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Posted at 4:51 PM ET, 09/18/2009

6 Things I Learned This Week

By Valerie Strauss

1) Most U.S. workers with advanced math skills never actually have to put them to work in their jobs.

American University Economics Professor Robert Lerman told this to a panel at the Washington D.C.-based Urban Institute this week during a discussion of whether everyone should go to college.

He also said employers by and large seek workers who have credentials that are not academic. They look for strong communications skills and past work experience.
(The Answer Sheet will discuss this more next week.)

2) University of Richmond President Edward Ayers, a nationally recognized Civil War scholar, reports that one of the perks of his job is a burial plot near other former leaders of the liberal arts school.

It is located in the school’s Columbarium and Memorial Garden, where alumni, students, faculty, staff, trustees and their immediate family members also can be buried. It is unclear whether he will use this particular job perk.

3) Alpha Delta Phi, the Dartmouth College fraternity that became famous when an alumnus co-wrote the 1978 movie “Animal House” about the adventures of a derelict frat at “Faber College,” has the second-highest grade point average in Dartmouth’s Greek system--over 3.5.

That comes from President Jim Yong Kim, the first Asian-American president of an Ivy League school, who is will be officially inaugurated next week.

Kim had dinner at Alpha Delta Phi recently and keeps “in close touch with them.” They are a great group of guys, he said, who not only earn good grades but are active on social service projects.

4) Virginia is losing its frogs--and for that matter, so is the rest of the world. And this, it turns out, is bad news for all of us.

In case you didn’t know, frogs are important to the food chain. Tadpoles clean waterways by eating algae and adult frogs eat a lot of disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitoes. Other animals feed on frogs.

But frog populations are declining and nearly one-third of the world’s 6,490 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, according to the nonprofit organization Save the Frogs, which is dedicated to saving the world’s amphibians.

Up to 200 species already have disappeared as a result of climate change, pollution, disease, habitat loss and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades. Virginia’s frogs have been hit particularly hard by urban expansion, which has wiped out amphibian habitats.

“The amphibian extinction crisis is one of the most significant environmental issues of our time,” said Save the Frogs founder Kerry M. Kriger.

There are, indeed, many environmental crises these days, but there is no reason to doubt that this is one of them.

5) This is actually two amazing facts, but they are related:

The magazine that says it has the world’s largest circulation is “AARP: The Magazine.” And the person on the cover of the September/October edition is Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce is turning 60.

First I thought it was a cheap trick to get folks to read the magazine. Then I realized it was a great trick to try to get people to read your blog.

6) Thursday is the sixth annual National Punctuation Day.

Almost every day is dedicated to one thing or another, but punctuation is something we should not ignore--and, apparently, too many people do.

Aside from a personal fondness for proper punctuation and a desire to promote literacy for children and adults at every turn, I like the way people are being asked to mark the day: Bake a cookie, cake, pastry, doughnut or bead in the shape of a punctuation mark, any punctuation mark!

Find out what you get if you win, and everything else you could want to know about commas, semi-colons and other punctuation marks at

By Valerie Strauss  | September 18, 2009; 4:51 PM ET
Tags:  AARP, Bruce Springsteen, Dartmouth College, University of Richmond, frogs, math, puncutation  
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Next: The Problem That Is Kindergarten


"Most U.S. workers with advanced math skills never actually have to put them to work in their jobs."

Students have almost always been taught the lessons that might have helped their grandparents. So-called "advanced math" became obsolete over 40 years ago, when computers began to solve problems that were impossible with calculus.

Colleges are just as hide-ridden as grade schools and high schools, if not more so. For most students, the most helpful education comes in the first few grades and then, much later, in professional or trade schools. Most of the rest usually turns out to have been a waste of time.

Posted by: AppDev | September 20, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

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