The Hazy Memory of a Simpler Past

One of my favorite newspaper columns is Oliver Burkeman’s This Column will Change Your Life that he writes for the Guardian Weekly. The texts are short and poignant, the topics often refreshingly provocative and thus great for classroom discussions.

His column from February 2, 2014 is about our nostalgic tendency to believe in the past everything was better. Depending on the age of the person reminiscing, this could be any decade. What unites them all, according to Mr Burkeman, is that the person praising the respective time (and complaining about how things have changed since ‘then’ – and not to the better) was around seven at the time.

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One of the Seven and Another Classic to Guess

Last week the topic of the ‘seven sins’ came up again (see post from 25. June 2013). In one group, we had been reading about a decline in the sales of soft drinks and the topic of the attempted ban of XXL drinks in New York City was mentioned, so I took the text I had provided on the ‘History of Supersizing’ once more to class, in which our tendency not to take seconds so as not to appear piggish is explained in connection with one of the so-called cardinal sins – in this case ‘gluttony’. Continue reading

NY City’s (Failed) Ban on XXL Sodas and the History of Supersizing

Recently we read an article in class on the mayor of New York City’s attempt to ban the sale of supersized soft drinks. In January, the city’s health board “passed a ban on serving sodas and other sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces (0.5 l) in restaurants and cinemas” (Moya Irvine in Read On , January 2013, p 1).

We discussed the pro and con arguments and related issues like causes of obesity, our own eating and drinking habits, general lifestyle issues etc. According to Moya Irvine, the main parties against the ban were those who feared Continue reading

To work or not to work from home

On the weekend, I read an article in the German FAZ ( ‘Der Unsinn des Home Office’) about the pro and cons of working from home versus working at the office.

It describes a study with which researchers wanted to find out who worked more efficiently: someone working alone, or people working in a team. They gave a group of students the task of enveloping letters. Some of them were paired up, others worked alone. Those in the team enveloped more letters than those who worked alone. Continue reading

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report

As mentioned in my last post that eventually took a different direction, I was looking for the article in which I had read about an increasing worry among experts from different realms over possible consequences of income inequality or disparity. And I found it: it was a (German) newspaper article reporting the findings of the annual survey on global risk assessment conducted by  the WEF and summarized in their ‘Global Risks‘ report. Continue reading

The Google Effect

New Technologies and how they have changed or are changing our lives has been a recurring theme over the last years. This year a new term popped up: the google effect.

Last year, we discussed a study that intended to explore the effect that easily available information accessible via digital devices like smartphones might have on people’s mind or ways of thinking and memorizing. Study participants were asked how many countries’ flags had only one color. Continue reading

Happy New Year! (Any New Year’s resolutions anybody?)

Every year around the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year the same topics pop up. Some I love to take up on, others I try to avoid. However, similar to the taboo topics I wrote about in my last post, those I try to avoid most have the tendency to hop up and down in my mind, forcing me to at least mention them in a class. It’s a little like the things we try hard to forget: the harder the attempt the more likely unpleasant moments are to sneak back into our memories. Continue reading

Food Talk…again

(Updated September 3)

The topic of food keeps coming up in my classes. Though I do believe (or hope) it does so, because everybody is always interested in a topic so essential to everyday life and survival, it’s probably me being on a mission having read all these books and articles recently.

So here is a list of what I have been reading – in addition to the web sites linked to in my post on food pyramids: Continue reading

Would you stop working if you won the lottery?

Should you ever have forgotten your bag with all your teaching plans and materials at home, don’t panic, ask your group if anybody would stop working if they won a substantial sum of money that would exempt them from having to work for a living.

A variation on the theme is to consider how much money would be necessary in order to be able to stop working. And this is where the discussions sometimes get really interesting, and the topic touches upon all kinds of themes related to everyday life (and is thus also great for revising basic vocabulary.) Continue reading