The Magic Bulldozer

Piece of Mindful

I am grateful to JC, an infrequent commenter (and severe critic), for finding the original of this blog post in the Wayback Machine. I originally published in on 4/13/17, and then like all blog material, it faded into obscurity. I was working on a piece on John Brown, the Civil War agent provocateur, and noticed that part of his public stage play was a hostage event. One of the hostages was Lewis Washington, George’s g-grand-nephew. That does not happen, of course – bloodliners are not taken hostage, not for real. But they do occasionally allow their names to be used in fake events, as with Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Patty Hearst. So too must have Lewis allowed his name to be used.

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Citizen Tom

Justice requires that we be impartial, that we don’t favor some people over others, that we are fair to all. Unfortunately, we rarely see such justice. We often don’t seem capable of being just to each other.

Is Judge Roy Moore guilty of sexually harassing girls or just the victim of a rabidly partisan press? Well, for all I know Moore has done something he should not have done, but it is horribly difficult to prove or disprove forty-year old charges, something the accusers well know. Therefore, proving guilt is not the purpose. The point must be simply to raise suspicions, to undermine confidence in the man.

Are we not easily made suspicious of politicians — made to  believe one is dirty — especially when an unrelentingly partisan press keeps throwing mud at a man?

Consider how the news media has reacted to the CHARGES against Senator Bob Menendez

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2 Corinthians 13

Arlin Sorensen's Thoughts on Scripture

2 Corinthians 13 has Paul finishing his letter to the church in Corinth.  He writes about coming to see them yet a third time.  On his first visit to Corinth, Paul founded the church and stayed a year and six months (Acts 18:11).  His second visit was a brief, painful visit in between the writing of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.  Now he is prepared to come for a third time.  His work is not quite done with them.  This time he warns that he comes as a judge to point out what needs to be corrected.  Christ is going to deal with the sin in their lives.  “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you”.

Some think that Christ going to the Cross was a sign that He was not in fact in control.  Yet the truth is that Jesus went willingly…

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Fixing India’s Anti-Money Laundering Regime

GAB | The Global Anticorruption Blog

In the past year, India has been among the most zealous countries in the world in stepping up the fight against money laundering and related economic and security issues. The effort that probably got the most attention was last year’s surprise “demonetization” policy (discussed by Harmann in last week’s post), which aimed to remove around 85% of the total currency in circulation. But to assess India’s overall anti-money laundering (AML) regime, it’s more important to focus on the basic legal framework in place.

The most important legal instrument in India’s AML regime is the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which was enacted in 2002, entered into force in 2005, and has been substantially amended since then. The Act defines a set of money laundering offenses, enforced by the Enforcement Directorate (India’s principal AML agency), and also imposes a range of reporting requirements on various institutions. Furthermore…

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Are leaders born or made? Andy Cunningham

The Leadership Triangle

Posted: 13 Nov 2017 07:38 AM PST



RE LEADERS BORN or are they made? The underlying assumption here, of course, is that an individual is either a leader or not, whether by genetics or education. Period.

The elite of higher education would have us believe that leadership can be taught, especially if you are one of the privileged attending classes at a top tier university offering courses in leadership. But there are others who believe leaders come out of the womb with a mission to lead. Either way, we assume that leadership is dependent on personality traits and/or skills. That once a leader, always a leader.

But is this the case? Is the population to be divided simply into leaders who always lead and followers who always follow? Leadership is surely more complicated than that. Perhaps the question is not are leaders born or made, but rather, can leadership flourish in anyone when the circumstances for it are right? Does context matter?

We tend to remember leaders who seemingly made the impossible possible, but it was always in a particular context. Leaders like Martin Luther King defined by the civil rights movement, Margaret Thatcher defined by the Cold War, and Bill Gates defined by the burgeoning personal computer industry come to mind. For the most part, history doesn’t record how these leaders dealt with contexts outside their defining accomplishments. We examine their leadership and develop theories about their strategies, their skills, and their personality traits. But to understand a broader view of leadership, we must look beyond these historic figures and observe the anonymous trailblazers in our midst. A different picture of leadership emerges.

Hurricane Harvey in Texas demonstrated that “ordinary citizens” can step up to leadership when the situation is ripe for it. CNN captured a video of a local boat owner saying this: “We got eight people that done called for us already. So we’re going to go and get them eight, come on back, and try to save some more.” Crisis leadership in action.

