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On Quality Higher Education: An Essay in Three Installments, Part 1 | Howard Gardner
[Part 2:
Part 3:

Quotes below from various parts]

"Of the 1000 students whom we interviewed at length on ten disparate campuses, depressingly few report the experience of exploring new topics and acquiring new ways of thinking as central to their college experience."

"The principal purpose of a liberal arts education should be the achievement of academic and cognitive growth. Any other purpose needs to be deeply intertwined with these academic and cognitive priorities. By the conclusion of a four-year education in an institution that calls itself a liberal arts school, or that claims to infuse liberal arts significantly into a required curriculum, all graduates should have been exposed to a range of ways of thinking that scholars and other serious thinkers have developed over the decades, sometimes over centuries. Students should have ample practice in applying several ways of thinking; and they should be able to demonstrate, to a set of competent assessors, that they can analyze and apply these ways of thinking. Put specifically and succinctly, graduates should be able to read and critique literary, historical, and social scientific texts; exhibit mathematical, computational, and statistical analytic skills; and have significant practical “hands on” immersion in at least one scientific and one artistic area."

"When we began our own study some years ago, we were completely unprepared for two major findings across a deliberately disparate set of campuses. We found that challenges of mental health were encountered everywhere, and were, for whatever reasons, on the increase. And across campuses, we found as well (and presumably relatedly) that a large number of students reported their feeling that they did not belong; they felt alienated in one or another way—from the academic agenda, from their peers, from the overall institutions. And to our surprise, this alienation proved more prominent among graduating students than among incoming students!"

"When we began our own study some years ago, we were completely unprepared for two major findings across a deliberately disparate set of campuses. We found that challenges of mental health were encountered everywhere, and were, for whatever reasons, on the increase. And across campuses, we found as well (and presumably relatedly) that a large number of students reported their feeling that they did not belong; they felt alienated in one or another way—from the academic agenda, from their peers, from the overall institutions. And to our surprise, this alienation proved more prominent among graduating students than among incoming students!"

"Indeed, if non-academic goals—say, social or emotional development—are to be reached, they are likely to be reached as a result of the presence of appealing role models on campus and the way the institution itself is run and addresses challenges. If consistent modeling is ingrained in the culture of an institution, most students can be expected to live up to these high standards. To be sure, mental health and belonging issues may need to be specifically supported by trained professionals (either on or off campus)."

"At such times, institutions are tested as they have not been before. And higher education faces a clear choice: the sector can continue to claim, against the evidence and against plausibility, that it can repair the various fault lines in the society. Or it can reassert the major reason for its existence and strive to show that, in the present challenging climate, it can achieve what it was designed to achieve. If it fails, the whole sector is likely to be so fundamentally altered that the vision we’ve described will have disappeared—and perhaps for a very long time."
liberalarts  howardgardner  wendyfischman  highered  highereducation  mentalhealth  purpose  mission  belonging  criticalthinking  vocation  vocationaleducation  onboarding  missiondrift  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject  goals  meaning  meaningmaking  colleges  universities  economics  institutions  academia 
23 hours ago by robertogreco
An Honest Living – Steve Salaita
"There are lots of stories from Virginia Tech, the University of Illinois, and the American University of Beirut [AUB], but they all end with the same lesson: for all its self-congratulation, the academy’s loftiest mission is a fierce compulsion to eliminate any impediment to donations."

"Platitudes about faculty governance and student leadership notwithstanding, universities inhibit democracy in ways that would please any thin-skinned despot."

"But forward progress as material comfort is cultivated through the ubiquitous lie that upward mobility equals righteousness. Honest living is a nice story we tell ourselves to rationalize privation, but in the real world money procures all the honesty we need."

"You hear ex-professors say it all the time and I’ll add to the chorus: despite nagging precariousness, there’s something profoundly liberating about leaving academe, whereupon you are no longer obliged to give a shit about fashionable thinkers, network at the planet’s most boring parties, or quantify self-worth for scurrilous committees (and whereupon you are free to ignore the latest same-old controversy), for even when you know at the time that the place is toxic, only after you exit (spiritually, not physically) and write an essay or read a novel or complete some other task without considering its relevance to the fascist gods of assessment, or its irrelevance to a gang of cynical senior colleagues, do you realize exactly how insidious and pervasive is the industry’s culture of social control."
academia  highered  highereducation  2019  stevensalaita  purpose  meaning  corporatization  precariousness  precarity  assessment  socialcontrol  hierarchy  mobility  upwardmobility  society  dishonesty  honesty  democracy  hypocrisy  education  cv  privation  toxicity  committees  elitism  learning  howwelearn  compromise  canon 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
One Hour One Life
"a multiplayer survival game of parenting and civilization building by Jason Rohrer"

"This game is about playing one small part in a much larger story. You only live an hour, but time and space in this game is infinite. You can only do so much in one lifetime, but the tech tree in this game will take hundreds of generations to fully explore. This game is also about family trees. Having a mother who takes care of you as a baby, and hopefully taking care of a baby yourself later in life. And your mother is another player. And your baby is another player. Building something to use in your lifetime, but inevitably realizing that, in the end, what you build is not for YOU, but for your children and all the countless others that will come after you. Proudly using your grandfather's ax, and then passing it on to your own grandchild as the end of your life nears. And looking at each life as a unique story. I was this kid born in this situation, but I eventually grew up. I built a bakery near the wheat fields. Over time, I watched my grandparents and parents grow old and die. I had some kids of my own along the way, but they are grown now... and look at my character now! She's an old woman. What a life passed by in this little hour of mine. After I die, this life will be over and gone forever. I can be born again, but I can never live this unique story again. Everything's changing. I'll be born as a different person in a different place and different time, with another unique story to experience in the next hour..."

"The thinking behind One Hour One Life [a YouTube playlist]

"How to Deal With A Crisis of Meaning" (The School of Life)

"Bonsai: the Endless Ritual | Extraordinary Rituals | Earth Unplugged"

"Power of the Market - The Pencil"

"Primitive Technology: Forge Blower"

"The Game Design Challenge 2011: Bigger Than Jesus Panel at GDC 2011"

"Last Day Dream"

"334 Time Life - Rock A Bye Baby - 1976" "
games  gaming  videogames  jasonrohrer  civilization  parenting  philosophy  gamedesign  small  change  purpose  meaningoflife  meaning  generations  srg  edg 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Black Mountain College: "The Grass-Roots of Democracy" - Open Source with Christopher Lydon
"Our guest, the literary historian Louis Menand, explains that B.M.C. was a philosophical experiment intent on putting the progressive philosopher John Dewey‘s ideas to work in higher education. The college curriculum was unbelievably permissive — but it did ask that students undertake their own formation as citizens of the world by means of creative expression, and hard work, in a community of likeminded people.

The college may not have lived up to its utopian self-image — the scene was frequently riven by interpersonal conflict — but it did serve as a stage-set to some of modern culture’s most interesting personalities and partnerships."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  rutherickson  louismenand  teddreier  theodoredreier  sebastiansmee  taylordavis  williamdavis  2016  robertcreeley  jacoblawrence  josefalbers  robertrauschenberg  annialbers  davidtudor  franzkline  mercecunningham  johncage  charlesolson  buckminsterfuller  johndewey  democracy  art  music  film  poetry  cytwombly  bauhaus  experientiallearning  howwelearn  education  johnandrewrice  unschooling  deschooling  schools  schooling  learning  howelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  christopherlydon  abstractexpressionism  popart  jacksonpollock  arthistory  history  arts  purpose  lcproject  openstudioproject  leapbeforeyoulook  canon  discovery  conflict  artists  happenings  openness  rural  community  highered  highereducation  curriculum  willemdekooning  small  control  conversation  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  mitmedialab  medialab  chaos  utopia  dicklyons  artschools  davidbowie  experimentation  exploration  humanity  humanism  humility  politics 
october 2018 by robertogreco

Check out the Innovation Playlist

Directed by Valentina Vee
Produced by Lixe Hernandez
Shot by Andrey Misyutin
Motion Design by Hodja Berlev (Neonbyte)
Music by Raul Vega (Instrumental track here:

Don't forget to like, comment & SUBSCRIBE:

For more inspirational videos, watch:
I Just Sued The School System
Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives
Prince Ea Reacts to Teens React To The School System

Recommended Reading:

1) What School Could Be, Ted Dintersmith
2) The Element, by Sir Ken Robinson
3) How Children Learn, John Holt
4) The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner

Works Cited

Galloway Mollie., Jerusha Conner & Denise Pope. “Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools,” The Journal of Experimental Education (2013) 81:4, 490-510, DOI: 10.1080/00220973.2012.745469

Medina, John. Brain Rules. Seattle: Pear Press, 2014. Print.

Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan. "Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2017.

Moffitt Terrie., and Louise Arseneault. “A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
(2011) PSOR 5 May. 2018."
education  schools  schooling  unschooling  deschooling  learning  2018  princeea  howwelearn  schooliness  sleep  homework  johnmedina  terriemoffitt  louisearseneault  molliegalloway  jerushaconner  denisepope  time  timemanagement  tonywagner  teddintersmith  kenrobinson  johnholt  valentinavee  video  self-care  suicide  well-being  self-control  bullying  stress  anxiety  depression  whatmatters  cooking  success  life  living  purpose  socialemotional  ikea  music  youtube  children  passion  socialemotionallearning  health  rejection  ingvarkamprad 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 85. Mindy Seu
"Mindy Seu is a designer, educator, and researcher. She is currently a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and was previously a designer at 2x4 and MoMA. She’s designed and produced archival sites for Ralph Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin’s Eros and Avant Garde magazines. In this episode, Mindy and I talk about her early career and why she decided to go to graduate school, the role of research and archives in her work, and how graphic design is just one pillar of her practice."
mindyseu  jarretfuller  design  education  archives  internet  web  online  2018  positioning  internetarchive  claireevans  brunolatour  graphicdesign  purpose  iritrogoff  networks  connections  fearlessness  decentralization  neilpostman  teaching  howweteach  institutions  structure  interviews  research  project-basedreasearch 
july 2018 by robertogreco
The Convivial Society, No. 5: Action
"In any case, we occupy a perplexing place, it seems to me, given the nature of the world constituted by digital media. By "world" I mean something like the interpretation of reality that we inhabit. It is within these worlds that our action derives motive force and intelligibility. Human beings have always shared the same earth, but we have lived in very different worlds.

The shape of our world in this sense is molded by a number of factors, some of which are felt by others and some which may be unique to us. Invariably, however, our technology and media come into play. They sustain the symbolic and conceptual infrastructure of our worlds. They nourish and constrain the imagination. They generate habits and patterns of thought. They not only supply the contents of thought, they condition what is thinkable. And our actions are meaningful within these worlds and the implicit narrative frames they provide for our lives.

It seems to me that one consequence of digital media is the proliferation of such worlds and the emergence of a public sphere in which these worlds become unavoidably entangled, for better and, very often, for worse. Under these conditions, our worlds fray and shear. Motivation is sapped, purpose depleted. Regrettably, one result of this is reactionary violence. But another result is nihilism. Another still is apathy or paralysis. Ironic detachment is yet another. This is just one way the conditions for meaningful action are undermined.

Action also requires a context in order to be intelligible and meaningful. It requires a time and a place. But we are alienated from both time and place, so we are often at loss as to what we are to do. This dynamic was already identified by Kierkegaard in the mid-nineteenth century as the telegraph contributed to the emergence of "the news" as we have come to know it: daily dispatches of happenings from around the globe.

Kierkegaard, in Hubert Dreyfus's summary, believed "the new massive distribution of desituated information was making every sort of information immediately available to anyone, thereby producing a desituated, detached spectator. Thus, the new power of the press to disseminate information to everyone in a nation led its readers to transcend their local, personal involvement . . . . Kierkegaard saw that the public sphere was destined to become a detached world in which everyone had an opinion about and commented on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility." Perhaps that very last line holds an important clue. Perhaps action demands responsibility and that is precisely what we are unwilling to take.

Hannah Arendt, too, had a great deal to say about action, which for her was a deeply political phenomenon in the sense that it was made possible by the plurality of the human condition. "Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter," she wrote, "corresponds to the human condition of plurality … this plurality is specifically the condition — not only the conditio sine qua non, but the conditio per quam — of all political life." Action, as she noted, happened "without the intermediary of things or matter." She imagines, thus, the face-to-face encounter where action is speech and speech is action. It was through action that we disclosed ourselves before others and received in return the integrity of the self.

She distinguished between the private and the public realm, an ancient distinction, of course. The private realm was the realm of the family, the household. The public realm was the realm where individuals appeared before one another and where their words and their deeds counted for something. She also introduced a third category, the social realm. A more recent development, it was the realm of mass society. A realm of a diminished plurality that also entailed anonymity. Individuals are aggregated in the social realm, but they do not appear before one another and thus action, in her sense, was undermined.

Much of her analysis, it seems to me, can be applied to what has become the realm of our appearance: social media. It is where most of us turn to be seen and to make our mark, as it were. But we find that the technological intermediary that constitutes this space of our appearing works against us. The scale is all wrong. Rather than returning to us the gift of integrity, it amplifies our self-consciousness. It disassociates word and deed. It discourages responsibility. It tempts us to mistake performative gestures for action.

Arendt, however, was also the theorist of new beginnings, of natality, and with this I will bring these comments to a close: “But there remains also the truth that every end in history also contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‘message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning, before it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est– 'that a beginning be made man was created' said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.”"
conviviality  lmsacasas  2018  tools  toolsforconvivilaity  zoominginandout  morality  purpose  reality  understanding  violence  digital  socialmedia  kierkegaard  apathy  hubertdreyfus  hannharendt  action  intgrity  self-consciousness  michaelsacasas 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Dr. Kate Antonova on Twitter: "If anyone ever asked me, as a college prof, what qualities I'd like to see in my incoming students (no one ever has, tho a number of non-profs have told me what I'm supposed to want), it's this: curiosity and a reading habit
"If anyone ever asked me, as a college prof, what qualities I'd like to see in my incoming students (no one ever has, tho a number of non-profs have told me what I'm supposed to want), it's this: curiosity and a reading habit.

[Links to: "How Our Obsession With College Prep Hurts Kids" ]

The other really important thing for success in college, IMO, is self-regulation, but that's a super-hard thing for everybody & esp kids who are still developing cognitively. I see no value, & a lot of harm, in forcing regulation before it's developmentally appropriate.

Plus, IME, if you have enough curiosity, you end up regulating yourself in ways that are nearly impossible for a task you're not into. So it all comes back to curiosity.

The other thing that'd be nice - but is not essential - to see in incoming freshmen is an accurate sense of what college is for. Most people are pretty madly and deeply misinformed on that, and that's harming kids.

Too many kids come to college bc they're told it's necessary, or bc it's the only way to a decent job. Both are lies. They should come, when they're ready, because it's the best way to achieve next-level critical thought specific to one or more disciplines.

So we're back to curiosity again. But the reading part is at least as important, & is interrelated. I'm not an expert on instilling curiosity or encouraging reading in k-12. But I'm damn sure standardized testing isn't the answer & neither is traditional, required homework.

I'm pretty certain, too, that seven hours of mostly sitting still and listening isn't terribly useful (and at the elementary level it's downright cruel).

I don't think anything I've said here is earth-shattering. Yet the conventional wisdom about what makes public k-12 education "good" is soooooo far off the mark.

If I cld fantasize ab what I'd like my future students to have done before college, it'd be this: read & write every day, a variety of texts; interact in a sustained way w lots of different ppl; & practice creative problem-solving in small groups, guided by knowledgeable adults.

That's something public schools *could* do, they just don't, because it's not what the public wants. Even the private schools that do some of that are usually pretty notoriously bad at exposing students to people different from themselves.

I've taught everyone from super-elite Ivy students from private high schools to the kids struggling to stay in CUNY after k-12 in troubled NYC publics. They were ALL missing out in different ways. The best students are always, always the readers.

The best of the best I've ever taught have been readers from backgrounds that happened, for whatever reasons, to expose them to a wide variety of circumstances.

School is almost never what brought those students either of those advantages.

But it could be."
kateantonova  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  education  curiosity  learning  purpose  2018  cognition  problemsolving  creativity  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  cv  k12  statistics  calculus  reading  howwelearn  howweteach  highschool  publicschools  schools  schooling  children  adolescence  diversity  exposure 
may 2018 by robertogreco
My website is a shifting house next to a river of knowledge. What could yours be? – The Creative Independent
"The web is what we make it

While an individual website could be any of those metaphors I mentioned above, I believe the common prevailing metaphor—the internet as cloud—is problematic. The internet is not one all-encompassing, mysterious, and untouchable thing. (In early patent drawings depicting the internet, it appears as related shapes: a blob, brain, or explosion.) These metaphors obfuscate the reality that the internet is made up of individual nodes: individual computers talking to other individual computers.


The World Wide Web recently turned 29. On the web’s birthday, Tim Berners Lee, its creator, published a letter stating the web’s current state of threat. He says that while it’s called the “World Wide Web,” only about half the world is connected, so we should close this digital divide.

But at the same time, Berners Lee wants to make sure this thing we’re all connecting to is truly working for us, as individuals: “I want to challenge us all to have greater ambitions for the web. I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfill our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions.”


“Metaphor unites reason and imagination,” says George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their book, Metaphors We Live By (1980). “Metaphors are not merely things to be seen beyond. In fact, one can see beyond them only by using other metaphors. It is as though the ability to comprehend experience through metaphor were a sense, like seeing or touching or hearing, with metaphors providing the only ways to perceive and experience much of the world. Metaphor is as much a part of our functioning as our sense of touch, and as precious.”

Instead of a cloud, let’s use a metaphor that makes the web’s individual, cooperative nodes more visible. This way, we can remember the responsibility we each have in building a better web. The web is a flock of birds or a sea of punctuation marks, each tending or forgetting about their web garden or puddle home with a river of knowledge nearby.

If a website has endless possibilities, and our identities, ideas, and dreams are created and expanded by them, then it’s instrumental that websites progress along with us. It’s especially pressing when forces continue to threaten the web and the internet at large. In an age of information overload and an increasingly commercialized web, artists of all types are the people to help. Artists can think expansively about what a website can be. Each artist should create their own space on the web, for a website is an individual act of collective ambition."
laurelschwulst  knowledge  webdev  webdesign  internet  web  online  2018  websites  design  flexibility  purpose  creativity  learning  howwelearn  accumulation  accretion  making  murmurations  metaphor  clouds  birds  georgelakoff  markjohnson  completeness  unfinished  wonder  fredrogers  storage  archives  html 
may 2018 by robertogreco
[Essay] | Punching the Clock, by David Graeber | Harper's Magazine
"In 1901, the German psychologist Karl Groos discovered that infants express extraordinary happiness when they first discover their ability to cause predictable effects in the world. For example, they might scribble with a pencil by randomly moving their arms and hands. When they realize that they can achieve the same result by retracing the same pattern, they respond with expressions of utter joy. Groos called this “the pleasure at being the cause,” and suggested that it was the basis for play.

Before Groos, most Western political philosophers, economists, and social scientists assumed that humans seek power out of either a desire for conquest and domination or a practical need to guarantee physical gratification and reproductive success. Groos’s insight had powerful implications for our understanding of the formation of the self, and of human motivation more generally. Children come to see that they exist as distinct individuals who are separate from the world around them by observing that they can cause something to happen, and happen again. Crucially, the realization brings a delight, the pleasure at being the cause, that is the very foundation of our being.

Experiments have shown that if a child is allowed to experience this delight but then is suddenly denied it, he will become enraged, refuse to engage, or even withdraw from the world entirely. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Francis Broucek suspected that such traumatic experiences can cause many mental health issues later in life.

Groos’s research led him to devise a theory of play as make-believe: Adults invent games and diversions for the same reason that an infant delights in his ability to move a pencil. We wish to exercise our powers as an end in themselves. This, Groos suggested, is what freedom is—the ability to make things up for the sake of being able to do so.

The make-believe aspect of the work is precisely what performers of bullshit jobs find the most infuriating. Just about anyone in a supervised wage-labor job finds it maddening to pretend to be busy. Working is meant to serve a purpose—if make-believe play is an expression of human freedom, then make-believe work imposed by others represents a total lack of freedom. It’s unsurprising, then, that the first historical occurrence of the notion that some people ought to be working at all times, or that work should be made up to fill their time even in the absence of things that need
doing, concerns workers who are
not free: prisoners and slaves."

"The idea that workers have a moral obligation to allow their working time to be dictated has become so normalized that members of the public feel indignant if they see, say, transit workers lounging on the job. Thus busywork was invented: to ameliorate the supposed problem of workers not having enough to do to fill an eight-hour day. Take the experience of a woman named Wendy, who sent me a long history of pointless jobs she had worked:

“As a receptionist for a small trade magazine, I was often given tasks to perform while waiting for the phone to ring. Once, one of the ad- sales people dumped thousands of paper clips on my desk and asked me to sort them by color. She then used them interchangeably.

“Another example: my grandmother lived independently in an apartment in New York City into her early nineties, but she did need some help. We hired a very nice woman to live with her, help her do shopping and laundry, and keep an eye out in case she fell or needed help. So, if all went well, there was nothing for this woman to do. This drove my grandmother crazy. ‘She’s just sitting there!’ she would complain. Ultimately, the woman quit.”

This sense of obligation is common across the world. Ramadan, for example, is a young Egyptian engineer working for a public enterprise in Cairo.

The company needed a team of engineers to come in every morning and check whether the air conditioners were working, then hang around in case something broke. Of course, management couldn’t admit that; instead, the firm invented forms, drills, and box-­ticking rituals calculated to keep the team busy for eight hours a day. “I discovered immediately that I hadn’t been hired as an engineer at all but really as some kind of technical bureaucrat,” Ramadan explained. “All we do here is paperwork, filling out checklists and forms.” Fortunately, Ramadan gradually figured out which ones nobody would notice if he ignored and used the time to indulge a growing interest in film and literature. Still, the process left him feeling hollow. “Going every workday to a job that I considered pointless was psychologically exhausting and left me depressed.”

The end result, however exasperating, doesn’t seem all that bad, especially since Ramadan had figured out how to game the system. Why couldn’t he see it, then, as stealing back time that he’d sold to the corporation? Why did the pretense and lack of purpose grind him down?

A bullshit job—where one is treated as if one were usefully employed and forced to play along with the pretense—is inherently demoralizing because it is a game of make-­believe not of one’s own making. Of course the soul cries out. It is an assault on the very foundations of self. A human being unable to have a meaningful impact on the world ceases to exist."
davidgraeber  2018  work  bullshitjobs  capitalism  karlgroos  purpose  well-being  life  living  labor  play  pleasure  delight  employment  depression  slave  wageslavery  wages  freedom  humans  psychology  obligation  morality  care  caring  despair  consumerism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Convivial Society, No. 4: Community
"More recently, however, I've come to think that community is a yuppie word. Let me explain. I'm borrowing the formulation from Bob Dylan, who, when asked if he was happy on the occasion of his 50th birthday, after a long pause responded, "these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed." I suppose one either takes his meaning or not. It occurred to me that Dylan's sentiment worked well with how the word community tends to get thrown around, especially by someone with a new technology to sell. It's just another commodity or accoutrement of the self. 

There's another problem, too. I once heard someone observe that only sociologists talk about community. No one who is actually in a community calls it a community. They call it what it is: a synagogue, a family, a neighborhood, a school, a sorority, etc. Or you don't call it anything at all for the same reason that a fish wouldn't talk about water, the reality is too pervasive to notice and name. If it names anything at all, it names an absence, a felt need, and object of desire. Unfortunately, it might also be the sort of thing, like happiness, that will almost certainly not be found when one sets out deliberately to search for it. What we find, if we find anything at all, will probably not be exactly like what we hoped to discover. A pursuit of community in this manner is burdened with a self-consciousness that may undermine the possibility of achieving the desired state of affairs. On this score, social media does not exactly help. 

To express wariness of community talk, whatever its sources, is not, however, to dismiss the importance, indeed, the necessity of the thing we desire when we talk about community. That thing, let us call it Community with a capital in order to distinguish it, is vital and people suffer and die for the lack of it. At its best, Community sustains us and supplies the context for our flourishing in the fullness of our humanity. Apart from it we are less than what we could be. Community, in its most satisfying forms involves the whole person, including the body. It nurtures us as individuals precisely by directing our attention and our care outward toward those to whom we are bound. And bound is the right word. In a Community, we are bound by ties of obligation and responsibility. To be in a community is to have the self spun out into the world rather than in upon itself.

The question that remains is whether or not that thing we seek can be found online. Or, whether it is useful to think of Facebook, or any other social media platform, as a community. Consider, for example, that the root from which we derive our word community reminds us that a community is bound together by what the hold in common, by their common wealth. But what exactly do we hold in common with every other user of a social media platform? For that matter, what exactly do we hold in common with those who are our Friends or Followers? What is our common wealth?

I have no interest in the denying the obvious fact that genuine and valuable human interactions occur online and through Facebook everyday. I'm certain that some have found a measure of companionship, joy, and solace as a result of these interactions. But do these interactions amount to a community? Or, to put it another way, what definition of community is being assumed when Facebook is called a community?

It seems clear to me that connection does not imply the existence of community much less Community. It also seems clear that while we may speak of Facebook as a platform that can theoretically help support certain kinds of communities, it is meaningless to call the network as a whole a community. Moreover, if the only fellowship we knew was a fellowship mediated through a social network such as Facebook, then our experience would be impoverished. But I don't imagine that there are many people who explicitly and consciously choose to use Facebook as a substitute for fully embodied experiences of community.

There are also important questions to consider about how we are formed by our use of social media, given the design and architecture of the respective platforms, and what this does to our capacity to experience community on the platform or find Community beyond it. Chiefly, I'm thinking about how social media tends to turn our gaze inward. The platforms foreground for its users the experience of being a self that is always in the midst of performing for an audience, and at a consequential remove from the immediacy of a face-to-face encounter. Moreover, it seems to me that the experience of community ordinarily presumes a degree of self-forgetfulness. Self-forgetfulness is not something social media tends to encourage.

Belonging is a critical aspect of the most satisfying kind of community. But belonging is an interesting word. When we speak of belonging to a community, we ordinarily mean to say that we associate with the community, that we count ourselves among its members. We might also mean that we are at home in the community, that we belong in the sense that we are accepted. But the word also implies that we belong to the community in the sense that the community has a claim on us. I think this last sense of belonging is critical; the most satisfying and fulfilling experiences of community presuppose this kind of claim upon our lives and we will, ultimately, be better for it, but it is also the case that we tend to mightily resist such a claim because we value our autonomy too much. As is often the case, we haven't quite counted the cost of what we say we want. "
communities  community  lmsacasas  2018  facebook  socialmedia  online  web  internet  conviviality  ivanillich  self  happiness  unhappiness  boundedness  belonging  experience  self-forgetfulness  purpose  autonomy  michaelsacasas  amish 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Nadir Nahdi en Instagram: “I travel all over and notice men around the world in crisis. Lost between duty and modernity, desire and responsibility, disempowerment and…”
"I travel all over and notice men around the world in crisis. Lost between duty and modernity, desire and responsibility, disempowerment and ego, lust and chivalry, emotion and power. All building up to one messy implosion. Took this photo and thought it expresses something I can’t."
modernity  duty  masculinity  2018  photography  disempowerment  ego  chivalry  emotion  power  impotence  lust  desire  responsibility  breakdown  transition  economics  work  labor  purpose  men 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Isis Lecture (Lecture given at the Oxford Literary festival in 2003 ) - Philip Pullman
[from this page:

"This was the first extended piece I wrote about education. I wanted to say what I thought had gone wrong with it, and suggest some better ways of doing things. The lecture was given during the Oxford Literary Festival in 2003."]

"I’m going to talk about culture this afternoon, in the widest sense; about education and the arts, especially literature. It’s my contention that something has gone bad, something has gone wrong in the state of education, and that we can see this very clearly in the way schools deal with books, and reading, and writing – with everything that has to do with literature, and the making of it. When more and more good teachers are leaving the profession in disillusion and disappointment; when the most able undergraduates are taking one look at a career in teaching, and deciding that it offers no scope for their talents, and turning away to do something else; when school headships are proving harder and harder to fill – then we’re doing something wrong.

I think it boils down to this: that education now is suffused with the wrong emotion. Somehow, over the past quarter of a century, ever since James Callaghan’s famous Great Debate speech, we have seen confidence leaking away, and something else slowly seeping in to take its place. What that something else is, I shall come to near the end. No doubt some of the confidence was misplaced; no doubt we needed a Great Debate. But I think the benefits that came from it have long since been exhausted. It’s time for another way of doing things.

So first of all, I’m going to look at what’s happening now, and I’m going right in to the glowing, radioactive core at the heart of the engine that drives the whole thing: the National Curriculum and the SATs. I won’t spend too long on these things, but we do need to look at the actual stuff to get a flavour of the thought behind it, and this is what the Qualifications Curriculum Authority says about the Reading part of the English tests at Key Stage 2 – that means, in human language, at age 11.

They think that reading consists of using a range of strategies to decode, selecting, retrieving, deducing, inferring, interpreting, identifying and commenting on the structure and organisation of texts, identifying and commenting on the writer’s purposes and viewpoints, relating texts to the social, cultural and historical contexts.

That’s it. That’s all. Nothing else. That’s what they want children of 11 to do when they read. They don’t seem to know that reading can also be enjoyed, because enjoyment just doesn’t feature in the list of things you have to do.

Mind you, it’s just as well that they don’t have to enjoy it, because they’re not likely to have a copy of the books anyway. In another unit of work – 46 pages, to get through in a fortnight – they are to study Narrative Structure. The work’s built around two short stories and part of a novel. It’s not expected – this is interesting – that the children will have their own copies of the complete texts, though some pages may be extracted and photocopied.

But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego. One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well. The teacher is asked to model the writing of an alternative first paragraph for one of the stories. The instructions say “Read through the finished writing together. Check this against the criteria for a good opening – does it fulfil all of these?”

I can’t say it clearly enough: this is not how it works. Writing doesn’t happen like this. What does happen like this is those Hollywood story-structure courses, where there are seven rules for this, and five principles of that, and eight bullet-points to check when constructing the second-act climax. You cannot write a good story by building up a list of effective openings. It is telling children a lie to say that this is the way you write stories. Apart from anything else, it’s profoundly vulgar.

Then there is the Reading Journal, which children have to keep. Among other things, they have to:

List the words and phrases used to create an atmosphere

Write a fifty word summary of a whole plot

Pick a descriptive word from the text and, using a thesaurus, write down five synonyms and antonyms for that word

And so on. What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.”

Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on.

But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse."

"So said Ruskin in 1853. Again, we didn’t listen. Ruskin went on to point out that when you do trust people to act for themselves, they are free to make mistakes, to blunder and fail; but there is the possibility of majesty too. Do we want human beings teaching our children, with all their faults and follies and limitations, but with all their depth and grandeur as well? Or do we want managers, who are glib and fluent in the language of audits and targets and performance indicators and mission statements, but who are baffled by true originality, who flinch and draw back from it as if it were deadly poison?

The extraordinary thing is that they are the same people. They could all be free, if they chose. Some of the young people who come into teaching may be timid and narrow-minded, but don’t think for a moment that I think that they’re not capable of courage and curiosity. They’ve never had a chance to show it; their teachers are afraid themselves. Marilyn Mottram of the University of Central England in Birmingham, who has been studying the way the National Curriculum and the Literacy Strategy work in schools, wrote to me last month: “When I work with teachers on developing ways of using texts I’m frequently asked ‘… but are we allowed to do that?’ This sort of continuing anxiety about literacy teaching,” she goes on, “suggests that a culture of conformity has been quite securely established among our primary teachers and, like many others, I find this deeply disturbing.”

