Expelling “Urinetown” (Pun Intended)

30 11 2006

I have my own conflict-filled Urinetown story to tell, how we fought to get it first in my college town the moment it became licensed for local productions.

The college kids won, stole it right out from under our community theatre company; not even a musical-mad community like ours needs two Urinetowns in the same semester, although given its creative opportunities we could have put on two quite different versions — the show’s Broadway producer recently said it “can be interpreted in different ways. It is basically a playground for any director, choreographer or design team to use their creative imagination. . .

But today Urinetown’s power of story is the opposite of creative license and fighting for the chance to be first with the most.

It, sadly, is about stifling and smothering the arts rather than vigorous competition for the chance to show what we know and can do on the cutting edge. It’s about small-minded people fighting to keep this challenging musical AWAY from their schools and students (and worse, even justifying their small-mindedness by claiming to be broad-minded! Read on.)

This is especially jarring for me after the lovely Julliard education experiment I blogged the other day, in which school music is being elevated to its real-world range of expression rather than being dumbed down to forcefed school pabulum for aspiring artists stuck with nothing else to sink their teeth into.

I guess no school budget ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of its kids or community. Here are two of these very backward stories, and there are others. The only apparent good news here is that the Catholic school is apparently less repressive than the public school!

ERIE, Pa. (AP) – Cathedral Prep high school in Erie must try to sell tickets to its upcoming school play without referring to its title — “Urinetown: The Musical.”

Erie Catholic Bishop Donald Trautman does not object to the play itself — but a diocesan spokesman says the bishop is concerned with the title “Urinetown” being connected publicly to the all-male Catholic high school.

Because altering the name of the Broadway show is illegal, the priest that is directing the play — Father Michael DeMartinis — says he has the unenviable task of producing tickets, posters and programs that don’t use the play’s name.

The play is scheduled for December seventh through tenth. DeMartinis says he’s hoping people will come to see this play which dare not speak its name.

(Maybe they could send a bus to Wisconsin for all the folks shut out of seeing the play there, offer some sort of weekend package?)

High School Gives Urinetown the Big Flush
. . .”Urinetown” a comedy about a town plagued by such a serious drought thatresidents must pay to use public restrooms, was a surprise hit on the GreatWhite Way. But while it suited Broadway to a pee, it just won’t play inPeoria. Or the Wisconsin town of Stevens Point.

That was the ruling of the school administrators who brought the curtain down on a production of the show by students at Stevens Point Area High School, the Associated Press reports.

The show’s bathroom humor and adult themes figured in the decision to cancel it, according to Principal Mike Devine.

“This is a K-12 public education system,” said School Superintendent BetteLang, contending the show’s satirical and ironic humor was not appropriatefor younger audiences.

“I think it’s important to remember them and when we showcase our students, we should showcase them to as broad a range as possible,” she said,

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Why Teachers Secretly Grok Unschooling

30 11 2006

Teacher Magazine gets it, real-world journalists get it, probably Dr. Phil agrees too. We all get unschooling!

Thou Shalt Blog

I wonder if forcing teachers to blog is the right approach. If someone at my company had told me a year ago that I had to start a blog, I would have done it only because I had to. My heart wouldn’t have been in it, and my readers probably would have sensed that.

But because the idea for my blog grew up naturally from the grassroots, rather than from a newsroom edict that all writers and editors start blogging, I have enthusiastically moved into the blogosphere.

I did this on my own terms, and I think it shows.

Then again, I’m a journalist, not an educator. . .

Learning and developing new skills on your own terms because you’re curious, ready and willing rather than because you “have to” by edict, doing anything you do because it’s your idea and your heart is in it, makes all the difference.

Planting Seeds of Public Symphony

29 11 2006

“Sounds” to me like public education as real-world symphony rather than mere school. I swear I can almost hear in this a swelling refrain of Pink’s six essential characteristics for the new conceptual age–design, play, story, meaning, symphony, empathy:

. . .the leaders of Carnegie and Juilliard see an opportunity to promote their conviction that a musician in 21st-century America should be more than just a person who plays the notes.

Under the new program elite musician . . .fellows will each be assigned to a different school and work there one and a half days a week. They will teach their instruments, or music in general, and give their own pointers to school music teachers.

The idea is to cultivate musicians with a wider view of the world, who will populate professional orchestras and help turn them into cultural forces in their cities. Such thinking hass become increasingly prevalent in musical institutions. . .

“It’s essentially about how you nurture and train the finest young musicians,” said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s executive and artistic director. The idea, said Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard’s president, is to “change the paradigm” of being a musician and help players make music “that is at the center of society and the life of the individual.” . . .

And speaking of bold new design experiments in the real world, check this out too.

HEY! What’s an Interjection Again?

28 11 2006

Watch and enjoy a writing prof’s thoughtful and personal power to help folks learn with a song and a smile rather than the traditional school tools at her disposal— and no, even if YouTube is the delivery mechanism of the day, this isn’t some newfangled development of the Internets but a lesson at least as old as I am, which is ancient in technology terms . . .

HEY! That would call for a whole string of indignant interjections if anyone else had said it . . .


School Culture: Disasters and Dress Codes

28 11 2006

Related Snook dress code story and comments here.