The story of Todd Beamer, a sales rep for Oracle, still produces chills in anyone who hears it. He is the young man who called 911 during the hijacking of United Flight 93 on 9/11 and declared, “Let’s roll” as he and presumably a few others commandeered the airplane to prevent the hijackers from achieving their goal. They were willing to die for it.

Ordinary citizen leadership, however, need not be all about saving lives. Often it is about changing the status quo. Take Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, who took it upon herself to help women attain leadership roles in business, wrote a book about how to do it, Lean In, and started a foundation to promote it, This was not part of her job.

I’ve had the opportunity in my life to interact and work with some of the most impactful leaders in their fields. Among them are Steve Jobs who returned to the company he co-founded after being ousted in 1985 having learned how to deal with adversity and turned it around with a vengeance. Audrey Rust gathered steam from a passionate group of homeowners in Woodside, California, who wanted to protect the natural beauty in the expanse beyond their backyards and preserved 53,000 acres in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties under her leadership of the Peninsula Open Space Trust. And Walter Isaacson, having established himself as a talented journalist and media professional in the business world, took the reins of the Aspen Institute during a period of severe decline and redefined it as a purveyor of rich and varied content for the intellectually inclined. Certainly all of these people led others to fulfill a very particular mission and in so doing, created something out of nothing, something that made a difference in the world. But their leadership occurred in a particular context where their competence was significant, their confidence secure and their commitment established.

The truth is, leadership is all around us, and it arises within a certain context in which the leader’s ability (competence) aligns with faith of accomplishment (confidence) and forms a mission (commitment). I call this the Leadership Triangle.

So rather than ask if leaders are born or made, perhaps we should change the paradigm of leadership examination. Perhaps we have given short shrift in leadership study to the myriad people who find their competence, confidence, and commitment aligning with a particular context and jump in with both feet because there is simply no other choice but to lead.


ARLIN REPORT...................walking this path together

John McCain, you keep showing us why you could never have won the presidency.   You get slaughtered in debate, are easy to counter argue.   You don’t think before you speak.   Many politicians do that, including Trump………..but you, you are easy to chop up.

McCain’s latest criticism of the POTUS, “he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin over senior US intelligence officials when he says his country didn’t interfere in the 2016 election.”

1st Trump said……  “I believe HE means what he says”.

2nd……. Mr. McCain, the U.S. Intelligence officials you so highly speak of, was/has been at odds, if not political war against Trump, even prior to him being elected POTUS.  Like the Left, Trump was not their CHOSEN ONE.

3rd….   Mr. McCain, are you saying the CIA (FBI for that matter) has/have always been honest with us, or even honest with this President or other past Presidents?   Seems false info…

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New evidence that students’ beliefs about their brains drive learning

Susana Claro and Susanna Loeb

Susana Claro

Assistant Professor – School of Government – Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Responding to the need to look beyond test scores to measure school quality, an increasing number of school districts are striving to incorporate socio-emotional learning measures in their accountability policies. Growth mindset – believing that intelligence and talent can change – is one of these measures. Experimental research has found that developing a growth mindset can improve academic achievement and that schools can affect students’ mindset. However, until now we have not known how mindset varies across and within American schools or whether measures of mindset on a large-scale predict students’ future learning. A new study fills this gap by using data from five school districts in California that measure growth mindset for students in 3rd to 8th grade to assess the extent that students with stronger growth mindset learn more in a given year than those without. It finds that traditionally underserved students – including students in poverty, English learners, Hispanics, and African-American students – are less likely to hold a growth mindset. Yet, for all groups, students with a growth mindset learn more over the course of year than otherwise similar students who do not have a growth mindset. While this study is just a first step in assessing the effects of mindset on a large population of students and the role of schools in building mindset, the findings provide initial evidence that it may be beneficial to monitor the levels of growth mindset in the population and convey to students that the brain is malleable.

