Archive for August, 2009


Hail the Fallen Hero: Stanley Kaplan Dies at 90


I used to tutor children for a number of subjects, including the SATs and GREs. Some of my favorite materials at the time were from Kaplan. I just found them effective and efficient: Kaplan materials are clearly organized to directly target the skills required for standardized tests. They focus on principles and reptition, guiding the student in how to learn. I know several people–myself included–who still credit Kaplan and similar programs for the size of their vocabulary.

What strikes me about this profile is that Stanley Kaplan claims to have been motivated by a real passion for the value of standardized tests. Kaplan felt he was denied medical school not for his intelligence but rather for his lower-class education, ethnicity, and lack of connections. Standardized tests would have allowed him to show his ability despite the approach he took to getting there. That’s interesting  for two reasons. First, that Kaplan was a true self-made man. Skaplanecond, it’s another example of an important truth: you just can’t get the kind of enormous success that Kaplan achieved without the passion of being on a crusade.



When To Think and When Not To


article-1131457-033AFE11000005DC-536_468x338About a decade ago, I became fascinated by Zen Buddhism, largely due to the frequent presentation of effortless skill. One koan centered on a painter who struggled for a year to paint a monastery perfectly. He failed repeatedly until he grew angry one day and scribbled a sketch in one sitting. Of course, this last quick and dirty version was the perfect one. So I tried this out and started just plunging into tasks without thought…and quickly found out that the koan did not quite apply to all situations.

But there’s something compelling about the story, and it’s not just wish fulfillment. It may not be the whole truth, but it’s certainly part of it. Take a look at this article for a pretty compelling presentation of studies about this subject.

PS You may have noticed that I didn’t post for a bit. My old format wasn’t working with my schedule particularly well, so I’m changing things up. We’ll see how this improves my consistency.

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