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David Preston

We Don’t Need the Social Sciences

Published about 2 months ago • 3 min read

Most Tuesdays I deliver a taste of what I’m reading, watching, and thinking about, right to your inbox. Here’s your Taste of Tuesday.

February 27, 2024

According to the United States Census, the number of people with Master’s and Doctorate degrees has doubled since 2000. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, of the approximately 170,000 people who completed a doctorate in 2011-12, about 46,000 graduated law school. About 10,000 earned a degree in education. More than 7,000 got doctorates in business and other social sciences. 6,000 in psychology.

Are these fields advancing? What have the 288 doctors of “Parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies” been up to over the last 12-13 years?

To many, post-secondary schooling has become a financial aid package presented as an investment to increase future earning power. Bill Gates and others promoted the idea that everyone should go to college, and lots more people did, flooding job fairs and HR departments with degrees. As a result, the value of college degrees has deflated and a B.A. doesn’t mean what it once did. So people escalated the stakes and began going to graduate schools in higher numbers.

In graduate school, too many graduate advisors pat students on the back for replicating the same weak statistical or qualitative analyses of phenomena that aren’t replicable or transferable to other contexts. As a result, graduate schools and entire vocations are overrun with “Masters” and “Doctors” who don’t expand a shared body of knowledge in the way that natural scientists do. (Which is why there is no “Second Law of Learning,” for example.)

I’m wary of processed vegetarian products that masquerade as meat. I’m wary of processed “no sugar” products that use oils, gums, and artificial sweeteners, pretending to be healthful. And I regard with great suspicion anyone who uses a data set to make educated guesses about human nature or behavior and calls themselves a scientist. There is everything right about eating vegetarian – vegan, even – and cutting back on sugar. And I support thoughtful, curious humans who investigate what we do as a manifestation of how we think.

In Open-Source Learning, we find and select mentors based on what they know and what they can do, not where they went to school.

Understanding the world and our place in it has never been more important. We all face a complex, uncertain future. This is a fantastic moment to find excellent resources to help you learn what you need to know.

In Open-Source Learning, we find and select mentors based on what they know and what they can do, not where they went to school.


📚 What I’m Reading (classic) —

Richard Feynman was one of the most insightful physicists of the 20th century. Feynman worked on the Manhattan Project, won the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in quantum electrodynamics, and figured out exactly what went wrong on the Space Shuttle Challenger. I’ve always admired Feynman as a lead learner. He taught a class at Cal Tech that wasn’t in the course catalog – students just found out where he was by word of mouth and showed up. The class didn’t have a syllabus – long before Reddit, Feynman stood at the front of the room and said, “Ask me anything.” He was straight up legit interested in anything that got him and others thinking about the nature of it all. But until last week I didn’t know about the three-volume series of Feynman’s Lectures on Physics. I’m starting the online version here but will probably invest in hard copies.

📚 What I’m Reading (current events) —

As many times as I’ve read (and written, from an admittedly amateur perspective) about this kind of stuff, it warrants more reading and writing since most people are still unaware. How the Pentagon Learned to Use Targeted Ads to Find Its Targets—and Vladimir Putin: Meet the guy who taught US intelligence agencies how to make the most of the ad tech ecosystem, "the largest information-gathering enterprise ever conceived by man. "You know that ad that seems to follow you around the internet? It’s tracking you in more ways than one. In some cases, it’s making your precise location available in near-real time to both advertisers and people like Mike Yeagley, who specialized in obtaining unique data sets for government agencies.”

🎸 What I’m Listening To —

Recently I’ve noticed a shift in my musical taste. I used to listen to anything when I wrote. Loud. Coming back to the music and noticing was how I’d know that I was previously in a state of concentrated flow. But these days, it’s harder for me to have music on when I’m writing or doing any sort of focused work. And yet, the clothes dryer rattling just outside my office door… enter Max Richter. Whoa. I’ve enjoyed hours so far. Here’s what I’ve got on as I finish this week’s newsletter: On the Nature of Daylight (Entropy).

🤔 Quote I’m pondering —

"Strategy setting is storytelling. Culture building is storytelling."
― Jensen Wang, Nvidia CEO

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to reply to this email. Which bite is your favorite? What would you like to see more or less of? Any other suggestions?

P.S. If this edition of Taste of Tuesday was forwarded to you, you can join the list here.


David Preston

Educator & Author

https://davidpreston.net

Latest book: ACADEMY OF ONE

David Preston

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