Teaching students that their intelligence can increase[1] can help them maintain motivation in face of challenges[2] and promote academic achievement.[3] This belief that one’s capabilities can change is known as having a growth mindset. Experiments in schools have found that sessions designed to promote a growth mindset[4] benefit academic achievement of students, especially those with initially low grades or in higher risk of failing.[5] This evidence has motivated foundations, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies to invest in growth-mindset dissemination.[6] In addition, school districts have begun to use surveys to assess students’ growth mindset, including the CORE consortium of districts in California.[7]

This focus on growth mindset and investment in programs to build growth mindset has increased even though we have known very little about what mindsets students’ hold, how they vary across the population of students and whether they predict academic learning at a large-scale. Our current understanding of the impact of growth mindset has emerged from causal studies using convenient samples of college and secondary-school students or from experiments and cross-sectional data outside of the US,[8] and we do not yet know whether those studies’ conclusions extend to the large and diverse populations in US schools. Knowing whether or not growth-mindset studies are generalizable across a wide variety of populations can help us better understand the need for and scope of potential policies for cultivating growth mindset.

In a new study presented at the this year’s fall research conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management in Chicago, we used data from CORE Districts, to assess whether there are systematic mindset differences present in the US population within and across schools, and whether holding a growth mindset predicts academic achievement gains of students. The CORE Districts are a collaboration of large urban school districts in California that began measuring social-emotional skills, including Growth Mindset, as part of an innovative multiple-measures data system under a No Child Left Behind flexibility request. Our analyses were based on the approximately 125,000 students in grades four through seven within these districts who completed the surveys in spring 2015 and whose responses we can link to data on test scores in grades three through eight from spring 2013 to spring 2016.[9] We measure growth mindset based on students’ answers to the following four questions:

Please indicate how true each of the following statements is for you:

  1. My intelligence is something that I can’t change very much;
  2. Challenging myself won’t make me any smarter;
  3. There are some things I am not capable of learning; and
  4. If I am not naturally smart in a subject, I will never do well in it. For each of these questions, students choose: Not at All True, A Little True, Somewhat True, Mostly True, or Completely True



Mindset Graph 1

As shown in Figure 1, we find that students with socioeconomic disadvantages tend to have less of a growth mindset. Students who are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch, English Language Learners, African American, and Hispanic students report lower growth mindsets than their peers. Female students hold higher growth mindset than male students up to 7th grade, where the mindset gap between males and females closes. These patterns appear within schools as well as across the population, however, gaps within schools are much smaller than across schools. The smaller differences across student groups within schools than between schools could arise if students sort systematically into schools with similar students, or it could be due to the effects that schools might have on students’ social emotional development.

When comparing students, we also find that students with higher test scores in math and English language arts have stronger growth mindset. While the relationship is strong, it is not necessarily due to growth mindset causinggreater learning. In fact, it could just as logically be due to students’ beliefs about the potential for their capabilities to increase improving as a result of learning more. To better isolate the causal effects of growth mindset on learning, we use regression analysis controlling for a rich array of student characteristics and two years of previous achievement, as well as indicators for each school. That is, we compare students with the same demographic characteristics, the same test scores in the current year and in a previous year, the same responses to the surveys for other social-emotional measures collected by the district, and within the same school and grade, to see whether students who look the same on all of these measures but have a stronger growth mindset learn more over the course of the following year. We find that they do.

Even the most conservative models provide evidence that growth mindset predicts achievement a year later. The relationship is not as strong as the simple correlation between growth mindset and achievement levels, but it is meaningful in size. A student with a growth mindset in spring 2015 has ELA and Math test scores in the spring of 2016 that are approximately 0.07 and 0.04 standard deviations (SD) higher than a similar classmate (i.e., a classmate with the same previous achievement and demographic characteristics in the same school) with a fixed mindset (approximately two standard deviations below).

Moreover, we see greater learning for students with a stronger growth mindset across all groups of students – by race and ethnicity, poverty, gender, prior score. As seen in Figure 2, for each subgroup that we look at we find that mindset predicts achievement gains.  Students with a growth mindset present a higher increase in achievement at higher grades, a difference that may be due to actual differences or to differences in the accuracy of reporting for older students relative to younger students.

Mindset Graph 2

How large are the effects of mindset on academic achievement?  We estimate that the average growth in English language arts scores due to changing from a fixed mindset to a neutral mindset (a one standard deviation change) is between 0.03 and 0.02 standard deviations in test performance. Based on a rough calculation developed by Hanushek and his colleagues,[10] this is equivalent to approximately 19 days of learning – almost a calendar month of school. This magnitude is meaningful considering that we are analyzing a social-emotional barrier that could potentially be addressed by low cost interventions. In fact, this effect appears to be comparable to the average annual growth that the California education system achieved between 1992 and 2011, which has been estimated as 0.02 standard deviations.[11] The effect of mindset estimated in this study seems promising, especially considering that about 75 percent of students in each grade have room to improve their mindset score by one standard deviation or more.

