Punishment and reward teach people how to weigh benefits and risks — but nothing about why their behavior matters.

Five children sit on a bench, their backs to the viewer. Image credit: Piron Guillaume, Unsplash

Here’s a conversation we’re not ready to have:

Punishments do not change behavior. Punishments only change the costs of behavior.

For example: Say that your older child is teasing, tormenting, bullying or otherwise picking on your younger child. In an attempt to stop this behavior, you tell Older Child, “if you treat Younger that way again, you’ll lose computer privileges for a week.”

A few hours later, Younger is in tears. You confiscate Older’s phone, expecting to “teach them a lesson”…


We may not all be impaired. Yet every spring, we are all disabled.

Image: Three antique alarm clocks sit on a mantle shelf. Source: sara rahmani, Unsplash

It’s the week of the switch to Daylight Saving Time, and we are all disabled.

That assertion may come as a surprise to folks who think of themselves as “healthy,” “fit,” “functional” or “abled.” I don’t have any medical problems. What are you talking about?

I’m not talking about medical impairments. I’m talking about disability — specifically, the way that Daylight Saving Time makes us all less able to function for several days each year.

Impairment vs. Disability: How the Social Model Works

The “social model” of disability arose in the 1970s as a way of understanding the relationship between (primarily) physical impairments and barriers to social participation…


Sometimes weird risks need weird coverage.

Image: A person in a button-down shirt signs paperwork. Credit: Scott Graham, Unsplash

Over the centuries, one insurance model came to dominate the industry. It’s the one we’re all familiar with: A customer pays an insurance company a premium in exchange for a promise that the insurer will cover certain specified types of losses when they occur.

This model works well for a wide range of risks, which is why we use it. Centuries of experience with it have taught insurers how to calculate rates to protect both themselves and their insureds.

The traditional insurance model, however, isn’t the only available option. In some cases, it’s not even the most effective approach. …


The decision to stop publishing six Dr. Seuss titles was purely business.

Image: Thing 1 and Thing 2, characters from Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat,” portrayed in a mural. Credit: Scott Webb, Unsplash

On March 2, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that it intended to cease publication of six Seuss titles, ranging from the career-launching And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street to titles that I, despite being a member of the Dr. Seuss book club as a toddler, had never heard of, like McElligot’s Pool.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the organization said in its statement. That one sentence started a revolution.

By the time I wandered in, one position had clearly been staked out: Dr. …


I was part of the mass burnout affecting an entire working generation

A woman gasping for air above water
A woman gasping for air above water
Illustration: Malte Mueller/Getty

Reader note: This article contains discussion of self-harm and suicidal ideation. See the end of the article for helpful resources.

My name is Dani Alexis, and I’m a workaholic.

Were I confessing to a drug or alcohol addiction, this admission would elicit concern. It might even be mildly shocking. Certainly it would be seen as a problem to be corrected, and I would be praised for my efforts to break free of my unhealthy relationship with my drug of choice.

Because my drug of choice is work, however, I usually get the opposite reaction. I’ve been praised for my “work…


Here are the ten steps I follow for creative work, from idea generation to final product.

Image: A pair of hands covered in paint. Amauri Mejía at Unsplash.

My entire career is creative. I write marketing copy for a living. I write novels for amusement and the occasional spare dollar. I write colorguard and winterguard choreography and consult on marching band show design.

Consequently, I’m often asked: What is your creative process?

And How do you generate ideas?

And How do you discipline yourself to write?

And How do you turn an idea into an entire article/novel/show?

For many years, I struggled to answer this question. A process? Process is for plebians! …


Workers automate their jobs, then agonize over whether to tell their employers. And for good reason.

A man wearing headphones sits in front of a laptop computer. Image Credit: Austin Distel, Unsplash

I haven’t always made my money via freelance writing. I’ve also been conventionally employed in various jobs: medical records clerk, camp counselor, editor, lawyer, adjunct.

Despite its challenges, I find I prefer freelancing to conventional employment. The headaches of filing my own business taxes or worrying about cash flow bother me less than the fact that conventional employment gives me no control over where I spend my time.

In fact, presence — not performance — seems to be the thing most employers are paying for.

40 Hours of What?

At least, this is the impression I get from the job suggestions that land in…


The Takeaway

Students can’t learn, online or in person, if they’re hungry or homeless. Covid-19 multiplied the inequities.

Image: Two students work on a writing assignment. Photo: Santi Vedri/Unsplash

I coach at a Title I high school. According to the most recent statistics I can find on our district (not linked here to preserve some anonymity for my students), 72.2% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Close to one-third are technically homeless, having no fixed address. Many of our kids don’t know where they’re going to sleep tonight, nor where they’ll get their next meal.

Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 has hit our district hard. It’s hit poor families and districts across the nation the hardest.

When our school board voted to conduct the school year virtual-only, the district…


As my family knows, I love Turkish Delight.

I’m the only person in the family who does like Turkish Deligh, however. This Christmas, I ordered myself a box of Turkish Delight, figuring that since no one else likes it, no one else would order it. But, like every other decision I’ve tried to make in 2020 based on past information, “buying my own Turkish Delight” ended up being the wrong choice.

I woke up on Christmas morning to catch my husband putting the finishing touches on a batch of homemade Turkish Delight. …

Dani Alexis Ryskamp

As seen in The Atlantic that one time. Freelance writer, sci-fi author, pageantry arts nerd. Tweets @danialexis. See also http://danialexis.net

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