By some estimates, a child is over twenty times more likely to be abused by a sibling than by a parent. Other studies showed that 40% of siblings committed a serious act of aggression in the previous year. Within families in which parents are abusive, either to each other or to their children, close to 100% of the children are violent with each other. The long-term effects of this abuse are the same as any other type of abuse: depression, substance abuse, and a continuation of the cycle of abuse.
Violent sibling rivalry is a common theme in literature and mythology. Cain murdered Abel in the first book of the bible. Rome was founded after Romulus murdered his brother Remus. Shakespeare’s King Lear features a sister killing. Scar plotted against Mufasa in the Lion King. There are countless historical examples as well: Cleopatra had her sister put to death, for example.
Oceans of ink are spilled writing about bullying and combatting abuse at school. Sophisticated agencies exist to prevent children being abused by their parents. And yet, sibling abuse goes largely unrecognized; many people are shocked to hear the previous statistics. Others dismiss the statistics as exaggerating normal, healthy roughhousing.
One of the causes of sibling abuse is a competition for parent’s favor. The children fight, belittle, and lie about each other to win their parents’ admiration. Is it possible that our single-minded focus on self-esteem, along with the idea that self-esteem is built by praise, is causing this most common of abuses?
Walk down certain aisles of your local bookstore, and the covers of books will scream the words “leadership,” “creativity,” and “success” to the point that a skeptical person becomes nauseous. These are amazingly influential words that bend policy and shape people’s lives and desires. But what is the precise definition of each word?
The simplest definition of a leader is someone who has followers. Is leadership, therefore, the art of attracting followers? That definition feels manipulative and amoral. And what is creativity? Wikipedia says that it is the process of developing something “new and valuable,” which sounds rather empty. Wikipedia defines success as the attainment of higher social status, which sounds awfully shallow.
It often feels like the people writing the most about leadership are the ones leading the least. The term “thought leader” has been coined for these people. One can be equally cynical about the other terms. Making creativity the subject of bureaucratic policy seems hopelessly idiotic. Having young people chase success feels like we are throwing them into a hamster wheel and forcing them to ignore their inner lives.
And success is entirely relative: Barack Obama, from the point of view of his high school classmates, must seem like an enormous success. But examined from the point of view of fellow presidents? So why chase something that becomes elusive the higher up you go?
Reversing the terms can tame the cynicism. It is certainly clear what a lack of creativity entails: being stuck in a rut and repeating the same mistakes. The lack of leadership is similarly easy to define: being irresponsible and gullible.
The lack of success is not so easy to define. Almost anyone will say that failure is part of a process of learning. So why not focus on the quality of the process rather than an ill-defined outcome?
But it makes sense that creativity and leadership would be hard to define. If they could be formulated simply, they would already have been bureaucratized and computerized. However, they are distinctly thoughtful, human qualities that must be constantly reinvented and readapted.
Perhaps, to borrow the famous phrase of Justice Stewart when defining obscenity, the best that you can say about creativity or leadership is, “I know it when I see it.”
While doing research for Rebel to Ruler on revolutionaries, leaders, artists, and thinkers, I have repeatedly stumbled across two surprising facts about almost all of them: one, that they were fantastic athletes and two, almost no one realizes this about them.
Several American presidents had been wrestlers. George Washington was a colony-wide champion in is youth. Abraham Lincoln was a winner as well. During his long amateur career, he was either undefeated, or defeated only once in almost one hundred matches. He reportedly took on a local tough named Jack Armstrong, who began cheating by stomping on Lincoln’s hand. Lincoln picked him up and slammed him on his head, knocking him out, and winning the respect of Armstrong’s gang.
Leonardo da Vinci, in addition to all of the various talents for which he is famous – painting, anatomy, drawing – was also incredibly strong and coordinated. He would dance to entertain kings and could take an iron horseshoe and bend it with his right hand “like it was made of lead.”
Ben Franklin was a great swimmer. He learned moves from an old renaissance-era book he was printing. He was so talented that he began teaching it, and came close to starting his own swimming school.