The increasing interest on developing a growth mindset in students has grown without information on how growth mindset is distributed across the population and whether it matters at a large scale. The new study offers the first evidence of growth mindset distribution and its relationship with achievement and student demographics that is available in the US at a large scale. The analysis identifies a mindset gap across subgroups, even within schools, and it confirms that mindset predicts achievement gains for students, even with unusually rich controls for students’ background and schooling.

Before pursuing a growth mindset campaign across schools, more is needed to understand the validity of the growth mindset measures and how to build growth mindset effectively at scale. Some students, for example, may have less access to growth mindset messages and thus could benefit from increased exposure to this messaging at school. However, lower levels of mindset may also stem from structural barriers to success and perceptions of inequality in access to opportunities.[12] Such sources of differences across students in mindset are unlikely to be overcome solely by low-cost interventions in schools. Additionally, researchers have only begun to develop valid and reliable measures of growth mindset. The measure of growth mindset used by the CORE districts, for example, which is not the same as the instrument created by Dweck and colleagues and used in previous studies,[13]  may be more predictive than the initial measure, but still suffers from measurement issues, particularly for younger students.[14]

While this study is just a first step in assessing the effects of mindset on a large population of students and the role of schools in building mindset, the findings provide initial evidence that it may be beneficial to monitor the levels of growth mindset in the population and convey to students that the brain is malleable.

The authors did not receive any financial support from any firm or person for this article or from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this article. They are currently not an officer, director, or board member of any organization with an interest in this article.



  1. 1Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality and development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
  2. 2Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256–273; Mueller CM & Dweck CS (1998) Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. J Pers Soc Psychol 75(1):33–52.
  3. 3Good C, Aronson J, Inzlicht M (2003) Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. J Appl Dev Psychol 24(6):645–662; Aronson, J., Fried, C. B., & Good, C. (2002). Reducing the Effects of Stereotype Threat on African American College Students by Shaping Theories of Intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology38(2), 113–125; Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246–263. Paunesku D, et al. (2015) Mind-set interventions are a scalable treatment for academic underachievement. Psychol Sci 26(6):784–793; Yeager DS, et al. (2016) Using design thinking to make psychological interventions ready for scaling: The case of the growth mindset during the transition to high school. J Educ Psychol 108(3):374–391.
  4. 4For examples of these sessions go to
  5. 5Paunesku et al. (2015); Yeager et al. (2016).
  6. 6Obama, Barack (2014) Weekly Address: Everyone Should Be Able to Afford Higher Education Last retrieved October 2015; National Science and Technology Council (2015) Social and Behavioral Sciences Team. Annual Report Last retrieved October 2015.
  7. 7The CORE is a consortium of nine California school districts that implemented a pilot to create a comprehensive accountability system by assessing school performance through a variety of measures that go beyond academic achievement tests. Five of these districts, operating under a U.S. Department of Education waiver, began collecting measures of growth mindset, among other socio-emotional skills, for all of the students between 3rd and 11th grade, through surveys.
  8. 8Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003; Aronson et al., 2002; Blackwell et al., 2007; Paunesku et al., 2015; Yeager et al., 2016; Claro, S., Paunesku, D., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Growth mindset tempers the effects of poverty on academic achievement. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 8664–8668. One of the latest biggest experiments was carried out in Perú randomizing across schools: Outes, I., Sánchez, A., and Vakis, R. (2017) Cambiando la mentalidad de los estudiantes: evaluación de impacto de ¡Expan- de tu Mente! sobre el rendimiento académico en tres regiones del Perú.  Documentos de investigación, 83. Lima: GRADE.
  9. 9California did not assessed students during the 2013-14 academic year, hence we only controlled by students’ achievement collected in Spring 2013 and Spring 2015
  10. 10Hanushek, EA., Peterson, PE & Woessmann, L (2012). Is the US Catching Up? International and State Trends in Student Achievement. Education Next 12(4).
  11. 11idem
  12. 12Kraus M.W., Piff P.K., Keltner D. (2009). Social class, sense of control, and social explanation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 992–1004.
  13. 13Previous studies use the traditional mindset instrument developed by Dweck (1999). See, for examples, Claro et al. (2016) and Paunesku et al. (2015).
  14. 14For more information on the CORE Districts and measures see
  15. 15Figure 1 mindset gaps across the population in CORE districts, in standard deviations. Mindset is standardized within grade to have a mean of 0 and standard deviation of 1 in each grade.

