5 X 8: The key to smarter kids: More play


What does Finland know that the rest of the world apparently doesn’t? Kids spend too much time in the classroom and not enough time on the playground, according to PRI’s The World.

While the U.S. continues to spend more time prepping kids for standardized testing, Finland has one of the most successful public education systems on the planet, partly because it sends kids out for an hour of play no matter what the weather.

Related: The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science study, which treats U.S. states as countries, finds Minnesota just ahead of Finland near the top of the list. We still trail Massachusetts, which brings up another observation: Have you ever noticed that in almost every study of education, health, livability etc., Minnesota and Massachusetts are almost always together at the top?


Mention “gamers” and most people might think “out of control violence that leads to murder in the street.” That’s what the media has done to the image of gaming, thanks primarily to a few organizations that operate on the theory that gaming “violence” leads to real-life violence, though there’s little peer-reviewed science to confirm it.

What you rarely hear is stories about the positive side of computer/online gaming. Emily Reese, an on-air host at MPR’s classical music service, has penned the story of what happened when a fight broke out outside her Minneapolis home, with young teens stealing landscape bricks to escalate the situation.

She used her skill — skill she says came from gaming — to talk the situation down:

As I was walking away, the situation had diffused itself to the point that the boys and the man were talking. They were explaining their sides of whatever it was that had happened, and then they parted ways.

Maybe it means I play too many games, or maybe it means that my experience playing games helped me through that scenario.

I’ve talked in the past about how I didn’t grow up with loads of consoles or access to game systems. I grew up in a smallish town in Iowa. My friends didn’t have systems and neither did I. I didn’t game much.

Since I’ve become an avid gamer, I’ve gained a greater ability to control my emotions in emergency situations. Granted, there are situations in which I’m not excellent at it, but there are plenty of times I’ve been able to assess a situation, fire through possible outcomes in my mind and find a solution at a pace that surprises me.

Panicking doesn’t help anyone complete an objective. I was always the one to panic. I’m less likely to be that person since gaming became a regular activity. That’s because of this.

(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)


La Crosse, Wis., is about to take a stand against this:

Somebody had to do something about the growing practice of staking out — or camping out at — prime viewing sites for parades.

La Crosse is going to start charging for the spots in an effort to keep people from camping out. But the Board of Public Works decided not to start with the upcoming Oktoberfest parade in town later this month because there’s not enough time to get the word out, the La Crosse Tribune reports today.

Under the plan, people will pay $35 for the prime viewing spots starting next year. In the meantime, this year the city will pay overtime for police to banish the squatters who set up before midnight, as the city’s law dictates.


A man who threatened police in Cleveland during a 911 call has been ordered by a judge to stand outside the police station for three hours a day with a sign that acknowledges he’s an “idiot.”

Related: The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that a Fridley woman who shaved her 12-year-old daughter’s head and forced her to dress outside in a diaper as discipline for poor grades is guilty of child abuse even though there were no bruises on the girl.


Ezra Caldwell, 39, was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Late last year, it recurred and he was given six months to live. He’s decided not to fight it any longer, and writes about its progress — and his demise — on his blog, Teaching Cancer to Cry.

He builds bikes, and his cancer threatened to interrupt his love of bike riding. But it didn’t let it. Today, the bikes he built are being auctioned to benefit a hospice program.

(h/t: @mindtron)

Bonus I: 28 Pictures That Prove Dreams Do Come True (BuzzFeed).

Bonus II: Amish Community Not Anti-Technology, Just More Thoughtful (NPR). Not a bad discussion underway in the comments section.

Bonus III: ‘Under God’ part of Pledge of Allegiance under review in Massachusetts (CNN).


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: While the jobs may be coming back — unemployment ticked down to 7.4 percent in July — wages are stuck. At the end of the recession in June of 2009, the average hourly pay for a non-government, non-supervisory worker was $8.85. That number has declined to $8.77. Why hasn’t the American wage kept up with inflation? Will it increase any time soon?

Second hour: School is back in full swing this week, and in the wake of last year’s Sandy Hook school shootings, there is an increased emphasis on security. We’ll speak with a local school official about how schools can create a safe, yet inviting, atmosphere.

Third hour: Your work day is probably filled with meetings, phone calls, and big, giant queue of emails. Oh sure, you can budget out your time, maybe make a to-do list or two, and try to sort and respond to all those emails, but by the time you do, it’s probably time to punch out for the day. Teresa Amabile researches worker productivity at Harvard Business School and she thinks all these daily tasks can zap the creative energy that businesses need to innovate.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Jonathan Kozol, speaking at the College of St. Scholastica, on teaching and learning.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., on his opposition to intervention in Syria.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is bringing back the Broadway hit musical Miss Saigon for its third run in the Twin Cities. And for the third time, Asian Americans will protest the show. Featuring a cast of prostitutes, and a single pure girl who commits suicide so her child can be with his American father, the show is criticized by Asian Americans for promoting stereotyped images of “exotic Asian flowers” to tens of thousands of people. MPR’s Marianne Combs will tell the story.

Laura Yuen will report that with less than a week to consider options for freight rail along the Southwest LRT corridor, members of a key advisory committee weigh in on the three controversial options.

Last month, a 9-year-old boy’s feet were severed by a train near his St. Paul home. There’s no fence along the train tracks, although a Minnesota law says there should be one. Online: web version with video. Trish Volpe will cover the situation.

The band Nine Inch Nails returns from years of hiatus. Front man Trent Reznor says he’s changed since their debut nearly 25 years ago. But the new album, Hesitation Marks, keeps many of the dark and inventive elements that fans expect. NPR interviews Reznor.