Gautama Siddhartha, who was born a prince, had a royal education that included archery, swordsmanship, and wrestling. He apparently was a champion wrestler before he went on to found Buddhism.
The ancient Greek philosophers emphasized athletics. Plato was a champion wrestler in his youth. In fact, “Plato” is a nickname, meaning broad-shouldered, that he got from his wrestling days. His pupil, Aristotle, used wrestling as a teaching tool in the school he founded and when tutoring Alexander the Great.
Even the non-violent champions were athletes in their youth. Gandhi loved cricket, and was a skilled player (though he eschewed physical exercise as he got older). He used soccer to bring people together while he lived in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was a boxer; he loved the “science” of boxing, saying it contributed to his later understanding of strategy.
Mandela’s insight provides a clue that goes much deeper than a trite “sound body in a sound mind” assessment when trying to analyze why so many of these leaders and geniuses were athletes: perhaps they learned something from it.
Modern sports psychologists talk about “mental toughness” and “grit.” Russian sports psychologists were clearer, and deeper: athletics develop the will.
It is important to remember that some of the most revered, and important, events in American history were riots. To name just a few: the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Raid on Harper’s Ferry. (There were, of course, hundreds of other, less-revered riots.)
The Boston Massacre was controversial in a way that sounds familiar today. British soldiers, sent to enforce new taxes on the colonists, fired on an angry crowd in Boston. The soldiers were put on trial and successfully defended by John Adams, to the anger of his compatriots and his agitator brother, Sam. It was found that the British soldiers were struck with roping clubs and had no choice but to defend themselves.
The outcome of the trial didn’t matter, other than being an interesting footnote in history. Civil unrest continued everywhere in the colonies. What was remarkable, and instructive, is that the colonists followed each riot by getting more organized.
The unrest following the Stamp Act resulted in the Stamp Act Congress and the Sons of Liberty. The anger against the Townshend Acts resulted in Committees of Correspondence, allowing ideas to circulate and uniting the colonies (and so avoiding the divide and conquer strategy of the British). The Coercive Acts gave rise to the First Continental Congress. According to John Adams, the revolution was won before it was fought because these organizations did so much to change the “principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people.”
There has been plenty of civil unrest in the past twenty years, but not much of an organized follow-through. The L.A. Riots, the protests over the War on Terror, and Occupy Wall Street produced oceans of ink but few leaders, organizations, or actual change. The protesters in Ferguson would do well to study our founding fathers: a group of rebels who channeled the anger from riots to the foundation of the greatest nation in the world.
In education research, effect sizes of 0.2, or two tenths of a standardized unit (in response to a treatment), often attract considerable attention. Many prominent papers report effect sizes of 0.1 or even 0.05. Benjamin Bloom, the legendary education professor and creator of Bloom’s Taxonomy, found an effect size of 2.0, which, aside from being humongous, is without equal in the education world. The intervention? One-on-one tutoring.
In the early 1980s, in a series of randomly controlled trials in a variety of high school courses, he found that students who received one-on-one tutoring performed two standard deviations better than students in a classroom course. In other words, the average student in the tutoring program was better than approximately 98% of the students in the classroom course. Delving deeper, 90% of the students in the tutoring program were in the top 20% of the students in the control classroom course.
This result is not surprising if you take a broad and deep look at education. In the fitness world, personal trainers have never been more demanded. Life coaches, corporate mentors, executive coaches and related fields have multiplied. Some theorize that holistic medicine practitioners have prospered because they spend much more time, one-on-one, with their patients than traditional doctors. SAT preparation instructors, quality free material on the web notwithstanding, have never commanded higher prices.
Deeper, one-on-one education is the history of education. The master-apprentice model has endured for thousands of years. Most royalty throughout history were tutored. (Interestingly, many of their tutors were famous philosophers, like Aristotle tutoring Alexander the Great, and Rene Descartes tutoring the Queen of Sweden.)
Bloom called his finding the two sigma “problem” because he thought one-on-one instruction would be too expensive to implement on a wide scale; he was issuing a challenge to researchers to find ways of teaching that were as effective as one-on-one instruction.
