Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Having a Research Agenda

One secret to an interesting life is to always have a current research agenda or two.  

These are big questions that we try to answer through active experimentation with real feedback.  In this areas we are willing to take risks and make mistakes to calibrate, prove, or disprove ideas.  (In most areas of our life, if we are not getting better, we are getting worse. Entropy beats equilibrium.) 

My social media artifacts follow one of my research agendas.  What does a great wardrobe look like today?  

To wit, are the pressures towards wasteful trendiness and firing skilled, domestic workers inevitable?  Which are the companies that are making clothes and accessories that improve with age, rather than fill landfills?  How can classic clothes feel current and relevant today?

My husband and I share research agendas, and our bigger research agenda is around education.  Why does the current approach feel so wrong? What might better models look?  (Mission)

One artifact of our journey is the book Unschooling Rules.  Charles Koch (Foundation), in his newest book Believe in People (Amazon) listed Unschooling Rules as one of his most influential.

From Charles Koch's Book Believe in People

Our research agendas inevitably align us with fellow travelers from diverse backgrounds. 

Everyone's research agenda should be different.  Most agendas are temporary, but they can take decades.  Where we are less passionate or skilled, it is wonderful fun to draft off of the research agendas of others.  And a note of caution on process: I have found that those people who aggregate and curate the works of others often do so under the guise of a research agenda, but rather than drive growth and progress they more often accomplish the opposite.   Avoid this trap.  

Ideally, all of these goals are towards improving the human condition.  These puts all of us in the best company. 


  1. Yes and agreed! Interesting thoughts here. My wife, The Grand Duchess, and I do something very similar.

    Kind Regards.


  2. I totally agree with you! I am a “retired” journalist and a researcher by nature so I always have a few projects going. Unfortunately, I'm also a little obsessive and live too much in my head, so I sometimes don't leave the house for days because I can't tear myself away from my books or the internet. But my research agenda enriches my life immeasurably.

  3. I'm probably going against the grain here but I have my doubts that those who made clothes in this country were either highly skilled or domestic. Some were and a few such corporations still exist but clothing was typically made under sweatshop conditions, mostly by women. That was the only way clothing could be made cheap enough to be affordable to most people.

    1. May I please add:
      As can apply to anything...
      I would ask self: where is all this assorted research sources of information coming from?
      Who exactly collected/published the data given and who paid for that?
      How old is the data collected in what way and of all categories qualifying or not? Is this plain facts or manipulated "facts" and how would one know?
      What fines were paid to "correct" problems before or after information was given?
      The list goes on...from the 2nd Row in the Peanut Gallery

  4. My wife has been a paid researcher/ archivist at our local museum. The research paths she follows have been fascinating ones to hear about and share.

  5. One just never knows what paths will soon, or someday cross!

  6. As a parent who is looking into different education options, I have not been fully satisfied by the public or private option that I have seen. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on education.

  7. I have a simple one-word answer to the clothing questions posed here (What does a great wardrobe look like today?, and How can classic clothes feel current and relevant today?)


    By their very nature, classic clothes aren't subject to the whims of time (today), or relevancy to social changes. This is what makes Cordings stand out.

    And I just ordered a copy of Charles Koch's book, so I'll have a better insight into today's educational scene. I already have strong opinions (all negative), but would like to find out what others think.

    1. I've read, "Believe in People" and had intended to read the books listed in the Bibliography. In fact, I had that page bookmarked. As a Grandmother, I will start with Clark Aldrich's book. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Like most people, my mind is a bit of a filing cabinet. As I acquire a new bit of knowledge I drop it into the cabinet. Once it is in the cabinet I usually dig in deeper, using the internet or books. Often bits of subject matter knowledge intersect. For example my interest in classic clothing and my interest in the earth have recently led me to research the cotton industry and look much more deeply into organic cotton, cotton being a very difficult crop, one using extremely high amounts of pesticides, water, and victimized migrant workers.

    As to the perennial question of what constitutes a great wardrobe, several coinciding things (the pandemic, retirement, climate change, and evolving styles leading to the reduction of classic purveyors) have led me to conclude that my wardrobe ought to be modest, just enough of a palette and array of choices, nothing hanging in the closet or sitting in a drawer not used, perhaps not frequently but at least several times a year.

  9. I believe a model education system should focus on teaching how to think rather than training 'impressionable' students for compliance.

    I recently commented to a friend that I often wonder what a philosophy lecture would sound like today.

  10. I’d hate to think I had a “research agenda.” The term doesn’t capture the emotion and inspiration that I think is inherent in human curiosity, or simply being an interested person. I do sometimes put a bit of structure around my interests – for example, each fall/winter I read at least five classic novels I haven’t read before – but I try to make room for the serendipity that Vecchio Vespa describes and is one of the great pleasures of being an autodidact.

  11. Wow, congratulations on being on such an esteemed list! Muffy, Ive often wondered what you and your husband make of the recent trends in education given that you were and still are so far ahead of the curve with the philosophy in your book.

  12. Just finished Charles Koch’s “Believe in People.”

    Some thoughts:

    As expected, it’s optimistic despite the many societal problems mentioned – what one would expect from a billionaire whose led a charmed life. Mr. Koch wants a world where everyone is “contribution motivated” for the benefit of society, and where all can “unlock potential.” Great. But most of his noble ideas about how businesses should be working for the common good, seem pollyannish to me. Few corporations are as altruistic as Koch Industries where workers are urged to contribute. For example, one book section was entitled: “Stand up, Speak Out.” (I would add the usual words – “And start looking for another Job.”)

    Koch rightly complains about anyone being “sidelined,” but today’s solution to that is to just sideline somebody else under the guise of group “justice” based upon historical wrongs. He also objects to how “Those at the top decide how society should be ordered and how people should live their lives.” Wow – probably the best description of what the radical Woke Left is imposing upon all of us. That is - censorship of any ideas beyond GroupThink, persecuting and cancelling ideological heretics, the denial and blocking of Free Speech and unwanted opinions in the Media, and stopping the rights of those who object to totalitarianism.

    Mr. Koch’s praiseworthy goal of education is self-actualization. He opposes one-size-fits-all curriculums and standardization, and wants individualized education. Wonderful ideas. He sees standardization, teacher tenure, and accreditation protections (keeping new types of schools from ever being born) as harming all parties in the education system. Koch maintains that “The most important thing you can do is abandon the current us-vs-them mentality. Reformers vs. unions, teachers vs. parents … none of it helps.” No kidding – or as Rodney King once said in vain, “Can’t we all just get along?”

    Another big problem here is that academia is now bloated with more administrators than educators at the typical U.S. college. The vast majority of these bureaucrats are unnecessary, and are only present to fill inclusion quotas so the hate-filled student mobs don’t destroy the campus.

    One of the saddest sentences in the entire book appears on Page 167: “Individualized education depends on a culture of openness and free expression, especially at the collegiate level.” Of course, this the exact opposite and last thing the Woke Left wants to have going on in their schools. Another ironic quote on this subject caught my attention. It’s from the University of Chicago, and called the “Chicago Statement” – “… it is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome …”

    Really? Are they joking? Now, the whole point of being Woke is the closing of ones’ mind, and also to protect one from imaginary micro-aggressions by wicked people. One might even argue that this is ONLY role of today’s universities, and the sole reason for their existence – besides socialist indoctrination, of course.

    Charles Koch is a good, well-meaning man, but I’m skeptical about how all his fine suggestions will turn out.

  13. A much different topic for SWNE, but I have to say I like it.

    As a publisher of medical research I can say there is no shortage of research out in the universe, or avenues in which to publish it.

    I wish all much success in "digging deeper".


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