiness – you should “construct” or “create” it yourself.