Did Jesus Christ Ever Laugh?

In the gospels, Jesus shares in the fullness of the human experience. To paraphrase one theologian, he mourns and rejoices, he hungers and thirsts, He is born and dies. But, to the modern reader, there seems to be one thing we experience that Jesus doesn’t: laughter.

G.K. Chesterton touched upon this at the very end of Orthodoxy:

Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.

Mirth—that lightheaded spirit that gives rise to laughter—seems entirely absent in the gospels.

For some, this might not seem like an issue. Jesus was born to die. He came to rescue a fallen humanity and redeem the world. He came to proclaim the kingdom of God, to defeat Satan, to heal the broken in spirit and body. So perhaps it’s not surprising that we do not catch any glimpse of Jesus laughing in the gospels. It just would not be fitting.

Yet humor is a distinctive characteristic of what it means to be human. It is one of the most effective ways of winning over audiences, exposing falsehoods, and demonstrating truth in the face of power. Laughter is one of the telltale signs of a couple that is truly happy in love. And no one has fully learned another language and culture until they know how to laugh and tell jokes in it.

We look for signs of humor from Jesus for two reasons. First, it seems to necessarily follow from the fullness of His humanity, as one who shared all things with us except sin (Hebrews 4:15). Second, it follows from our personal desire to relate more fully to Jesus.

It is true the gospels record many instances of Jesus’ joy (as this author points out). But joy is not the same thing as mirth or laughter. It is more of an interior state. Parents watching their child graduate from school or get married, artists drinking in that sense of accomplishment at the completion of a painting or sculpture, and believers resting in the truth of God all experience joy—but those moments are not necessarily accompanied by laughter. They may be—or they may bring out tears of joy.

So Chesterton’s reading of the gospels stands. Given the character of Jesus’ redemptive mission it does seem fitting that He might, as Chesterton puts it, ‘conceal’ His mirth.

But Jesus’ lighthearted side does peek out to us from beneath the veil of the Old Testament, in particular, in the wisdom literature. Consider this prophetic account of Jesus, who speaks in the first person as the wisdom of God in Proverbs 8:

then was I beside him as artisan;
I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
Playing over the whole of his earth,
having my delight with human beings (vv. 30-31).

We are afforded a similar glimpse of this more lighthearted side of Jesus in Song of Songs, if we understand the groom to be Christ. Here is how the bride recounts the approach of the groom in Song of Songs 2:

The sound of my lover! here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
See! He is standing behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices (vv.8-9).

Both passages indicate a more lighthearted, ‘playful’ attitude than what we would normally ever associate with Christ’s demeanor in the gospels. The account in Proverbs seems to belong to a primeval time. Perhaps it offers a glimpse behind the mists of time at what the relationship between God and Adam and Eve before the Fall. This state of original happiness is now our destiny thanks to the redeeming work of Christ.

The second passage, I believe, depicts the pure earnestness of perfect love. One way of interpreting Song of Songs is to see it as a parable of the love Christ has for His Church. One could also see it as a description of the love between the soul and Christ (as St. Bernard of Clairvaux does). Mary would have experienced this as Christ’s mother. And Peter may have after the resurrection.

But details on any lighter moments of happiness Jesus experienced and shared with others are largely absent from the gospels. Perhaps this is because the holiest things are the most hidden. God’s own interior mirth, His sheer delight in being is too wondrous a thing for the naked human eye to see. In looking at the gospels directly, the brilliance of God’s smile is obscured to us. But it nonetheless bursts out on the Scriptural periphery of the gospels—in an ancient collection of wise sayings and one of the most intense love poems of the ancient world.

Does Jesus ever laugh? Rest assured He must. But it’s something that’s veiled to us in this life. For now, may we delight in the traces of divine mirth left for us in the Old Testament.