People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


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I don't understand why there's this backlash against science and scientists. I never thought science was something that you believed in or didn't believe in. It was just, well, science. (And for the record, although I was a straight-A student, I found all my science classes difficult, and it seemed only the truly "nerdy" students really "got it".) But now it seems that so many people are questioning not only the "truth" of science but the scientists themselves.

It's one thing to talk about so-called "mad scientists" – either the ones who were genuinely brilliant or the weird ones in books and movies (my favorite being Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein) – but to question the ethics and motives of scientists who are proven experts in their field makes no sense. And going through thousands of personal emails looking for evidence of wrong-doing when they're trying their best to not only find the truth but explain the situation, even admitting when they don't know the answer, is unbelievable.


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And dangerous. And, lately, has become extremely political. Dan Rather recently did a great piecing "defending science" but the fact that it was even necessary is alarming. There is no denying that science has always been important, whether in everyday applications or eradicating diseases.

But, the bottom line is science is a process. And I trust the process. It includes not only a scientific method but, more importantly, scientific consensus. It is never just a single scientist's conclusion. The associated hypotheses and evidence are vetted by other scientists that are experts in that field, and if the findings are substantiated, are then published. But it does not end there. More experts continue to review the results, ask questions, and challenge the conclusions. (Think of it as a jury of geeks.) It is not a quick process – it is an evolution – which means things may change. But, this very process of inquiry is what makes science, science.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What does the word "science" mean to you? How has science impacted your life?
  • Can you trust something you might not understand?
  • How do you reconcile science with religious beliefs? With political beliefs?
  • Why do you think some people trust vaccines and others don't?
My youngest daughter's now a freshman at college, but it seems like only yesterday that she was in the midst of the college application process. So, when Black and I recently featured "Thank You For Sharing!!!" from a College & Career Readiness Counselor about my approach to letters of recommendation, I realized it was probably worth "rerunning" for those students and parents going through the challenges of college selection. (Trust me, you'll get through it … but remember to enjoy this time as once they start college you'll miss these days.)

Well, my younger daughter, Sawyer, is a high school senior. And it's November. Which means that we're in the midst of the college application process. It's exciting. It's also very stressful. So, I thought I'd share a few tips that I've recently learned in the hope you'll find them useful. But first a disclaimer!

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Over the last month or so, I have been contacted by various people and organizations wondering how I managed to "teach" my 40+ year-old-sister about personal finance. (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, especially if you are an even older dog.) It seems everyone is looking for a step-by-step guide or even lesson plans, but I realize the key to making smart financial decisions is to learn to talk to yourself. And then, if appropriate, expand the conversation to your significant other and/or family.

Upfront disclaimer: I am not a financial expert or a self-help guru. My sister had a crisis, and I did the best I could to help her. (OK, so I also turned it into a book, but that was because I thought it would make a good sitcom.) Which meant, much to her dismay, instead of giving her "answers" … I gave her questions. Lots of questions.

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People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


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As a mom, over the years, I've had to become familiar with various children's health issues and basic healthcare (and don't get me started on health insurance). But whenever it was something more than the common cold or flu, a stomach ache, or the usual scrapes and bruises, I felt like I was back in school. And between the terminology and trying to understand how the body works, I often felt like I needed a nursing degree. Not to mention, there's so much information on the internet, it can be overwhelming as well as confusing and sometimes scary.

Over the years, I've also had to deal with my aging parent's more serious health issues, and I've lost count of the pages of notes I've taken and questions I've asked. Or the conversations discussing risks vs. benefits that I've had with medical professionals and my sister. (I'm glad Black finds statistics "fun" and can look at them unemotionally because they give me a headache.)


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Until recently, I had never heard the term "health literacy," and when I first did, I initially thought about general literacy skills such as the ability to read and understand numbers. Skills that are essential if you are sick and need health information and services, but also impact health decisions that should be simple, like filling out forms, taking over-the-counter drugs (aspirin, cold and flu remedies, etc.), and learning about the things we should (or should not) do to live a healthier life and reduce the chances of serious illness.

But then, I thought about how anytime I had to deal with a health issue, especially ones that could potentially be serious, it was a tedious, complicated, and technical challenge. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I like to consider myself well-read, pragmatic, and comfortable with numbers and research documents. In other words, although it impacts some people more than others, the issue of "health literacy" affects us all. (And, that does not even address what it does to the cost of healthcare.)

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Before now, have you ever thought about "health literacy"? How would you describe it? What impact does it have on your life? How can it impact your ability to be successful in the workplace?
  • Why do health and healthcare topics seem so daunting?
  • Does health literacy only impact you when you are facing health issues? Explain your answer.
  • Have you ever had a medical situation or condition that required you to learn more about it? Where did you seek information? Did you have any problems learning about it? Explain your answers.
P.S. – You might be interested in our Conversation Starters for Financial Literacy and Digital Literacy.