Sadly, he did not try to polish his silver bullet. His tutors were not completely green; they were trained in “mastery learning” techniques. But what kind of effect would truly awesome tutors, who are widespread throughout the private sector, have? And what discoveries could they provide classroom teachers?
He was careful to avoid using the title "rex" or "king." He knew the Romans feared and hated absolute power; certain leaders, when tasked with cleaning up the city and granted temporary power through a Roman equivalent of martial law, would detest the task so much that they would ritually cleanse themselves for months after completing their duty. Indeed, Octavian's adoptive father, Julius Caesar, was killed by the Senators for occupying this temporary post indefinitely.
Rome was a proud republic (res publica: rule by the people). Its insignia, SPQR, stood for "The Senate and the People of Rome." They would tell and retell the stories of how they revolted against the Etruscan Kings during Rome's founding.
But eventually, the republic was torn apart by civil wars, both before and after Julius Caesar. The final civil war pitted Octavian against Mark Antony (and Cleopatra). Octavian and his talented generals won and took power in Rome. He killed off his enemies and consolidated power, like a typical tyrant. He took his father's name, and the Senate bestowed the honorific "Augustus."
However, the common Roman of the era would have no idea that he now lived in an "Empire." In fact, the title "Imperator" was a military honor that many earlier Romans had been awarded. The Senate still existed. Certain historians point out that it was not until the reign of Diocletian centuries later that Rome really acknowledged the end of the Republic.
Augustus kept the peace, however, and so powerful Romans, including senators, appreciated his presence. Also, in his own words, he found Rome "a city of brick, and left her a city of marble." He funded fantastic architectural projects, many of which can be seen today. He sponsored poets, including Virgil. Much of Rome's influence on the subsequent 2000 years - on Christianity, philosophy, architecture, and government - were impacted by policies enacted during his rule.
But that is still not an adequate explanation of how a tenacious, rebellious people like the Romans succumbed to Imperial rule. Several historians point to a simple fact: Augustus lived a long time. The average Roman of the era barely made it to the age of 35. Most people, at the end of Caesar Augustus's rule, had no real memory of the habits of the republic.
The people expected another "imperator" when he died. That was 2000 years ago this month, the month named after him.
From a purely tactical perspective, last stands are desperate acts that sometimes buy a bit of time. But in the imagination, they have effects that, in certain cases, echo for thousands of years. (Which make them exciting review topics, history teachers.)
Perhaps the most famous of the last stands is the Battle of Thermopylae, immortalized most recently by the movie 300. Legends about the battle were widespread even in ancient times. Alexander the Great, fighting 100 years later, sent 300 Persian uniforms to Sparta as homage after he defeated the Persians. The phrase “Molon Labe,” or “Come and Get Them,” which was King Leonidas’s laconic response to an order to surrender his weapons, has become a motto of numerous military and police forces around the world. Many gyms feature “Spartan” workouts. It is important to note that Sparta essentially disappeared two thousand years ago.
The Fall of Constantinople captured European imaginations for centuries. Constantine XI (pictured), who many historians now regard as the final Roman Emperor, tore off his imperial garments and charged with his infantry at the invading Ottomans. His body was never recovered, but he was immortalized as the “Sleeping King.” Stories of his imminent return circulated around Europe along with claims to being the Third Rome.
That claim was surprisingly widespread: Ivan the Great, in Russia, married Constantine XI’s niece. His office would become known as the “czar” after Caesar. The Bulgarians also started calling their ruler Czar. The German Empire staked a claim, calling their leader Kaiser, also after Caesar. The Italian Renaissance was a conscious attempt, with the help of the Greek scholars that fled Constantinople, to regain the glory of Rome. Hundreds of years later, Mussolini would talk about “Terza Roma.”
We often forget that our founding fathers, when establishing a legislative branch, could have named it “parliament,” but instead found calling the upper house the "Senate” more appropriate. Were they inspired by the idea of a Third Rome?
Apple's early strategy, in the 1980s, was to pursue the education market. They, effectively, created the market for classroom computers. It was considered quixotic to have third graders using computers - until Apple popularized the graphical user interface. Creating computers that even little kids could use - which earned it the ire of nerds everywhere - became a core value of Apple. Steve Jobs called it "human engineering" - that the computers would be "natural extensions of their owners."
