Weekly Roundup 6-7-14

School: Bard College is in its second year of a radical change to their admission process: Write four essays, and if they are graded B+ or higher by a committee of faculty, you’re automatically accepted. No ACT, no SAT no GPA, and no CV. Reminiscent of Oxford’s famous one-word essay question, Bard’s new approach may serve as the ultimate anti-standardized-test statement.

The Bard Entrance Exam aims for exactly the kind of student who, for any number of reasons, doesn’t fit inside that infernal perfection cage—who is instead, as Bard’s Vice President of Student Affairs and Director of Admissions Mary Backlund told me, “someone who really likes learning,” but perhaps “couldn’t be bothered with what they saw as the ‘busy work’ of high school, and instead invested themselves in things not perceived as ‘academic’ in some places, like music or the arts—or just reading on their own.” For these students, Backlund tells me, “this option is a ‘twofer’: They get to apply and do what they love—researching and thinking—all at the same time.”

Psychology: As the global economy has grown to historically unprecedented levels over the past 80 years, people – especially Americans – are feeling more harried than ever. In a new book, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time,” Brigid Shulte examines possible reasons why the predicted idle leisure that was supposed to be born of increased wealth has not materialized. Shulte explores numerous theories, including: We’re not actually working more, we’re just appearing to be busy because busyness equates to social status; as our incomes increase, our desires increase – we are hardwired to become more and more acquisitive as our ability to acquire things grows – which leads to a need for more money which leads to more work; and the idea that wealthier people work more hours and have less leisure time than the working class Americans, creating a phenomenon known as “the harried working class” (which brings us back to busyness as social status).

Scholarship: As handwriting is pushed aside by Common Core standards, recent research shows that distinct parts of the brain are used when we write in cursive, print, or type on a computer. Are we depriving children of full brain development by, for example, eliminating instruction in cursive handwriting?

When…children were asked to come up with ideas for a composition, the ones with better handwriting exhibited greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory — and increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks.