WIMBLEDON WIDGET WOES: Intelligent Individuals OutRank Factory Robots!

7 07 2013

Submitted by JJ Ross on 10 July 2006

So Standardized School is the opposite of World-Class Education,
not its divine incarnation?
Good then.
Let’s hear no more about the necessary sacrifice of consigning all children to one-dimensional forehand factories for high-priced, high-stakes stamping into quality-controlled widgets, by has-been and never-were corporate charismatics and labor union drones.

Do you know what words of advice inspire the greatest players in the world as they enter Centre Court for Wimbledon, to show what they know and can do?

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same”-
“If” by Rudyard Kipling.

IF we inscribed this on every standardized test booklet for every child our Congressional Coaches promise never to leave behind languishing in the locker room, IF we took it to heart ourselves, then we still might not win ’em all but maybe we could stop feeling like such losers?

I’ve long called test score mania (in both triumph and disaster) the two-edged sword, but “two-edged imposter” could work even better, might at least shut up the most rigid standard skunks — clever fellow Kipling.

Nurturing Intelligence on Any Surface
By SELENA ROBERTS

Surface players are out. Deep thinking is in. And yet, the nuance is
lost on an American system still leaning on production-line academies to
spit out the next mechanical marvel.

In one illuminating championship weekend, Nadal and Justine
Henin-Hardenne, two French Open champions, applied their creative minds and willful versatility to grass and ended up in the finals. . .
underscor[ing] the learned skill of adaptation…

Versatility isn’t a talent, but a desire to extend ability.

Where did Nadal find this spirit of court innovation?
Not at an American academy. Nadal’s parents resisted that siren’s song. He stayed close to home… far from the Nick Bollettieri-style compounds in Florida.

Instead, Nadal grew up with dimension, was raised a chameleon… Nadal applied his eagerness to learn and adjust as he decoded the subtleties of grass during Wimbledon.

Such court awareness isn’t a virtue of American tennis academies. And the forehand factories are not the answer to the country’s talent deficit. But in a desperate attempt to do something, anything, about the vacuum, the United States Tennis Association announced last week that it would house a new program to produce stars at the Evert Tennis Academy
in Boca Raton, Fla.

“We’ve got to do everything,” Patrick McEnroe, the United States DavisCup coach, said during a U.S.T.A. news conference. “We can’t sit there and say, ‘Hey, someone makes better widgets now, so we should forget how good we can make our widgets.’ “

The widget player is the problem, though. The numbing baseline games, the one-dimensional plans, the mechanical style, these characteristics will only send Americans down the rankings. Nuance has to be a part of the U.S.T.A. program at the Evert Academy if it is to succeed at producing players as resourceful as they are robotic. . .

Intelligence isn’t manufactured, but nurtured. None of the Wimbledon finalists — men or women — came directly from an American academy…
Welcome to the Federer Era, in which there is little room for shallow, superficial tennis.

Both literally and metaphorically, I blew out my knee a few years back — which hasn’t killed my intelligence or interest in either tennis or education, just my active play and coaching. Call me the Stephen Hawking of the School Universe and I’ll take it as high praise.

So I serve up a few (factory-unapproved!) ideas to stir individual imaginations toward world-class game plans here:

Public school protectionism is sorry public protection…

I think our kids need to learn differently and do differently, SO much better than we did and so far past school. Someday soon they’ll replace us as thinkers, caregivers, problem-solvers, diplomats, designers, and story-tellers. [and Grand Slam champions, natch]

I believe preparing ourselves to prepare them, will require new learning and creative cultural-political change on our part first, changes for which the lessons of our grandparents (as interpreted through our own schooling) didn’t prepare us that well, either.

And highly fit, highly intelligent, willfully versatile players tend to find fun games to play in strange places, like:

Most kids won’t become pro sports stars; obviously the only proper public response to this terrible problem is to force all potential pro athletes to acquire standardized academic skills in public school . . .
[one NYT] columnist proposes we declare that individuals paid for sports work are interchangeable cogs to be shuffled randomly and paid by schedule regardless of individual initiative, effort or performance (like schoolteachers, because THAT’S worked so well??)

and

… what’s gone wrong between school and education — we’ve institutionalized thinking and learning and productive work, and lost the individuals we meant to inspire and empower in the process.

or maybe

Are we …obsessed with trying to look and feel smart for each other, neglecting and perhaps unable to actually BE smart and DO smart?

[We face] stupidity both cultural and critical, a telescoping of intellect and imagination into a one-dimensional reflective surface…
the standard-narrowed, uncertainty-fearing, control-freakish Culture of School works in the opposite direction from open science cultures that celebrate real smarts.
If critical thinking is brain food, school is anorexia.

As a seriously balding if not quite doddering Royal Prince grinned indulgently and stood by quietly to honor her, newly crowned first-time Wimbledon Champion Amelie Mauresmo held aloft for all the world to see the Venus Rose trophy, engraved with the names of every ladies champion to claim its fame since before the turn of the century (oops, that’s obsolete isn’t it, I’m getting old myself, I mean the one BEFORE last, you know, rolling over from the 1800s?)

The Whole Game has changed so much over 120 years–were racquets made of wood then, or whittled whale bone, oh dear, not raw human flesh like the 11th century monks?? –that surely those early (almost accidental by comparison) greats would urge us to explore and adapt new ways of winning, rather than foolishly try to replicate skills and strategies from a different era.

We can’t legislate exactly which intelligent and creative kids will become our new world champions, or why or how. Whether we forbid their changes and sanction their styles or not, all we really can count upon them for is one way or another, to leave all us fans and armchair brandishers awestruck at their feet.