These young people are tigers born in cages, and kept caged until they think that being caged is a natural condition; and they look down at themselves, and they see their magnificent stripes, and the only way they can understand them is to think that they themselves must be made of bars: they are their own cage; they dare not move outside the little space they occupy. But they are tigers still, if only they knew."

"So here are five steps we should take, starting right now.

Do away with these incessant tests; they only tell you things you don’t need to know, and make the children do things they don’t need to do.

Abolish the league tables, which are an abomination.

Cut class sizes in every school in the country. No child should ever be in a class bigger than twenty.

Make teaching a profession that the most gifted, the most imaginative, the most well-informed people will clamour to join; and make the job so rewarding that none of them will
want to stop teaching until they drop.

Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be something intrinsically worth doing.

If we do those five things, we will not bring about a golden age, or an earthly paradise; there are more things wrong with the world than we can cure by changing a system of schooling. But if we get education right, it would show that we were being serious about living and thinking and understanding ourselves; it would show that we were paying our children the compliment of assuming that they were serious too; and it would acknowledge that the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight, and the words on the signpost say: “Once upon a time …”"
philippullman  education  canon  teaching  writing  howwelearn  howweread  howweteach  howwewrite  reading  literature  management  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  policy  curriculum  culture  society  meaning  johnruskin  learning  schools  pedagogy  literacy  purpose  life  living  pleasure  via:derek  storytelling  stories  fear  intrinsicmotivation  children  self-esteem  self-confidence  language  communication  time  slow  results  accountability  measurement  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  2003 
april 2018 by robertogreco
“The Moral Crisis of the University” | Gardner Writes
"Michael B. Katz is a new discovery for me (h/t Roving Librarian). His scholarship on the history of public education in the fascinating, troubling, and revelatory. I’m sure his conclusions are contested–whose aren’t?–but at times the clarity and forcefulness of his insights take my breath away.

“The Moral Crisis of the University,” reprinted in Katz’s last book, Reconstructing American Education (1987), is full of such insights. The essay doesn’t make for happy reading, but every time I read it I come away with a renewed understanding of what will be lost if higher education centered on the life of the mind and nurtured by a strong sense of civic obligation disappears. In many cases, this has already happened. The change Katz describes in 1987 has accelerated in ways that may go beyond his worst nightmare. Along with that acceleration, of course, is a great deal of business as usual, as there always is. We look here when the real erosion is happening there. It’s hard to know where to look, even when there are no distractions–and there are always distractions.

There’s an old joke about going broke, credited to Hemingway: Q: “How did you go bankrupt?” A: “Little by little, then all at once.” During the little by little stage, people who sound various alarms risk being called cranks, or worse. And it’s true: a premature or mischievous cultivation of outrage may damage or destroy what little semblance of community may be left.

And yet, the little by little becomes greater every year. Michael Katz gives me a way to see that. With that clarity also comes hope, the hope that recognizing problems really is the first step toward addressing them, managing them, perhaps even solving them.

Here, then, for Week 7 of Open Learning ’18, my last week as hub director, is some Michael Katz for us to consider together.
[W]hat is it exactly that makes a university distinct from other social institutions? [Robert Paul] Wolff offered a compelling definition based on a conception of the ideal university as a “community of learning.” The ideal university, he argued, should be “a community of persons united by collective understandings, by common and communal goals, by bonds of reciprocal obligation, and by a flow of sentiment which makes the preservation of the community an object of desire, not merely a matter of prudence or a command of duty.” Community implies a form of social obligation governed by principles different from those operative in the marketplace and state. Laws of of supply and demand lose priority; wage-labor is not the template for all human relations; the translation of individuals into commodities is resisted. The difficult task of defining common goals or acceptable activity is neither avoided nor deflected onto bureaucracy….

For all their problems, universities and their faculties remain immensely privileged. They retain a freedom of activity and expression not permitted in any other major social institution. There are two justifications for this privilege. One is that it is an essential condition of teaching and learning. The other is that universities have become the major source of moral and social criticism in modern life. They are the major site of whatever social conscience we have left…. If the legitimacy of universities rested only on their service to the marketplace and state, internal freedom would not be an issue. But their legitimacy rests, in fact, on something else: their integrity. Like all privileges, the freedom enjoyed by universities carries correlative responsibilities. In their case it is intellectual honesty and moral courage. Modern universities are the greatest centers of intellectual power in history. Without integrity, they can become little more than supermarkets with raw power for sale. This is the tendency in the modern history of the higher learning. It is what I call the moral crisis of the university.

I firmly believe that these large questions are essential foundations for any effective change or conservation in higher education. For always some new things must be invented, some things will benefit from change, and some things must be conserved. Some core principles must remain non-negotiable. I agree with Katz: tenured faculty in higher education are the last, best hope for addressing these large questions of common goals and acceptable activities.

It may not yet be too late."
gardnercampbell  via:lukeneff  2018  lifeofthemind  liberalarts  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  community  learning  civics  robertpaulwolff  michaelkatz  1987  howwelearn  purpose  meaning  bureaucracy  interdependence  collectivism  understanding  responsibility  integrity  morality  ethics  neoliberalism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
No one’s coming. It’s up to us. – Dan Hon – Medium
"Getting from here to there

This is all very well and good. But what can we do? And more precisely, what “we”? There’s increasing acceptance of the reality that the world we live in is intersectional and we all play different and simultaneous roles in our lives. The society of “we” includes technologists who have a chance of affecting the products and services, it includes customers and users, it includes residents and citizens.

I’ve made this case above, but I feel it’s important enough to make again: at a high level, I believe that we need to:

1. Clearly decide what kind of society we want; and then

2. Design and deliver the technologies that forever get us closer to achieving that desired society.

This work is hard and, arguably, will never be completed. It necessarily involves compromise. Attitudes, beliefs and what’s considered just changes over time.

That said, the above are two high level goals, but what can people do right now? What can we do tactically?

What we can do now

I have two questions that I think can be helpful in guiding our present actions, in whatever capacity we might find ourselves.

For all of us: What would it look like, and how might our societies be different, if technology were better aligned to society’s interests?

At the most general level, we are all members of a society, embedded in existing governing structures. It certainly feels like in the recent past, those governing structures are coming under increasing strain, and part of the blame is being laid at the feet of technology.

One of the most important things we can do collectively is to produce clarity and prioritization where we can. Only by being clearer and more intentional about the kind of society we want and accepting what that means, can our societies and their institutions provide guidance and leadership to technology.

These are questions that cannot and should not be left to technologists alone. Advances in technology mean that encryption is a societal issue. Content moderation and censorship are a societal issue. Ultimately, it should be for governments (of the people, by the people) to set expectations and standards at the societal level, not organizations accountable only to a board of directors and shareholders.

But to do this, our governing institutions will need to evolve and improve. It is easier, and faster, for platforms now to react to changing social mores. For example, platforms are responding in reaction to society’s reaction to “AI-generated fake porn” faster than governing and enforcing institutions.

Prioritizations may necessarily involve compromise, too: the world is not so simple, and we are not so lucky, that it can be easily and always divided into A or B, or good or not-good.

Some of my perspective in this area is reflective of the schism American politics is currently experiencing. In a very real way, America, my adoptive country of residence, is having to grapple with revisiting the idea of what America is for. The same is happening in my country of birth with the decision to leave the European Union.

These are fundamental issues. Technologists, as members of society, have a point of view on them. But in the way that post-enlightenment governing institutions were set up to protect against asymmetric distribution of power, technology leaders must recognize that their platforms are now an undeniable, powerful influence on society.

As a society, we must do the work to have a point of view. What does responsible technology look like?

For technologists: How can we be humane and advance the goals of our society?

As technologists, we can be excited about re-inventing approaches from first principles. We must resist that impulse here, because there are things that we can do now, that we can learn now, from other professions, industries and areas to apply to our own. For example:

* We are better and stronger when we are together than when we are apart. If you’re a technologist, consider this question: what are the pros and cons of unionizing? As the product of a linked network, consider the question: what is gained and who gains from preventing humans from linking up in this way?

* Just as we create design patterns that are best practices, there are also those that represent undesired patterns from our society’s point of view known as dark patterns. We should familiarise ourselves with them and each work to understand why and when they’re used and why their usage is contrary to the ideals of our society.

* We can do a better job of advocating for and doing research to better understand the problems we seek to solve, the context in which those problems exist and the impact of those problems. Only through disciplines like research can we discover in the design phase — instead of in production, when our work can affect millions — negative externalities or unintended consequences that we genuinely and unintentionally may have missed.

* We must compassionately accept the reality that our work has real effects, good and bad. We can wish that bad outcomes don’t happen, but bad outcomes will always happen because life is unpredictable. The question is what we do when bad things happen, and whether and how we take responsibility for those results. For example, Twitter’s leadership must make clear what behaviour it considers acceptable, and do the work to be clear and consistent without dodging the issue.

* In America especially, technologists must face the issue of free speech head-on without avoiding its necessary implications. I suggest that one of the problems culturally American technology companies (i.e., companies that seek to emulate American culture) face can be explained in software terms. To use agile user story terminology, the problem may be due to focusing on a specific requirement (“free speech”) rather than the full user story (“As a user, I need freedom of speech, so that I can pursue life, liberty and happiness”). Free speech is a means to an end, not an end, and accepting that free speech is a means involves the hard work of considering and taking a clear, understandable position as to what ends.

* We have been warned. Academics — in particular, sociologists, philosophers, historians, psychologists and anthropologists — have been warning of issues such as large-scale societal effects for years. Those warnings have, bluntly, been ignored. In the worst cases, those same academics have been accused of not helping to solve the problem. Moving on from the past, is there not something that we technologists can learn? My intuition is that post the 2016 American election, middle-class technologists are now afraid. We’re all in this together. Academics are reaching out, have been reaching out. We have nothing to lose but our own shame.

* Repeat to ourselves: some problems don’t have fully technological solutions. Some problems can’t just be solved by changing infrastructure. Who else might help with a problem? What other approaches might be needed as well?

There’s no one coming. It’s up to us.

My final point is this: no one will tell us or give us permission to do these things. There is no higher organizing power working to put systemic changes in place. There is no top-down way of nudging the arc of technology toward one better aligned with humanity.

It starts with all of us.


I’ve been working on the bigger themes behind this talk since …, and an invitation to 2017’s Foo Camp was a good opportunity to try to clarify and improve my thinking so that it could fit into a five minute lightning talk. It also helped that Foo Camp has the kind of (small, hand-picked — again, for good and ill) influential audience who would be a good litmus test for the quality of my argument, and would be instrumental in taking on and spreading the ideas.

In the end, though, I nearly didn’t do this talk at all.

Around 6:15pm on Saturday night, just over an hour before the lightning talks were due to start, after the unconference’s sessions had finished and just before dinner, I burst into tears talking to a friend.

While I won’t break the societal convention of confidentiality that helps an event like Foo Camp be productive, I’ll share this: the world felt too broken.

Specifically, the world felt broken like this: I had the benefit of growing up as a middle-class educated individual (albeit, not white) who believed he could trust that institutions were a) capable and b) would do the right thing. I now live in a country where a) the capability of those institutions has consistently eroded over time, and b) those institutions are now being systematically dismantled, to add insult to injury.

In other words, I was left with the feeling that there’s nothing left but ourselves.

Do you want the poisonous lead removed from your water supply? Your best bet is to try to do it yourself.

Do you want a better school for your children? Your best bet is to start it.

Do you want a policing policy that genuinely rehabilitates rather than punishes? Your best bet is to…

And it’s just. Too. Much.

Over the course of the next few days, I managed to turn my outlook around.

The answer, of course, is that it is too much for one person.

But it isn’t too much for all of us."
danhon  technology  2018  2017  johnperrybarlow  ethics  society  calltoaction  politics  policy  purpose  economics  inequality  internet  web  online  computers  computing  future  design  debchachra  ingridburrington  fredscharmen  maciejceglowski  timcarmody  rachelcoldicutt  stacy-marieishmael  sarahjeong  alexismadrigal  ericmeyer  timmaughan  mimionuoha  jayowens  jayspringett  stacktivism  georginavoss  damienwilliams  rickwebb  sarawachter-boettcher  jamebridle  adamgreenfield  foocamp  timoreilly  kaitlyntiffany  fredturner  tomcarden  blainecook  warrenellis  danhill  cydharrell  jenpahljka  robinray  noraryan  mattwebb  mattjones  danachisnell  heathercamp  farrahbostic  negativeexternalities  collectivism  zeyneptufekci  maciejcegłowski 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Taeyoon Choi on Twitter: "I'm wary of an explicative model of entrepreneurship in education (class project as a pitch & classroom as a mock business meeting). Instead…"
"I'm wary of an explicative model of entrepreneurship in education (class project as a pitch & classroom as a mock business meeting). Instead, I want my students to engage in a generative practice of systemic exchange. They create value, idea, trust, and care – not products."

[replied: "👇👉 the “unproduct” " ]
taeyoonchoi  2018  education  entrepreneurship  business  capitalism  care  trust  value  repair  unproduct  meaning  purpose  exchange  design  pitching  teaching  values  howweteach  learning 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Is everything you think you know about depression wrong? | Society | The Guardian
"So, what is really going on? When I interviewed social scientists all over the world – from São Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London – I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we’re good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isn’t meeting those psychological needs for many – perhaps most – people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

Let’s look at one of those causes, and one of the solutions we can begin to see if we understand it differently. There is strong evidence that human beings need to feel their lives are meaningful – that they are doing something with purpose that makes a difference. It’s a natural psychological need. But between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing – our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are “engaged” in their work – they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are “not engaged”, which is defined as “sleepwalking through their workday”. And 24% are “actively disengaged”: they hate it.

Most of the depressed and anxious people I know, I realised, are in the 87% who don’t like their work. I started to dig around to see if there is any evidence that this might be related to depression. It turned out that a breakthrough had been made in answering this question in the 1970s, by an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot. He wanted to investigate what causes stress in the workplace and believed he’d found the perfect lab in which to discover the answer: the British civil service, based in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists. What he wanted to know, at first, was: who’s more likely to have a stress-related heart attack – the big boss at the top, or somebody below him?

Everybody told him: you’re wasting your time. Obviously, the boss is going to be more stressed because he’s got more responsibility. But when Marmot published his results, he revealed the truth to be the exact opposite. The lower an employee ranked in the hierarchy, the higher their stress levels and likelihood of having a heart attack. Now he wanted to know: why?

And that’s when, after two more years studying civil servants, he discovered the biggest factor. It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed – and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. When you are controlled, you can’t create meaning out of your work.

Suddenly, the depression of many of my friends, even those in fancy jobs – who spend most of their waking hours feeling controlled and unappreciated – started to look not like a problem with their brains, but a problem with their environments. There are, I discovered, many causes of depression like this. However, my journey was not simply about finding the reasons why we feel so bad. The core was about finding out how we can feel better – how we can find real and lasting antidepressants that work for most of us, beyond only the packs of pills we have been offered as often the sole item on the menu for the depressed and anxious. I kept thinking about what Dr Cacciatore had taught me – we have to deal with the deeper problems that are causing all this distress.

I found the beginnings of an answer to the epidemic of meaningless work – in Baltimore. Meredith Mitchell used to wake up every morning with her heart racing with anxiety. She dreaded her office job. So she took a bold step – one that lots of people thought was crazy. Her husband, Josh, and their friends had worked for years in a bike store, where they were ordered around and constantly felt insecure, Most of them were depressed. One day, they decided to set up their own bike store, but they wanted to run it differently. Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. This meant they would make decisions collectively, they would share out the best and worst jobs and they would all, together, be the boss. It would be like a busy democratic tribe. When I went to their store – Baltimore Bicycle Works – the staff explained how, in this different environment, their persistent depression and anxiety had largely lifted.

It’s not that their individual tasks had changed much. They fixed bikes before; they fix bikes now. But they had dealt with the unmet psychological needs that were making them feel so bad – by giving themselves autonomy and control over their work. Josh had seen for himself that depressions are very often, as he put it, “rational reactions to the situation, not some kind of biological break”. He told me there is no need to run businesses anywhere in the old humiliating, depressing way – we could move together, as a culture, to workers controlling their own workplaces."

"After I learned all this, and what it means for us all, I started to long for the power to go back in time and speak to my teenage self on the day he was told a story about his depression that was going to send him off in the wrong direction for so many years. I wanted to tell him: “This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. It’s not crazy. It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief – for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong. I know how much it hurts. I know how deeply it cuts you. But you need to listen to this signal. We all need to listen to the people around us sending out this signal. It is telling you what is going wrong. It is telling you that you need to be connected in so many deep and stirring ways that you aren’t yet – but you can be, one day.”

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life."
depression  society  psychology  johannhari  2018  work  labo  hierarchy  meaning  purpose  belonging  competence  culture  medication  pharmaceuticals  anxiety  workplace  democracy  cooperation  sfsh  joannecacciatore  irvingkirsch  michaelmarmot  meredithmitchell  johncacioppo  vincentfelitti  aintidepressants  brain  serotonin 
january 2018 by robertogreco
2017 Civilisation has been corrupted, would you like to open a new file?
"Moving Forward.

Moving forward in the 21st century requires us to systematically de-corrupt civilisation.

1. We need to collectively buy out legacy interests, dependancies, and blocks – like we did with slavery in the UK to allow us to all move forward, we will need to buy out and systemically make redundant our carbon economy.

2. We need to work to bridge the gap between the sense of justice and the law and reinventing regulation & Goverance to match.

3. We need a new governance model which acknowledges our global interdependence at all scales & focuses on the quality, diversity and integrity Of feedback in all its natures – & recognises the future of Goverance is realtime, contingent and contextual – for more see – Innovation Needs a Boring Revolution [ ]

4. We need to invest in a restorative justice national programme to acknowledge and respect the economic, social, gender and cultural violence many in our society have been faced.

5. We need to out forward a Grand Jubilee not of debt by transgression focused on establishing a fresh start with new ground rules and new social contract. Inviting us all into this new world.

6. We need to put Homo Cívica as the centre of our world as opposed to Homo Economicus – further explored here – Towards a Homo Civica Future [ ]

7. Structurally, this transition needs us recognise the progress in science of being human & the reality of a social injustice 2.0 – as outlined more fully here – Human(e) Revolution [ ]

8. We need us to democratise agency, care, creativity and innovation – as outlined here – Beyond Labour [ ]

9. Detox our emotional addition to a mal-consumer economy driven by Bad Work. Further explored here – The Case for Good Work [ ]

10. We need to embrace Moonshots and System Change – to misquote Cooper from Interstellar – “help us find our place in the stars as opposed to fighting for our place in the dirt.” Further explored here – Moonshots & System Change. [ ]

11. We need to break the duopoly of Market and State – rebuilding the role of Learned Societies, as decentralised agents for advancing the public good – driven by the legitimacy of knowledge, to compliment the legitimacy of the vote and the consumer. Further explored here – Remaking Professionalism. [ ]

12. We need to re-embrace freedom – a democracy of freedom. A freedom not just “to do”, but a freedom for all, where we nurture the conditions for all to be free, all to be intrinsically motivated, organised and purposeful. There can be no coercive pathway to a 21st Century. Further explored here – Democracy of Purpose [ ]

But perhaps, most critically of all, what this reboot requires is for all these programmes, activities and investments to be made together, simultaneously, and openly – a systematic reboot of our civilisation. This future cannot be crawled away from – it must be audaciously fought. It requires audacity, and a belief in a radically better tomorrow. A belief in our humanity, not a grudging nod to diversity – but our complete full on belief in humanity as a whole. This is a tomorrow which needs the future to not be a zero sum game but a world of great abundance. Let us reignite our democracy of dreams and fuel the audacity that is the antidote to fear and our zombie society.

I would put forward any viable new government wishing to take us into the real 21st century as opposed to sustain us in a zombie 20th century, must systemically de-corrupt society. If we are to rebuild a new inclusive economy, we must rebuild trust in ourselves – personally and also collectively – without this there can be no progress."
indyjohar  change  systemsthinking  2018  2017  civilization  society  democracy  governance  economics  carbon  regulation  reinvention  revolution  interdependence  gender  culture  violence  science  care  agency  consumerism  capitalism  work  meaning  purpose  moonshots  systemschange  markets  decentralization  audacity  abundance  inclusivity  corruption 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology | Ryan Boren
"The marketing of mindsets is everywhere. Grit, growth mindset, project-based mindset, entrepreneurial mindset, innovator’s mindset, and a raft of canned social-emotional skills programs are vying for public money. These notions jump straight from psychology departments to aphoristic word images shared on social media and marketing festooned on school walls.

Growth mindset and Positive Behavior Support marketing have joined Leader in Me marketing at our elementary school. Instead of being peppered with synergy and Franklin Covey’s trademarks and proprietary jargon, we’re now peppered with LiM and growth mindset and PBS. Like every marketed mindset going back to the self-esteem movement, these campaigns are veneers on the deficit model that ignore long-standing structural problems like poverty, racism, sexism, ableism, and childism. The practice and implementation of these mindsets are always suborned by deficit ideology, bootstrap ideology, meritocracy myths, and greed.

“Money Doesn’t Have to Be an Obstacle,” “Race Doesn’t Matter,” “Just Work Harder,” “Everyone Can Go to College,” and “If You Believe, Your Dreams Will Come True.” These notions have helped fueled inequity in the U.S. public education system. Mindset marketing without structural ideology, restorative practices, and inclusion is more harmful than helpful. This marketing shifts responsibility for change from our systems to children. We define kids’ identities through the deficit and medical models, gloss over the structural problems they face, and then tell them to get some grit and growth mindset. This is a gaslighting. It is abusive.

Canned social-emotional skills programs, behaviorism, and the marketing of mindsets have serious side effects. They reinforce the cult of compliance and encourage submission to authoritarian rule. They line the pockets of charlatans and profiteers. They encourage surveillance and avaricious data collection. Deficit model capitalism’s data-based obsession proliferates hucksterism and turn kids into someone’s business model. The behaviorism of PBS is of the mindset of abusers and manipulators. It is ideological and intellectual kin with ABA, which autistic people have roundly rejected as abusive, coercive, and manipulative torture. We call it autistic conversion therapy. The misbehavior of behaviorism is an ongoing harm.

Instead, acknowledge pipeline problems and the meritocracy myth, stop bikeshedding the structural problems of the deficit model, and stop blaming kids and families. Develop a school culture based not on deficit ideologies and cargo cult shrink wrap, but on diversity & inclusion, neurodiversity, the social model of disability, structural ideology, and indie ed-tech. Get rid of extrinsics, and adopt instead the intrinsic motivation of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Provide fresh air, sunlight, and plenty of time for major muscle movement instead of mindset bandages for the pathologies caused by the lack of these three critical things.

“Self-esteem that’s based on external sources has mental health consequences.” Stop propagating the latest deficit/bootstrap/behaviorism fads. Develop the critical capacity to see beyond the marketing. Look beyond deficit model compliance to social model inclusion. The social model and structural ideology are the way forward. Growth mindset and behaviorism, as usually implemented, are just more bootstrap metaphors that excuse systems from changing and learning.

Deficit ideology, surveillance capitalism, mindset marketing, and behaviorism are an unholy alliance. Fix injustice, not kids. “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.”"
ryanboren2017  mindset  marketing  behavior  behaviorism  deficitideology  disabilities  disability  race  education  learning  grit  growthmindset  projectbasedlearning  entrepreneurship  innovation  psychology  racism  poverty  sexism  bootstrapping  meritocracy  greed  childism  ableism  socialemotional  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  capitalism  health  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  diversity  inclusion  neurodiversity  edtech  autonomy  mastery  purpose  self-esteem  compliance  socialemotionallearning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Against Productivity – The Message – Medium
"Here is what really happened in Puerto Rico four years ago: I fell into a funk, beat myself up a bit, and spent the rest of the time wandering around (mostly to the same places) and daydreaming. I wrote a few strange blog posts which no one read. I went a bit further into credit card debt. My days themselves were pretty quiet. I began to really think hard about what the internet does to society by just being the internet. I wrote out some of what I’d seen, and replayed them in my mind while I wandered around the beach. I made a video about being a robot in a Japanese blues bar asking if anyone could really see a singularity from inside of it. I tried to imagine 2010 me without the net. I tried to imagine 1989 me with the net. I talked about how the internet does and doesn’t change things in a place like PR. I read about Rwanda, and about the trade union history of PR and read and talked more about the history of coffee. Puerto Ricans are big on coffee. And then I left. I don’t remember where I went next.

But it all means something else now. When I look back on not only the wasted time in PR, but the couple of unproductive years around it I see it differently now. When I wasn’t beating myself up for not being productive enough, I was thinking about and interacting with the world. I was laying the first stones of a new foundation, a new way of thinking about networked culture, and even about our place on this planet. Instead of getting things done I was learning, smiling at people I didn’t share a language with, and cross-connecting the notions of my brain and the experiences of my life. It all lay fallow in me for a long time, as notes on my blog, snatches of poems, story bits to never be written. The pieces of this change were pieces of lyrics I wasted time writing on post-it notes I promptly lost, and articles I read instead of working and bits of conversation and pop songs that clung like ribbons and buttons and bits of flowers stuck all over my psyche.

My wasteful and unproductive time was the only time I asked: What should I be doing? What is a worthwhile life? And so it followed that was the only time when I could start to answer those questions. What is good work? Is any of this worth it? What makes life worth living? What good can I do in this world?

What is this world anyway?

I am only now beginning to harvest what was sown in that wasted and unproductive time. But now there are so many threads and ideas from that time, I can’t possibly follow them all. I see the world differently now. I like it more, and I see, just a tiny bit better, how it fits together.

Wisdom takes time. It takes staring out into the rain, It takes service to others. It takes getting nothing done to make us human again. To see the connections between things requires studying the blank spaces between them, days that slip into boredom and loneliness with only a person and their senses and their imagination to keep them company. I can now see that much of what I’ve written in the past year started in 2010, in Puerto Rico. I can see how the time around it allowed me to work the stories of 2011 and 2012 with an insight and understanding that I couldn’t have gotten without the failures to produce that shaped my 2009 and 2010. I can now see that my productive work — at least the good stuff, comes from my unproductive time, from my empty yearning to understand the world.

In many ways foolishness isn’t the opposite of wisdom, but its absence. Productivity is the opposite of wisdom. Humanity is a creature of time and imagination. From these things our fruits are born more than manufactured. Productivity is a quality of perfect robots. Stories, adventures and all new things still have to come from messy humans.

We should spend more time wasting time. We all need to be bored more. We all need to spend more time looking quizzically at birds we don’t recognize. We all need a little more time to connect the dots and see if they matter. I don’t know how much more, but sometimes you have to do things without knowing how much you need.

As for me, I want to go back to Puerto Rico."
productivity  life  philosophy  quinnorton  2017  slow  slowness  writing  idleness  transcontextualism  internet  web  networkedculture  purpose 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Show your support | Educationforward
"Education has to change – to move forward – so that our schools and students can face the unprecedented challenges of the future, with confidence, capability and compassion.

We believe:

1. That schools should be judged on a much broader set of outcomes (e.g. students’ resourcefulness; their ability to engage with political, economic and ecological issues; their confidence with digital technologies; their enjoyment of reading) than they currently face;

2. That the voices of parents, families, and students should be central to process of education policy formulation;

3. That students who neither want, nor need, to go to university should not be made to feel inadequate or failures by an overly narrow and overly academic curriculum;

4. That high-stakes testing has gone too far, has caused too much stress and anxiety to teachers and students, and is a wholly inadequate means of assessing a student’s full range of talents;

5. That the way teachers teach should foster more than the ability to recall snippets of knowledge – the future will ask students not simply what they know, but what they can do with what they know, how they critically evaluate data, and what to do when they don’t know what to do ;

6. That the knowledge that will matter to students in the mid-21st century will be very different to the knowledge that is currently considered core – re-thinking a curriculum fit for the future is an urgent, widespread concern;

7. That providing evidence of learning has attempted to become ‘teacher-proof’, whilst teaching to the test has become endemic. We have to trust teacher judgements more and invest in their professional development;

8. That too many people cast the debate around education in binary terms, despite the growing numbers of schools whose students get good grades and develop confidence, capability and self-direction in their learning.We need to learn from these schools so that their practices can spread like wildfire;

9. That politicians should focus their energies less on cherry-picking evidence to support their entrenched views, and more on the fundamental purpose of education. We need to improve, and deepen, the quality of public debate around schooling;

10. That we live in times of turbulence and anxiety, where truth is a casualty of intolerance. Education has to help people strengthen their dispositions to tolerate uncertainty, to think carefully about complex issues, to understand the position of others and, where necessary, to disagree gracefully. This matters – not just for our communities and our children’s well-being, but for the future of our world."
education  change  sfsh  outcomes  resourcefulness  policy  schools  acadmemics  testing  standardizedtesting  stress  anxiety  teaching  learning  society  howweteach  howelearn  knowledge  tcsnmy  openstudioproject  lcproject  curriculum  purpose  schooling  turbulence  intolerance  truth  uncertainty  complexity  understanding  grace  disagreement  uk 
november 2017 by robertogreco
[Readings] | The Working Classroom, by Malcolm Harris | Harper's Magazine
"The main thing is that twenty-first-century American kids are required to work more than their predecessors. This generation is raised on problem-solving to the exclusion of play. Authorities from the Brookings Institution to Time magazine have called for an end to summer vacation and the imposition of year-round compulsory schooling. But the possible downsides of this trade-off are almost never discussed.

Parents, teachers, policymakers, and employers are all so worried that children won’t “meet the demands of a changing world” that they don’t bother asking what kids are expected to do to meet those demands, and what problems they’re being equipped to solve. The anxious frenzy that surrounds the future has come to function as an excuse for the choices adults make for kids."

"This sort of intensive training isn’t just for the children of intellectuals; the theory behind the rhetoric advocating universal college attendance is that any and all kids should aspire to this level of work. College admissions have become the focus not only of secondary schooling but of contemporary American childhood writ large. The sad truth, however, is that college admissions are designed to funnel young adults onto different tracks, not to validate hard work. A jump in the number of Harvard-caliber students doesn’t have a corresponding effect on the size of the school’s freshman class. Instead, it allows the university to become even more selective and to raise prices, to stock up on geniuses and rich kids. This is the central problem with an education system designed to create the most human capital possible: an increase in ability within a competitive system doesn’t advantage all individuals.

In a world where every choice is an investment, growing up becomes a complex exercise in risk management. The more capital new employees already have when they enter the labor market, the less risky it is for their employers. Over time, firms have an incentive, as the economist Gary Becker put it, to “shift training costs to trainees.” If an employer pays to train workers, what’s to stop another company from luring them away once they’re skilled? The second firm could offer a signing bonus that costs less than the training and still benefit. Paying to train a worker is risky, and risk costs money. As American capitalism advanced, the training burden fell to the state, and then to families and kids themselves.

Childhood risk is less and less about death, illness, or grievous bodily harm and more and more about future prospects. But if it is every parent’s task to raise at least one successful American by America’s own standards, then the system is rigged so that most of them will fail. The ranks of the American elite are not infinitely expandable; in fact, they’re shrinking. Given that reality, parents are told that their children’s choices, actions, and accomplishments have lasting consequences. The Harley Avenue letter is merely one of the more dramatic examples of this fearmongering. With parental love as a guide, risk management has become risk elimination.

By looking at children as investments, it’s possible to see where the product of children’s labor is stored: in their human capital. It’s a kid’s job to stay eligible for the labor market (and not in jail, insane, or dead). Any work beyond that adds to their résumé. If more human capital automatically led to a higher standard of living, this model could be the foundation for an American meritocracy. But millennials’ extra work hasn’t earned them the promised higher standard of living. By every metric, this generation is the most educated in American history, yet its members are worse off economically than their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. Every authority from moms to presidents told millennials to accumulate as much human capital as they could; they did, but the market hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. What gives?