By 1985, Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple. He immediately founded NeXT, a computer company focused on the higher education market. He had the original idea while working for Apple and talking to a biology professor who wanted a "workstation" that could display, visually, the results of expensive experiments without having to actually perform the experiments. Steve Jobs was taken with the idea; with his characteristic creativity he made a powerful computer with innovative design and software.
The NeXT was not a commercial success due to its high price, but it had a huge influence. Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web on a NeXT computer. The innovations in software are now standard across the industry. And Apple acquired NeXT in 1996 (its innovations would become a part of almost every future product it made), and reinstalled Steve Jobs as the CEO of the company he founded.
He gave an interview in 1996 about his return, and the reporter asked him about the education market.
"I used to think that technology could help education. I've probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I've had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What's wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent. Its a political problem."
He went on, of course, to turn Apple around from a struggling company to one having the highest market capitalization in the world.
There is an enormous amount of enthusiasm around instructional technology and MOOCs and how these are all going to transform education. But a review of the most influential technology company in history reveals that we may have the question backwards. What we should be asking is: how can education transform technology?
A human universal is the veneration of elders. From a biological standpoint, it is highly unusual that humans live for so long beyond their reproductive window. The old saw about hunter-gatherers dying young is a simple statistical misinterpretation; they lived way beyond menopause as well.
Scientists now believe that we are a "grandparenting" species. What has given us the edge over every other species on the planet is the wisdom that gets passed down from our grandparents. This idea is not difficult to believe: a trope in almost every society is the long-winded grandfather. The sheer joy that all grandparents show around their grandkids (sarcastic comments about the kids going home notwithstanding) is further evidence.
Video game designers, in an effort to create more social experiences, were looking at brain scans of players and people watching the games. They noticed an intriguing pattern: bystanders watching the game were completely indifferent to outcome of the player except when they had coached the player beforehand. When they had provided a bit of instruction, they suffered and rejoiced along with the player. It seems as if this instinct to pass down wisdom is hardwired into our emotions.
The publishing industry, which is suffering financially, is still inundated with manuscripts. The competition is cutthroat and creative - but the rewards are minimal. The same energy and initiative could be poured into almost any other industry for huge payoffs. And yet, people have this insatiable desire to teach.
And it is shocking that we even trust the numerous autobiographies of CEOs. Why would they share their company's strategy? Wouldn't that hurt their competitive advantages? And yet, this instinct to teach is so universal that almost no one suspects CEOs of deliberately misleading people.
The sheer volume of free educational videos that are available online has people, understandably, wondering why expensive forms of education exist. But the repeated failures of automated curricula to make a significant impact reveal an important asymmetry: the inborn human desire to teach outweighs the innate discipline to sit and learn.
Two San Francisco cardiologists, Ray Rosenman and Meyer Friedman, were talking to the man reupholstering the furniture in their waiting room. He remarked that he had never seen the fronts of chairs worn away. Usually, it is the back of the seat that has wear, but in this waiting room, the fronts of the armrests and the seat were frayed.
Friedman quickly realized it was the answer to a mystery that had confounded him for his whole career: why were heart attacks increasing? A good number of his patients were high stress, angry, impatient, competitive types that thrived in the growing postwar economy (and gripped the fronts of their chairs). He named them "Type A" and the term, along with its opposite, "Type B" entered popular culture rapidly.
Most self-help and success literature seems aimed at the Type A market: how to cope with stress, how to fit even more projects in your day, and how to get even more energy. How to maximize this and minimize that. College readiness materials are similar: they often have a "get your reach school or die" vibe to them.
But there are a lot of talented Type B kids that do not buy into the whole college rat race. Often, in the future, they make gifted leaders, as they are able to absorb stress and work with a wide range of people.
A few recommendations to get your Type B students ready for college:
Of course, many such exercises are in "From Rebel to Ruler." Click here for more information.
I'm an entrepreneur and I teach math, history, economics, and fitness. I'm looking for arguments.