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Posts Tagged ‘no such thing as a fish

I was a student of undergraduate biology well over 30 years ago. I still remember some of the things I learnt because they caused such dissonance.

One of the things I learnt was that giant pandas were not bears even if they looked like them. I learnt then that classification is messy and depend not just on how things look. 

I learnt from one of my favourite podcasts, No Such Thing As A Fish, that pandas have since been reclassified as bears. If the podcasters have their facts right, there are actually no pandas, not even red ones. That discussion starts at the 40 min 48 sec mark and might be fascinating even to non-biologists. 

Photo by Ivan Cujic on

This reminds me how important it is to stay up to date in one’s field. It is not enough to have studied something and hope that is enough to last a lifetime. It is essential to be currently informed.

One reason I did not know about this reclassification is that I no longer study biology actively even though it was my first academic love. I am now married to the fields of education and educational technology.

By reading, watching, and listening, I unlearnt the myth of learning styles. I learnt that cooperation and collaboration are not synonymous. The same could be said of gamification and game-based learning.

To some, taking in the new and unlearning the old might seem like embracing pandemonium. It is not. It gets easier with practice, you develop a BS radar (critical skepticism), and the world around you is always exciting.   

One of the podcasts I subscribe to is No Such Thing As A Fish. I listen to its weekly releases and am catching up on previous episodes.

In episode 187, No Such Thing As An Ant On Its Gap Year, the panel discussed (around the 30-minute mark) the marshmallow experiments.

Like most people, they started with the supposedly predictive nature of the experiment, i.e., children who delayed gratification were more successful later in life. However, the experiment was more about the children’s coping mechanisms and decision-making.

The panel also critiqued the experiment, e.g., what if the children were not hungry, what if they did not like marshmallows, what if the more immediate factor was whether the kids trusted the adults to actually provide the marshmallows?

The initial mention was bad because it perpetuated the wrong idea about the original experiment. The follow up was good because it modelled ways of thinking critically about the experimental design. However, the whole process could have been good had they corrected the perpetuated misconception of the experiment from the start.

My message to teachers and educators is simple — do not perpetuate misconceptions. Dig beyond the surface, bust myths, and model critical thinking.

One of the podcast channels I have recently subscribed is No Such Thing As A Fish. It is helmed by the fact-finding team behind the QI television series.

I have been binging the series in reverse order and recently listed to episode 244 No Such Thing As A Fishman (iTunes) (Spotify).

Stephen Fry made a guest appearance and shared his thoughts on how warped our thinking can sometimes be. He described how we do not seem to take offence to violence but vilify basic body functions.

Around the seven-minute mark, he mentioned how we think nothing of phrases like “Traffic was murder!” but might consider “It was shitting bad traffic!” as rude.

The juxtaposition was ridiculous, I LOL’d anyway, and I got his point. It was a matter of questioning one’s perspective.

If we are to nurture more empathetic learners, we should not just deluge them with the experiences and cultures of “others”. We also need to help them explore and question their own biases and standards. If we cannot look past ourselves, how are we to gain insights into others?

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