As it turns out, just because you can produce an unprecedented amount of value doesn’t necessarily mean you can feed yourself under twenty-first-century American capitalism. Kids spend their childhoods investing the only thing they have: their effort, their attention, their days and nights, their labor time. (And, sometimes, a large chunk of whatever money their parents may have.) If the purpose of all this labor, all the lost play, all the hours doing unpleasant tasks, isn’t to ensure a good life for the kids doing the work, if it isn’t in the “interests of all children,” then what is it for?

When you ask most adults what any kid in particular should do with the next part of her life, the advice will generally include pursuing higher education. As the only sanctioned path, college admissions becomes a well-structured, high-stakes simulation of a worker’s entry into the labor market. Applicants inventory their achievements, being careful not to underestimate them, and present them in the most attractive package possible.

Then, using the data carefully and anxiously prepared by millions of kids about the human capital they’ve accumulated over the previous eighteen years, higher education institutions make decisions: collectively evaluating, accepting, and cutting hopeful children in tranches like collateralized debt obligations that are then sorted among the institutions according to their own rankings (for which they compete aggressively, of course). It is not the first time children are weighed, but it is the most comprehensive and often the most directly consequential. College admissions offices are rating agencies. Once the kid-bond is rated, it has four or so years until it’s expected to produce a return."
malcolmharris  education  colleges  universities  admissions  2017  children  childhood  meritocracy  capitalism  neoliberalism  economics  labor  work  competition  inequality  highered  highereducation  sfsh  homework  purpose  training  unschooling  deschooling  risk  value  fear  fearmongering  parenting  riskmanagement 
october 2017 by robertogreco
My Grandmother’s Shroud - The New York Times
"When my grandmother, my mother’s mother, died in late June in Nigeria, I was in Italy, at a conference. I wasn’t with her when she slipped into a coma or, three days later, when she died. When my brother told me the news, I called my mother and other members of my family to commiserate with them. She was buried the day of her death, in keeping with Muslim custom, and I couldn’t attend her funeral. My mother, visiting friends in Houston, would also miss the funeral.

I opened my computer and began to search my folders for pictures of my grandmother. On each yearly trip to Nigeria for the past several years, I went to see her in Sagamu, a town an hour northeast of Lagos, where she was born and where she lived for most of her life. On these visits, she would say: ‘‘Sit next to me. I want to feel your hands in mine. Be close to me. I want your skin touching mine.’’ I was always happy to sit with her and to hold hands with her. Afterward, I took photos. I have photos now of her alone, in selfies with me, in the company of my mother and my aunts. In these photos, she has surprisingly smooth skin, hardly any gray hair and, in most of them, a trace of amusement. In one, especially touching photo, my wife, Karen, applies polish to her nails.

To remain close to our dead, we cherish images of them. We’ve done so for millenniums. Think of the Fayum portraits, which show us the faces of Egyptians during the Imperial Roman era with stunning immediacy. Images — paintings, sculptures, photographs — remind us how our loved ones looked in life. But in most places and at most times, portraiture was available only to society’s elites. Photography changed that. Almost everyone is now captured in photographs — and outlived by them. Photographs are there when people pass away. They serve as reservoirs of memory and as talismans for mourning.

My grandmother was born in 1928. Her given name was Abusatu, but we called her Mama. Mama’s father, Yusuf, was a stern imam in Sagamu, and Yusuf’s father, Salako, was said to have been even more severe. But Mama herself was serene and good-natured, kind and tolerant. She was deeply consoled by her religion but not doctrinaire. Of her five daughters, two (including her firstborn, my mother) married Christians and converted to Christianity. It made no difference to Mama. The family had Muslims, Christians and some, like myself, who drifted away from religion entirely. Mama loved us all. An example of her unobtrusive kindness: While I was a college student in the United States, she sent me a white hand-woven cotton blanket. I never knew why and didn’t ask. But it is to this day the most precious piece of cloth I own.

I was leaving Rome when I received the sad news of Mama’s death. She was approaching 89. The end came swiftly, and she was surrounded by family. You could say it was a good death. But why couldn’t she have lived to 99, or to 109, or forever? Death makes us protest the fact of death. It makes us wish for the impossible. I could objectively understand that it was unusual to have had a grandmother in my 40s, and that my 67-year-old mother was equally fortunate in having had a mother so long. My father was 5 when his mother died, and he has been mourning her for longer than my mother has been alive. But the grieving heart does not care for logic, and it refuses comparisons. I mourned Mama as I left Italy for New York.

I mourned her but did not, or was not able to, weep. I arrived in New York in the late afternoon, perhaps at the very moment Mama was being interred. My mother had forwarded a couple of photos taken by my cousin Adedoyin to my wife’s WhatsApp. Karen reached for her phone and showed me the pictures. They were a shock. One was of Mama, dead on her hospital bed, wearing a flowery nightdress and draped in a second flowery cloth, the oxygen tube still taped to her nostrils. Her right arm was limp at her side, and she was not quite like someone asleep but rather like someone passed out, open and vulnerable. The other photograph, which seemed to have been cropped, showed a figure wrapped in a shroud, tied up with white twine, set out on a bed in front of a framed portrait: a white bundle in vaguely human shape where my grandmother used to be. I burst into sudden hot tears.

What did these photographs open? Imagination can be delicate, imposing a protective decorum. A photograph insists on raw fact and confronts us with what we were perhaps avoiding. There she is, my dear Mama, helpless on the hospital bed, and I cannot help her. Days later, I would find out from my mother that in this first photograph, Mama was still in a coma and not dead yet. But looking at the second photograph, the one in which she is incontrovertibly dead, my thoughts raced through a grim logic. I thought: Why have they wrapped her face up? Then I thought: It must be stifling under that thing, she won’t be able to breathe! Then I thought: She’s dead and will never breathe again. Then my tears flowed.

Mama’s life was hard. An itinerant trader of kola nut and later the owner of a small provisions shop, she was one of my late grandfather’s five wives and by no means the best treated. She never went to school, and the only word she could write was her name, sometimes with the ‘‘s’’ reversed. But when Baba died more than 20 years ago, Mama moved out of his house and lived in the two-story house that my mother built her. She was a women’s leader, a kind of deaconess, at the local mosque. She went to parties, to market and to evening prayers. She lived in the security of her own house, in the company of her widowed second daughter, my aunt. In those later years, life became easier.

‘‘She has a single obsession,’’ my mother used to say, ‘‘and that’s her burial rites.’’ Mama insisted that she be buried the same day she died. ‘‘She’ll say, ‘And I must not be buried at the house,’ ’’ my mother said, ‘‘ ‘Because what’s rotten must be thrown out. And for seven days, food must be cooked and taken to the mosque and served to the poor.’ ’’ And most important, my mother said, Mama would reiterate that in a cupboard in the room next to the meeting room in her house was her robe, the one she must be buried in. It was of utmost importance to her to meet her maker wearing the robe with which she approached the Kaaba, the holiest shrine in Islam.

The hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which she undertook in 1996, when she was 68, transfigured my grandmother. Through that journey, through her accomplishment of one of the central tenets of Islam, she sloughed off her old life and took on a new one, one that put her into a precise relationship with eternity. The year of her journey, thousands of Nigerian pilgrims were turned back, because of meningitis and cholera outbreaks. My grandmother was one of a few hundred who got through. When she returned from Mecca, many of her townspeople took to calling her ‘‘Alhaja Lucky.’’ And as though to fit the name, she wore the serene mien of someone who was under special protection.

My mother, an Anglican Christian, financed the journey, knowing what it would mean to her mother to fulfill this final pillar of the faith. But possibly, she had no idea how much it would mean. She anticipated the social satisfaction Mama would get from it but had not counted on the serious existential confirmation it provided.

In the last few years, I often thought of Mama’s pilgrimage robe. I thought about how fortunate she was to have something in her possession so sacred to her, something of such surpassing worth, that she wished to have it on when she met God. And she had her wish: Beneath the plain white shroud in which she was sheathed after she died was that simple pilgrimage robe.

I look at the various photographs from Alhaja Lucky’s last years on my computer. None of them really satisfy me. Many are blurry, most are banal. I really like only the ones of her hands: They remind me of her wish to have her hands touched by mine. But the photograph I cannot stop thinking about is the one Adedoyin took, of Mama in her funeral shroud. The image reminds me of newspaper photos of funerals in troubled zones in the Middle East: an angry crowd, a shrouded body held aloft. But Mama was not a victim of violence. She died peacefully, well past the age of 88, surrounded by family.

Nevertheless, the custom is connected. It is a reminder that the word ‘‘Muslim’’ — so much a part of current American political argument, and so often meant as a slur — is not and has never been an abstraction, not for me, and certainly not for millions of Americans for whom it is a lived reality or a fact of family. A lead headline in The New York Times just a few days after Mama’s burial read: ‘‘Travel Ban Says Grandparents Don’t Count as ‘Close Family.’ ’’ The headline was about travel restrictions on visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Nigeria was not on the list, but the cruelty and absurdity of the policy was vivid. It felt personal.

On the night of Mama’s burial, I lay down to sleep in my apartment in Brooklyn. I couldn’t shake the image of my cousin’s photograph. I went into the closet and took out the white cotton blanket Mama sent me all those years ago. It was a hot night, high summer. I draped the blanket over my body. In the darkness, I pulled the blanket slowly past my shoulders, past my chin, over my face, until I was entirely covered by it, until I was covered by Mama."
2017  tejucole  photography  death  memory  nigeria  aging  relationships  hajj  islam  purpose  grief  mourning  grieving  customs  objects  textiles  immigration  us  policy  connection  families  tolerance  religion  acceptance  mecca  eternity  belief  spirituality  burial  life  living  change  transformation  talismans 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Where’s Your School On This Spectrum? Where Do You Want It To Be? | Josie Holford: Rattlebag and Rhubarb
If you’re thinking about branding and how to market your school (and who isn’t these days?) then it’s good to have a strong agreed upon sense of who you are, how you show who you are and what people actually think.

Easy of course to make fun of both ends. One is hopelessly outdated, fuddy-duddy and not meeting the needs of children. And the other end is forever chasing the latest new and shiny thing and not meeting the needs of children.

[image: ""Where is your school?" [spectrum]

1 = traditional, the best of what has been and is now, classical, teacher-centered, standards driven.

10 = experiential, discovery model, learning focussed, innovative, ever-changing, high tech /high touch."]

And in terms of program, the 1 schools probably devote time to cursive writing, teach Latin, emphasize grammar and talk a great deal about grade inflation and enforcing the dress code. And 10 schools spend their time fighting off accusations of permissiveness and failure to teach basic skills while putting in the state-of-the-art design thinking studio. And both are implementing mindfulness because students in 1 schools need a break from the testing, grading and exam stress and in 10 schools because it’s trendy and goes with the gluten-free organic options at lunch. And so on. So complete the descriptors your way.

Where are you?

So try this quick test with your board, your admin team and the faculty. You can also try it with your parents and students when you’re ready to start engaging in the conversation around change.

So try it with your group. Is there a general agreement on where your school is on the continuum?

Where do you want to be?

Now ask this: Where do you want to be? And get everyone to jot down the number before the sharing. Now where are you?

If the two numbers are close then the work is to uncover what that actually means at your school and work on doing it even better. Then getting the word out on the why, the how and the what for.

If there’s a big gap – or if your numbers are all over the place – then you need to do work around your identity. And there’s a clear need educate folks as to who you are what you do, and why.

And what if the numbers from the board are way out of sync with the faculty and admin, let alone the families and the neighborhood reputation?

What if in the course of this exercise it becomes clear that your school is nowhere really? And that in trying to please everyone you have become the all-things-to-all-people-school? Most marketing and communication experts would probably tell you that’s a recipe for disaster.

Watch this space for what you can do about that."
sfsh  schools  identity  education  josieholford  2017  progressive  experientialeducation  purpose  clarity  branding  reputation  mindfulness  permissiveness  teaching  learning  experientiallearning 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The Art of Teaching
[via: "The slide deck for the workshop is superb. Such a great experience, so grateful to @tchoi8 & the other participants."

referencing also: "How I learn to build things. Something I created for @tchoi8’s Art of Learning workshop at @eyeofestival." ]

[video: "Absence is Presence with Distance"

"As an artist, I work with technology and narrative – formal and relational projects. As an activist, I examine personal and political – practice and praxis. As an educator, I create feedback between plastic and elastic – learning and unlearning. My talk is set at the dawn. We are waiting for the sun to rise and we are full of questions. What’s the role of an artist as an activist now? How can we critique oppressive systems that create the sense of ‘others’ based on ability and legal status? What’s kind of pedagogy can we experiment through alternative schools? How can we create a community among those who have nothing in common? By creating art, we can give form to our intentions, contribute to making the world we want to live in.

( For a companion posting to this talk visit: )]
taeyoonchoi  education  teaching  purpose  routine  ritual  silence  flow  conflict  communication  structure  nurture  authority  kojinkaratani  jean-lucnancy  community  howweteach  pedagogy  learning  howwelearn  eyeo2017  unlearning  curriculum  syllabus  sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation  art  craft  beauty  utility  generosity  sfsh  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  classideas  cv  reciprocity  gifts  kant  discretion  instruction  discipline  johndewey  bmc  blackmountaincollege  justice  annialbers  stndardization  weaving  textiles  making  projectbasedlearning  materials  progress  progressive  unschooling  deschooling  control  experimentation  knowledge  fabrication  buckminsterfuller  constructivism  constructionism  georgehein  habit  freedom  democracy  paulofreire  judithbutler  sunaurataylor  walking  christinesunkim  uncertainty  representation  intervention  speculation  simulation  christopheralexander  objectives  outcomes  learningoutcomes  learningobjectives  remembering  creativity  evaluation  application  analysis  understanding  emancipation  allankaprow  judychicago  s 
june 2017 by robertogreco
3 destructive things you learned in school without realizing it - Vox
"1) You learned that success comes from the approval of others

"External performance markers are fine, and likely even necessary, but they're not sufficient. There has to be a new starting point. There has to be personal purpose introduced into education at some point. There needs to be a why to learning to go with the what. The problem is that everybody's why is personal, and it's impossible to scale. Especially when teachers are so overworked and underpaid."

2) You learned that failure is a source of shame

3) You learned to depend on authority

… That doesn't mean authority is always harmful. It doesn't mean authority serves no purpose. Authority will always exist and will always be necessary for a well-functioning society.

But we should all be capable of choosing the authority in our lives. Adherence to authority should never be compulsory, and it should never go unquestioned — whether it's your preacher, your boss, your teacher, or your best friend. No one knows what's right for you as well as you do. And not letting kids discover that fact for themselves may be the biggest failure of all."
schools  schooling  sfsh  unschooling  deschooling  markmanson  2015  failure  shame  approval  compliance  authority  dependence  purpose  branfordmarsalis 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Wasted Energy on the Battles Against Appropriation and Racism: Indigenous Systems are Resistance – indigenous motherhood
"“Let’s raise our children to fall in love with indigenous systems rather than attempting to destroy colonial systems from within.”

I say this because our babies need to know what is important. They need to know what will truthfully keep us alive in the long run. I say this because everything we are fighting in colonial systems rather than building up in our own systems is an example of us wasting our own resources. I say this because I do not want my grandchildren to think that a “dream job” at the UN is worth more than knowing how to fend for themselves on their homelands.

We spend more time & energy fighting appropriation, oppression, and racism in the colonial structures that they are built and thrive upon than we do re-learning and rebuilding Indigenous systems.

Imagine if we put the energy that we use in trying to convince, change, challenge, and confront colonial systems and instead used that very same energy on reestablishing, restoring, revitalizing, and regenerating indigenous systems.

The battle against things like appropriation, racism, what the government is, or is not, doing in regards to mmiw, residential school documents/stories, and notions of having indigenous pre-requisites in universities, what a government official said about indigenous peoples, and girls wearing headdresses at music festivals are all things that can be deemed as injustices, offensive in nature, forms of inequality, and downright discrimination.

However, we fight and battle these things with all of our energy, some of us even becoming emotionally exhausted because of it. We even allow it to impact our mental health to the point of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. We fully drain ourselves all in the name of justice and equality.

The truth is: this energy that we are utilizing for these injustices could be used for so much more for our people.

Yes, it is important to stand up against something wrong, to make ourselves heard, to be present to the realities of what colonialism is attempting to do around us. But we must spend more energy on our own systems.

Because truthfully, we cannot and will not change colonialism. Colonialism will always act like, operate as, thrive upon, and respond as exactly that. Colonialism. So why do we expect any different or act surprised, infuriated, or dismayed when colonizers act like Sir John A Macdonald and Christopher Columbus? Anything that originates or was created by colonizers, will carry all the same characteristics as said colonizer. Colonialism will always be colonialism

There should only be two exceptions as to why one fights this hard against any of these aforementioned injustices.

1. When it defies or undermines treaty in any way, shape or form, or

2. When it leads to an unjust death.

Otherwise, we must begin to think about conserving and preserving and utilizing our energy and resources into indigenous systems. Whether that be indigenous education, natural law, land based learning and loving, traditional kinship and parenting, language revitalization, and medicinal health.

If we cared as much about any one of these areas as we do when a settler commits a social and political injustice on our people, oh my how we would flourish.

If a Twitterstorm that lasted days on end based on “practices healthy indigenous families follow” or “what a land based school can do for our children,” rather than “how the colonizer fucked up again, and I am so shocked, and here’s what I have to say about it,” our systems would make a comeback so prominent, that our grandchildren would never have known the colonized lives we are living today.

If indigenous activists practiced land-based relationship building and deconstructing nepotism in communities rather than placing all their energy in a rally against a new and improved “founding father” and their legislation, then our babies would grow up knowing that the best way to grow up is with mud on their boots from the knowledge of how to grow their own food and valuing the sanctity of kinship.

The peculiar thing about indigenous peoples fighting with all their life force in order to gain some form of respect or a place in colonial systems such as with a case of appropriation, or even mandatory indigenous studies classes in academia. The very things we are battling are also what we are fighting so hard to be a fair and equal part of.

It’s like we are saying “hey! we hate colonialism…..but we want equal and fair participation with colonialism and all the systems colonialism has created. And we also want to be recognized by the colonizer as an Indigenous person in their spaces. Because that means that I am respected. And therefore makes me feel worthy.”

Holy shit!

Let’s change this rhetoric to “hey! colonialism is destroying our lives. Let’s no longer be a part of it. We need to rebuild our relationship with our lands and families and all the systems our people and lands created. And we only need to be recognized by our own. Because that means I’m part of a sovereign nation.”

Now, when an action of the colonizer completely disrespects treaty or takes the life of our own, that is when knowing how and when our systems as indigenous peoples operates would be the most effective response.

For example, if they attempt to take away our right to education (in Treaty it is described as the “power of the pen”) which, let us clarify here, is not academia. It is simply, education. Academia is the colonizers watered down, ego-induced version of education. Education is what our right is.

So the colonizer attempts to control how we choose to educate our people and says “you can’t do that. That’s not academics. It’s against our academic system. You will not graduate from the education system. You also owe us 1500 dollars for attending our classes. Because you can’t afford it, you are kicked out.” If we knew our systems thoroughly, and practiced them as such, we could reply with “we are our own people. Your laws are irrelevant to us. And we will educate our own as stated in treaty, as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and water flows. Without what the colonizers created: academia. We will learn based on the land and based on the knowledge of the ones from long ago. Indigenous Education is free. Colonial academia is not.” Our children and young people would then begin relearning, reestablishing, restoring, revitalizing, and regenerating indigenous systems rather than losing self-esteem and self-worth due to being on the front lines of colonial academia.

The reality is there has been thousands of little white girls dressing up as Indian “chiefs” for over a hundred years.
There has been an insurmountable amount of teachers and professors stating that these lands were “found,” and the cowboys never murdered the Indians and their babies.
There has been a multitude of cases of indigenous appropriation from Victoria’s Secret, to Boyden, to boutique moccasins made in China.
And because of this…
There has been hundreds of rallies and protests and runs across these lands to fight colonial legislation.

There have been countless petitions and speeches in parliament and meetings with prime ministers all in the name of equality for indigenous peoples on their own lands.
And there have been an array of articles on how and why we can become equal and gain justice in these colonial systems.

Yes. These things are great for awareness. But that’s where it ends. There is no real change when one befriends/battles colonial systems in order to attempt to achieve indigenous equality and greatness. An indigenous person battling in a colonial system simply becomes an indigenous person serving in a colonial system.

Rather than servants to the cause they become servants to colonialism.

There was a moment in my life where I knew I no longer wanted to fight for equality and justice in colonial systems. It was when I knew I was lying to my ancestors and my grandchildren concurrently, and I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I was lying to them by thinking I could create change in colonial systems, I was lying to them by shaking hands with Stephen Harper and envisioning a better future. I was lying to them when I sat in a national office as a program officer, streamlining federal dollars to hundreds of organizations who desperately needed it for their young people, and concluded that this, right here, was what positive change looked and felt like. I was lying to them when I drilled and questioned government officials at the UN, with tears in my eyes and fear in my throat, imagining that my pleas and words would be strong enough to get these officials to deliver the equality thousands of indigenous young women needed in their communities.

My body told me. I was lying to my ancestors and my future grandchildren. By believing. Believing that I could kill colonialism inside a colonial system.

Colonial systems continues the pattern of colonial cycles.

Colonialism will always act like, operate as, thrive upon, and respond as exactly that. Colonialism. Colonialism will always be colonialism.

It’s time to tell truths to our ancestors and future grandbabies.

Tell them the truth. The truth being that rather than placing all of our energy in appropriation scandals, academic racism and university elitism, what MLAs and MPs said and what they did and did not do, a headdress being worn by a blond head and made in China moccasins, we must put our energy into our own systems.

Grow a garden, plant some wildflowers, and put your body on the land to maintain indigenous land based education and to begin to understand the basics of natural law.
Learn a word or phrase a day. To rekindle your relationship with your language. To remember what it’s like to live mino bimaadiziwin.
Spend time with an aunty, a kokum, or in another community, and learn one ailment that one plant can cure. It may be useful down the line.

And… [more]
colonialism  resistance  decolonoization  appropriation  indigenous  racism  2017  via:carolblack  purpose  focus  awareness 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Airbrushing Shittown | Hazlitt
"S-Town isn’t fiction—we can probably assume that the facts, as we are given them, are “accurate.” But mere accuracy doesn’t make it journalism: the private details of private lives have no clear public interest, and Brian Reed never seriously argues that they do. It’s creative non-fiction, then, a category whose very name is composed out of negations: not fiction, but not non-fiction, either; true, but created. And so the fact that he never finds anything—that nothing happened—is what he finds at the end of his investigation, the discovery that the very opposite of something happened. He finds that something didn’t happen, in a half-dozen different ways, and that it didn’t happen for everyone in a variety of fascinating ways: the murder, the gold, and the conspiracy of silence… He finds none of it, only the story of how he set out to look. And then out of this series of negations, he wraps it all up, neatly, so that we can all go home, entertained.

By the end of the podcast, you come to realize that the monologue that opened it—a monologue about clocks and how they are reconstructed—is really about Brian Reed’s own process, about reconstructing a life. “Sometimes entire portions of the original clockwork are missing,” he says, “but you can’t know for sure because there are rarely diagrams of what the clock is supposed to look like. A clock that old doesn’t come with a manual.” John B. McLemore is the clock, and the testimony Reed has gathered, over long years of work, are the “witness marks” a clock-restorer uses to guide their way, “impressions and outlines and discolorations, left inside the clock, of pieces that might’ve once been there.”

“Fixing an old clock can be maddening,” Reed says. “You’re constantly wondering if you’ve just spent hours going down a path that will likely take you nowhere, and all you’ve got are these vague witness marks which might not even mean what you think they mean. So, at every moment along the way you have to decide if you’re wasting your time or not.”

Reed did not waste his time; S-Town was a smash from the start, a career-making triumph. But in their original function, clocks are not made for entertainment. Clocks are tools that make social life possible. A clock makes time, and organizes it, and time is, ultimately, a social medium: we use it to coordinate with others and to communicate; a sense of shared time helps us meet each other and find each other and arrange the stories that we tell about each other—it allows us to take our turns speaking and listening, and it allows us to put things into their proper perspective. Without clocks—or without some sense of shared time, however constructed—society, as we know it, would not be possible.

John lived in his own time zone, literally: as Reed mentions, John B. McLemore’s house did not observe daylight saving time, so depending on the season, the time at his house might be an hour different than the surrounding area. It’s a good reflection of his relation to his world, his insistent eccentricity reflected in his own, personal, zone of time. It’s a good joke, a playful irony, even a self-consciously Faulknerian expression of being southern, a quiet little rebellion against unification under the guise of turning back the clock. It’s also totally ridiculous, which John surely understood: since all time is social, the idea of having your own time zone is absurd, only meaningful in the irony of its meaninglessness.

Moreover, for all his scrupulous attention to reconstructing the original function of a clock, the irony of clock restoration is that John didn’t repair clocks for their original function. His clocks were repaired to be old, to be antiques: the point of “restoring” them was not simply to make them work—that’s easy enough to do—but to make them work exactly as they once did. That’s why John hand-ground a gathering pallet from scratch. “They aren’t trying to simply make the clock work again,” Reed says of the fraternity of horologists. “Their goal is to preserve and reconstruct the original craftsmanship as much as possible.” Recovering and replicating the inspiration of the original clockmaker makes them valuable enough to sell, but it’s the sale that matters.

After all, clock restoration serves no useful function in a world where we all have clocks on our phones (the same phones we might use to listen to a podcast). In a world where networked clocks are everywhere, an antique clock is so big, heavy, and fragile that it isn’t useful in that sense. Instead, an antique clock’s eccentricity becomes valuable because of how odd it is, how particular, and how much work goes into restoring it. When people pay for a restored antique, they are paying for an incredibly laborious lack of useful value: so much work went into making them work again, but because that work is totally superfluous and unnecessary, it is thus, perversely, worth paying for.

If an old clock is valuable because of the perfectly recovered eccentricity of its original intention, the same could be said about John B. McLemore’s own perverse life, and for that matter, this podcast. So much work went into making it, but what, after everything, is this podcast actually for?

When John B. McLemore heard the earliest draft of Reed’s program, the story of the murder of that didn’t happen, his reaction was disappointment: “I can’t believe how much you’ve worked on this son of a bitch and at the same time,” he sighed, “my god.” Reed wanted him to be relieved, to be happy about the work, and is audibly upset that he isn’t. Perhaps John B. was in a bad mood, even a depressive episode; perhaps that was why he wasn’t sufficiently appreciative. Perhaps his original fit of enthusiasm for activist journalism had long passed—it had, after all, been years since he originally contacted Reed—and he had a different perspective on the story Brian Reed was telling. When Reed observes that “I am not saving the world over here,” John’s retort that “You are definitely not saving the world!” is delivered with a peculiar, bitter intensity, the laugh of someone who once thought it was possible, perhaps, but no longer does. What’s the point of all that work if it can’t save the world?

John B. isn’t cruel, though: “I think you’ve done pretty goddamned good,” he says, finally. And he’s absolutely right—one can only admire how well Brian Reed reconstructed his clock. But what is the point of it? What does it do?

I am writing this and you are reading it because we are sharing a moment: we have all listened to this podcast, the timepiece that Brian Reed built to bring us together. But what do we do with this unity? Across the seven hours of Reed’s production, we are told a story in which we all can understand each other, talk to each other, and hear each other: we can unite in admiration for John B., for the genius that was born to Mary Grace, for his voice, and for the power of storytelling. We can hear his voice and be united in our appreciation for his existence. Is this what we need now? Does it tell us our time? Does it bring us together? Does it help us understand what it means to have Donald Trump as president, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as the most powerful cop in the land? Or is it simply a nostalgic exercise in anachronism, like a perfectly restored antique? Is it something we value because it does something, or because it feels old and authentic?

I don’t know. In the end, all it offers is questions."
aaronbady  s-town  storytelling  horology  clocks  purpose  journalism  podcasts  nostalgia  brianreed  johnbmclemore  restoration  accuracy  entertainment  process  criticism 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Snarling Girl | Hazlitt
"Oh really, she says. Now I matter? Wrong, motherfucker: I mattered before. (Also: Nope, can’t help you write a book, best of luck.)

She’s a little trigger-happy on the misanthropic rage, this snarling girl. She is often accused of “not living up to her potential.” She is neither inspired by nor impressed with prep school. The college admissions race leaves her cold. Her overbearing mother berates her about crappy grades and lack of ambition. (O-ho, the snarling girl says, you want to see lack of ambition? I’ll show you lack of ambition!) Where she is expected to go right, she makes a habit of veering left. She is not popular, not likely to succeed. Her salvation arrives (surely you saw this coming) in the form of books, movies, music. She obsessively follows the trail of breadcrumbs they leave behind. Here is a neat kind of power: she can be her own curator. She can find her way from one sustaining voice to another, sniffing out what’s true, what’s real. In her notebooks she copies out passages from novels, essays, poems, and songs. She Sharpies the especially resonant bits on her bedroom wall. This is how she learns to trust herself, no easy feat. These are epigraphs to the as yet unwritten book of her life, rehearsals for the senior page she is keen to assemble. These stories and lines and lyrics are companionship, proof that the universe is much, much bigger than her radioactive family and rich bitch west L.A. and Hebrew school and Zionist summer camp. Behold: She is not crazy! She is not alone! She is not a freak! Or, rather: she is crazy, she is alone, she is a freak, and she’ll keep glorious company with all of these other crazy, lonely, amazing freaks.

Look at her notebooks, all in a row. They live in my study, above shelves stacked with my books, galleys, audiobooks, foreign editions, literary journals, anthologies, Literary Death Match Champion medal, and piles of newspapers and magazines in which I’m celebrated as this amazing thing: a writer. A novelist. Legit. But witness, please, no coincidence, the notebooks live above that stuff. Spiral-bound, leather-bound, fabric-bound, black, pink, green, floral. This Notebook Belongs To: Elisa Albert, neatly printed in the earliest, 1992. Fake it ’til you make it, girl! The notebooks have seniority. Here is how she began to forge a system of belief and belonging, to say nothing of a career. Am I aggrandizing her? Probably. I am just so goddamn proud of her."

"Everything worthwhile is a sort of secret, not to be bought or sold, just rooted out painstakingly in whatever darkness you call home.

Here is what we know for sure: there is no end to want. Want is a vast universe within other vast universes. There is always more, and more again. There are prizes and grants and fellowships and lists and reviews and recognitions that elude us, mysterious invitations to take up residence at some castle in Italy. One can make a life out of focusing on what one does not have, but that’s no way to live. A seat at the table is plenty. (But is it a good seat? At which end of the table??? Alongside whom!?) A seat at the table means we are free to do our work, the end. Work! What a fantastic privilege."

"Some ambition is banal: Rich spouse. Thigh gap. Gold-buckle shoes. Quilted Chanel. Penthouse. Windowed office. Tony address. Notoriety. Ten thousand followers. A hundred thousand followers. Bestseller list. Editor-in-Chief. Face on billboard. A million dollars. A million followers. There are ways of working toward these things, clear examples of how it can be done. Programs, degrees, seminars, diets, schemes, connections, conferences. Hands to shake, ladders to climb. If you are smart, if you are savvy, who’s to stop you? Godspeed and good luck. I hope you get what you want, and when you do, I hope you aren’t disappointed.

Remember the famous curse? May you get absolutely everything you want.

Here’s what impresses me: Sangfroid. Good health. The ability to float softly with an iron core through Ashtanga primary series. Eye contact. Self-possession. Loyalty. Boundaries. Good posture. Moderation. Restraint. Laugh lines. Gardening. Activism. Originality. Kindness. Self-awareness. Simple food, prepared with love. Style. Hope. Lust. Grace. Aging. Humility. Nurturance. Learning from mistakes. Moving on. Letting go. Forms of practice, in other words. Constant, ongoing work. No endpoint in sight. Not goal-oriented, not gendered. Idiosyncratic and pretty much impossible to monetize.

I mean: What kind of person are you? What kind of craft have you honed? What is my experience of looking into your eyes, being around you? Are you at home in your body? Can you sit still? Do you make me laugh? Can you give and receive affection? Do you know yourself? How sophisticated is your sense of humor, how finely tuned your understanding of life’s absurdities? How thoughtfully do you interact with others? How honest are you with yourself? How do you deal with your various addictive tendencies? How do you face your darkness? How broad and deep is your perspective? How willing are you to be quiet? How do you care for yourself? How do you treat people you deem unimportant?

So you’re a CEO. So you made a million dollars. So your name is in the paper. So your face is in a magazine. So your song is on the radio. So your book is number one. You probably worked really hard; I salute you. So you got what you wanted and now you want something else. I mean, good, good, good, great, great, great. But if you have ever spent any time around seriously ambitious people, you know that they are very often some of the unhappiest crazies alive, forever rooting around for more, having a hard time with basics like breathing and eating and sleeping, forever trying to cover some hysterical imagined nakedness.

I get that my foremothers and sisters fought long and hard so that my relationship to ambition could be so … careless. I get that some foremothers and sisters might read me as ungrateful because I don’t want to fight their battles, because I don’t want to claw my way anywhere. My apologies, foremothers: I don’t want to fight. Oh, is there still sexism in the world? Sigh. Huh. Well. Knock me over with a feather. Now: how do I transplant the peonies to a sunnier spot so they yield more flowers next year or the year after? How do I conquer chapter three of this new novel? I’ve rewritten it and rewritten it for months. I need asana practice, and then I need to sit in meditation for a while. Then some laundry. And the vacuum cleaner needs a new filter. Then respond to some emails from an expectant woman for whom I’m serving as doula. And it’s actually my anniversary, so I’m gonna write my spouse a love letter. Then pick up the young’un from school. And I need to figure out what I’m making for dinner. Something with lentils, probably, and butter. Then text my friends a stupid photo and talk smack with them for a while.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.

Yes, oppression is systemic, I get it, I feel it, I live it, I struggle, I do. Women are not equal, we’re not fairly represented, the pie charts are clear as day: nothing’s fair, nothing at all, it’s maddening, it’s saddening, it’s not at all gladdening. We all suffer private and public indignities (micro-aggressions, if you prefer) big and small. It’s one thing to pause and grapple with unfairness, but if we set up camp there, we can’t get anything done, can’t get to the root of the problem. So sure, great, go on and on about how women should help other women! Rah rah, put it on a T-shirt, sell it on Etsy. Great marketing, but what’s actually being accomplished? Who, specifically, is being helped? A collection of egos shouting ME ME ME is not artistically or intellectually productive or interesting.

“Real” work is often invisible, and maybe sort of sacred as such. The hollering and clamoring and status anxiety and PR two inches from our collective eyeballs all day? Not so much. So tell the gatekeepers to shove it, don’t play by their rules, and get back to work on whatever it is you hold dear. Nothing’s ever been fair. Nothing will ever be fair. But there is ever so much work to be done. Pretty please can I go back to my silly sweet secret sacred novel now? Bye. Take care."

"Here’s what bothers me about conventional ambition, the assumption that we all aspire to the top, the winner’s circle, the biggest brightest bestest, the blah blah blah, and that we will run around and around and around our little hamster wheels to get there: most of these goals are standardized. Cartoonish. Cliché. Beware anything standardized, that’s what I would teach my daughter. Health care, ambition, education, diet, culture: name it, and you will suffer endlessly from any attempt to go about it the same way as some projected Everyone Else. You cannot be standardized. You are a unique flower, daughter. Maybe the Ivy League will be wonderful for you; maybe it will crush your soul. If the former, I will mortgage the house to pay your way; if the latter, give that shit the finger and help me move these peonies, will you? You are not defined by such things, either way. Anyway, let us discuss what we want to whip up for dinner and take turns playing DJ while doing so.

“She can, though every face should scowl / And every windy quarter howl / Or every bellows burst, be happy still.” That was Yeats.

I mean, fuck ambition, that’s where this is going. I don’t buy the idea that acting like the oppressor is a liberation, personal ambition being, in essence, see above, patriarchal. And yeah, about recognition. What about when genius and/or hard work isn’t recognized? Because often it isn’t, and what do we make of that… [more]
elisaalbert  writing  belief  2017  literature  purpose  books  notebooks  care  caring  emotionallabor  whatmatters  feminism  audience  small  slow  ambition  standardization  mayaangelou  patriarchy  liberation  recognition  success  mastery  accomplishment  sideeffects  unintendedconsequences  striving  humility  winning 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers. - The New York Times
"The glorification of leadership skills, especially in college admissions, has emptied leadership of its meaning."

"In 1934, a young woman named Sara Pollard applied to Vassar College. In those days, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and Sara’s father described her, truthfully, as “more a follower type than a leader.”

The school accepted Sara, explaining that it had enough leaders.

It’s hard to imagine this happening today. No father in his right mind (if the admissions office happened to ask him!) would admit that his child was a natural follower; few colleges would welcome one with open arms. Today we prize leadership skills above all, and nowhere more than in college admissions. As Penny Bach Evins, the head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, an independent school in Maryland, told me, “It seems as if higher ed is looking for alphas, but the doers and thinkers in our schools are not always in front leading.”

Harvard’s application informs students that its mission is “to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society.” Yale’s website advises applicants that it seeks “the leaders of their generation”; on Princeton’s site, “leadership activities” are first among equals on a list of characteristics for would-be students to showcase. Even Wesleyan, known for its artistic culture, was found by one study to evaluate applicants based on leadership potential.

If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage- and dorm-dwellers, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has made king of the hill status seem possible for every 19-year-old. So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school.

Yet a well-functioning student body — not to mention polity — also needs followers. It needs team players. And it needs those who go their own way.

It needs leaders who are called to service rather than to status.

Admissions officers will tell you that their quest for tomorrow’s leaders is based on a desire for positive impact, to make the world a better place. I think they mean what they say.

But many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.” She says admissions officers fail to define leadership as “making advances in solving mathematical problems” or “being the best poet of the century.”

Whatever the colleges’ intentions, the pressure to lead now defines and constricts our children’s adolescence. One young woman told me about her childhood as a happy and enthusiastic reader, student and cellist — until freshman year of high school, when “college applications loomed on the horizon, and suddenly, my every activity was held up against the holy grail of ‘leadership,’ ” she recalled. “And everyone knew,” she added, “that it was not the smart people, not the creative people, not the thoughtful people or decent human beings that scored the application letters and the scholarships, but the leaders. It seemed no activity or accomplishment meant squat unless it was somehow connected to leadership.”

This young woman tried to overhaul her personality so she would be selected for a prestigious leadership role as a “freshman mentor.” She made the cut, but was later kicked out of the program because she wasn’t outgoing enough. At the time, she was devastated. But it turned out that she’d been set free to discover her true calling, science. She started working after school with her genetics teacher, another behind-the-scenes soul. She published her first scientific paper when she was 18, and won the highest scholarship her university has to offer, majoring in biomedical engineering and cello.

Our elite schools overemphasize leadership partly because they’re preparing students for the corporate world, and they assume that this is what businesses need. But a discipline in organizational psychology, called “followership,” is gaining in popularity. Robert Kelley, a professor of management and organizational behavior, defined the term in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article, in which he listed the qualities of a good follower, including being committed to “a purpose, principle or person outside themselves” and being “courageous, honest and credible.” It’s an idea that the military has long taught.

Recently, other business thinkers have taken up this mantle. Some focus on the “romance of leadership” theory, which causes us to inaccurately attribute all of an organization’s success and failure to its leader, ignoring its legions of followers. Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. “These are not questions asked by leaders,” he told me. “They’re fundamental questions of followership.”

Team players are also crucial. My sons are avid soccer players, so I spend a lot of time watching the “beautiful game.” The thing that makes it beautiful is not leadership, though an excellent coach is essential. Nor is it the swoosh of the ball in the goal, though winning is noisily celebrated. It is instead the intricate ballet of patterns and passes, of each player anticipating the other’s strengths and needs, each shining for the brief instant that he has the ball before passing it to a teammate or losing it to an opponent.

We also rely as a society, much more deeply than we realize, on the soloists who forge their own paths. We see those figures in all kinds of pursuits: in the sciences; in sports like tennis, track and figure skating; and in the arts. Art and science are about many things that make life worth living, but they are not, at their core, about leadership. Helen Vendler, a professor of English at Harvard, published an essay in which she encouraged the university to attract more artists and not expect them “to become leaders.” Some of those students will become leaders in the arts, she wrote — conducting an orchestra, working to reinstate the arts in schools — “but one can’t quite picture Baudelaire pursuing public service.”

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is to the practice of leadership itself — it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches students to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound. The latter belongs to transformative leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; the former to — well, we’ve all seen examples of this kind of leadership lately.

If this seems idealistic, consider the status quo: students jockeying for leadership positions as résumé padders. “They all want to be president of 50 clubs,” a faculty adviser at a New Jersey school told me. “They don’t even know what they’re running for.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.

What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?

And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.

But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear."
susancain  leadership  leaders  sfsh  followers  community  courage  honesty  purpose  2017  colleges  universities  admissions  canon  small  slow  helenvendler  arts  art  artists  followership  soccer  football  us  values  credibility  military  authority  power  dominance  ivyleague  admission  capitalism  politics  elitism  adamgrant  introverts  extroverts  allsorts  attention  edg  srg  care  caring  maintenance  futbol  sports 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Christopher Emdin SXSWedu 2017 Keynote - YouTube
"Merging theory and practice, connecting contemporary issues to historical ones, and providing a deep analysis on the current state of education, Dr. Emdin ushers in a new way of looking at improving schools and schooling. Drawing from themes in his New York Times Bestselling book, and the latest album from rap group A Tribe Called Quest, Emdin offers insight into the structures of contemporary schools, and highlights major issues like the absence of diversity among teachers, the ways educators of color are silenced in schools, the absence of student voice in designing teaching and learning, and a way forward in addressing these issues."
christopheremdin  education  2017  sxswedu2017  schools  diversity  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  studentvoice  listening  socialjustice  service  atribecalledquest  dinka  culture  adjustment  maladjustment  ptsd  psychology  voice  transcontextualism  johndewey  doctorseuss  traditions  children  race  racism  trauma  trayvonmartin  violence  schooling  schooltoprisonpipeline  technology  edtech  pedagogy  disenfranchisement  technosolutionism  commoncore  soul  liberation  conversation  paulofreire  credentialism  stem  coding  economics  expectations  engagement  neweconomy  equity  justice  humility  quantification  oppression  whitesupremacy  cosmopolitanism  hiphoped  youthculture  hiphop  youth  teens  appropriation  monetization  servicelearning  purpose  context  decontextualization  tfa  courage  inequality  inequity  normalization  community  curriculum  canon  complexity  chaos  nuance  teachforamerica 
march 2017 by robertogreco
'Capitalism will always create bullshit jobs' | Owen Jones meets Rutger Bregman - YouTube
"Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists and he advocates for more radical solutions to address inequality in society. His ideas include the introduction of a universal basic income, a 15 hour working week and, one which will be hugely popular on YouTube, open borders.

When I went to meet him, he told me politicians have failed to come up with new, radical ideas, instead sticking to an outdated, technocratic form of politics. He argues this has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders and Donald Trump to slowly shift extreme ideas into the mainstream."
rutgerbregman  bullshitjobs  consumerism  utopia  work  labor  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  2017  inequality  purpose  emotionallabor  society  socialism  leisurearts  artleisure  boredom  stress  workweek  productivity  policy  politics  poverty  health  medicine  openborders  crime  owenjones  socialjustice  progressivism  sustainability  left  us  germany  migration  immigration  capitalism  netherlands  populism  isolationism  violence  pragmatism  realism  privatization  monopolies  ideology  borders  ubi 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Are we robbing students of tomorrow? - Long View on Education
[Cf. "The High School of the Future (in 1917)" on David Snedden ]

"Is our present educational system ripe to be disrupted by Deweyan thought from a century ago? Are we robbing students of tomorrow?

While it might seem like John Dewey is back in fashion, and on the side of those who argue that schools need to be ‘future proofed’ to keep pace with the changing economy, Dewey never actually said the above. As Tryggvi Thayer points out, “it doesn’t sound like something that Dewey would say in his writings; neither the sentiment nor diction.”

As an example of the ‘future proofing’ trend, Charles Kivunja presses Dewey into a narrative about how America’s “obsolete” schools need to do a better job of “training the work force”, making the argument that the current agenda is “really not new.” Thus, Bill Gates and Thomas Friedman are just the Dewey’s of today, worried that we are robbing children (and the American GDP) of tomorrow. In reaction to the restrictive nature of standardized testing, project-based learning and student-centered approaches have emerged as the favored pedagogy to help prepare students for the workplace of tomorrow.

Ironically, Dewey criticized both the main future proofer of his day, David Snedden, and the leading proponent of the ‘child-centered’ project-method, James Heard Kilpatrick. Rather than a resurgence of people reading Dewey, we are witnessing the rise of Sneddedism and Kilpatrickianism passed off as the thoughts of everyone’s progressive hero."

David Snedden – Future Proofing and Social Efficiency

I imagine that a Dewey redivivus would be sadden but not surprised to see that Snedden’s ‘social efficiency’ won out over the brand of progressive thought that Dewey argued for. Snedden was a member of what David Tyack and Larry Cuban (1997, p.17) have termed the ‘administrative progressives:
These white men – few women and almost no people of color were admitted to the inner circle of movers and shakers – carved out lifelong careers in education as city superintendents, education professors, state or federal officers, leaders in professional organizations such as the National Education Association (NEA), and foundation officials. They shared a common faith in “educational science” and in lifting education “above politics” so that experts could make the crucial decisions.

The administrative progressives didn’t lack any vision:
They thought that schooling should be both more differentiated and more standardized: differentiated in curriculum to fit the backgrounds and future destinies of students; and standardized with respect to buildings and equipment, professional qualifications of staff, administrative procedures, social and health services and regulations, and other educational practices.

“The terms have changed over the years, but not the impulse to emulate business and impress business elites,” (112), and so the current future proofing agenda is really just Snedden’s ‘social efficiency’ wrapped in the buzzwords of the so-called Knowledge Economy. For Will Richardson, PBW justifies PBL: “If you want a justification for Problem/Project Based Learning, there probably isn’t any better than this: increasingly our students are going to be doing problem/project based work in their professional lives.”

Dewey opposed the administrative progressives’ attempt to construe education so narrowly as training. David F. Labaree recounts the history in How Dewey Lost, which is well worth the read. In The New Republic (1915, republished in Curriculum Inquiry in 1977), Dewey put his criticism this way:
“Apart from light on such specific questions, I am regretfully forced to the conclusion that the difference between us is not so much narrowly educational as it is profoundly political and social. The kind of vocational education in which I am interested is not one which will ‘adapt’ workers to the existing industrial regime; I am not sufficiently in love with the regime for that. It seems to me that the business of all who would not be educational time-servers is to resist every move in this direction, and to strive for a kind of vocational education which will first alter the existing industrial regime, and ultimately transform it.” (38-9)

Labaree pulls many lessons from his study of history. Snedden emerged at the right time to argue that schools needed to be reformed to keep up with the changing economy. Among the other points Labaree makes, I find these three particularly compelling and relevant:
The ideas sounded authoritative and gave the impression that they were building into arguments, but they were largely a collection of numbered lists and bullet points. He was a man who would have warmly embraced PowerPoint. In his work, portentousness abounded; it was all about riding the wave of the future and avoiding the undertow of the past.

However, Snedden’s ideas lacked substance:
He was a self-styled scientist who never did anything that remotely resembled scientific study, an educational sociologist who drew on the cliches of the field – social Darwinism and social control – without ever making an original contribution. In his written work, he never used data, and he never cited sources, which made sense, since he rarely drew on sources anyway. His books and journal articles took the form of proclamations, scientific pronouncements without the science; they all read like speeches, and that was likely the source of most of them.

And lacked subtlety:
But one of the lessons of social change in general and educational reform in particular is that every doctrine needs its doctrinaire. Nuance is dysfunctional for the cause of educational reform, especially early in the process, when the main task is to clear the field of the accumulated institutional underbrush and make the case for a radical new order. Every reformer needs to slash and burn the remnants of the old way of doing things, portraying the past as all weeds and decay, and clearing space tor the new institutions to take root. This is something that a literal minded, hyperkinetic, and monomaniacal figure like Snedden could do superbly. As Diane Ravitch {2000) noted, “Snedden’s caricature of the traditional school became a staple of progressive attacks tor years to come: it was ‘repressive,’ ‘monarchical,’ ‘barren and repellent,’ founded entirely on classics and completely out of touch with American democracy” (p. 82).

I’ll let you do your own compare and contrast with current educational thought leaders.

William Heard Kilpatrick – The Child-Centered Project-Method

"David Snedden’s social efficiency agenda does not entail any particular pedagogy. Maybe schools need to have rigorous standards and teachers need to impose upon students a disposition to defer to authority to prepare them for factory and corporate jobs.

We are witnessing a swing away from this pedagogy, and a return to child-centered classrooms (which constructivists have argued for since the 1980s). William Heard Kilpatrick’s ‘project method’, popular during the progressive era, is now re-born as Project-Based Learning, which casts teachers as ‘facilitators’ (again, much like constructivism). Gert Biesta has noted that ‘teaching’ and ‘education’ have virtually disappeared from our discourse that now raises ‘learning’ and ‘student-centered’ approaches above all else. The learnification of educational discourse makes it increasingly difficult to raise questions about the purpose of education, which has largely been settled in favor of preparing students for work.

Our present obsession with being ‘student-centered’ owes its heritage not to John Dewey, but to William Heard Kilpatrick, the popularizer of ‘the project method’ Michael Knoll writes:
In his concept, there was no proper place for traditional educational features such as teacher, curriculum, and instruction. Project learning, Kilpatrick wrote, was always individual and situative, and could neither be planned nor fixed. “If the purpose dies and the teacher still requires the completion of what was begun, then it becomes a task” – merely wearisome and laborious (Kilpatrick 1925, 348). “Freedom for practice” and “practice with satisfaction” were the slogans with which he effectively staged his “revolt” against drill, discpline, and compulsion (ibd., 348, 311, 56ff.).

Kilpatrick’s emphasis on the interests of the students can easily slide into an embrace of one side of the curriculum / student dichotomy. After all, we don’t need kids completing more meaningless tasks, but embracing their passions. Will Richardson argues we should “let kids bring their kale to school,” in reference to his daughter’s passion, “and make that the focus of developing them as learners.” (15:00)

Dewey abhorred the dichotomies that plague contemporary educational discourse. In The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago, 1902), Dewey writes:
“Just as, upon the whole, it was the weakness of the ‘old education’ that it made invidious comparisons between the immaturity of the child and the maturity of the adult, regarding the former as something to be got away from as soon as possible and as much as possible; so it is the danger of the ‘new education’ that it regard the child’s present powers and interests as something finally significant in themselves.”

It’s not that we should not nurture the interests of children, but to elevate the child and their present interests over the knowledge that adults have accumulated makes little sense. In his Experience and Education, Dewey argued for experiences as a “moving force”, and teachers are a wealth of such experience which they ought to use to structure… [more]
benjamindoxtdator  johndewey  davidsnedden  williamheardkilpatrick  2017  education  sfsh  economics  work  labor  purpose  progressive  efficiency  democracy  projectbasedlearning  michaelknoll  pedagogy  learning  howwelearn  policy  constructivism  gertbiesta  student-centered  schools  davidlabaree  history  willrichardson  davidtyack  larrycuban  billgates  thomasfriedman  tryggvithayer  society  capitalism 
february 2017 by robertogreco
POLITICAL THEORY - Karl Marx - YouTube
"Karl Marx remains deeply important today not as the man who told us what to replace capitalism with, but as someone who brilliantly pointed out certain of its problems. The School of Life, a pro-Capitalist institution, takes a look.


“Most people agree that we need to improve our economic system somehow. It threatens our planet through excessive consumption, distracts us with irrelevant advertising, leaves people hungry and without healthcare, and fuels unnecessary wars. Yet we’re also often keen to dismiss the ideas of its most famous and ambitious critic, Karl Marx. This isn’t very surprising. In practice, his political and economic ideas have been used to design disastrously planned economies and nasty dictatorships. Frankly, the remedies Marx proposed for the ills of the world now sound a bit demented. He thought we should abolish private property. People should not be allowed to own things. At certain moments one can sympathise. But it’s like wanting to ban gossip or forbid watching television. It’s going to war with human behaviour. And Marx believed the world would be put to rights by a dictatorship of the proletariat; which does not mean anything much today. Openly Marxist parties received a total of only 1,685 votes in the 2010 UK general election, out of the nearly 40 million ballots cast…”"
karlmarx  marxism  capitalism  2014  work  labor  specialization  purpose  alienation  disconnection  hierarchy  efficiency  communism  belonging  insecurity  economics  primitiveaccumulation  accumulation  profit  theft  exploitation  instability  precarity  crises  abundance  scarcity  shortage  productivity  leisure  unemployment  freedom  employment  inequality  wealth  wealthdistribution  marriage  relationships  commodityfetishism  feminism  oppression  ideology  values  valuejudgements  worth  consumerism  materialism  anxiety  competition  complacency  conformity  communistmanifesto  inheritance  privateproperty  banking  communication  transportation  eduction  publiceducation  frederickengels  generalists  specialists  daskapital 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Against a "Life Hack" Approach to Art Education | Claudia Ruitenberg -
"This paper critiques de Botton and Armstrong’s Art as Therapy project (2013-2015), a collaboration with art museums in Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia, in which labels in the gallery, as well a catalogue and website, explain how viewers might use works of art to serve therapeutic purposes in their lives. The paper argues that, instead of making art more accessible to those who, allegedly, do not find access to art on their own, the Art as Therapy project undermines the force and richness of art by first declaring it useless and inaccessible and then repurposing it as therapeutic life hack "

"I commend de Botton and Armstrong for their premise that art is not the exclusive preoccupation of the cultural cognoscenti, but can have a bearing on anyone’s life— as long as we’re willing to let it. I also commend them for highlighting that art is not a purely cerebral affair, that works of art do something to us, and that the emotions are involved in this doing. My main criticisms of their approach are that they predetermine what bearing art can and should have, and that they privilege the therapeutic over the aesthetic value of art.

There is an important difference between a life hack approach in everyday life, where household items are repurposed but also retain their original use-value, and a life-hack approach to art, where the practical utility of “repurposed” works offers redemption for purported uselessness. Life hacks typically repurpose discarded or cheap materials; people don’t turn objects they already value into life hacks. de Botton and Armstrong’s message seems to be that art is useless, but that with the help of their commentaries, these useless works can be turned into something viewers can benefit from.

Whatever else art is and does, it offers an aesthetic experience, which is to say that it intervenes in perception (“aesthetic” is derived from the Greek verb aisthesthai, meaning to perceive, sense). This intervention may have various further effects, including therapeutic ones, but art is not useless if its effects are not therapeutic. Art may make us laugh or cry or leave us indifferent. It may disturb or console us, give us nightmares or fits of giggles. It may do this and a whole host of other things—but it does not inherently need or mean to do any of them. When de Botton and Armstrong cite the “art for art’s sake” credo, they dismiss it as saying that art has no purpose. That, however, is not what the credo says. That art is done for the sake of art suggests that art has no purpose other than to be art —and the latter is quite a bit of purpose."
2016  claudiaruitenberg  alaindebotton  johnarmostring  arttherapy  lifehacks  accessibility  artastherapy  inaccessibility  museumeducation  education  aestheticexperience  experience  interpretation  interpretativefreedom  pedagogy  pedagogicalintervention  intervention  freedom  aesthetics  carelpeeters  uselessness  purpose 
january 2017 by robertogreco
What the West Can Learn From Japan About the Cultural Value of Work - The New York Times
"A few weeks ago, in a Kyoto tempura bar, I watched a lone chef, a man in late middle age, cooking behind a counter for his 11 customers. The set menu had 15 items on it. That meant that at any given moment, he was keeping track of 165 pieces of food, each subject to slightly different timing and technique. He wrote nothing down and expended no apparent effort. It was a demonstration of total mastery. This didn’t look so much like a job as a life: His work was his whole being.

That’s a thing you notice in Japan, the deep personal investment people make in their work. The word shokunin, which has no direct translation, sums it up: It means something like “master or mastery of one’s profession,” and it captures the way Japanese workers spend every day trying to be better at what they do.

Shokunin culture can have a side that, to those of us raised on a more brutally capitalistic worldview, verges on the ridiculous. Outside the Sanjusangendo temple in Kyoto, I saw a man standing with a yellow glow stick, pointing pedestrians toward the sidewalk instead of to the parking lot nearby. Presumably, if a vehicle had come, he would have pointed it toward the lot. “That guy is basically a sign,” my son said. He was right — and this was a job you often see in Japan, often in relation to vehicular access: a person performing a job that in any other developed society is either automated away or ignored.

On another occasion, while waiting at a bus stop in the seaside city of Kobe, I found myself watching a group of five men who were drilling a hole. Or rather, one of them was; the other four were watching him. For the whole 30 minutes, that’s all they did. But they didn’t do it reluctantly, or while checking their smartphones, or gossiping, or anything. It was like a demonstration: “All other techniques for watching a guy dig a hole are incorrect. This is how you watch a guy digging a hole.”

“People whose jobs involve literally doing nothing,” an American teacher said to me after I got off the bus and described this scene. At the time, though, I was left thinking something different: that what I saw were people who had a strong feeling that their work was meaningful. For these workers, the value they attached to work wasn’t simply its economic value to them. A train conductor bows on entering and exiting a train compartment; a department-store worker does the same thing coming or going from a shop floor, whether observed or not, whether the store is heavingly busy or almost deserted. It’s clear that there are deep cultural differences at work here, not all of them benign; the reason Japanese has a word for “death from overwork” is because it needs one. You could even argue that work has too much meaning, is too freighted with consequences for individual identity, in Japan.

Among economists, Japan is a byword, a punch line, a horror story. The boom of the late ’80s and early ’90s — during which it became popular to imagine a Japan-dominated economic future, the subject of Michael Crichton’s thriller “Rising Sun,” for instance — was followed by a spectacular stock-market crash. The Nikkei share index hit a high of 38,957 on Dec. 29, 1989. Over the next two decades, it fell 82 percent. Twenty-seven years later, it is still only at less than half that 1989 value. Property values crashed along with share prices, which turned large parts of the financial system into zombie banks — meaning banks that hold so many bad assets that they are essentially broke, which means they can’t lend money and therefore cease to fulfill one of a bank’s central roles in the modern economy, which is to help keep the flow of credit moving.

The Japanese economy ground to a halt. Inflation slowed, stalled and turned to outright deflation. Add Japan’s aging and shrinking population, contracting G.D.P. and apparently unreformable politics, and you have a picture of perfect economic gloom.

It doesn’t feel like that when you visit, though. The anger apparent in so much of the developed world simply isn’t visible in Japan. A student of the culture would tell you that public displays of anger are frowned on in Japan; a demographer would point to the difficult prospects faced by young Japanese, paying for an older generation’s lavish health care and benefits that they are unlikely ever to enjoy themselves. The growth numbers would seem to imply a story about stagnation. But unemployment is almost nonexistent — at 3 percent, it’s among the lowest in the developed world. The aging of the society is visible, but so is the distinctive liveliness of the various youth cultures. I’ve been to plenty of stagnant places, and lived in one or two as well, and contemporary Japan isn’t one of them.

Why? A big part of the answer, I think, lies in the distinctive Japanese attitude toward work — or more specific, toward meaning in work.

Work is good, but meaningful work is better. I wonder whether our shiny new Western world of work — post-manufacturing, un-unionized, gig-based, insecure — offers as much sense of meaning as work once did, or as it still seems to in Japan. In Derek Walcott’s epic poem “Omeros,” a wide-ranging reimagining and mash-up of Homer’s Aegean and the contemporary Caribbean, he writes admiringly and respectfully of his protagonist, Achille, a St. Lucian fisherman. Achille is a man “who never ascended in an elevator,/who had no passport, since the horizon needs none,/never begged nor borrowed, was nobody’s waiter.” Near the end of Walcott’s long, meditative, elusive poem, that line gave me a jolt. What’s so bad about waiting tables? Is there really something so lessening, something analogous to begging or borrowing, about being a waiter?

The answer to that question for lots of people is yes. This isn’t a general human truth about workers at all times and in all cultures, because there are places where waiting and where service in general are deeply respected jobs. But it’s apparent that the new service work has many people doing things that aren’t congruent with their sense of their identity. A life is the story of a life, and that story, for many, has become one of decline and loss, of reduction in self-esteem. The tension in status between different types of work is one theme of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle” — indeed, that is essentially what his struggle is, the gap between the narrator’s sense of what he should be doing, as a writer, and what he actually does all day, as a homemaker: “Clean floors, wash clothes, make dinner, wash up, go shopping, play with the children in the play areas, bring them home, undress them, bathe them, look after them until it is bedtime, tuck them in, hang some clothes to dry, fold others, and put them away, tidy up, wipe tables, chairs and cupboards.”"
ork  labor  mearning  japan  culture  economics  2016  johnlancaster  purpose  aging  shokunin  manufacturing  anger  resentment  derekwalkcott  service 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Eyeo 2016 – Sarah Hendren on Vimeo
"Design for Know-Nothings, Dilettantes, and Melancholy Interlopers – Translators, impresarios, believers, and the heartbroken—this is a talk about design outside of authorship and ownership, IP or copyright, and even outside of research and collaboration. When and where do ideas come to life? What counts as design? Sara talks about some of her own "not a real designer" work, but mostly she talks about the creative work of others: in marine biology, architecture, politics, education. Lots of nerdy history, folks."
sarahendren  eyeo2016  2016  eyeo  dilettantes  interlopers  translation  ownership  copyright  collaboration  education  marinebiology  architecture  design  research  learning  howwelearn  authorship  socialengagement  criticaldesign  thehow  thewhy  traction  meaning  place  placefulness  interconnectedness  cause  purpose  jacquescousteau  invention  dabbling  amateurs  amateurism  exploration  thinking  filmmaking  toolmaking  conviviality  convivialtools  ivanillich  impresarios  titles  names  naming  language  edges  liminalspaces  outsiders  insiders  dabblers  janeaddams  technology  interdependence  community  hullhouse  generalists  radicalgeneralists  audrelorde  vaclavhavel  expertise  pointofview  disability  adaptability  caseygollan  caitrinlynch  ingenuity  hacks  alinceshepherd  inclinedplanes  dance  pedagogy  liminality  toolsforconviviality  disabilities  interconnected  interconnectivity 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Dewey knew how to teach democracy and we must not forget it | Aeon Essays
"In 1897, Dewey described his ‘pedagogic creed’ as ‘individualistic’ and ‘socialistic’ because it sees the need to nurture each child’s unique talents and interests in a supportive community. …

For Dewey, however, it was not enough to ensure that his own children received a good education. He maintained that the future of US democracy hinged on offering a well-rounded, personalised education to all children and not just those of the wealthy, intelligent or well-connected. Dewey’s pedagogic creed is that ‘education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform’. Schools could teach students and communities to exercise autonomy and make democracy a concrete reality. The very name of the Laboratory School suggests that Dewey wanted the ideas developed there to be disseminated among education researchers and policymakers. What was unacceptable was a two-tiered education system that reinforced class and racial divisions. …

Why does this matter? Progressive education teaches children to pursue their own interests and exercise their voice in their community. In the 20th century, these kinds of young people participated in the movements against the Vietnam War and for civil rights. They founded Greenpeace and Students for a Democratic Society, listened to the Beatles and attended Woodstock, and established artistic communities and organic groceries. Though Dewey was not a beatnik, a hippy or a countercultural figure himself, his philosophy of education encourages young people to fight for a world where everyone has the freedom and the means to express their own personality. The education reform movement is not just about making kids take standardised tests; it is about crushing a rebellious spirit that often gives economic and political elites a headache. …

Dewey’s philosophy exercised a profound impact on US education in the mid-20th century. One reason is that many powerful individuals and groups advocated his ideas, including at Teachers College, Columbia University, as well as at the Progressive Education Association, at the US Office of Education and at state departments of education. Dewey’s influence peaked during the ‘Great Compression’, the decades after the Second World War when the middle class had the clout to say that what is good for wealthy people’s kids is what is good for their own. In Democracy and Education, Dewey envisioned schools ‘equipped with laboratories, shops and gardens, where dramatisations, plays and games are freely used’. If a public school has a gymnasium, an art studio, a garden, a playground or a library, then one can see Dewey’s handiwork.

In 1985, a few scholars wrote a book called The Shopping Mall High School to deride the tendency in the US to offer a wide array of courses, many of which have a tenuous connection to academic subjects. For Dewey, however, the other side of this story is that schools and communities were trying to find ways to engage children. As we shall see, Dewey did not think that schools should simply pander to children’s current interests. At the same time, he opposed efforts to impose a ready-made curriculum on children across the country – or, more pointedly, on those whose parents could not afford to send them to private schools. …

The task of the teacher, according to Dewey, is to harness the child’s interest to the educational process. ‘The problem of instruction is thus that of finding material which will engage a person in specific activities having an aim or purpose of moment or interest to him.’ Teachers can employ Dewey’s insight by having a pet rabbit in the classroom. As students take care of the animal, and watch it hop about the classroom, they become interested in a host of topics: how to feed animals, the proper care of animals, the occupation of veterinarians, and biology. Rather than teach material in an abstract manner to young children, a wise teacher brings the curriculum into ‘close quarters with the pupil’s mind’.

According to Dewey, teachers should cultivate a student’s natural interest in the flourishing of others. It is a mistake to interpret interest as self-interest. Our thriving is intimately connected with the flourishing of other people. The role of democratic education is to help children see their own fate as entwined with that of the community’s, to see that life becomes richer if we live among others pursuing their own interests. Democracy means ‘equitably distributed interests’. All children – rich, poor, black, white, male, female, and so forth – should have the opportunity to discover and cultivate their interests. Schools ought to be the site where we model a society that reconciles individualism and socialism, and that allows each child to add her own distinct voice to society’s choir.

What is controversial about Dewey’s concept of interest? Sometimes, far-right groups share the following quote attributed to Dewey: ‘Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.’ There is no factual basis for this attribution, and for good reason: it contravenes Dewey’s ambition to achieve a higher synthesis between strong-willed individuals and a democratic society, not to crush a child’s individuality for the sake of social uniformity. Dewey makes this point crystal clear in his essay ‘The School and Society’ (1899), where he announces a Copernican revolution in education whereby ‘the child becomes the sun about which the appliances of education revolve’.

Here, then, we understand the explosive core of Dewey’s philosophy of education. He wants to empower children to think for themselves and cooperate with each other. The purpose of widely distributing interests is to break down ‘barriers of class, race, and national territory’ and ‘secure to all the wards of the nation equality of equipment for their future careers’. Imagine a world without racism or sexism, one where all children get the same kind of education as the wisest and wealthiest parents demand for their own children, and one that trains workers to question whether their interests are being served by the current ownership and use of the means of production. Dewey is the spiritual head of the New Left whose writings have both inspired teachers and infused schools, and provoked a reaction from those who detest this political vision. …

Dewey believes that educators need to place themselves in the mind of the child, so to speak, to determine how to begin their education journeys. ‘An end which is the child’s own carries him on to possess the means of its accomplishment.’ Many parents who take their families to children’s museums are acting upon this idea. A good museum will teach children for hours without them ever becoming conscious of learning as such. Climbing through a maze gives children opportunities to solve problems; floating vessels down an indoor stream teaches children about water and hydrodynamics; building a structure with bricks and then placing it on a rumbling platform introduces children to architecture: all of these activities make learning a joy.

For Dewey, however, it is essential that educators lead children on a considered path to the cutting-edge of scientific knowledge on a multitude of topics. A good teacher will place stimuli in front of children that will spark their imagination and inspire them to solve the problem at hand. The goal is to incrementally increase the challenges so that students enter what the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the 1920s called ‘the zone of proximal development’ where they stretch their mental faculties. At a certain point, children graduate from museums and enter a more structured curriculum. There can be intermediary or supplementary steps – say, when they make a business plan, learn to sail, or intern at an architect’s office. Eventually, teachers have to rely on traditional methods of reading, lecturing and testing to make sure that students learn the material.

In the conclusion to ‘The Child and the Curriculum’, Dewey enjoins: ‘Let the child’s nature fulfil its own destiny, revealed to you in whatever of science and art and industry the world now holds as its own.’ He has faith that the child’s nature will find expression in the highest forms of human endeavour and that, for example, a kindergarten artist might grow into an accomplished painter. Dewey also believes that individual expression tends to lead to socially beneficial activities. These articles of faith are not necessarily vindicated by experience. Sometimes children choose the wrong path, and sometimes well-educated individuals seek to profit from other people’s misery. …

Dewey shows us that appeals to democracy carry weight. We recoil at the notion that some children deserve a better education than others because of their parents’ political or economic status. Nobody will say with a straight face that wealthy children should be raised to lead, while middle- or lower-class children are raised to follow, or that the kind of education available at the finest private schools in the US should be an exclusive privilege of those born with silver spoons in their mouths. ‘What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.’ Dewey’s words ring as true today as they did a century ago. In the face of the unrelenting attack of the education reform movement, we must fight to actualise Dewey’s vision of great schools providing the foundation for a living democracy."
via:anne  education  johndewey  sfsh  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  lcproject  democracy  schools  learning  pedagogy  society  individualism  individuals  community  class  inequality  us  policy  rttt  nclb  anationatrisk  race  training  howweteach  meaning  purpose  elitism  theshoppingmallhighschool  edhirsch  hannaharendt  vygotsky  zpd  interests  interest-basedlearning  children  criticalthinking  autonomy  interest-drivenlearning 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Female Artists Give Advice to Women in Art World
"6. Nyeema Morgan

My first thought is what would I tell myself if I had to start from the beginning of my career. There is so much to be said, so many caveats. I think in this cultural moment one of the greatest detriments to a young artist’s creative practice is conformity. The desire to be desired, to be ‘liked’, for every utterance to be acknowledged and lauded.

It would be too easy and expected to accept the rewards of self-exploitation. Resist. Contrary to popular belief it is not an enriching practice of feminist empowerment. Instead, cultivate a critical mind. Always ask questions of yourself, your work and the world around you. Learn to embrace challenge and avoid settling into a way of working that is too comfortable. This doesn’t mean your should live in a place of agony.

Do not torture yourself, but find the joy in what you are making, dismantling, and discovering."

"10. Adrian Piper

First, you should be clear about what you are aiming for: (1) public approval, (2) commercial success, or (3) art-historical significance. These three are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and there is nothing wrong with any of them. But my remarks address only (3).

The best means to art-historical significance is financial independence. Don’t even think about trying to earn a living from your artwork, or else you’ll start producing the artwork that will earn you a living. A trust fund will divert your energies in a different way. The best means to financial independence is a day job in a different field. Waiting tables, driving a cab, office work, and teaching are traditional alternatives for artists, but the digital revolution opens up many others. All of them will free you to make the work you are most deeply driven to make, regardless of whether or not anyone else likes it or buys it. That’s the work that’s most interesting and important to you. You won’t have time to waste on producing work that doesn’t obsess you.

Your day job will also free you to be selective about what you do in order to promote your artwork, and with whom. It will protect your pursuit of quality. That’s one reliable path to art-historical significance (although of course not the only one)."
art  artists  money  adrianpiper  purpose  glvo  cv  freedom  fundding  compromise  ideals  values  nyeemamorgan 
july 2016 by robertogreco
How Can Schools Prioritize For The Best Ways Kids Learn? | MindShift | KQED News
"Educators know the world has changed and are increasingly acknowledging that it’s time to be asking different questions about what it means to improve education. Richardson travels around the world for his work and can point to examples of schools and districts that are asking themselves difficult questions to propel change. The successful ones are letting the answer to the question, “How do kids learn best?” drive everything they do in schools.

Schools need to have a clear vision, rooted in today’s context and a set of practices that reflect those two things. When he consults with schools, Richardson said he most commonly sees a lack of vision based in how students learn. In his many talks he shares a list of things educators know intuitively about how kids learn best alongside a list of things schools do because it’s easier for adults. He says if educators want to shift education to the modern context, they need to prioritize things that help students learn best.

“It’s about doing work that matters,” Richardson said. “It’s about connections. It’s about play. It’s about cultures where kids and teachers are learners.” When schools have a set of beliefs about learning and enact those beliefs through practice, but don’t anchor what they are doing in today’s context, they may be doing something progressive, but also a little irrelevant. Beliefs and contexts without practice leads to ineffective teaching. The sweet spot for a very different type of education system lies in the Venn diagram of all three: beliefs, context and practice.


“Kids deserve consistency that is grounded in a belief system,” Richardson said. He has talked with students who hate that they have to adapt to completely different expectations, structures, and rules in every class. When a school isn’t unified around a vision the experience for students can be very disorienting.

To begin moving towards what Richardson calls a “modern education” system, he says educators need to learn, educate, articulate, and then do it.


It’s no longer enough for teachers to get a credential and then sit back and teach the same content year after year. Richardson says to be part of modern learning, teachers need to actively educate themselves about the context students live in and how they can improve as educators.

“There’s never been a more amazing time to be a learner,” Richardson said. “How are we in education not running towards that in our own personal lives and embracing that?”

It’s not just about connecting on Twitter with other educators or asking for professional development about technology. If teachers are waiting for a planned PD about something they are probably already stuck. “You have to have the disposition of an eight-year old to find your own learning,” Richardson said.


“You probably aren’t going to be able to do this by yourself, so go out and build capacity,” Richardson said. Parents, community members, students and school board members can be allies for making the shift. Richardson points to CCSD59 as an example of a district that reaches out to all parent populations, communicates about vision and practice through a blog and educates with its Facebook page. “They are constantly putting practice in front of people to build their capacity to engage,” Richardson said.


Articulating a mission statement about where students should be when they graduate and actualizing it with a vision that lays out how to get there, is a key step in slowly making the shift Richardson describes. It can be difficult to interrogate longstanding policies and choices, but if districts, schools and individual educators can’t reflect on what’s working and what isn’t, articulate a change, and begin doing it, the education system as a whole will become irrelevant.


“This is really hard, but I think it’s worth it,” Richardson said. Teachers can start by picking one area of the curriculum and letting students own it. Then advocate for that practice, and connect with other educators who are doing it. There comes a point when talking about the need to change is no longer enough; educators who resonate with Richardson’s message, have to jump in and try it."

[See also: ]
katrinaschartz  willrichardson  sfsh  2016  schools  education  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  purpose  pammoran  britishcolumbia  schooldesign  technology 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — John Holt, How Children Learn Children do not...
"After I re-read that section, I was reminded of Laurence Weschler writing about David Hockney, and how “interest-ing” for Hockney is a verb: it is the continual projection of interest. (The more you look at something, the more interesting it gets.) This was certainly the case with me after I started reading this book, and Holt in general: I, who felt like a somewhat enlightened parent, started noting all the ways I wasn’t paying attention to them, and over time, they have become more interesting to me, not because I’m doting on them more, or even spending more time with them, but because I am looking at them like little scientists, or just little people, who are worthy of interest. (It sounds so stupid: of course a parent should find their kids interesting, but think about how many parents and teachers and adults you know — maybe including yourself — who, secretly, probably don’t.)

Holt’s work has really shaken me up, blown my mind, and given me a different way of thinking about my kids. Some of my favorite bits, below."
johnholt  howchildrenlearn  education  learning  children  trust  austinkleon  lawrencewescheler  davidhockney  art  interestedness  interested  interesting  attention  payingattention  noticing  parenting  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  librarians  teachers  purpose  belonging  work  community  conversation  cv  pacing  meaningmaking  unschooling  deschooling  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  control  independence  anxiety  howchildrenfail  testing  assessment  reggioemilia  punk  games  play  standardizedtesting  love  2016  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
What's Worth Learning in School? | Harvard Graduate School of Education
"These days, he says we teach a lot that isn’t going to matter, in a significant way, in students’ lives. There’s also much we aren’t teaching that would be a better return on investment. As a result, as educators, “we have a somewhat quiet crisis of content,” Perkins writes, “quiet not for utter lack of voices but because other concerns in education tend to muffle them.” These other concerns are what he calls rival learning agendas: information, achievement, and expertise.


For starters, most education has become a mastery of a very large body of information, even if it’s not what Perkins calls lifeworthy — likely to matter, in any meaningful way, in the lives learners are expected to live.

“It’s nice to know things. I like to know things. You like to know things,” Perkins says. “But there are issues of balance, particularly in the digital age. The information in textbooks is not necessarily what you need or would like to have at your fingertips.” Instead, even though most people would say that education should prepare you for life, much of what is offered in schools doesn’t work in that direction, Perkins says. Educators are “fixated” on building up students’ reservoirs of knowledge, often because we default to what has always been done.

“Conventional curriculum is chained to the bicycle rack,” he says. “It sits solidly in the minds of parents: ‘I learned that. Why aren’t my children learning it?’ The enormous investment in textbooks and the cost of revising them gives familiar elements of the curriculum a longer life span than they might perhaps deserve. Curriculum suffers from something of a crowded garage effect: It generally seems safer and easier to keep the old bicycle around than to throw it out.”

As a result, “the lifeworthiness of the multitudinous facts and ideas in the typical curriculum is spotty,” he says. “It seems not to have been thought through very carefully.”

And simply having a vast reservoir of knowledge isn’t helpful if it’s not being used. “Knowledge is for going somewhere,” Perkins says, not just for accumulating. But too often, we tend to focus on short-term successes — scoring well on a quiz, acing a spelling test. Unfortunately all of that test knowledge, all of that accumulated knowledge we thought was worth knowing, becomes useless if not used.

“The hard fact is that our minds hold on only to knowledge we have occasion to use in some corner of our lives,” Perkins writes. “Overwhelmingly, knowledge unused is forgotten. It’s gone.”

Here’s where, during the Future of Learning session, Perkins asked the audience to think about something they learned during the first dozen years of schooling that really matters in their lives today, beyond basics like learning to read and not including specialty professional skills.

“The frightening thing when I have these conversations is how hard it is for people to answer,” he says. “I find that frightening. It also says a lot about the current state of education.”

Take mitosis, the process of cell division. During the Future session, he asked everyone in the audience — hundreds of people — to raise their hands if they had studied mitosis in high school. Pretty much every hand went up. He asked how many people remember, basically, what it is. About half went up. He then asked how many have used their knowledge of mitosis in the last 10 years. One hand went up.

Perkins acknowledged that he personally finds mitosis fascinating and stressed that with learning, there should always be room for passion, “but in terms of generalized education and what everyone should learn, something like mitosis doesn’t score well.”


Just as educators are pushing students to build a huge reservoir of knowledge, they are also focused on having students master material, sometimes at the expense of relevance. This happens, for example, with the achievement gap. While Perkins is quick to say that the achievement gap is a highly important problem that should be taken seriously, in general, he says, “achievement” is about mastering a topic and less about providing lifeworthy content. The achievement gap asks if students are achieving X. Instead, it might be more useful to look at the relevance gap, which asks if X is going to matter to the lives students are likely to lead.

“If X is a good mastery of reading and writing, both questions earn a big yes!” Perkins says. “Skilled, fluent, and engaged reading and writing mark both a challenging gap and a high-payoff attainment. That knowledge goes somewhere. However, if X is quadratic equations, the answers don’t match. Mastering quadratic equations is challenging, but those equations are not so lifeworthy.” Perkins says we can fill in X with thousands of topics that make up the typical curriculum, such as geography. Students are drilled to remember state capitals and major rivers and rewarded as “achieving” when they score well. And while it’s nice and sometimes useful to know those things, Perkins argues that instead, knowing how the location of rivers and harbors and other features of the land have been shaped and continue to shape the course of history offers more in terms of lifelong usefulness — more so than “a bag full of facts. All that talk about achievement leaves little room for discussing what’s being achieved.”


And then there’s what Perkins calls “the Holy Grail” of learning in school: becoming an expert. The typical math curriculum is a good example of how we want learners to move toward expertise in a subject, with little regard for usefulness. Arithmetic leads to algebra, including many “hardly used twists and turns” of advanced algebra, then to geometry and calculus, “an entire subject that hardly anyone ever uses,” Perkins writes.

Unfortunately, if someone questions whether this expertise serves students well and instead suggests more life-relevant topics, Perkins says the common reaction is: “We’re sacrificing rigor!” But that doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of building during the first 12 years of schooling toward expertise in an advanced topic like calculus that hardly ever comes up in our lives, Perkins says students can instead become “expert amateurs” in something like statistics — a rigorous topic that is also used in daily life. In fact, expert amateurism works great, he says, in most of what we do in our lives — raising children, filing taxes, appreciating art, understanding insurance rates, or dealing with our own health care.

Perkins is very clear that expertise in a specific field is not bad; in fact, he encourages it and assumes it will happen at the college or university level. But he advocates that in today’s world, younger students need to first master the fundamentals of key learning and then decide where they want to specialize.

So we come back to the question: What is worth learning? In his book, Perkins promises that he is not going to answer that question, at least not in a tidy way. There’s no list of 1,000 things we must know or teach. Perkins says there would be no way to create a definitive list because there are lots of things worth learning at any given time or for a specialized career or even simply because we enjoy learning.

Instead, he does know that the encyclopedic approach to learning that happens in most schools that focuses primarily on achievement and expertise doesn’t make sense.

“The fixation on the heap of information in the textbooks is itself part of the problem because the world we are educating learners for is something of a moving target,” he says.

Historically, the first 12 or so years of schooling have focused on educating for the known, “the tried and true, the established canon,” he writes. “This made very good sense in the many periods and places where most children’s lives were likely to be more or less like their parents’ lives. However, wagering that tomorrow will be pretty much like yesterday does not seem to be a very good bet today. Perhaps we need a different vision of education, a vision that foregrounds educating for the unknown as much as for the known.”

And to do that, Perkins says we need to rethink what’s worth learning and what’s worth letting go of — in a radical way.

“We do kind of need to blow up the system and start fresh,” he says. “Well, maybe not blow up the whole thing, but at least some corners.”

One of those corners is the drive to educate through high-stakes testing, he says.

“It’s clear that NCLB has not worked well,” with pressures on teachers and students, sometimes leading to instances of cheating and maneuvering. With high-stakes testing, he says, there’s a fixation on “summative” versus “formative” assessment — evaluating students’ mastery of material with exams and final projects (achievements) versus providing ongoing feedback that can improve learning. “You end up shooting for the Big contest, the Big test, at the end of the year,” he says. “It’s a distortion.” As a result, “students are asked to learn a great deal for the class and for the test that likely has no role in the lives they will live — that is, a great deal that simply is not likely to come up again for them in a meaningful way.”

Perkins stresses that he isn’t taking a stance against assessment, which he says is critical for learning. Instead, “it’s more about how assessment is made. This is a vote for a richer form of achievement.”

To be fair, he says, the assessment “game” as it’s usually played in education seems perfectly reasonable — at first. Tests “are socially pretty efficient. You can distribute them widely and score them efficiently,” he says. “We give those tests. We evaluate those tests. But that makes for shallow learning and understanding. … You cram to do well on the test but may … [more]
davidperkins  loryhough  2015  education  curriculum  thewhy  why  teaching  achievement  information  expertise  purpose  schools  assessment  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  knowledge  learning 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Conversations I Want to Have | Autodizactic
"As of June 15, my contract on my day gig will be up, and I’ll need to find some other way to keep my dog fed. As much as I’ve been thinking about geography when grappling with what this change means, I’ve been thinking about what kinds of conversations I want to be in and which ones I want to leave behind. With five and a half months left on the calendar, I’m gaining clarity.

The conversations I most want to sustain and move forward are those around equity and purpose. The first means all equities. I want to talk about the kid in middle school who realizes he’s gay and can’t access educational and social experiences like teachers’ use of heteronormative language and not feeling comfortable asking his crush to the school dance. I want to talk about the fact that if most school leaders say they invited their honors or gifted and talented-labeled students to participate in a program then I can be almost certain they didn’t invite students of color. I want to talk about how students in rural schools don’t have the access to arts, cultural institutions, and educational opportunities their urban- and suburban-dwelling peers have every day. As many flavors of equity as we can bring to the table, that’s what I want.

In all of my grad school experiences, I have asked and searched for an answer to the same question to no avail, “What is the pedagogy and practice that drives this institution of learning?” Silence each time. I ask a similar question of principals and superintendents, “What are the three things we are working toward this year?” Silence (usually uncomfortable), and then a garbled answer.

Thus, I want to improve conversations of purpose. For any action, program, or scheme; I want to help make sure there’s an answer to “Why are we doing this?” Similarly, for all askings of “What are we going to do?” I want to help organizations and people look to their agreed upon purpose for helpful guidance. If you don’t know your mission statement, then it’s probably not your mission.

The conversations I’m willing to step away from are simple. Anything that starts with, “How can technology…” Technology should not drive the question. It should be considered as an answer to a possible problem, and it becomes boring to be in room after room and seen as a person who is there to bring up technology before he brings up people and relationships. In the conversations I’m seeking, I hope to enter fewer rooms with that presumed persona in the same way a master carpenter probably doesn’t want to be “that lady who loves talking about saws.”"
zacharychase  2016  via:lukeneff  purpose  education  schools  conversation  equity  inequality  inclusivity  pedagogy  practice  technology  edtech  teaching  learning  organizations 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Unspoken Rules | Practical Theory
"I love using this clip as a way to spur people to think about the unspoken rules, policies and procedures that exist in schools.

[embedded video: ]

The overwhelming majority of schools have a student handbook, codes of conduct, etc… but often, those are only the stated policies, and often, the unstated policies are as much what govern the school as anything else.

And while it’s my contention that we don’t want to create schools where every last behavior / idea / action is regulated by some 400 page handbook of student and teacher behavior, we also want to be aware of — and reflective about — the unspoken rules and practices of our schools. When we are, we create more intentional schools where the ideas and systems that power our communities are transparent and understood.

It’s worth noting, as well, another reason it is so very important to unpack unspoken policies. Schools live in the world – and that world is one where issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism continue to do great harm. One very powerful way to combat the inequities of our world is through intentionality. When we examine the unspoken practices of our schools, we can unpack the questions, “Who is benefiting from this behavior? Who is harmed by it? And how can we ensure that the practices of our school are equitable?”

And, for me, this practice starts with adult behaviors and practices. It’s why I care so deeply about the relationship between a school’s mission and vision and the systems and structures that enable that mission. When mission and vision are shared and deeply understood and believed by everyone, and when the systems and structures that govern the school are aligned with that mission, then the practices – both those in the handbook and those that are not – can align and be understood by all.

There are ways to unpack the invisible or unspoken policies. Some questions a faculty can ask itself to spur the process:

• How are “everyday” decisions made at the school?
• Who is tapped to get work done when it falls outside the scope of an established job description?
• What voices are around the table when an issue arises?
• What is our first reaction to student behavioral issues?
• How are parents involved in the decisions of our school?
• Do we examine the mission of the school when we make big decisions? Small decisions?

And, inside the individual classroom, teachers can do this work as well with questions such as this (and these can be asked school-wide as well):

• How is the mission of the school made manifest in my class?
• Who does my grading policy benefit?
• How do students figure out how to succeed in my class?
• Why are the seats arranged in my classroom the way they are?
• Where is there space for students to influence the governance of my classroom?
• How does every student find space for their voice in my classroom?

And so on… I’m sure everyone can think of more questions to add to the list.

The purpose is that every school can be intentional in their process. We can unpack the unspoken (and spoken) rules such that we can create schools that more purposeful and more equitable in the ways in which they function."
chrislehmann  2016  schools  lcproject  vision  purpose  education  teaching  howweteach  rules  codeofconduct  studenthandbooks  behavior  power  community  communities  decisionmaking  voice  mission  grading  policy  grades  seating  governance  classrooms 
february 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 4: education
"We hesitated a bit before tackling this one, because education is such a vast and complex subject. But as far as constraints on possible futures go, education is impossible to ignore. Skill sets and thought paths are determined at an early age, shaping and constraining future possibilities for entire generations of pupils. (It is worth rediscovering Ken Robinson’s 2008 talk on changing paradigms in relation to educational constraints.) There are serious consequences to enforcing the constraint of economic utility on education, drastically narrowing curricula to what are considered core subjects, replacing older - not to say obsolete or useless - technologies with newer ones in the classroom, and so on. Maslow’s evocative maxim, often attributed to Mark Twain for reasons unknown, comes to mind: ‘It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.’ Today this might be paraphrased as: ‘Give a child a computer, and everything has to be coded.’ Or 3D printed. Or laser cut. Or CNC machined. Obviously the more of these tools girls and boys are given, the better for them and the country they live in.

Unfortunately, recent educational trends in the UK paint a rather bleak picture where constraints are concerned. An article from the BBC on the rise of 3D printing in schools states: ‘the key inspiration … has been what is loosely termed the “digital maker” movement’. But why digital maker movement and not simply maker movement? The article goes on to tell us that ‘"Fab lab" stands for a “fabrication laboratory”, where digital ideas are turned into products and prototypes.’ Again, why digital ideas and not just ideas? What is it about a fablab that needs to be wholly digital and not a hybrid of materials and practices? (Some spaces and curricula do seek to fuse the old ‘shop’ class with the new computer lab, but other concerns may arise - as in the case a few years ago of controversial DARPA military funding to put a thousand DIY workshops in US high schools.)

A UK Government report, meanwhile, that lays out the agenda on 3D printing in education there, includes the following ‘points to consider’: ‘Who will use it? What will it be used for?’ These are good questions, too seldom asked. As for the questions that were not asked, they might include: ‘What will happen to the old machines?’, ‘What will happen to the old knowledge?’ and ‘What is lost in the headlong rush to full digitalisation?’ 3D printing holds an enormous amount of potential, as boundary pushing movements like 3D Additivism demonstrate. But the 3D printer and the laser cutter shouldn’t be the only tools in the box, and deskilling leads to a narrowing of possibilities for everyone.

Roland Barthes, writing in the 1950s about the sudden shift from traditional wooden toys to plastic ones, observed:
Wood makes essential objects, objects for all time. Yet there hardly remain any of these wooden toys…. Henceforth, toys are chemical in substance and colour; their very material introduces one to a coenaesthesis of use, not pleasure. These toys die in fact very quickly, and once dead, they have no posthumous life for the child.

A word of warning to those who would abandon old areas of knowledge and useful materials too quickly."
crapfutures  2016  rolandbarthes  wood  education  children  durability  materials  time  slow  plastic  future  futures  3dprinting  digital  digitization  3dadditivism  fablabs  darpa  diy  making  makermovement  economics  purpose  additivism  fablab 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Sha Hwang - Keynote [Forms of Protest] - UX Burlington on Vimeo
"Let’s close the day by talking about our responsibilities and opportunities as designers. Let’s talk about the pace of fashion and the promise of infrastructure. Let’s talk about systematic failure — failure without malice. Let’s talk about the ways to engage in this messy and complex world. Let’s throw shade on fame and shine light on the hard quiet work we call design."
shahwang  2015  design  infrastructure  fashion  systemsthinking  complexity  messiness  protest  careers  technology  systems  storytelling  scale  stewartbrand  change  thehero'sjourney  founder'sstory  politics  narrative  narratives  systemsdesign  blame  control  algorithms  systemfailure  mythmaking  teams  purpose  scalability  bias  microaggressions  dignity  abuse  malice  goodwill  fear  inattention  donellameadows  leveragepoints  making  building  constraints  coding  code  programming  consistency  communication  sharing  conversation  government  ux  law  uxdesign  simplicity  kindness  individuals  responsibility  webdev  web  internet  nava  codeforamerica  18f  webdesign 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Most Likely to Succeed | American RadioWorks |
"In most modern work places employees are expected to be self-directed and also work collaboratively. But do conventional public schools do enough to encourage creative and critical thinking?

We’ll hear from Ted Dintersmith, executive producer of “Most Likely to Succeed,” a film that takes a look at how traditional high schools need to change in order to prepare students for the innovations of tomorrow. Dintersmith wasn’t always a film producer. For 25 years he was a successful venture capitalist. He says he noticed that many of the people he hired looked really good on paper – they’d done well in large, structured corporate environments. But they didn’t seem to thrive in smaller, more innovative environments. At home, Dintersmith also noticed that his children’s homework assignments focused on getting students ready for standardized tests, rather than getting them to think creatively. Ted Dintersmith recently spoke to American RadioWorks associate producer Suzanne Pekow."
mostlikeltosucceed  hightechhigh  teddintersmith  2015  sandiego  education  learning  schools  kipp  colleges  universities  collegeadmissions  standardizedtesting  standardization  problemsolving  meaning  purpose  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  edg 
december 2015 by robertogreco
William Deresiewicz on the Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life - The Atlantic
"Davis: You’ve observed that Ivy League students have an internal struggle with both “grandiosity and depression.” Can you explain this further?

Deresiewicz: Alice Miller wrote about this 30-plus years ago in the classic The Drama of the Gifted Child, but I had to experience it to see it for myself. The grandiosity is that sense of “you’re the greatest, you’re the best, you’re the brightest.” This kind of praise and reinforcement all the time makes students feel they’re the greatest kid in the world. And I would say that this is even worse than when I was a kid. Now there’s a whole culture of parenting around this positive reinforcement.

These kids were always the best of their class, and their teachers were always praising them, inflating their ego. But it’s a false self-esteem. It’s not real self-possession, where you are measuring yourself against your own internal standards and having a sense that you’re working towards something. It’s totally conditional, and constantly has to be pumped up by the next grade, the next A, or gold star. As Miller says, what you’re really learning is that your parents’ love is conditional on this achievement. So when you fail, even a little bit, even if you just get a B on a test, or an A- on a test, the whole thing collapses. It may only collapse temporarily, but it’s a profound collapse—you feel literally worthless.

These are kids who have no ability to measure their own worth in any realistic way—either you are on top of the world, or you are worthless. And that kind of all-or-nothing mentality really pervades the whole system. It’s also why it’s Harvard or the gutter: If you don’t get into Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, it’s a disgrace. If you go to Wesleyan, you can never show your face in public again.

This is not really the only way to succeed, but this crazy definition not only of success, but of how you achieve success, doesn’t even really reflect how actually successful people achieve success. Steve Jobs is an obvious example, because he was obviously very gifted and ambitious but he took a circuitous path, and people who are very successful doing interesting things also often take circuitous paths.

This notion that you’ve got to do X, Y, and Z or else your life is over makes you end up as a high-functioning sheep. You end up being the kind of leader that I talk about in the last section of the book. You get to the top, or you get near the top, but you don’t actually do anything interesting there—you just sort of fulfill your function in the organization. You don’t initiate or create.

Davis: That ties in with your argument that words like “leadership” and “service” have become hollow in the whole college process.

Deresiewicz: There’s a list of things that everyone knows you’re supposed to do to get into college: scores, extracurriculars, and then these two other things, “leadership” and “service.” They’ve been completely ritualized, and kids have become cynical about them because they know they just need to demonstrate them. In the case of leadership, which is supposed to be about qualities of character, self-sacrifice, initiative, and vision, it just means getting to the top, and that’s all. If you get a position with some authority you are, by definition, a leader. And service, if anything, is even worse. Service is supposed to be about making the world a better place or helping people who are less fortunate, but because it’s done for the resume, it really just becomes about yourself.

Davis: You argue that society transmits its values through education. How would you summarize the values transmitted through the elite-education system?

Deresiewicz: I would summarize the values by quoting Tony Hayward, the famous CEO of BP. In the middle of this giant environmental disaster he said, “I want to get my life back.” He had been promised certain rewards and now had this horrible experience of actually having to take responsibility for something, and feel bad. So those are the values that the system is transmitting: self-aggrandizement, being in service to yourself, a good life defined exclusively in terms of conventional markers of success (wealth and status), no real commitment to education or learning, to thinking, and no real commitment to making the world a better place. And I think we see that in the last 50 years, the meritocracy has created a world that’s getting better and better for the meritocracy and worse and worse for everyone else.

Davis: What kinds of values do you think education should be passing on?

Deresiewicz: Ultimately, colleges have inherited the spiritual mission of churches. As religious beliefs have declined with the rise of science, especially among educated people, people started to turn elsewhere to ask the big questions: What does life mean? What is the world about? People turned to works of art, to literature, music, theater, philosophy, which were in turn brought into college curricula."

"Davis: Gaining self-knowledge isn’t a simple or predictable process. Are there certain things that can only be learned outside the classroom?

Deresiewicz: There are certainly limits to formal institutional education. As you say, gaining self-knowledge is going to happen when it’s going to happen. But it’s certainly not going to happen if kids don’t have the tools to do it. So that’s the first thing that an education can do—help kids develop the means of reflection, and then, maybe it’ll happen the next year, or the next summer. A book you read in 12th grade or as a sophomore in college might suddenly click five years later. So yes, it happens throughout your life. But you’ve got to start, and I think you’ve got to start when you’re young. Developmentally, adolescence and the early 20s are precisely the time to ask these questions because you are engaged in making the transition from childhood certainty to adult conviction.

Aside from the classes themselves, the fact that we’ve created a system where kids are constantly busy, and have no time for solitude or reflection, is going to take its toll. We need to create a situation where kids feel like they don’t have to be “on” all the time. Given the chance, adolescents tend to engage in very intense conversation, and a lot of life learning happens laterally, happens peer to peer. But if they’re constantly busy, there’s literally no time. It’s crazy. We’ve taken adolescence away from adolescents. School must not take away your opportunities to self-reflect on your own.

When I taught humanities classes, I never talked about self-reflection, and I never invited students to talk about their feelings or their backgrounds or their experiences. I would sometimes do it with students one on one, if they wanted to, but it’s an indirect process. The books are designed to make you think about your life. You can just talk about Achilles, or Elizabeth Bennett, it doesn’t matter if you leave the personal stuff out of the conversation. The books do the work of getting the soul in motion.

One good thing that they do at Lawrence University is have a course where freshmen can read great books and at the same time think about what an education is for. You don’t have to talk too personally there, but at least you’re still preparing yourself to understand your college education in an appropriate way."

"I’ve continued to struggle with the psychological stuff—the cycle of grandiosity and depression, the constant comparisons. Once it gets implanted, you will always struggle with it, and you just get better, hopefully, at dealing with it. But the take home message is that everyone has to liberate themselves from this system. Education should be an act of liberation. We need to make a better system but ultimately everybody has to claim their freedom for themselves."
williamderesiewicz  education  culture  psychology  meritocracy  ivyleague  highered  highereducation  schools  selfworth  success  achievement  assessment  society  values  self-aggrandizement  meaning  meaningmaking  purpose  life  living  deschooling  unschooling  grandiosity  depression  laurencassanidavis 
december 2015 by robertogreco
A venture capitalist searches for the purpose of school. Here’s what he found. - The Washington Post
[Alt URL: ]

"I was now fully consumed with this cause. I stepped up my pace, criss-crossing the country to visit schools and gain perspective. I was in hot pursuit of the right answer to the question: “What is the purpose of school?” Everywhere I looked — mission statements, meetings with school leaders, websites — I’d find sensible, even inspiring, purposes:

• teach students cognitive and social skills
• teach students to think
• build character and soul
• help students in a process of self-discovery
• prepare students to be responsible, contributing citizens
• inspire students through the study of humanity’s great works
• prepare students for productive careers

I probed educators on these alternatives, trying to determine the purpose of school, as though answering an SAT question. But I gradually came to realize that this choice was poorly framed. For starters, each of these goals have merit. If some classrooms prepare students for productive careers, and others prioritize on character development, that’s a good thing. And shouldn’t we celebrate an educator who accomplishes one of these goals — not snipe over whether an alternative purpose is superior?

But what came across loud and clear in my journeys is that schools don’t have the luxury of striving for any meaningful purpose. We’ve somehow imposed a system on our educators that requires them to:

• cover volumes of bureaucratically-prescribed content
• boost scores on increasingly-pervasive standardized tests
• get kids through this year’s vacuous hoops to prepare for next year’s vacuous hoops
• produce acceptable graduation rates and college placements
• deal with parents who are either obsessive micro-managers or missing in action.

How did we get here? A deep dive into the history of education helped me appreciate that our school model was brilliantly designed. Over a century ago. In 1893, Charles Eliot of Harvard and the Committee of Ten anticipated a surge of manufacturing jobs as our country moved beyond agriculture. They re-imagined the U.S. education model, ushering in a factory school model to replace the one-room school house. This path-breaking system of universal public education trained students to perform rote tasks rapidly without errors or creative variation — perfect for assembly-line jobs. The system worked spectacularly, a robust middle class emerged, and America became the world’s most powerful country.

Somewhat incredibly, we still utilize this covered-wagon-era education model. Warning signs about its faltering effectiveness go back for decades. In 1983, the blue-ribbon report titled “A Nation At Risk” concluded that if our education system had been imposed on us by a foreign country, we’d declare it an act of war. Yet instead of reinventing the model (as the Committee of Ten did in 1893), we chose to muddle along with short-term, often counter-productive, tweaks. Teachers and students described to me endless additions to content, baffling new standards, and relentless high-stakes standardized tests of low-level cognitive skills. Our nation is hellbent on catching Singapore and South Korea on test scores — a goal those very countries have concluded is nonsensical. We’re betting millions of futures on No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — our twin orbiting black holes of education — with annual reports on par with the season run-down for the Washington Generals.

And how much are our kids really learning? If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that they’re not learning. Practically anything.

In my travels, I visited the Lawrenceville School, rated as one of the very best high schools in the United States. To its credit, Lawrenceville conducted a fascinating experiment a decade ago. After summer vacation, returning students retook the final exams they had completed in June for their science courses. Actually, they retook simplified versions of these exams, after faculty removed low-level “forgettable” questions The results were stunning. The average grade in June was a B+ (87 percent). When the simplified test was taken in September, the average grade plummeted to an F (58 percent). Not one student retained mastery of all key concepts they appear to have learned in June. The obvious question: if what was “learned” vanishes so quickly, was anything learned in the first place?

The holy grail in our high schools is the Advanced Placement (AP) track. Pioneered 50 years ago by elite private schools to demonstrate the superior student progress, AP courses now pervade mainstream public schools. Over and over, well-intentioned people call for improving U.S. education by getting more of our kids — especially in poor communities — into AP courses. But do our kids learn in AP courses? In an experiment conducted by Dartmouth College, entering students with a 5 on their AP Psychology exam took the final exam from the college’s introductory Psych course. A pitiful 10 percent passed. Worse, when the AP superstars did enroll in intro Psych, they performed no better than classmates with no prior coursework in the subject area. It’s as though the AP students had learned nothing about psychology. And that’s the point.

Along the way, I met Eric Mazur, Area Dean for Applied Physics at Harvard University, and was surprised to discover that many of our country’s most innovative ideas about education come from this one physics professor. Over a decade ago, Eric realized that even his top students (800 on SAT’s, 5 on AP Physics, A in first-year Physics at Harvard) were learning almost no real science. When asked simple questions about how the world works (e.g., what’s the flight path of a pallet of bricks dropped from the cargo hatch of a plane flying overhead?), their responses were little better than guessing. He abandoned his traditional course format (centered on memorizing formulas and definitions), and re-invented his classroom experience. His students debate each other in engaged Socratic discussion, collaborate and critique, and develop real insights into their physical universe. While his results are superb, almost all other U.S. high-school and college science classes, even at top-rated institutions, remain locked into a broken pedagogy whose main purpose is weeding kids out of these career paths..

Systematic studies, such as the findings of Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s groundbreaking book “Academically Adrift,” reach similar conclusions about how little our students are learning, even at the college level. They report that “gains in student performance are disturbingly low; a pattern of limited learning is prevalent on contemporary college campuses.” Richard Keeling and Richard Hersh, in “We’re Losing Our Minds,” conclude that far too many college graduates can’t “think critically and creatively, speak and write cogently and clearly, solve problems, comprehend complex issues, accept responsibility and accountability, take the perspective of others, or meet the expectations of employers.”

The debate about the purpose of education ignores the elephant in the classroom. We have wrapped up our schools in rote memorization, low-level testing, and misguided accountability — preventing them from achieving any real purpose. It’s a fool’s errand to debate whether students are better off memorizing and forgetting Plato’s categorization of the three parts of a human’s soul, the quadratic equation, or the definition of the Cost of Goods Sold. If classroom “learning” is a mirage, it doesn’t matter whether it’s based on “The Odyssey,” a biology textbook, AP History flashcards, or a phone book.

At this point, a part of me felt like declaring education to be our domestic equivalent of Iraq. Maybe I’d be better off going back to my original travel-and-bad-golf plan. But, actually, I was inspired. Why? I was finding the most amazing rays of hope — schools offering powerful learning experiences. I realized moving our schools forward can happen, since we know what to do. Greatness is happening daily across our country, often in schools with scant financial resources. Our challenge is that these innovations are isolated, when they need to be ubiquitous.

The United States now has more than 500 “Deeper Learning” schools, most in our nation’s poorest communities. Clustered into a dozen networks, these schools aren’t “cookie-cutter” replicas of each other. But in their own creative ways, they deliver exceptional learning based on shared principles:

• self-directed learning
• a sense of purpose and authenticity in student experiences
• trust in teachers to teach to their passions and expertise
• a focus on essential skills (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical analysis)
• teachers as coaches, mentors, and advisers, not as lecturers
• lots of project-based challenges and learning
• public display of meaningful student work

Many focus on project-based learning (PBL), a bland phrase for a powerful approach to learning. One PBL leader, High Tech High in San Diego, now includes a dozen schools spanning K through 12, and offers its own graduate school of education. Curiously, out of 1,400 schools of education in our country training our next generation of K12 teachers, only two are integral to a K=12 school. In walking the halls of HTH (and they get more than 3,000 visitors each year), I observed a school experience that doesn’t look anything like what’s taking place today in most U.S. grade 7-16 classrooms. I felt real urgency in helping more people see the power of this pedagogy.

When it comes to PBL, two school networks are scaling rapidly with exceptional results — the New Tech Network and Expeditionary Learning. Both provide training for teachers along with a vetted curriculum, and cost-effectively … [more]
unschooling  deschooling  education  pedagogy  schools  us  2015  projectbasedlearning  learning  howwelearn  internships  apprenticeships  collaboration  communication  creativity  criticalthinking  tcsnmy  thefutureproject  bigpicturelearning  hightechhigh  mostlikelytosucceed  success  teaching  trust  mentoring  mentors  self-directed  self-directedlearning  richardarum  josiparoksa  ericmazur  bureaucracy  teddintersmith  purpose  schooling  schooliness  howweteach  curriculum  anationatrisk  williamderesiewicz 
december 2015 by robertogreco
lessons for students — Medium
"lesson 1: Everything is about curiosity …

lesson 2: The world is Hungry for Ideas …

Lesson 3: Questions are key. Questions lead to conversation, conversation leads to learning.

At the School for Poetic Computation we start the first day always with the same activity — sit quietly by yourself for 20–30 mins and write down every question you have about what we are studying. Then, in smaller groups (and then finally in a larger group) we organize and collate these questions, developing a taxonomy. In some ways this is a contrast to typical school term, where you are presented with a syllabus that kind of lays out the answers.

The reason we do this is that invariably questions lead to discussion and talking and we’re really of the mindset that education is basically structured conversation — that the key to learning is talking, and through talking, we can find better metaphors, better illustrations, better explanations to make harder things simple, or explain how a gets to z.

Lesson 4. Together we know more …

Lesson 5: Simple and honest things win …

Lesson 6: Artistic practice is research, take that obligation seriously.

You are a researcher.

I’ve made the argument for a long time that artistic practice is a form or research, the same way a car company might have an R&D department to think about cars of the future, artists are a kind of R&D department for humanity thinking about different possible futures. It’s important to take the job of research seriously: to study the history, to take notes about process, to publish, etc. In terms of history, I think it’s crucial to know your field, who came before you and to explore the work of the past. We have a tendency to work and think ahistorically (think about how often you hear about “what a revolutionary time we live in”) and it can present profound limitations to creative practice. Note taking is also crucial — I think the more you approach the creative process as a study vs some sort of magical moment of inspiration, the more fruitful your work will be. Finally, publishing is crucial. Scientists write papers, synthasize findings, etc — artists should do the same. In my case, I use open source as a mechanism, but there are plenty of mechanisms for publishing. I think it’s a crucial part of taking R&D seriously.

Lesson 7: Everything operates at a time scale you don’t know.

You are a farmer.

I’ve found (from over a decade working in media art) that things you do take time and work in timescales that you don’t understand. A project you start one year will come back years later, or an idea you have can only be realized at some later point in your life. I think it’s hard as a student to understand timescale. I try to use the metaphor of a farmer, since it feels to me that things you do one year might have impacts years later.

At eyeo festival two years ago I mentioned to the audience during a talk that at the beginning of every class I tell students, “I adopt you.” After the talk, someone came up to me and he said, “10 years ago, I was in a workshop you gave in Brazil where you said, ‘I adopt you’… I didn’t even recognize you here, but when you said that on stage I remembered that moment. Your workshop is why I started doing what I do now.” When I think about that workshop, all I can remember that it was in a hot and stuffy computer lab, I can’t remember anything from that day just that it was, but being face to face with my former student reminded me that the work you at one time can come back many years later. Plant seeds, tend soil, be a farmer.

Lesson 8: Take the time you need.

There’s a tendency in programming education to have these “learn x in y time” type books and approaches. “Learn C++ in 30 days”, “Learn HTML in 24 hours”, etc. It’s important to remind students to take the time they need.

As a side note: at SFPC we are fortunate to have Amit Pitaru as a co-founder and steering committee member, and Amit to me is one of the best advocates for this notion of taking time. I think of him almost as a kind of sherpa for education. check out his talk at eyeo 2013 ( where mid-way through he breaks into a spontaneous discussion of learning.

Lesson 9: Find your team.

One of the best things you can do as a student is find and surround yourself with people who are supportive, understanding and help you know your own value. I think that is a crucial part of success.

Lesson 10: The past gets made again

I found this amazing book from 1993 called the art of computer designing: version of the book [ ]

It’s a pretty amazing book because it’s very fresh even by today’s standards — there’s clever and fun ideas of using shapes and geometry:

but the best part of the book is the afterword, where the author thanks a bunch of people and also members of the Bauhaus. He writes:
I would also like to acknowledge my favorites, Russian Avant-garde, Futurism and Bauhaus, whose brilliant typefaces and designs have in many ways shaped my own mind. If the artists of these movements where alive now to work with computers, I am certain they would discover new artistic possabilities. The work of past ages accumulates, and is remade again.

I love this last sentence of the book,
“the work of past ages accumulates, and is remade again”

It’s a reminder (and license) that the job of every generation is to remake the past.
sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputation  2015  zachlieberman  teaching  pedagogy  learning  education  curiosity  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  time  scale  purpose  questions  questionasking  art  research  conversation  osamusato  andrewzolli  amitpitaru  mitchgoldstein  ideas  howweteach  howwelearn  schools  arteducation  inquiry  inquirybasedlearning  convesation  askingquestions  björk  schoolforpoeticcomputing 
november 2015 by robertogreco
What Art Unveils - The New York Times
"I think a lot about art. As a philosopher working on perception and consciousness, and as a teacher and writer, maybe more than most. It’s part of my work, but it is a pleasure, too. The task of getting a better sense of what art is — how it works, why it matters to us and what it can tell us about ourselves — is one of the greatest that we face, and it is also endlessly rewarding. But at times it also seems just endless, because art itself can be so hard to grasp. And so is the question of how to approach it. Is there a way of thinking about art that will get us closer to an understanding of its essential nature, and our own?

These days, as I’ve discussed here before, the trend is to try to answer these questions in the key of neuroscience. I recommend a different approach, but not because I don’t think it is crucial to explore the links between art and our biological nature. The problem is that neuroscience has yet to frame an adequate conception of our nature. You look in vain in the writings of neuroscientists for satisfying accounts of experience or consciousness. For this reason, I believe, we can’t use neuroscience to explain art and its place in our lives. Indeed, if I am right, the order of explanation may go in the other direction: Art can help us frame a better picture of our human nature.

This may be one of the sources of art’s abiding value. Art is a way of learning about ourselves. Works of art are tools, but they have been made strange, and that is the source of their power.

I begin with two commonplaces. First, artists make stuff. Pictures, sculptures, performances, songs; art has always been bound up with manufacture and craft, with tinkering and artifice. Second, and I think this is equally uncontroversial, the measure of art, the source of its value, is rarely how well it is made, or how effective it is in fulfilling this or that function. In contrast with mere technology, art doesn’t have to work to be good.

I don’t deny that artists sometimes make stuff that does work. For example, Leonardo’s portrait of Duke Ludovico’s teenage mistress, “The Lady With an Ermine,” works in the sense that it, well, it shows her. The same could be said of a photograph on a shopping website: it shows the jacket and lets you decide whether to order it. I only mean that the value of the artwork never boils down to this kind of application.

Why do artists make stuff if the familiar criteria of success or failure in the domain of manufacture are not dispositive when it comes to art? Why are artists so bent on making stuff? To what end?

My hypothesis is that artists make stuff not because the stuff they make is special in itself, but because making stuff is special for us. Making activities — technology, for short — constitute us as a species. Artists make stuff because in doing so they reveal something deep and important about our nature, indeed, I would go so far as to say, about our biological nature.

One of the reasons I’m skeptical of the neuroscientific approach is that it is too individualist, and too concerned alone with what goes on in the head, to comprehend the way social activities of making and doing contribute in this way to making us.

Human beings, I propose, are designers by nature. We are makers and consumers of technologies. Knives, clothing, dwellings, but also language, pictures, email, commercial air travel and social media. Tools and technologies organize us; they do so individually — think of the way chairs and doorknobs mold your posture and the way you move; and they do so collectively — think of the way the telephone or email have changed how we communicate. Technologies solve problems, but they also let us frame new problems. For example, there would be no higher mathematics without mathematical notations. Tools like the rake extend our bodies; tools like writing extend our minds.

Technologies organize us, but they do so only insofar as they are embedded in our lives. This is a crucial idea. Take a doorknob, for example. A simple bit of technology, yes, but one that presupposes a vast and remarkable social background. Doorknobs exist in the context of a whole form of life, a whole biology — the existence of doors, and buildings, and passages, the human body, the hand, and so on. A designer of doorknobs makes a simple artifact but he or she does so with an eye to its mesh with this larger cognitive and anthropological framework.

When you walk up to a door, you don’t stop to inspect the doorknob; you just go right through. Doorknobs don’t puzzle us. They do not puzzle us just to the degree that we are able to take everything that they presuppose — the whole background practice — for granted. If that cultural practice were strange to us, if we didn’t understand the human body or the fact that human beings live in buildings, if we were aliens from another planet, doorknobs would seem very strange and very puzzling indeed.

This brings us to art. Design, the work of technology, stops, and art begins, when we are unable to take the background of our familiar technologies and activities for granted, and when we can no longer take for granted what is, in fact, a precondition of the very natural-seeming intelligibility of such things as doorknobs and pictures, words and sounds. When you and are I talking, I don’t pay attention to the noises you are making; your language is a transparency through which I encounter you. Design, at least when it is optimal, is transparent in just this way; it disappears from view and gets absorbed in application. You study the digital image of the shirt on the website, you don’t contemplate its image.

Art, in contrast, makes things strange. You do contemplate the image, when you examine Leonardo’s depiction of the lady with the ermine. You are likely, for example, to notice her jarringly oversized and masculine hand and to wonder why Leonardo draws our attention to that feature of this otherwise beautiful young person. Art disrupts plain looking and it does so on purpose. By doing so it discloses just what plain looking conceals.

Art unveils us ourselves. Art is a making activity because we are by nature and culture organized by making activities. A work of art is a strange tool. It is an alien implement that affords us the opportunity to bring into view everything that was hidden in the background.

If I am right, art isn’t a phenomenon to be explained. Not by neuroscience, and not by philosophy. Art is itself a research practice, a way of investigating the world and ourselves. Art displays us to ourselves, and in a way makes us anew, by disrupting our habitual activities of doing and making."
culture  art  design  learning  perception  glvo  making  humans  2015  alvanoë  philosophy  purpose  via:Taryn  neuroscience  research  investigation  howwelearn  transparency  technology  tools  probelmsolving  social 
october 2015 by robertogreco
[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine
"I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.


Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.

The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, “Of course we provide our students with a real education,” but rather, “What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?”"

"So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity? What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neoliberal assumptions. Neoliberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen. That’s what “leadership” is finally about. There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people. Leaders get things done; leaders take command. When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

“Service” is what the winners engage in when they find themselves in a benevolent mood. Call it Clintonism, by analogy with Reaganism. Bill Clinton not only ratified the neoliberal consensus as president, he has extended its logic as a former president. Reaganism means the affluent have all the money, as well as all the power. Clintonism means they use their money and power, or a bit of it, to help the less fortunate — because the less fortunate (i.e., the losers) can’t help themselves. Hence the Clinton Foundation, hence every philanthropic or altruistic endeavor on the part of highly privileged, highly credentialed, highly resourced elites, including all those nonprofits or socially conscious for-profits that college students start or dream of starting.

“Creativity,” meanwhile, is basically a business concept, aligned with the other clichés that have come to us from the management schools by way of Silicon Valley: “disruption,” “innovation,” “transformation.” “Creativity” is not about becoming an artist. No one wants you to become an artist. It’s about devising “innovative” products, services, and techniques — “solutions,” which imply that you already know the problem. “Creativity” means design thinking, in the terms articulated by the writer Amy Whitaker, not art thinking: getting from A to a predetermined B, not engaging in an open-ended exploratory process in the course of which you discover the B.

Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now.

We have always been, in the United States, what Lionel Trilling called a business civilization. But we have also always had a range of counterbalancing institutions, countercultural institutions, to advance a different set of values: the churches, the arts, the democratic tradition itself. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction (and it’s always the same direction), new institutions or movements have emerged, or old ones have renewed their mission. Education in general, and higher education in particular, has always been one of those institutions. But now the market has become so powerful that it’s swallowing the very things that are supposed to keep it in check. Artists are becoming “creatives.” Journalism has become “the media.” Government is bought and paid for. The prosperity gospel has arisen as one of the most prominent movements in American Christianity. And colleges and universities are acting like businesses, and in the service of businesses.

What is to be done? Those very same WASP aristocrats — enough of them, at least, including several presidents of Harvard and Yale — when facing the failure of their own class in the form of the Great Depression, succeeded in superseding themselves and creating a new system, the meritocracy we live with now. But I’m not sure we possess the moral resources to do the same. The WASPs had been taught that leadership meant putting the collective good ahead of your own. But meritocracy means looking out for number one, and neoliberalism doesn’t believe in the collective. As Margaret Thatcher famously said about society, “There’s no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” As for elite university presidents, they are little more these days than lackeys of the plutocracy, with all the moral stature of the butler in a country house.

Neoliberalism disarms us in another sense as well. For all its rhetoric of freedom and individual initiative, the culture of the market is exceptionally good at inculcating a sense of helplessness. So much of the language around college today, and so much of the negative response to my suggestion that students ought to worry less about pursuing wealth and more about constructing a sense of purpose for themselves, presumes that young people are the passive objects of economic forces. That they have no agency, no options. That they have to do what the market tells them. A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

I have also had the pleasure, over the past year, of hearing from a lot of people who are pushing back against the dictates of neoliberal education: starting high schools, starting colleges, creating alternatives to high school and college, making documentaries, launching nonprofits, parenting in different ways, conducting their lives in different ways. I welcome these efforts, but none of them address the fundamental problem, which is that we no longer believe in public solutions. We only … [more]
williamderesiewicz  education  highereducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  learning  purpose  stevenpinker  2015  individualism  economics  leadership  missionstatements  courage  confidence  hope  criticalthinking  independence  autonomy  liberalarts  wealth  inequality  citizenship  civics  society  highered  publicpurpose  business  ronaldreagan  billclinton  margaretthatcher  government  media  lioneltrilling  socialgood  creativity  innovation  amywhitaker  service  servicelearning  change  fundamentalchange  systemsthinking  us  civilization  transformation  money  power  aynrand  meritocracy  plutocracy  college  colleges  universities  schools  markets  wallstreet  helplessness  elitism  berniesanders  communitycolleges  aristocracy  reaganism  clintonism  politics  entrepreneurship  volunteerism  rickscott  corporatization  modernity  joshuarothman  greatbooks  1960s  stem  steam  commercialization  davidbrooks 
october 2015 by robertogreco
How My Son Learned to Read When We Stopped Trying to Teach Him — The Synapse — Medium
"We were homeschooling, and our son was six years old. He had a good vocabulary and comprehension of ideas beyond many kids his age. We knew reading would open up the world to him, we knew he’d like it, and we knew he was very capable of doing it. But he didn’t.

We tried flashcards. We tried read-alongs. We tried playing hardball and we tried being fun and exciting. We tried restricting activities until he’d done his reading lessons, and we tried giving rewards. All these efforts had two things in common: they didn’t help him read one bit, and they made our relationship with him worse. Being a parent and being a child cease to be fun when you’re at odds all the time.

So, at an age when we were starting to worry about his lagging behind, we simply stopped trying. We quit the whole effort. He was nearly seven when we gave it up in favor of more peace and harmony in the house.

Daily life was a little easier, yet we still had this nagging worry about him. What will happen if he’s behind where he’s supposed to be for his age? Still, everything about our efforts to make him read felt wrong, so we simply ignored the fears.

I was reading a lot of great books on how kids learn and I knew intellectually that kids need no instruction to learn to read. They will learn when they find it valuable and if they are in an environment where it’s possible — one with books and other readers. Still the head and the heart are very different things. I knew kids were better at self-teaching than being taught, but I had to watch my own son, sharp as he was, remain completely outside the wonderful world of the written word.

Then it happened, just like so many of the books said it would. You believe it in stories, but it’s still a surprise when it happens in real life. One night I overheard my son reading aloud to himself in his bed. And the first thing he read wasn’t Dick and Jane, but Calvin & Hobbes. Not light fare for a brand new reader.

Let me back up a bit. We would often read to him for a few minutes before bed, and lately he had been in love with some old Calvin & Hobbes comics I had from my adolescence. We’d read him a few pages and say goodnight. One night it was later than usual and he asked me if I’d read. I was a bit grumpy and tired, and I said no, I was going to bed. He protested a bit but could see I wasn’t up for it so he let it go, seeming defeated. Ten minutes later I heard him reading.

He later told me that he wasn’t actually reading it that night, nor the first several nights after when he spoke the words (and often laughed) aloud. He had heard us read it so many times he had the words memorized. He was looking at the pictures and reciting the words like lines to a familiar song. I didn’t know this until long after he could clearly read without first memorizing, but it really doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s probably better that my wife and I assumed he was reading it when we first heard him, or we might have been tempted to intervene and try to cajole him into reading it without the cheat of memory and illustrations. I know too well the kind of unhappy outcome that would have created.

For a year or more we fought with a kid who clearly had all the tools to read, and we got nowhere. He wasn’t faking his inability — he really couldn’t read. Reading was always an activity that interrupted his day and was associated with expectant and often visibly (despite attempts to hide it) stressed parents. It was a concept as useless as it was foreign. But once he had a strong desire — to enjoy his favorite comic strip — and his inability to read was the barrier, he overcame it in no time and never even celebrated or announced it to us. It was utilitarian, not some lofty thing to perform for a gold star or a pat on the back. His ability and interest in reading, then writing and spelling, only intensified as he found it indispensable for playing games like Minecraft and Scribblenauts.

We’ve since made a full transition from the imposed curriculum of homeschooling to the kid-created structure of unschooling. Looking back, I’m a little ashamed of the silly way we approached things before, but at the time it was so hard to let go with all that crippling fear. There are so many “shoulds” pumped into parents’ brains from the moment they conceive. There are percentiles and averages and tests and rankings galore. But these are useful only to the statisticians, and none of them have your child’s interest or happiness in mind. Aggregates aren’t individuals. Living your life, or attempting to shape your child’s life, to conform to the average of some population is not a recipe for success. At best it will produce blandness, at worst a broken spirit.

You can read any number of thinkers like John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, or Peter Gray on why our son’s experience is not exceptional, but normal. You can look at studies that show kids who learn to read at age four and kids who learn at age nine have the same reading comprehension by age 11. You can get story after story from places like the Sudbury Valley school about kids who taught themselves to read in a few short weeks once they got the interest, and even one girl who didn’t become interested until age 13 and then went on to win a literary prize. But it’s all theory and myth until you experience it with your own child.

Read the books. Look into the unschooling movement and literature. But above all, take a step back from your own kids and realize that they are only young once and for such a short time. Do you really want your memories with them to consist of fights and forced lessons? Enjoy them. Let them go their own way and navigate the world. There are few things more exciting than when they come to you to ask for your help or insight because they really want it, or when they never do because they figure it out on their own and gain a confidence that cannot be won any other way.

The world we live in does not lack for natural incentives to learn to read. The rewards are massive, as are the costs of illiteracy. We don’t need to artificially incentivize reading the way a poor farmer might have a few hundred years ago. When we do we do more harm than good, if not to our children’s ability to read then at least to our enjoyment of our time with them. They figured out how to speak — the most difficult, nuanced, and complex skill a human can master — without any formal instruction. They can learn to read too."
reading  learning  howwelearn  homeschool  unschooling  deschooling  children  teaching  howweteach  isaacmorehouse  cv  purpose  edg  srg  glvo  education  via:willrichardson 
july 2015 by robertogreco
What's the Meaning of Life If Society Doesn't Need You Any Longer? - Singularity HUB
"If you have a job, odds are society benefits from your work, and theoretically, the compensation you receive is how the marketplace values your contribution. All other things being equal, the better you are at your job, the better the compensation. But the vast majority of people in the world aren't the best at what they do (think about the math for a moment). Truth is, most of us aren't rockstar anythings...we're just doing the best we can, but hey, we're still contributing as evidenced by a paycheck.

At the same time, most people aren't really satisfied with their jobs — possibly because a lot of positions aren't necessary. Most would rather do some other kind of work that more closely aligns with their passions or hobbies. But people need a certain amount of money to live, so they take work that meets their and their family's needs. It's a tradeoff, but most feel it's more ethical to sacrifice your interests for stable pay.

That's the world of today, but in the future, could both of these notions get upended?

Possibly. Some will soon find that the contributions they make to society are no longer valued compared to what artificial intelligence and robotics can achieve. Instead of just some humans being better at your job than you, low-cost technologies will be. As machines take over this work, would we really want to fight for these jobs? After all, if the contributions we're making to society aren't really what we care about anyway, why fight for jobs we can't stand, especially if a universal basic income was instated?

At a recent Executive Program hosted by Singularity University, four faculty members —Paul Saffo, Jeremy Howard, Neil Jacobstein, and Kathryn Myronuk — explored these topics during the Future of Work panel. The issue at hand: What are people going to do in the face of these disruptive changes?

Neil Jacobstein, co-chair of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, offers one possible route forward: "You have to spend some time educating people about how they can do self-development, how they can move up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs — that's part of what education should be about."

Approached from another angle, Kathryn Myronuk, who focuses on Synthesis and Convergence, suggested the parts of society that are soon to be automated will become part of the 'background infrastructure', like roads, electricity, and Internet access, that enables our lives."

[See also:

“Meaningful Lives Without Jobs?”

“The End of Meaningless Jobs Is a Win For Us All” ]
via:willrichardson  2015  universalbasicincome  economics  meaning  purpose  work  labor  future  davidhill  kathrynmyronuk  paulsaffo  jeremyhoward  neiljacobstein  society  ubi 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Sights Unseen: On Willful Blindness to Education’s Higher Purpose | EdConteXts
"As an educator, parent, and citizen, I fear that we as a society or even collection of societies put ourselves at risk if we fail to question and put a halt to this instrumentalist type of reasoning with regards to education. The rhetoric of brutal global competition is eroding our capacity to focus on asking what truly matters in providing our children and grandchildren with what they will need for their futures besides jobs and income. In all of our lip service to “21st Century Skills” we still pay more homage to the holy grail of what our offspring may earn rather than to how well equipped they will be to avert environmental, financial and/or social disaster by adopting and practicing those skills. We say that we want them to be critical thinkers and adept problem solvers while assuming, consciously or not, that their greatest challenge will likely be finding a job that pays well enough to free them from thousands of dollars of crushing student debt. “To get a good job” would appear to be our society’s best answer to the question “why school?” if we ever dared to pose it."

"I agree. Our schools need a higher purpose than merely feeding the global economic machine. Without questioning the prevailing ethos of competition, of celebrating winners while blaming the losers, our schools will not improve. Our schools will not become nourishing places for children until our societies decide that children are more than future members of the workforce. Our societies will not prosper unless we educate our children to understand and appreciate that nations constitute much more than their gross domestic product.

Author Peter Block captures best what I would wish for in reinventing education systems which nurture and sustain us as a society rather than squeeze us for a designated output. Speaking about the ways in which our thinking in terms of the exclusively practical and doable ( the how?) tends to hamper our willingness to engage on questions of larger purpose and general well-being, he writes:
Whatever our destination, it is letting go of the practical imperative that is most likely to guide us to a larger sense of where we want to go and what values we want to embody in getting there. What matters is the experience of being human and all that this entails. What will matter most to us, upon deeper reflection, is the quality of the experience we create in the world, not the quantity.

(bold: Block’s) Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes. Berret-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2002, p. 37.)

As members of results-driven societies, we appreciate the certitude that quantification appears to provide. As humans, however, we search doggedly for precisely those qualities of life which defy objective measurement: meaning, belonging, purpose, autonomy, happiness, to name a few possibilities. That our education systems strive to become more human rather than less rings true both as my deepest wish and our mounting challenge."
sherrispelic  education  competition  purpose  2015  capitalism  neoliberalism  humanity  humanism  inequality  danhaesler  testing  standardizedtesting  rankings  dianeravitch  loisweiner  wendybrown  hansrollman  peterblock  deschooling  unschooling  schools 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Will · The Lazy Language of Learning
"Those of you who have been around these parts before know that one of my biggest frustrations is the imprecise ways that we talk about learning, as if everyone defines it the exact way and it therefore requires no context or is without nuance. On almost every occasion that I find myself talking to teachers or leaders about their work, I find myself asking clarifying questions, sometimes to the great frustration of the people I’m with. I do it not to be a foil but to be clear: “What do you believe about learning?” I just think that’s crucial.

I’ve reference Seymour Sarason’s age old question (and book) “And what do YOU mean by learning?” more times than I can count. And most recently, I’ve been bringing Frank Smith’s “classic” vs. “official” theories of learning into my work even more. (Short version: “classic” is what we all know about learning, “official” is the school sanctioned version that looks little like what we know. Here’s a graphic. Read his book, too.) Both require us to say what we believe about what learning is, what makes it happen, and how we foster it in the classroom. Too often, that fundamental piece is missing from the process and the conversation. Or, we’re not sure whether it’s there or not.

I think Gary Stager gets it right:
In the absence of a clear and publicly articulated vision for a school or district and a misguided quest for the holy grail of balance, the weeds will always kill the flowers. If you are a school leader with a coherent vision for educational progress, you must articulate your vision clearly and publicly so people will follow. Why make others guess what you want and stand for?

Case in point, Future Ready Schools. Now first, let me be clear, I have no opinion on the work that FRS is doing. And the reason I have no opinion is that despite spending a good deal of time on their site, and despite engaging in a protracted Twitter Q&A yesterday with some of the folks who are involved in leading the effort, I still have no idea what they mean by “learning.” They use the word often, but they are not clear as to what their version of learning is. And there are many versions to be parsed.

Briefly, here’s what I wonder as I read the site:

1. What are “digital learning opportunities” exactly in the following sentence, and what are the measures of success:
“Future Ready is a free, bold new effort to maximize digital learning opportunities and help school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career, and citizenship.”

2. What are the “personalized learning experiences” that participating schools are supposed to lead?

3. How does FRS define an “engaged” student?

4. What are the “student learning outcomes” that FRS wants to help schools measure?

5. What are the “issues that drive student learning?”

6. The site says “Technology now enables personalized digital learning for every student in the nation.” What do they mean by “personalized digital learning?”

7. Etc.

To be fair, FRS does attempt a definition of “student learning,” but they break the cardinal rule that you shouldn’t define the word with the word itself:
Digital learning is defined as “the strengthening, broadening, and/or deepening of students’ learning through the effective use of technology.” Digital learning can serve as a vehicle to individualize and personalize learning, ensuring that all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career.

The elements that comprise this Gear include:
Personalized Learning
Student-Centered Learning
Authentic, Deeper Learning
21st Century Skills
College and Career Readiness
Digital Citizenship
Technology Skills
Anywhere, Anytime Learning

I struggle with so much of that because they leave the fundamental questions unanswered. Are students learning our stuff (curriculum) or their stuff (interests)? Are we more concerned with them becoming learners or learned? Are teachers organizing the school experience or are students building it? Do the technologies we give to kids transfer agency and increase freedom on the part of the student learner or do they just transfer our curriculum in digital form? And, importantly, what does success look like, and how is it measured?

These are harder questions. These are not about doing things “better” but about looking at schools and classrooms and teachers fundamentally differently. And these are important to ask and answer before we embark on any initiative that purports to “improve student learning.”"
2015  willrichardson  education  learning  futurereadyschools  futureready  buzzwords  hype  seymoursarason  garystager  vision  schools  progressive  technology  emptiness  edtech  why  thewhy  franksmith  purpose  process  conversation 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Continuations : Why Are We Here?
"We spend a lot of time in tech inventing and building new things. Some people are perfectly happy doing so without needing a deeper reason — some simply want success, others wealth, and many are excited about the potential to make the world a better place. Still I am struck by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction even among people who have accomplished a lot. I attribute that to the lack of a deeper purpose. Few people in tech seem to accept an easy religious answer to the question of why we are here. I have struggled with that myself but feel comfortable with what I believe now.

If you have followed my blog for a while you know that I have written about personal change in the past. Part of that exploration for me has been reading key works in Hinduism and Buddhism. One of the foundational precepts of Buddhism is that everything is ephemeral. Human pain comes from our failure to accept this impermanence. We become attached to people or things and when they inevitably disappear we suffer. I have found this to be a profound insight with powerful consequences for everyday life. Letting go of attachments is the way to overcome most if not all of our fears of the future and regrets of the past.

Yet I also believe that there is an important exception: human knowledge. I have previously argued that knowledge is the information that we as humans choose to replicate over time. It thus includes historical accounts, scientific knowledge and cultural artifacts (including literature, music, art, etc). Knowledge is unique to humans at least here on our planet. Other species don’t have externalized information that outlives them individually (I say externalized to contrast knowledge with DNA).

Human knowledge in principle has the potential to be eternal. It could exist as long as the universe does (and as far as I know we aren’t sure yet whether that will come to an end). Knowledge could even outlive humanity and still be maintained and developed further by some artificial or alien intelligence that succeeds us. Although I would prefer for the contributors to include future generations of humans.

For me the very existence and possibility of human knowledge provides the answer to the question of why we are here and what we should try to accomplish in life. We should endeavor to contribute to knowledge. Given my definition this can mean a great many things, including teaching and making music and taking care of others. Anything that either adds to or reproduces knowledge is, so far, a uniquely human activity and why we are here (“adding” includes questioning or even invalidating existing knowledge).

Once our basic needs are taken care of I believe we should devote much of our time to knowledge. We can still do things like create new products or start new companies (or invest in them). But we shouldn’t be mindless consumers of stuff or information. And we should focus on products or services that either contribute directly to knowledge or help others do so including by helping take care of basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, health, transportation, connectivity). This is also why I support the idea of a universal basic income.

Now at first blush the focus on knowledge sounds value free. What if you are inventing the nuclear bomb or worse? I have written about how values are important to guide what systems we build. I am convinced that many (and maybe all) of the values I believe in can be derived from the foundational value of knowledge, including, for example, conservation of the environment. I will write more on that in future posts.

This view of the meaning of life is what works for me personally and I am sharing it because it might work for others also. In doing so I am being consistent with the very belief I am describing. If these ideas have merit they will get replicated by others and carried forward over time and have a chance to become part of knowledge itself.

It is also likely that others have thought of this approach to the meaning of life before me. Knowledge is far vaster than what any one person can possibly know. And so as always when writing, I look forward to comments that point me to related work and people."
albertwenger  religion  purpose  meaning  via:willrichardson  2015  knowledge  buddhism  hinduism  humans  humanity  universalbasicincome  values  legacy  meaningoflife  satisfaction  ephemeral  ephemerality  attachment  everyday  suffering  presence  ubi 
june 2015 by robertogreco
tricia the wolf en Instagram: “#triciaaftergradschool - One thing that I learned over the last 8 years is that I now know the difference between commitment and co-dependence. In the process of being committed to finishing #gradschool, I became #codepend
"#triciaaftergradschool - One thing that I learned over the last 8 years is that I now know the difference between commitment and co-dependence.

In the process of being committed to finishing #gradschool, I became #codependent on finishing. Co-dependence is when you allow your emotional state to be triggered by another entity. For me, this entity morphed from student drama to fieldwork to waiting for a grant to finishing a paper and in the end writing my dissertation #synthesisnow. I used to think that it was great that I couldn’t fall asleep due to a fast beating heart because then I had the adrenaline to write more. I used to feel good about being woken up with heart palpitations because it gave me energy to process more fieldnotes. The list goes on. In the process, I stopped asking why. Why am I doing this? What is my purpose here? Why do I have to write this grant? Why do I have to panic over this paper?

In all these unnoticeable ways, I had absorbed the temporal logic of #gradschool EVEN THOUGH I didn’t even want to get an academic job! Isn’t that crazy!?!?! I allowed my own identity to become so tied to what I was doing that I stopped asking why.

But now that I’ve been done for a year and in rehabilitation to join society again, I found out that I experience insomnia, anxiety, breathing issues, writers block, and guilt when relaxing. So I’ve been working on all of that over the last year and it feels GREAT to become human again.

So now that I’m mindful of co-dependent behavior, I am also more aware of what commitment feels like. To me, commitment is a mindful decision to do something on terms that make sense for you and the parties involved. I always want to make sure wellbeing, joy, trust, and presence are the axis in which I align myself with whatever I commit to. I never want my identity to be so wrapped up in something that I can’t see the difference. I want to do this with every relationship I have whether it is with a person, job, or movement. Good bye co-dependence, hello commitment.

#triciainsandiego #sociology"

[Also here:

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"#triciaaftergradschool - I am now wondering why I never spoke to the dpt about the cruel and stifling #microaggression directed towards me and other students during #gradschool. I mean wasn’t the only one who struggled - 50% of my cohort dropped out the first year.
It was hard to even recognize the pattern because these things happened over a period of several years.

But ultimately, I didn’t think it was easy to talk to the dpt because they never explicitly encouraged or condoned any of this petty behavior. But I am realizing now that they have created and participated in a measurement obsessed structure that allows such terrible behavior to flourish.

Ultimately, sociology #gradschool as it is set up now, can model corrupt regime behavior - it’s a party of a few people creating and enforcing policies that justify their existence. This justification is done through measurement & ranking in the name of “professionalization” of #sociology. This professionalization pressure is on top of existing departmental and institutional budget cuts that decreased research funding, a broken tenure system (that no one talks about openly), and the department’s failure to help graduates get good teaching positions. In addition, the majority of cohorts are made up of young students who lack real life experience. So all of this creates a competitive anxious group of homogenous students who will engage in selfish behavior and gang up on others if they feel threatened. The people who suffer the most in this system are the few students of color or working-class backgrounds who are allowed into the program.

So while my dpt has never condoned cruelty amongst students, their policies and values foster it. It’s similar to how no US city approve of police brutality, but it happens because the system creates conditions that allow it to flourish. The macro enables the micro - that is sociology 101.

#triciainsandiego (at UC San Diego Social Sciences)" +

"#triciaaftergradschool - Walking into the graduate lounge is triggering memories of so much petty shit that I witnessed and was subjected to during #gradschool. Here are just a few things that come to my mind:

1. Students made fun of me for wearing high heels and reading gossip magazines.

2. Students reported to faculty that I was texting with another student in class, disrupting seminars.

3. I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t theoretical enough or fit to be a sociologist. In #sociology speak, this means you don’t belong cuz you’re too stupid to be in this program.

4. I was told by students to keep it a secret that I didn’t have plans to go into academia because the dpt will not give me grants & professors won’t engage with me. I didn’t keep it a secret. My research was never funded.

5. I was told to never publish #livefieldnotes or any blog posts about my research or else I’d never find a job.

6. Faculty reminded me several times that studying cellphones and the internet was “not sociological enough.”

7. Professors would say the dumbest shit that students would repeat & accept as truth! For example, a few faculty told us when we get tenured positions we will be more free than people who have jobs because we can do whatever we want and we’re smarter than people without Phds.

8. I dealt with sexual harassment from students and a professors.

9. A group of students told the grad director that I was creating problems amongst the grad students because I didn’t invite the to the parties that I was hosting at my house. Seriously high school shit.

#triciainsandiego #sociology (at UC San Diego Social Sciences)" +

"#triciaaftergradschool - Having just visited the Stasi Museum in Berlin (above) and UCSD #socialscience building (below) for #gradschool reflections, it’s interesting to note the similarities between totalizing institutions.

By NO way am I conflating #sociology #gradschool with East Germany/GDR under the Eastern Bloc. However, I think think the line between micro individual agency & macro structural forces are so thin that my personal processing of how the Sociology dpt created a cruel environment amongst grad students is helping me understand how people can turn on each other under institutional forces.

Totalizing institutions creep into people’s lives in benign ways. A few seemingly logical policies to measure & organize people into categories can create such terrible behavior.
These policies are always created by privileged elites who use it to justify their own existence & actions. And then a few sane ones start to question their own sanity, & perhaps to survive they go along with some of the policies.

I saw this happening in my #sociology department on a very small & benign scale. It happened even to me. The professionalization of sociology is treating people as ranked numbers to be slotted into categories that deem intelligence. Individual well-being is cast aside for the sake of the institution’s mission. If a student doesn’t perform like a normative #sociologist, then you’re marked as abnormal.

During my time, I eventually performed “sociology”. I wrote in the 3rd voice to appear more objective. I generated undecipherable intellectual garble papers. I formulated causal models, hypothesizing all sorts of variable isolation. I excelled in theory classes & became successful at obtaining funding from scientific instit. But I was miserable.

Eventually my mentors helped me realize that I had lost my voice as a writer. I wrote like a boring sociologist removed from society. That scared the shit out of me. Doing ethnographic work saved me, by observing humans I became human again.

All totalizing institutions become experts at removing the human experience, because once they do that, they can program people to do anything." +

"#triciaaftergradschool - Today, I voluntarily came to UCSD #socialscience #sociology building for the first time post #gradschool. Lots of memories are coming back. When I first started grad school, I so badly wanted to enjoy it. I had this vision that I would weave a fun life between working in NYC and reading sociology books on #sandiego beaches.
Man was I wrong. I was so miserable in the program but I didn’t realize how terrible it was until this trip. I don’t think I ever truly allowed myself to acknowledge or even admit how traumatic it was on me while I was in the program. Why do so many experience #gradshcool as isolating, dark, and depressive? Why does it have to be this way when getting any degree, much less a PhD, is such an act of privilege and luck. Brilliant people around the world don’t even get the chance to read books much less step inside a university just because they were born into failed systems. I think I felt this weight of privilege on me, so I didn’t want to even allow myself to come off as unappreciative of this fabulous life I have as a Westerner. But that’s my reason, is there a larger reasons that cuts across all programs?

#triciainsandiego #gradschool #sociology

(at UC San Diego Social Sciences)" +

"#triciaaftergradschool - I am a fucking doctor. That’s right, I have a fucking phd. I am so proud of myself for getting this credential.

Although I think it’s important to remember that credentials do not reflect the quality of a person’s skillsets or intelligence. It makes me sick that #gradschool promotes intellectual superiority within our degree obsessed society.

… [more]
triciaang  2015  ucsd  gradschool  education  commitment  co-dependence  sociology  academia  richardmadsen  thewhy  purpose  triciawang  capitalism  highereducation  highered  2014  socialsciences  measurement  ranking  funding  research  behavior  groupdynamics  professionalization  control  dehumanization  elitism  privilege  isolation  objectivity  self-justification  bullying  systemicracism  institutions  institutionalizedracism  abuse  institutionalizedabuse  classism  class 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Unexotic Underclass | The MIT Entrepreneurship Review
"The startup scene today, and by ‘scene’ I’m sweeping a fairly catholic brush over a large swath of people – observers, critics, investors, entrepreneurs, ‘want’repreneurs, academics, techies, and the like – seems to be riven into two camps.

On one side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P: clean energy, poverty, famine, climate change, you name it. I needn’t replay their song here; they’ve argued their cases far more eloquently elsewhere. In short, they contend that too many brains and dollars have been shoveled into resolving what I call ‘anti-problems’ – interests usually centered about food or fashion or ‘social’or gaming. Something an anti-problem company might develop is an app that provides restaurant recommendations based on your blood type, a picture of your childhood pet, the music preferences of your 3 best friends, and the barometric pressure of the nearest city beginning with the letter Q. (That such an app does not yet exist is reminder still of how impoverished a state American scientific education has descended. Weep not! We redouble our calls for more STEM funding.)

On the other side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P – that there are too many folks resolving anti-problems… BUT just to be on the safe side, the venture capitalists should keep pumping tons of money into those anti-problem entrepreneurs because you never know when some corporate leviathan – Google, Facebook, Yahoo! – will come along and buy what yesterday looked like a nonsense app and today is still a nonsense app, but a nonsense app that can walk a bit taller, held aloft by the insanities of American exceptionalism. For not only is our sucker birthrate still high in this country (one every minute, baby!), but our suckers are capitalists bearing fat checks.

On the other other side, a side that receives scant attention, scanter investment, is where big problems – little b, little p – reside. Here, you’ll find a group I’ll refer to as the unexotic underclass. It’s rather quiet in these parts, except during campaign season when the politicians stop by to scrape anecdotes off the skin of someone else’s suffering. Let’s see who’s here.

To your left are single mothers, 80% of whom, according to the US Census, are poor or hovering on the nasty edges of working poverty. They are struggling to raise their kids in a country that seems to conspire against any semblance of proper rearing: a lack of flexibility in the workplace; a lack of free or affordable after-school programs; an abysmal public education system where a testing-mad, criminally-deficient curriculum is taught during a too-short school day; an inescapable lurid wallpaper of sex and violence that covers every surface of society; a cultural disregard for intelligence, empathy and respect; a cultural imperative to look hot, spend money and own the latest “it”-device (or should I say i-device) no matter what it costs, no matter how little money Mum may have.

Slightly to the right, are your veterans of two ongoing wars in the Middle East. Wait, we’re at war? Some of these veterans, having served multiple tours, are returning from combat with all manner of monstrosities ravaging their heads and bodies. If that weren’t enough, welcome back, dear vets, to a flaccid economy, where your military training makes you invisible to an invisible hand that rewards only those of us who are young and expensively educated.

Welcome back to a 9-month wait for medical benefits. According to investigative reporter Aaron Glantz, who was embedded in Iraq, and has now authored The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle against America’s Veterans, 9 months is the average amount of time a veteran waits for his or her disability claim to be processed after having filed their paperwork. And by ‘filed their paperwork,’ I mean it literally: veterans are sending bundles of papers to some bureaucratic Dantean capharnaum run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where, by its own admission, it processes 97% of its claims by hand, stacking them in heaps on tables and in cabinets.

In the past 5 years, the number of vets who’ve died before their claim has even been processed has tripled. This is America in 2013: 40 years ago we put a man on the moon; today a young lady in New York can use anti-problem technology if she wishes to line up a date this Friday choosing only from men who are taller than 6 feet, graduated from an Ivy, live within 10 blocks of Gramercy, and play tennis left-handed…

…And yet, veterans who’ve returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have to wait roughly 270 days (up to 600 in New York and California) to receive the help — medical, moral, financial – which they urgently need, to which they are honorably entitled, after having fought our battles overseas.

Technology, indeed, is solving the right problems.

Let’s keep walking. Meet the people who have the indignity of being over 50 and finding themselves suddenly jobless. These are the Untouchables of the new American workforce: 3+ decades of employment and experience have disqualified them from ever seeing a regular salary again. Once upon a time, some modicum of employer noblesse oblige would have ensured that loyal older workers be retained or at the very least retrained, MBA advice be damned. But, “A bas les vieux!” the fancy consultants cried, and out went those who were ‘no longer fresh.’ As Taylor Swift would put it, corporate America and the Boomer worker “are never ever getting back together.” Instead bring in the young, the childless, the tech-savvy here in America, and the underpaid and quasi-indentured abroad willing to work for slightly north of nothing in the kinds of conditions we abolished in the 19th century.

For, in the 21st century, a prosperous American business is a soaring 2-storied cake: 1 management layer at top thick with perks, golden parachutes, stock options, and a total disregard for those beneath them; 1 layer below of increasingly foreign workers (If you’re lucky, you trained these people before you were laid off!), who can’t even depend on their jobs because as we speak, those sameself consultants – but no one that we know of course — are scouring the globe for the cheapest labor opportunities, fulfilling their promise that no CEO be left behind.

Above all of this, the frosting on the cake, the nec plus ultra of evolutionary corporate accomplishment: the Director of Social Media. This is the 20-year old whose role it is to “leverage social media to deliver a seamless authentic experience across multiple digital streams to strategic partners and communities.” In other words, this person gets paid six figures to send out tweets. But again, no one that we know.

Time and space and my own sheltered upbringing defend me from giving you the whole tour of the unexotic underclass, but trust that it is big, and only getting bigger."

"There’s nothing wrong with the entrepreneurship-as-salvation gospel. Nothing wrong with teaching more people to code. But it’s impractical in the short term, and misses the greater point in the long term: We shouldn’t live in a universe of solipsistic startups… where I start a company and produce things only for myself and for people who resemble me. Let’s be honest. Very few of us are members of this unexotic underclass. Very few of us even know anyone who’s in it. There’s no shame in that. That we have sailed on a yacht of good fortune most of our lives — supportive generous families, a stable peaceful democracy, excellent schooling, prestigious careers and companies, relatively good health – is nothing to be ashamed of. Consider yourselves remarkably blessed."

"When I look at the bulk of startups today – while there are notable exceptions (Code for America for example, which invites local governments to request technology help from teams of coders) – it doesn’t seem like we’ve aspired to something nobler: it just looks like we’ve shifted the malpractice from feeding the money machine to making inane, self-centric apps. Worse, is that the power players, institutional and individual — the highflying VCs, the entrepreneurship incubators, the top-ranked MBA programs, the accelerators, the universities, the business plan competitions have been complicit in this nonsense.

Those who are entrepreneurially-minded but young and idea-poor need serious direction from those who are rich in capital and connections. We see what ideas are getting funded, we see money flowing like the river Ganges towards insipid me-too products, so is it crazy that we’ve been thinking small? building smaller? that our “blood and judgment” to quote Hamlet, have not been “so well commingled?”

We need someone bold (and older than us) to stand up for Big Problems which are tough and dirty. But what we especially need is someone to stand up for big problems – little b, little p –which are tough and dirty and too easy to overlook.

We need:

A Ron Conway, a Fred Wilson-type at the venture level to say, ‘Kiddies, basta with this bull*%!..  This year we’re only investing in companies targeting the unexotic underclass.”

A Paul Graham and his Y Combinator at the incubator level, to devote one season to the underclass, be it veterans, single moms or overworked young doctors, Native Americans, the list is long:  “Help these entrepreneurs build something that will help you.”

The head of an MIT or an HBS or a Stanford Law at the academic level, to tell the entire incoming class: “You are lucky to be some of the best engineering and business and law students, not just in the country, but in the world.  And as an end-of-year project, you are going to use that talent to develop … [more]
creativity  entrepreneurship  poverty  inequality  wickedproblems  purpose  siliconvalley  class  venturecapital  problemsolving  economics  capitalism  work  labor  unemployment  veterans  via:sha  underclass  inequity  business  cznnaemeka  2013 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Leon Botstein for Democracy Journal: Are We Still Making Citizens?
[via: ]

"Democracy requires a commitment to the public good. But for a long time now, our citizens have been taught to see themselves as only private actors."

"What the European émigrés discovered was a reality that partially resembled these principles. They saw from the outside, as it were, how vital the connection is between how we structure our schools and our capacity to maintain a functioning pluralist democracy. John Dewey, America’s greatest thinker on education since Mann, guided the ideology of public education. For Dewey, the justification for the proper pedagogy was not primarily political; his conception of teaching and learning derived largely from an epistemological conceit within Pragmatism. But for the European émigrés, the contrast between the school systems from which they came and the school system in the country in which they arrived—the virtue and attraction of American educational practice—was significant in terms of its political consequences.

In those years, the defining factor in the American system was the idea of a single, unitary public school system in which everybody enrolled. All citizens went to the same sort of schools through to the end of secondary school. Private schools were an elite phenomenon and relatively insignificant. Most European public systems, by contrast, were intentionally segregated by ability, creating distinct groups beginning at age 11. The state, using examinations, divided the school population into varying categories, each of which maintained a different track. The majority of citizens never completed school beyond elementary school. Some percentage went on to vocational schooling. A very small segment of the population went, as adolescents, either to a humanistic academic high school (Gymnasium) or to a less prestigious practical and science-oriented high school (Realschule) and received a secondary-school diploma. A Matura or Abitur, the diploma from these two types of secondary schools, permitted an elite student to enroll in the university.

Consequently, the unitary public school system that kept all children together until college and that built citizens of character, devoted to democratic values, was viewed by the émigré generation as a marvel. American education appeared to fit the idea that the nation and democracy were tied to a homogeneity of rights, and that diverse constituencies could not only obtain equal legal status but through education achieve the means to realize it in economic and social terms. Citizenship via a nominally nondiscriminatory and standard process accessible to all irrespective of birth, religion, ethnicity, or even language was unheard of in Europe, but it—and the concrete advantages education added—seemed possible in America.

Higher education was no less eye-opening. Undergraduates delayed specialization and studied more than one subject. They were, from the start, asked to do far more writing that called for the expression of their own arguments and judgments. What was equally shocking to a European was the way in which the American university system seemed immensely flexible and open to new ideas. There was not a rigid hierarchy with one professor running each “faculty.” Young scholars did not have to wait for their elders to retire or die. The university was able to create new fields and new positions. Not only was there less hierarchy and formality, but in graduate education there was even less deference to authority than in the public school system. The dissenter, rebel, and ambitious entrepreneur were prized more than in Europe. In terms of graduate education and academic career advancement, American university practice still stands in contrast to that of Europe.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the academic standards by which the American common school system operated seemed horrifically low. The price paid by the democratic culture of the American school system, the émigré observers concluded, was the low level of shared culture achieved at the end of secondary public education. Freshmen could not read or write properly, and they possessed little understanding of literature, art, philosophy, or history. The thinly veiled (at best) snobbery of the mid-century émigré scholars simply exploded when their members (such as Werner Jaeger, Leo Strauss, and Kurt Wolff) came to teach American college students."

"I distrust private languages and the tendency to rely on one’s personal narrative as the basis for talking about politics and, in particular, education, understood as a political good. The personal narrative is always contingent on those outside of it. What a child has to learn in school is not only to formulate a personal narrative but also to set it aside; children need to listen, to observe others, and thereby to distinguish their personal narrative from those of others as each individual constructs a role as a citizen. However, the two imperatives—personal growth and citizenship—don’t appear naturally to overlap. A child needs to learn things that allow him or her to function in a democratic context, to learn to consciously ignore personal self-interest and contemplate the public good. What a common public school ought to teach, therefore, is the capacity for disagreement, contest, and compromise. But if I think public goods are irrelevant, that we can do without government, I automatically subscribe to a kind of illusion of individualism against which criticism is hard, since the point of having a discussion or debate—the creation of the public space of a shared participatory politics—is rejected."

"The project of public education is fundamental to the notion of public goods in America. The restoration of public education seems a precondition for making the public sphere operate properly. Education must be about something more than personal happiness and benefit, economically defined; it has to map out the idea that there is more to the public good than the belief that through some free-market-style calculus of aggregate self-interests, the greatest good for the greatest number will emerge. In other words, public education is about educating the future citizen to consider a common ground in politics that can and will secure a more rewarding notion of personal security and tranquility for all.

But in the context of today’s disenchantment with the public sphere, what can a school-trained citizen do? Merely compete in the marketplace? Work for Google? What actually defines the public sphere today is not the government and Congress, but Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Conspiracy theorists when I was young pointed to the presence of socialists and communists who were said to undermine our system of values. Fear seemed reasonable in the Cold War and under the threat of nuclear war. The line between fear and paranoia was thin indeed. Fear was plausible.

But the people who frighten me and undermine the public sphere today are not terrorists and ideologues interested in overthrowing the government; they are not even those who work for the U.S. government within the NSA or the CIA. Rather, I’m afraid of the very large corporate giants that control our access to information, regulate our private lives by providing social networks—a platform for deceptive intimacy—and monitor every move we make in life and preserve a record of every message, thereby rendering secret-keeping and forgetting—two essential human experiences—impossible."

"So where does this bring us with regard to education? As a practitioner of education, I still hold to the idea that the most difficult and yet most vital thing to do is to construct and sustain a language of public conversation. And that language of public conversation will inevitably be different from our several private languages. We cannot expect it to be the same. The conversation on matters that affect us all has to take place in real space and time. School is one source of that essential opportunity.

One of the depressing aspects of our politics today is the extent to which our candidates think it is enough to be a personality and to rely on a private language in order to get elected. We are more interested in the personalities of our politicians, as if they were our neighbors or private friends, than we are in what they think. Today’s politicians cannot speak a comprehensible language of ideas in public conversation about public goods, the matters at stake in politics. We have lost the taste for a sustained debate about ideas.

To confront this lack of public discourse based on ideas—ideas bolstered by claims and evidence subject to open scrutiny—public education needs to work. It needs to create a community of very diverse citizens who are able to occupy a public space in which they can negotiate matters of shared concern, from foreign affairs to domestic policy, using a shared language. The Internet does not offer such a platform, nor does the virtual space or Facebook or any other social media.

I therefore think that we need to redouble the defense of a single system of public education to which our citizens have free access. We need to resist the privatization of schooling. That does not mean that every school should look alike. But since we will continue to be (I hope) an immigrant nation, we will have to champion a public school system if we are to reconcile increasing differences, inequalities of wealth, and class distinctions into a functioning, dynamic democracy made up of citizens.

