For Mises Students, Part 2

Israel brought up some good questions related to my first post, so I thought I’d address those here.

The first thing, “aren’t there Youtube videos that summarize these required readings and can’t we get Greek history from movies like Troy?”

I’m sure there are Youtube videos that explain some of what these works cover, but probably not systematically. The youtube might be on “Socialism vs. Capitalism” and might cover some of the points that Mises makes in his books, but I doubt that there are Youtube videos made as summaries of these works. I have an idea on this, however, and will let you know as I think it through a bit more.

This also fits into the whole “the medium is the message” debate. I tend to side with people like Postman and tend to think that it is good to actually read things. My mental skills have degenerated to the point that I find it extremely hard to listen/watch anything on my computer for a long period of time (more than 10 or 15 minutes) without being distracted by browsing Facebook, Mises.org, etc…so I like having the discipline of having to read a book because if I’m on Facebook instead, I can’t say “well, I’m studying too…” which I can argue if I’m listening to something. So I just prefer reading.

Then Israel asked if it would be good to do any writing along with the reading. Yes, I didn’t mention in the previous post that I do take notes on whatever read. I’m infamous for being a speed-reader, in a negative way, in that I read so fast I don’t get anything from the book. So it has been a struggle to slow down, but if I’m taking notes, I am forced to actually “digest” what I’m reading. However…some books are so good, I want to write down every sentence in my notes, which means it takes me forever to finish reading it because I’m essentially copying the text into my notes…lol…

If I’m writing on paper and not typing, this is how I take notes. I use my own version of the Cornell system of note-taking. I’m not sure how the original was meant to be, maybe what I do is close to that, but I’m not sure. I divide my page into two columns, the right one being slightly wider than the left one. This right column is where I write all the details, quotes, numbers, data, etc…and on the right side I write the summary of what point I’m trying to remember. For instance, on the left side I might write, “WWII didn’t end Great Depression” and on the right side I would put “GDP rose more dramatically after the war ended than when it began” (don’t quote me on that one…I don’t think it is correct b/c gov’t spending is included in GDP, so that would have decreased, but real measures of prosperity would have increased after WWII) and any numbers or references like, “Murray Rothbard’s The Great Depression.” Why do I do it that way? I keep notes because I like to look at them again if I’m studying that subject again. Having a summary on the left side makes it easy for me to skim through pages of notes and find exactly what I need without actually having to read every single line. I also use the far left margin found on most lined paper to put page numbers. If pages 20 through 25 are on “WWII didn’t end the Great Depression” I would write that down on the far left. I also found that with traditional notes, if I wrote line after line after line of notes, there was no room to insert additional comments afterwards. With this two-column approach, the summary on the left takes up much less space than the details on the right, so if necessary, I can come back and write on the left and just connect it to the details with an arrow. And speaking of arrows…I use them a lot. I use arrows to show what sentences are connected and how each step is ordered. Sometimes I go a little overboard with my arrows, but hey, it isn’t the worst thing I could do.

So generally, when taking notes on a book, I try identify ahead of time what I’m trying to get out of my reading. And most of the time my goal is to have a summary of the book for my own future reference. So I have in mind that I need to document where in any given book an important idea is discussed. My notes narrow it down to a specific book like “The Great Depression” but by putting a page number or chapter down, I don’t have to read the book all over again to find that section. I also like condensing any examples or illustrations in the book down to a sentence or less, just enough to trigger my memory because examples are very helpful in remembering a concept. I will also sometimes try to come up with my own example to further embed the information in my mind.

Last question, “what are the questions on the quiz like?” I don’t want to give everything away, but I’ll say what I remember. Some of the questions are historical, like “what was the first book Mises wrote?” Some were kind of tricky cause and effect things, “if A happened in area B, what would be the effect on the entire economy?” or something like that, and they weren’t straightforward “If the gov’t prints more money, what happens to the economy?” All of the questions are multiple-choice, but among some of the choices there are very fine nuances and they aren’t like, “If the gov’t prints money what happens? A) economy prospers B) economy experiences inflation” so you have to read everything really carefully. And some of the questions are just general economic theory definitions, “what is ________?” and so forth. What I didn’t know (thanks to my homeschool education…probably the only drawback to being self-taught) is that especially with multiple choice tests, you can ask the professor about the questions if you don’t know what it means. My friend did that after I finished my test, so I know that at least last year it was allowed, and that would have been really nice for me, because some of the questions were rather unclear.

Hope that helps all y’all thinking about taking the exam…I haven’t decided yet if I will. Also hope to see you there…at Mises U 2011!! 🙂

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