Hurricane-weary and self-professed education governor Jeb Bush was on my capital city local radio this morning, describing the need for ordinary Floridians to create and foster a “Culture of Preparedness” if we’re to survive and thrive. The general idea is that the most expensive and clever government systems ever devised can’t save us from ourselves or each other in ordinary life, much less in natural and manmade disasters — that in the end we will each save ourselves or not, and society’s culture can only influence how and whether we prepare ourselves wisely and well.

It seems to me this is the right idea for improving public education too— changing the whole culture that influences how well kids prepare themselves for parenthood, citizenship and career. Not just changing their shirts!

(Or their pencil-bubbling techniques, but that’s a whole other rant.)

Which reminds me that School itself fosters drug and gang cultures — ritalin, steroids, cliques and mascot-crazed teams that haze, rumble, riot and sport shirt symbology profitably endorsed by the institution. For just one academic example, see “redshirting.”

The power of this dress code story is in how well-worn but ill-fitting it continues to be after all these years.

It’s the Culture, Stupid. Change their culture, change their world, which put in current culturally relevant terms might evoke “save the cheerleader, save the world”– and saving her doesn’t mean fretting over her algebra grade, much less clucking at her cleavage and throwing an old shirt over it in the guidance office…

Kids and teens live in a very real culture even if it seems like a comic book, one that School does not control or define (much as it wants to believe otherwise) and marginalizes itself further by refusing to engage.

Also this morning I read a new book review headlined, “Reluctant Warrior” (is the best school culture can create Reluctant Learners?) quoting Colin Powell’s big sister on dress code spit-and-shine that DOES have power to shape culture and thus shaped his life choices:

When her kid brother exhibited a strange new passion for church-going, Marilyn Powell decided he was “as much enthralled with the pageantry and costumes as he was imbued with the Holy Spirit.”

A few years later, when Colin Powell, an otherwise aimless freshman

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Forget Revenge, Video Gamers Get Rich

27 11 2006

UPDATE 12/28/09- and the retired can live to enjoy their riches?

Calling video games “beneficial for the brain,” Karle suggested they could be used to help reduce cognitive decline in the elderly.
“Individuals who play action video games on a regular basis – more then four hours a week -appear to be very good at an astonishing variety of skills,” said Karle.

“Just as an elderly adult may do 15 minutes of weight training to fight osteoporosis,” he said, “so could he or she play video games to keep the mind sharp.”


How could you NOT blog this? 🙂

Young pro video gamers level up to earn six-figure incomes as the industry becomes `the next big sport.’

The financial rewards of video games are immense. . .

In South Korea, where the industry has boomed for years, the pro video gamers are celebrities mobbed by screaming fans at contests. A similar movement is sweeping the United States, and a handful of emerging pros enjoy rock star treatment, with world tours and six-figure paychecks. . .

Once you get past his typical teen bedroom — with a belly-baring Britney Spears poster and rap music pumping in the background — it’s easy to see he’s serious about his craft. Three flat-screen TVs with Xboxes line the walls. . .
Taylor. . . launched a video game tutoring business last year and counts NBA stars like Richard Jefferson among the clients. He charges $65 an hour.

Like every professional sport, there’s always a prodigy. In video games, it’s a child prodigy, 8-year-old Victor DeLeon III. He doesn’t travel with an entourage and prefers playing with his dwarf hamster, Cortana, and watching Star Wars.

But put him in a Halo 2 tournament, and ”Lil Poison,” as he’s known, is venomous. His father, also named Victor DeLeon, said the gaming whiz has already earned enough money to buy a luxury car and pay for his college tuition.

Throngs of fans surround the young Long Island, N.Y., resident at tournaments. He’s signed a sponsorship with 1UP Network, has a product line coming out in December and a clothing line debuting next year. . .

Pro gamer Bonnie Burton said she plays for the social scene.

”Its not only about competing, it’s also about all the friends you have. Tsquared and I have grown up together through the gaming community,” the 15-year old Burton from Carlisle, Pa., said.


So much for the socialization argument! And surely this is white collar, intellectual if not artistic, creative work centered on computers, complex logic and sophisticated business operations requiring people skills too–that’s hard to diss by any traditional measures of life success.

Plus, video gaming is far less physically hazardous than any pro sport, not nearly as traditionally tawdry as making a living shooting pool or playing poker, no steroids (or worse) being bought, sold or ingested as part of its pro culture.

So where’s the “beef” for any churlish critics still hankering for something to sink their teeth into? What’s left about video gaming for parents, teachers or the public to hate? Heck, it’s even dermatologist approved, no worries about sun exposure and skin cancer!

Dr. Phil’s Unschool-Friendly Principles

27 11 2006

As a Thinking Parent and education policy professional, it’s obvious to me (whether Dr. Phil himself can see it or not) that his own core parenting principles are very unschool-friendly. These five principles–from a separate part of his website, not from the unschooling show debate–clearly support sovereign parents and family autonomy, intellectual and academic freedom, mindful unschooling, attachment parenting and child-led learning environments, much more so than they would support any form of compulsory schooling, high-stakes standardized testing, public-government funding, public control of private education and family life, or public regulation of anyone’s political ideas, choices, thoughts, beliefs, relationships and personal power of story.

Especially Number Five – which imo ought to make Dr. Phil an outright Enemy of School! 🙂

Five Core Steps to Good Parenting

Wondering if there is anything else you can do? Dr. Phil outlines five steps that can help bring you and your child closer together:

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