I share the émigré generation’s quite romantic optimism for the potential of a democratic school system, one marked by excellence and equity. I think such a system is worth fighting for. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There is evidence that we can improve schools. A welcome first step would be to instill in the best of our current college students and future … [more]
leonbostein  democracy  publicschools  civics  citizenship  2015  individualism  collectivism  publicgood  education  society  us  privatization  government  disagreement  debate  participation  capitalism  hannaharendt  hansweil  christianmackauer  progressive  progressivism  freedom  interdependence  independence  politics  learning  johndewey  egalitarianism  americandream  equality  inequality  generalists  specialization  hierarchy  informality  formality  horizontality  standards  standardization  competition  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  criticalthinking  accessibility  europe  history  leostrauss  kurtwolff  wernerjaeger  jacobklein  robertmaynardhutchins  stringfellowbarr  heinrichblücher  elitism  privateschools  content  process  methodology  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  purpose  sputnik  truth  canon  discourse  isolation  technology  internet  schooling  schooliness  science  wikipedia  communication  language  eliascanetti  teaching  information  research 
april 2015 by robertogreco
You’re Not Any Cooler than Jesus or Muhammad | On Being
"“What are you going to do when you grow up?” A torment we pose to children.

“What are you going to do after graduation?” The torment we impose on the most vulnerable of young adults. This insufferable question is one that is posed to my students, and most young people in this country over, and over, and over again.

20- and 21-year olds are confronted with it constantly. “What are you going to do with that major?” “Yeah, but how is that going to help you in the real world?”

I am amused by it, because it assumes that they (and we) are in fact going to grow up. I see a lot of people who have never grown up around me. It is not that they are child-like. They are just… un-grown-up.

Education used to be different. Before education was about acquiring a set of skills, before it was preparation for a job, it was a meditation on the meaning of life and death.

Before education was about being pre-medicine, pre-law, pre-business, it was about becoming human. Education was about becoming. It was a meditation on death, on mortality, and on life. More than that, it was a meditation on living. Living well. Living beautifully.

Education was a meditation on what it means to be human, on knowledge of the self, and our connection to the human community and the natural cosmos.

Now, we expect 21-year olds to figure out their place in this world when most of us supposed adults have no clue where we fit in. We expect them to bring their educational journey to a zenith. We expect them to be applying for jobs, graduate and professional schools, and internships. Many of them are dealing with figuring out the most important romantic relationships they have had in their lives. And we expect them to sort out all of these important decisions at the same time.

How many of us supposed grownups have sorted these things out? And how many of us have negotiated these decisions gracefully and simultaneously? How many of us know who and what we are? Who among us knows the worth of our own soul?

So what do we have to say to the 21-year-old college students, and to the still-not-grown up? Here are a few words of compassion: Relax, my dear. Breathe deeply. You are loved.

The career is what you do in life. But the key question is who you are as a human being.

It doesn’t matter to me who you work for in your life. I wanna know what gives meaning to your living. It doesn’t matter to me where you live. I wanna know what you are living for. It doesn’t matter to me what school you went to. I wanna know what values you are living by, how you are serving the ones who have loved you, and how you are treating the most vulnerable people in your community.

I want you to be generous with yourselves.

I remind my students that Jesus didn’t become Christ till he was 30. And then I tell them: “You ain’t any cooler than Jesus.”

I show them that Siddhārtha Gautama was 35 when he became awakened as The Buddha. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more enlightened then the Buddha.”

I tell them that Muhammad didn’t become the Prophet till he was 40. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more luminous than Muhammad.”

If it took these luminous souls till 30, 35, 40 to sort out what they were going to do with their lives, what makes you think you’re gonna figure it all out by 21? Or 25? For that matter, if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and you still feel like you’ve got some ripening to do, be patient and kind with your own self.

Be patient.
Be generous.
Take it slow…

It’s not about getting “there.”
It’s about the path you are on
And the company you have on the path.

You have immense power and beauty
There is a light within you
That shines bright.

The only way for you to abandon that power
Is to think you have none.

The only way you can hide your light under a bushel
Is to occupy yourself with decisions that are the task of a lifetime.

My friends,
Be kind to one another
And to your own selves
Hold each others’ hands
And let’s walk together
Never alone
No, never alone.

There is a light within you."
omidsafi  2015  education  religion  purpose  onbeing  life  meaningoflife  morality  death  living  well-being 
april 2015 by robertogreco
“Rules of Business” — Medium
"Pretend like you’re a human being
With the possible exception of artists and architects, no one is more full of shit than designers. We can find a way to justify anything. Blah blah blah. That means no matter what you end up with, you can come up with some reason why it’s a good design. The best advice I have for designers is to practice being not-designers: stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and then look again like you’re just a regular person encountering this product/service/user interface/object/page/poster for the first time. Where do your eyes go? What do you think it is at first? How do you figure out what you are supposed to do?

Make it inevitable
There is some truth to that old Henry Ford aphorism “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”. If you can’t believe it, it’s probably not going to happen. However, I like to take that one step further and ensure that every action we take is one that assumes the desired outcome is inevitable. Do not make actions that are out of alignment with that inevitability. Do not allow judgements which contradict it. The more evidence you have — and everyone else has — that things will come out as planned, the more likely it will be so.

Every job you do has your signature on it
When I was around 10 or 11 years old, my father offered me $10 to move a cord of recently-delivered firewood from the driveway into the garage and stack it up inside (I am old; $10 was a great deal of money back then). I managed to get all the firewood inside but rather than it being stacked against the wall, it was more or less evenly distributed across the floor of the garage. I expected my payment, but instead got some advice: “Every job you do has your signature on it — do you really want to sign that?” I always remembered that and if I am going to do something, I make every effort to do it right. (I also properly stacked the wood afterwards, even though it took forever, and I got paid in the end.)

Everyone should always be trying to make it easier for everyone
I used to play in a band. Other people might have played team sports, or worked in a well-functioning restaurant. There’s something about working deeply, in real-time, with other people that’s both incredibly satisfying and enormously more effective than working alone. You need to be open for the pass, you need to hear the subtle rhythm shifts, you need to spot when someone else’s table needs the check … everyone should be taking account of what everyone else is doing and constantly modifying their own behaviour to better serve the team.

Know why you’re doing it
If you are just out to make money, god bless: I hope you make some money. If you just want awards or recognition or for others to think highly of you, I hope you get that too. But I don’t think anyone is really satisfied by fame or fortune. I find it incredibly satisfying (and gratifying, rewarding and pleasant) to honestly have done the best job I could have done on something and I believe that works for everyone else too. Being skillful and exercising your mastery is what you’re here to do. Doing anything less undermines the whole point of being alive."
stewartbutterfield  business  advice  2015  design  humans  purpose  responsibility 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Slash Purpose
"This page exists, because we think the world would be a better place if the people trying to shape it spoke openly and plainly about their vision for the future.

We think a fine place to do that is on your own /purpose page, like this:

It’s a great space to share the “why” behind the “what”. The thing that gets you out of bed in the morning.

Sharing your purpose means being explicit about the place you ultimately want to take people and about the metrics you use for measuring success. By doing that, you elevate the dialog you can have with users and treat them with greater respect. You also bring them along for the ride, transforming future updates from arbitrary change to progress. Sounds pretty good, right?

If you’re nodding in agreement, why not join us by putting up your own /purpose page? It’s a simple idea for a better world. One in which users are treated as collaborators and co-conspirators, makers are held accountable for their vision, and everyone has a merry, jolly, hell of a good time.

In case these help clarify what this is all about, here are some rules we try to abide by.

• Be personal. Talk more like you would to a group of friends than to a customer.
• Focus on the story of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
• Describe where you want to take people. What does the world look like if you’re successful? Big picture stuff, not features.
• Share, as best as you can, how you will measure success.
• Include a link to, so this idea can spread.

• Make this another about page. If it seems like an about page, you’re probably not focusing on why.
• Oversell. This isn’t the place to sell users on what you’re doing. It’s where you sell them on why you’re doing it.
• Feel like you have to have one, but if you’re convinced this is a good idea, join us!"

[via: ]
purpose  webdev  slashpurpose  thewhy  why  webdesign 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Frank Bruni's Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be Review | The New Republic
"In fact, Bruni’s breezy anecdotes tend to reinforce the very assumption they ostensibly question: that prestige, power, and wealth are the major goals of education. He’s not asking his readers to examine a cultural obsession with success, so much as assuring them that they can still impress others without attending highly selective undergraduate institutions. Just look at all the people who run huge companies or work at prestigious consulting or law firms, he says. Not all of them went to Ivy League schools! There are “myriad routes to a corner office,” as he puts it. He never seriously considers the possibility that college might shape students into adults who are not interested in a corner office."

"Is influencing student motives beyond the mandate of education? The historian Jacques Barzun once described the business of education as merely “the liquidation of ignorance.” But an alternate tradition that runs from Aristotle to William Deresiewicz argues that it matters why students want to acquire knowledge in the first place. Using the mind as a means to acquire a corner office is very different from enjoying intellectual activity for its own sake. This is not a distinction irrelevant to the madness of college admissions. One girl described in Bruni’s book was so eager to assert a genuine love of the life of the mind that her college application essay depicted a time she urinated in her pants during a particularly interesting conversation with a teacher. Bruni is right to note the ridiculous desperation of the essay, but he fails to draw a deeper conclusion: that someone with a genuinely pure love of learning would probably not broadcast this love to colleges, and she would also not care about attending a prestigious school in the first place. For someone motivated by a love of learning, prestige is irrelevant at best and an annoying distraction at worst.

Most people think of education as a political issue, but it’s less common to hear talk of human flourishing or happiness as a pressing political concern. This Aristotelian perspective offers something far more valuable than Bruni’s self-serving reassurance that there are many routes to prestige and wealth—education as a vision of a kind of happiness that can be realized even in the absence of wealth and prestige. The only sort of rankings the college admissions process needs is one that recognizes a hierarchy of student motives, in which the love of learning for its own sake is supreme. For anyone with the right motives, the other rankings don’t matter.

If college brochures took their own rhetoric about falling in love with the life of the mind seriously, they would encourage students not to see their studies as purely instrumental. Career services programs love to boast that you can study German literature or philosophy and still get a job in consulting; but whether or not this is true misses the point. A school truly committed to the ideal of intellectual life would not treat philosophy as a means to higher LSAT scores. Students would learn to develop such a strong interest in a subject for its own sake that they no longer cared whether anyone else knew how much they loved the subject, at what institution they were studying it, or whether it would enhance their career prospects. The philosophy department’s slogan might be something like this: “Learn to become the kind of person who will never care about all the money you will not make by choosing this major.”"
via:ayjay  education  highered  highereducation  purpose  success  ivyleague  learning  williamderesiewicz  jacquesbarzun  lifeofthemind 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Deep Culture: A New Way of Work — Work Futures — Medium
"I will be keynoting at the Social Now conference on 21 April 2015 in Amsterdam. The topic is the theme of the book I am writing, Deep Culture: A New Way of Work.
The future attitude to work is to question all assumptions, and only retain what works, what adds to the mix, and what opens options. This is why autonomy, purpose, and the regard of those you respect will become the first theorems of a new logic in business: not because it sounds good when trying to hire people, but because it works, and because the legacy, shallow culture left over from the last century has led to the highest levels of disengagement since we started to pay attention. — Stowe Boyd

I intend to explore a number of contradictions that define the new way of work emerging today, which I am calling deep culture. For example, deep work culture is based on embracing dissent, not slavishly pursuing consensus. It embraces widespread democracy, and rejects oligarchic control of the many by the few. Deep culture is based on distributed and emergent leadership, where any and all can step forward to lead when it makes sense, instead of leadership being limited to an elite caste of managers.

The changing nature of work is happening so fast and we are so close to it that we have a hard time seeing what’s different, or to abstract the new principles that underlie the new practices. I hope to tease some of those out, and to treat them as a new set of requirements for work technologies of the next five or so years."

[via: "So what do you think @stoweboyd’s deep culture of work mean for k12 edu "

replied: “@Braddo @stoweboyd Great question. Maybe moving from ~Monopoly to ~Calvin Ball / Nomic ( )? * ”

*referencing: “often the case ☛ school : learning :: finite game: infinite game*

*defined: …”

""A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play."
Finite & Infinite Games
Carse" ]
stoweboyd  work  autonomy  howwework  deepculture  change  2015  via:braddo  purpose  democracy  horizontality  dissent  consensus  control  leadership  emergent  management  administration  nomic  infinitegames  finitegames  jamescarse 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Web’s Grain by Frank Chimero
"We’re building edgeless environments of divergency. Things are added in chaos, then if successful, they expanded further and further out until they collapse and rearrange. This is probably why responsive design feels so relevant, maddening, and divisive: its patterns mimic the larger patterns of technology itself.

What we build is defined and controlled by its unresolvable conflicts. In responsive design, it’s the text and image conundrum I showed earlier. In other, more grand arenas, there is capital versus labor, or collective control versus anarchic individualism. In technology, I believe it comes down to the power dynamics of convenience. To create convenience—particularly the automated convenience technology trades in—someone else must make our choices for us.

In other words: the less you have to do, the less say you have.

Up to a point, swapping autonomy for ease is a pretty good trade: who wants run the math on their accounting books or call the restaurant to place a delivery order? But if taken too far, convenience becomes a Trojan Horse. We secede too much control and become dependent on something we can no longer steer. Platforms that promised to bring convenience to a process or intimacy to a relationship now wedge themselves into the transaction as new middlemen. Then, we’re left to trust in the benevolence of those who have the power to mold our dependencies. Citing a lot of the concerns I mentioned earlier, those people are less responsible and compassionate than we had hoped. In pursuit of convenience, we have opened the door to unscrupulous influence.

You could say that our current technological arrangement has spread out too far, and it is starting to look and feel wrong. Fortunately, we can treat this over-expansion just like everything else I’ve mentioned. We can draw a line, and create a point of reassembly for what we’ve made. We can think about how to shift, move, and resize the pieces so that they fall back in line with our intentions. This power is compounded for those of us who make this technology.

But this is not a technological response. It is an explicit act of will—an individual’s choice to change their behaviors about what to use, where to work, what to adopt, what to pay attention to. It is simple mindfulness, that thing which needy technology makes so hard to practice. And it starts with a question: what is technology’s role in your life? And what, really, do you want from it?

As for me? I won’t ask for peace, quiet, ease, magic or any other token that technology can’t provide—I’ve abandoned those empty promises. My wish is simple: I desire a technology of grace, one that lives well within its role.

How will we know that we’re there? I suppose we’ll look at what we’ve built, notice how the edges have dropped away, and actually be pleased it looks like it could go on forever."
frankchimero  davidhockney  joinery  web  webdev  internet  responsive  responsivedesign  design  technology  grace  clarity  simplicity  complexity  dependencies  edges  purpose  adaptability  divergency  thisandthat  convenience  autonomy  control  influence  responsivewebdesign  webdesign 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Just to be clear, Teaching Math is a Tire Fire Right Now | ThinkThankThunk
"When a student comes to me and says she can’t concentrate on her projects because of how she’s doing in another one of her classes, I tend to feel a violent ambivalence.

When someone is asked to prove that two trigonometric expressions are equal by using arcane identities, especially when this someone is a barely abstract-thinking 16 year old, I can’t help but wonder at the logic of it all. Is this practice–for surely a problem this steeped in meaninglessness must only be seen as some level of abstract proving-gound-ness–really worth the life-long aversion to analytical methods that it’s creating?

That gets me really thinking! Is the goal of all this math to create analytical thinkers? Is it? Really?! If you believe all of the saccharine posters hanging on lowest-bidder brick walls in schools everywhere, math is, in some ineffable way, “learning how to think.”

Is it?

Or, is that the goal of making math a part of school?

As a mathematician, I find it beautiful when two unknown things connect. I find it exhilarating, the connection between pattern, numbers, and the world. This is much the same feeling as when I turn out a good pair of shoes or a fine piece of furniture.

But, school? Math is for learning to think and quantify. To reason and objectify. To abstract and re-abstract.

If those are the mental capabilities we expect in our students, then how do you grade what our math curriculum does for students, and why is doing a trig identity the only way to prove a student has gotten there?"
shawncornally  2015  math  mathematics  schooliness  education  schools  curriculum  purpose  abstraction  howweteach  howwelearn 
march 2015 by robertogreco
That Study Never Happened | ThinkThankThunk
"What I question is for how long we in education will continue on without control data. How long will a status quo, that was never studied, continue? Show me the study that proves an 8-period day of personality-disorder inducing frenzy is more effective than a fundamentally different approach to time, space, and assessment?

Don’t compare to a block schedule, don’t compare to 7-period days, or long lunches, those aren’t fundamentally different variable states. Those studies weren’t ever done, and it has to do with the trickle-down college modeling that has now permeated the social inertia of the American public school.

That said, you can’t ask a teenager what they like. That’s another data analysis error. I value student voice, but I also recognize that someone who has only been thinking abstractly for a time span on the order of months may not have the data set necessary to legitimately claim what will and won’t work for their education.

That said, they can, with reasonably veracity, report really valuable metrics.





The ever-present effervescent teenage blurted comment shows a lot about mental connections in a very Rorschach-ian way.

If you asked this student whether she likes attending physics class or her Iowa BIG project better, she’ll report that she loves her project. I could tout this as a glorious victory, but, given the previous argument, I don’t think that kind of data is actually meaningful or those claims are even possible.

Test scores then, right? Nope. In general, those are only a measure of the poorly understood genetic rate of the brain’s ability to abstract concepts. There are some fantastically written exams, but they’re few and far between in usual practice.

My thesis is that you have to define the metrics that you believe matter. I got this idea from a fantastic conference I attended in Ohio a few years ago, and it has never left me.

If we’ve let the fickleness of history and public policy describe the bizarre set of standards (looking at you, Math) and therefore the metrics that we’ll measure all students against, you’ll end up with a system designed for those metrics.

Instead, if you define your own measures, and actually study longitudinally their validity, we’ll end up in a place where perhaps we’ll value the emotional-intelligence development of a teenager above their ability to comply with outdated curricula. Maybe we’ll come to value the nuance of entrepreneurial thought opposed to attempting to cram a line of reasoning they stole wholesale from Reddit into five paragraphs 20 minutes before the paper is due.

I love working at Iowa BIG."
shawncornally  2015  learning  metrics  comparison  control  education  meaning  values  measurement  curriculum  projectbasedlearning  purpose  socialemotional  emotionalintelligence  teens  youth  policy  teaching  howwelearn  legitimacy  pbl  socialemotionallearning 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: STEM It Up, Kids!
"John Skylar [ ]:
"I hate science." In six years of graduate school, this has to be the phrase I’ve heard most frequently from my colleagues.

People who have dedicated their lives to science.

People who made a decision when they were about 16 years old to focus on science, who went through four years of undergrad and an average 6 years of graduate school, and 4-10 more years of training.

People who’ve spent every moment since 2000 entirely dedicated to making new facts using the scientific process.

"I hate science." Why this instead of, "I love science?"

Frankly, everything about the career, the business of science, is constructed to impoverish and disenfranchise young scientists, delaying the maturation of their careers beyond practicality.

You'd think it would be a bit easier to find science teachers among all the people bailing out of academic science careers."
science  stem  2015  johnskylar  education  research  tomhoffman  academia  careers  graduateschool  purpose  disenfranchisement  practicality  abuse 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Sara Wachter-Boettcher | Personal Histories
"1. Ask only for what I need.
There are lots of reasons companies want data about their customers or users, but a good many of them come down to marketing: How can I gather information that helps me more effectively sell you things?

There’s a difference between nice-to-have and mission-critical information. And too often, we force users to provide things we really don’t need—things they might not even have, or don’t want to tell us.

We talk a lot about being user-centered in the way we design and write. But how often do we assess—truly assess—how much we need from a person for them to use our products or services? How often do we prioritize our dreams of better user data, more accurate profiles, more “personalization”?

2. Work on their clock, not mine.
It wasn’t a problem that the German government asked about my family members—I’m proving my nationality, after all. But it came as a surprise; it threw me somewhere I hadn’t intended to go right then, and it took me a couple minutes to regain my bearings and move on.

Paper doesn’t mind the wait, but websites often do: they make it impossible to start a form and then save it for later. They time out. They’re impatient as all hell.

I suspect it’s because our industry has long prioritized speed: the one-click purchase. The real-time update. The instant download. And speed is helpful quite often—who doesn’t want a page to load as fast as possible?

But speed doesn’t mean the same thing as ease.

Margot Bloomstein has spoken recently about slowing our content roll—about slowing down the pace of our content to help users have a more memorable and successful experience.

What if we looked at ways to optimize interactions not just for speed, but also for flexibility—for a user to be able to complete steps on their own terms? When might it help someone to be able to pause, to save their progress, to skip a question and come back to it at the end?

What would a more forgiving interface look like?

3. Allow for complexity.
I didn’t need to explain my might-have-been older brother’s backstory to the German government. But in my doctor’s form, that complexity mattered to me—and a simple binary wasn’t nearly enough space for me to feel comfortable.

As interface-makers, what might seem simple to us could be anything but to our users. What can we do to allow for that complexity? Which what-ifs have we considered? What spaces do they create?

Take gender. I have qualms about many of Facebook’s practices, but they’ve done this well. Rather than a binary answer, you can now customize your gender however you’d like.


Facebook's gender selector showing Male, Female, and Custom options
You can also choose how you want to be addressed—as he, she, or they.


Facebook's pronoun selector showing they as the selected pronoun
We could call users who identify as something other than “male” or “female” an edge case—Why muck up our tidy little form fields and slow down the process to make space for them?

Or we could call them human.

4. Communicate what happens next.
One of my favorite details in Facebook’s gender settings is that little alert message that pops up before you confirm a setting change:
Your preferred pronoun is Public and can be seen by anyone.

I don’t care who knows what my preferred pronoun is. But I’m not a trans teen trying to negotiate the complex public-private spaces of the internet. I’m not afraid of my parents’ or peers’ reactions. I’m lucky.

Whether it’s an immediate announcement to a user’s social circle that they’ve changed their status or a note in their file about sexual assault that every doctor will ask about forever, users deserve to know what happens when they enter information—where it goes, who will see it, and how it will be used.

5. Above all, be kind.
When you approach your site design with a crisis-driven persona, you WILL see things differently.

Eric Meyer

Most of us aren’t living the worst-case scenario most of the time. But everyone is living. And that’s often hard enough.

How would our words change if we were writing for someone in crisis? Would our language soften? Would we ask for less? Would we find simpler words to use, cut those fluffy paragraphs, get to the point sooner? Would we make it easier to contact a human?

Who else might that help?

Humility. Intention. Empathy. Clarity. These concepts are easy enough to understand, but they take work to get right. As writers and strategists and designers, that’s our job. It’s up to us to think through those what-ifs and recognize that, at every single moment—both by what we say and what we do not say—we are making communication choices that affect the way our users feel, the tenor of the conversation we’re having, the answers we’ll get back, and the ways we can use that information.

Most of the choices aren’t inherently wrong or right. The problem is when our intentions are fuzzy, our choices unacknowledged, their implications never examined."
design  interface  inclusion  accessibility  humility  difference  intention  empathy  clarity  communication  purpose  kindness  ux  contentstrategy  gender  content  2015  sarawachter-boettcher  privacy  complexity  binary  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Overstatements of 21st-Century Education Evangelists
"1. De-valuing the education most children currently receive
A favorite tactic of keynoters and their live-tweeters is to issue blanket condemnations of all current educational practice. While there is plenty wrong with what goes on in many classrooms today, such blanket statements simply denigrate the current nature of schools. I fear that this serves, outside the echo chamber, to further harm the reputation of education, schools, and teachers in the popular mind and thus detracts from the worth that children see in their own work and lives as students.

2. Humiliating and undermining the worth of educators
When gurus speak of the harm they believe done by “traditional” teaching and teachers (whatever these terms even mean), it adds to the general level of disrespect that the world at large seems to feel toward educators. This in turn devalues the experience of learning in the minds of students, as in #1, above. Educators tend to be people committed to doing right by kids; let’s honor this.

3. Exaggerating the failures of traditional educational systems
The educational practices of the past may have created the world today, but I don’t think that we can blame worksheets, lectures, or even boring textbooks for all of the world’s ills. I’m optimist and even romantic enough to believe that effective learning (and creative, thoughtful teaching) was taking place even before the Age of the Internet or even the “discovery” of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We can of course do better, and most of us are trying.

4. Mis-characterizing and undervaluing ethics education
There is ethics education and then there is coercive moral and character education. All attempts to help students understand, clarify (if you will), and form their own values are not examples of pernicious regimentation or egregious moral relativism. I am of a mind that education is indeed a deeply moral enterprise, and I believe that we ignore or scoff at this concept at our peril.

5. Undervaluing the teaching and mastery of fundamental skills like reading and arithmetic
The multiple C’s of 21st-century education are critical to effective educational experiences, but so are the old three R’s: effective reading and written communication and the ability to perform basic calculations and estimations. The deep flaws in the Common Core and its presentation do not make an argument for ignoring the idea that kids need to be able to read and extract information from multiple kinds of texts or that they need to be adept at writing and basic math. I’d go so far as to suggest that there actually some kinds of basic information that kids need to know (some basic place geography is one example, as retro as this idea may be) in order to more deeply understand the larger concepts and issues that could underlie both greater relevance and deeper engagement.

6. Proclaiming that entrepreneurship is the only path to a better future
I’ll go out on a limb and say that the idea that every child must learn to be a junior business tycoon is a little wacky. Sure, it’s great for kids to know how to create, organize, collaborate, and advocate around an idea, but the current penchant for learning more informed by Donald Trump’s The Apprentice than by John Dewey’s Democracy and Education makes me sad for kids.

7. Failing to take on the real issues in American education: equity and justice
As the fallout from Ferguson and the Garner case continues, I’m not hearing the technology and technique gurus working terribly hard to connect “21st-century learning” with issues of social equity and social justice—or straight-up racism and violence. We hear much about “empathy” in the context of collaboration and or PBL (of whichever sort, problem- or project-based), but it feels too much as though education for “innovation” and education for social justice live on opposite sides of the house. They shouldn’t.

8. Ignoring the limitations of technology and the continuing digital divide
Every time there is a power outage even society’s haves should be reminded that access to all the benefits of technology is not equitably distributed in our society. Furthermore, there is a tendency among what some folks I know call “technology triumphalists” to speak of technology as the universal cure to all of education’s ills. Research suggests that some learning actions (e.g., note-taking, even reading) happen more effectively when not mediated by gadgets, and even if this is a transitional state in our evolution toward homo gadgetus, we need to acknowledge that human interaction and certain kinds of manual action (call it “making,” if you like) still have value as part of the learning process.

9. Underplaying the issues that most imperil the world
Maybe they’re just too big and scary to contemplate, but climate change, persistent totalitarianism, and waves of intolerance and extremism are massive and omnipresent blips on the globe’s radar screen. There is danger in making education fear-based (although we weathered education against the backdrop of the Atomic Age air-raid drills and the imperatives of Sputnik Panic), but there is a compelling argument for having authentic and urgent global issues explicitly inform more of our teaching and learning.

10. Pretending that deeply reflective and creative thinking about education are their own invention
Perhaps it is that my immediate forebears were what I believe to have been thoughtful and even innovative educators, and perhaps is that I am fascinated by educational history, but I happen to be rather convinced that the generality the educators in the past were neither numb-skulled servants of the industrial state or child-hating cretins. Let’s give our ancestors in this enterprise credit for being caring, insightful, and creative men and women who were deeply committed to doing their best by the children in their classrooms. Just because some of those classrooms were single rooms with programs built around slates and McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers doesn’t mean that all teaching was horrid or that students were universally bored.

11. Failing to sustain their (our?) own enthusiasms
This might be the worst thing educational enthusiasts do to their (our?) schools, their (our?) colleagues, and their (our?) students. Every teacher can tell you about the serial enthusiasms that have washed over their schools in successive tsunamis of urgency, whether the urgency is based on market worries or sincere concern for students. And as everyone in schools knows, the defense mechanism that some educators develop against these tsunamis is cynicism that takes the form of passive(-aggressive) resistance to new ideas. As leaders we often haven’t done a great job of sustaining, or even making the case for sustaining, novel practices long enough to really see what really works or to build them into the culture of education."
education  petergow  2015  teaching  learning  policy  progressive  children  ethics  technology  edtech  purpose  history  enthusiasm  digitaldivide  equity  justice  socialjustice 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Learning’s first principle – the most important thing i learned this year ~ Stephen's Web
"I see education less as an enterprise in making people do what they don't want to do, and more as one of helping people do what they want to do. And there's something wrong with the selection mechanism when a student can pay and spend four years at a university and still not be engaged in learning."
stephendownes  2014  education  learning  caring  howweteach  pedagogy  purpose 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Poiesis - Wikipedia
"Poïesis (Ancient Greek: ποίησις) is etymologically derived from the ancient term ποιέω, which means "to make". This word, the root of our modern "poetry", was first a verb, an action that transforms and continues the world.[citation needed] Neither technical production nor creation in the romantic sense, poïetic work reconciles thought with matter and time,[citation needed] and person with the world.[citation needed] It is also used as a suffix, as in the biological term hematopoiesis, the formation of blood cells.[citation needed]

There are two forms of poiesis: Autopoiesis and Allopoiesis

In the Symposium (a Socratic dialogue written by Plato), Diotima describes how mortals strive for immortality in relation to poiesis. In all begetting and bringing forth upon the beautiful there is a kind of making/creating or poiesis. In this genesis there is a movement beyond the temporal cycle of birth and decay. "Such a movement can occur in three kinds of poiesis: (1) Natural poiesis through sexual procreation, (2) poiesis in the city through the attainment of heroic fame, and, finally, (3) poiesis in the soul through the cultivation of virtue and knowledge."[1]

Whereas Plato, according to the Timaeus, regards physis as the result of poiesis, viz. the poiesis of the demiurge who creates from ideas, Aristotle considers poiesis as an imitation of physis. In short, the form or idea, which precedes the physis, contrasts with the living, which is the innate principle or form of self-motion. In other words, the technomorphic paradigm contrasts with the biomorphic; the theory of nature as a whole with the theory of the living individual.[2]

Martin Heidegger refers to it as a 'bringing-forth', using this term in its widest sense. He explained poiesis as the blooming of the blossom, the coming-out of a butterfly from a cocoon, the plummeting of a waterfall when the snow begins to melt. The last two analogies underline Heidegger's example of a threshold occasion: a moment of ecstasis when something moves away from its standing as one thing to become another.

In literary studies, at least two fields draw on the etymology of poiesis: ecopoetics and zoopoetics. As "eco" derives from the root "oikos" meaning "house, home, or hearth," then ecopoetics explores how language can help cultivate (or make) a sense of dwelling on the earth. Zoopoetics explores how animals (zoo) shape the making of a text.

In their 2011 academic book, All Things Shining, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly conclude that embracing a "meta-poietic" mindset is the best, if not the only, method to authenticate meaning in our secular times: "Meta-poiesis, as one might call it, steers between the twin dangers of the secular age: it resists nihilism by reappropriating the sacred phenomenon of physis, but cultivates the skill to resist physis in its abhorrent, fanatical form. Living well in our secular, nihilistic age, therefore, requires the higher-order skill of recognizing when to rise up as one with the ecstatic crowd and when to turn heel and walk rapidly away."[3]

Furthermore, Dreyfus and Dorrance Kelly urge each person to become a sort of "craftsman" whose responsibility it is to refine their faculty for poiesis in order to achieve existential meaning in their lives and to reconcile their bodies with whatever transcendence there is to be had in life itself: "The task of the craftsman is not to generate the meaning, but rather to cultivate in himself the skill for discerning the meanings that are already there."[4]"
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january 2015 by robertogreco