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Karen's Letters

On My Mind: Reaching the Animal Mind Celebrates its First Birthday!

Reaching the Animal Mind (RTAM) came out exactly a year ago, in June of 2009. And wow, what a year it’s been!

On My Mind: It's Not What You Do. It's How You Do It.

It’s a sunny spring afternoon in New England at the annual meeting of a group of animal behaviorists. I’m sitting on a folding chair alongside a small corral, watching some demonstrations with horses. My friend Tim Sullivan, curator of behavioral husbandry at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, is sitting on my left.

We’re watching a demonstration of clicker training. A calm old police horse is led into the corral and turned loose. The trainer stands on our side of the fence. She has a clicker, a bucket of feed, and a huge target stick that looks like a toilet plunger, with a big padded lump on one end.

On My Mind: Paying Kids to Learn

Last week TIME magazine ran a cover story about paying kids cash money to get better grades.

The objections to cash ‘rewards’ for schooling have been around for a long time and can lead to tremendous political uproar. There are moral objections—children should do what’s expected of them without reward. There are philosophical, theoretical, religious, and of course financial objections.

Well, this fellow at Harvard, economist Roland Fryer Jr., decided the first thing to do was to find out if paying kids to do better in school actually worked or not. Forget all the existing studies and opinions. Forget those specific schools where reinforcers, large and small, are built into the system. According to TIME, Dr. Fryer “did something education researchers almost never do: he ran a randomized experiment.” (Just think about THAT for a minute. They opine stuff and put it into the schools and they don’t TEST it?)

Fun with Rats

I loved Lucy

When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I kept a brown and white pet rat named Lucy. She would come when called, so I could give her the run of the office. She was a delightful pet, cozy, chatty, and full of enjoyment of life. When I moved to Boston, I re-homed her with a neighbor’s little boy and he loved her, too.

What I Love about ClickerExpo

Another opening, another show…and what a good show it has become! We know and expect that our contributors are all leaders in their fields, sharing cutting-edge new information with us every year. But hey, as performers, too, they just get better and better.