Spelling Isn’t Witchcraft!

18 01 2007

Last night NPR interviewed a Muslim woman raised in Canada, who writes tv comedy from her own life. Her new sit-com is “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” (good name)

They played a sound clip from an episode poking fun at an old imam cautioning children against “licorice” and “hamburgers” because they had wicked words embedded in them to appear innocent and suitable for kids, that would weaken their resolve and likely lead them astray later in life to accept “liquor” and “ham”. The writer said her real life childhood imam in Canada had forbidden root beer to Muslims, because its name would confuse children’s minds into accepting beer as perfectly fine. She explained how she just exaggerated for comic effect, something that was dead serious (and seriously deluded!) at the time. Something her parents bought into and forbade quite seriously to her as a result, believing they were doing what their faith required.

Wonder if this Georgia mom fighting an epic battle against a fictional children’s book character hears those same delusional voices in her head about modern culture. Does her logically (and linguistically) twisted literalism lose so much in translation that she could be dead serious about sounding like a ridiculous old imam exaggerated for comic effect?

Pro-choice Learning

17 01 2007

Is this phrase in use, does anyone know?

What Does This Mean?

17 01 2007

It’s been hectic and somehow the every-other-week recycling didn’t make it to the curb for pickup this morning. First time in YEARS. The container is of course full to bursting and we’ve no space to store more. When I realized how distressed I was to contemplate two weeks of tossing recyclables in the regular garbage, it felt antisocial or even criminal, and I started comparing it in my mind to other inevitable bad choices — worse than speeding to avoid losing a job? Worse than fudging mortgage qualification factors, worse than juggling dubious income tax deductions? I’m really surprised it feels so uncomfortable, that there’s no practical way to save myself from feeling like a violator and less-than-upright citizen now, and I’ll have to live with it for a while, can’t just fix it and redeem myself.

Wonder if this is how kids can get to feeling in class once they fall behind or get retained, and the reality of having to just wait out a stretch of poor performance as a helpless idiot sets in? Some would say let this be a lesson to me, I suppose, but what will it teach me? Right now I wish I’d never started recycling in the first place, so I wouldn’t care so much . . .

Best Teacher Needs No School

17 01 2007

The culture and the feel of it create the real story, not the funding source or the legal label. And from Jay Mathews’ story today, this guy could be a homeschooling parent just as easily as a schoolteacher, and be doing all the same stuff to inspire kids, and hate testing for the same reasons, and get the same lack of understanding from the “system.” 🙂

As far as I know, he is the best teacher working full time in a classroom today. But he is also, as he freely admits, insane. He acknowledges that anyone working such hours must have something wrong with him. He has difficult relationships even with his closest disciples. . .

Oh, and I admit loving this bit too, which could describe almost all the not-schoolers I know: his strongest link to reality is his wife.

Quiet This Week Is Just Here

17 01 2007

Find plenty of vigorous political debate for Thinking Parents this week here and also here. One great line that came out of that discussion (not mine) was “culture trumps political party!”

Favorite Daughter’s present performance schedule makes it easier for me to comment in snatches rather than putting together whole blog essays, but there’s good raw material if I could just get time at home to do much with it for Snook. She got into the secret honors lounge on campus yesterday for the first time, and she’s getting ready for her first college musical theatre audition even as I type (Chorus Line).

I have some new unbelievable –but completely true!– “car from hell” stories to work with too . . .miss you all!

Video Games: New Way of Being in the World

10 01 2007

Article abstract published by Columbia University’s Teachers College Record online, by a Wisconsin prof of “cognition, learning and literacy”:

Virtual Worlds, Learning, & the New Pop Cosmopolitanism
by Constance Steinkuehler — November 17, 2006

American schools largely remain locked within a Ford type factory model of industry and efficiency; games, on the other hand, are forward leaning, recruiting intellectual practices, dispositions, and forms of social organization that are aligned with many of today’s “new capitalist” workplaces. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), in particular, function as naturally occurring, self-sustaining, indigenous online communities of learning and practice, and our study of them can tell us something important about how such communities form and function out “in the wild” (Hutchins, 1995).

Perhaps most interesting, however, is the constellation of intellectual practices that constitute gameplay in such spaces and the way these coalesce into a form of cosmopolitanism found in the least likely of places: the context of pop culture. Games are incubators of a new pop cosmopolitanism–a discourse, or “way of being in the world” (Gee, 1999), marked by a willingness and ability to navigate an increasingly globalized, diverse, networked, socio-technical world. If our world is indeed becoming increasingly “flat” (Friedman, 2005), then gaming communities such as those found in MMOs are, in some respects, our proverbial canaries in the coalmine.

There is a great generational divide on the matter of video games. For those older than 35 or so, games are, at best, an unfortunate waste of time and, at worst, Trojan horses introducing our youth to violent, misogynistic themes. For those younger, they are a (if not the) leading form of entertainment, a resource for creativity and innovation, and a new campfire around which to socialize.

While public figures such as Hillary Clinton urge concerned parents to effectively boycott such media that “offend their values and sensibilities” (Clinton, 2005), their popularity with children and young adults only continues to increase (Ipsos-Insight, 2005), with more than eight out of every 10 kids in America having a video game console in the home, and over half having two or more (Rideout, Roberts, & Foehr, 2005). The National Endowment for the Arts (Bradshaw & Nichols, 2004) bemoans the huge cultural transformation of “our society’s massive shift toward electronic media” (video games given as the quintessential example) that purportedly “make fewer demands on their audiences…require no more than passive participation, … [and] foster shorter attention spans” than do print media; yet, the gamers I research engage in rich intellectual practices that rival those found in contemporary classrooms, build social capital through participation in online communities, and report on the transformative role that video games play in their social and intellectual lives.

Is Truth Important?

10 01 2007

Harry Frankfurt, author of “On Bullshit” and now of its sequel “On Truth”, is Jon Stewarts’ guest interview on the Daily Show tonight.

He seems like he’s really thinking about each question seriously, trying to answer it thoughtfully and –dare we say it? — truthfully?