May they know the past without bowing to it, dominate the present without destroying it, and invent the future they can imagine, without giving any pontifications of our past-expiration expertise more than an indulgent grin.

Pat the Prince on his balding pate and play ball!
I just can’t WAIT to see what happens next . . .

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Wimbledon Weekend: Why Thinking Parents Should Notice

2 07 2011

You didn’t think an old tennis buff like JJ would leave you with no tennis power of story to think about this weekend, did you? Au contraire!

Is learning play or competition, if there’s a difference? How should we best understand education ideas that push them together and turn learning into contests: being taught/trained to play, playing to win, players going pro?

Peter Gray’s Psychology Today learning blog:

In nonhuman animals, play and contests are sharply distinguished. Play is cooperative and egalitarian, and contests are antagonistic and aimed at establishing dominance. Hunter-gatherer humans accentuated play and avoided contests in order to maintain the high degree of cooperation and sharing that was essential to their way of life.

In our society, with our competitive games, we often confound play and contest. What might be the consequences of this for children’s development?

Put on the Wimbledon finals this weekend and play (but not compete!) along with past tennis-inspired Snooking, including your 2011 game expansion pack: Hair We Go!

This is not the face of a human playing and having fun, even if her hair seems to be playing around and enjoying it. This is Read the rest of this entry »





Marathon Wimbledon Final!

6 07 2008

Anybody out there watching with me, the Federer-Nadal championship match is INCREDIBLE!!
(It’s now almost 3 pm in Florida.)

When we settled down to watch at 9 am, we were laughing because the schedule slated it from 9-3. Six hours? How silly . . .

Oh shoot. Here comes another rain delay! To pass the wait time, see JJ’s classic tennis and Wimbledon blogging here and here.

Pre-Snook I blogged Wimbledon at Culture Kitchen as proving a case against standardized, mechanized talent development, in kids and other human creatures.
Oh and there’s “Does the Church Play Tennis, Can Prayer Save School and Are You My Mother?”

UPDATE –
They’re playing again now but seems it’s almost dark across the pond . . .will it go until tomorrow??

UPDATE – This is like Clinton-Obama, the Contest That Cannot End! It’s 7-7 in the fifth. Maybe we need some superdelegates to decide it?

FINAL after the speeches — I take it back, it’s better than Clinton-Obama. On shorter notice (like three minutes) and way more exhausted, these two young men and their supporters are gracious, classy uniters, not dividers. Good for tennis, good for us.





Open Education Ticket to Future French Opens

31 05 2010

It’s the French Open as well as Memorial Day, and I’m a tennis fan, former local league player until my knee blew out. So I’ve connected tennis and other sports before, to “school” and unschooling.
For example:

” . . .did you know tennis used to be played by monks using human flesh as their rackets??

Google racket history and you’ll see. . . tennis power of story and how
tennis and school/church treat individuals as interchangeable parts, to
ill effect
. . .

Versatility isn’t a talent, but a desire to extend ability.

Where did Nadal find this spirit of court innovation?
Not at an American academy. Nadal’s parents resisted that siren’s song. He stayed close to home… far from the Nick Bollettieri-style compounds in Florida.

Instead, Nadal grew up with dimension, was raised a chameleon… Nadal applied his eagerness to learn and adjust as he decoded the subtleties of grass during Wimbledon.

Such court awareness isn’t a virtue of American tennis academies. And the forehand factories are not the answer to the country’s talent deficit. . . The numbing baseline games, the one-dimensional plans, the mechanical style, these characteristics will only send Americans down the rankings. Nuance has to be a part of the U.S.T.A. program at the Evert Academy if it is to succeed at producing players as resourceful as they are robotic. . .

Intelligence isn’t manufactured, but nurtured. . .
Welcome to the Federer Era, in which there is little room for shallow, superficial tennis. ”

School is to sports . . . shallow, superficial and inadequate to the challenges ahead. And Big Corporations are in charge of it all, on or off the courts, in or out of school:

Why on earth would the corporate sponsor know more than the WTA CEO about tennis? Say, who’s running the women’s tennis tour anyway? I have to admit Read the rest of this entry »





Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from Tennis

7 06 2009

The red clay of Georgia was my favorite childhood story and now the red clay of Paris is high on my grown-up favorites list.

b_faceaface_Federer_0606_1

On that clay today, with international class and grace and style and brilliance, my favorite tennis champion finally got his due with his wife cheering him on (seven months pregnant with their first child[ren — it turned out to be twins]) as he joined two historic American champions in the record books at the same time: Andre Agassi for winning all four Grand Slams (he was there to present the trophy) and matching Pete Sampras, my late dad’s personal favorite champ, with the most Grand Slam titles at 14. So at Wimbledon over the Fourth of July, Federer can beat Sampras’ career record and take the top spot.

Good day. 😀

See also:
Tennis Prodigy Homeschooled by His Mom

Does the Church Play Tennis, Can Prayer Save School and Are You My Enemy?

Wimbledon Widget Woes: Intelligent Individuals OutRank Factory Robots!





“Hardest Lesson” Is Top Secret, Learned Best Out of School

3 05 2009

Always-unschooled Favorite Daughter marched in her first-ever graduation ceremony last night, seated up front with the perfect GPA president’s list row of students, covered in gold medals and honors sashes as her proud family beamed down, photos to come! But competing against her fellow college students to win academic honors is NOT the subject of this post — quite the opposite.

Dr. Bill Law, president of her college, with Favorite Daughter at graduation

Dr. Bill Law, president of her college, with Favorite Daughter at graduation

What is the hardest lesson of win-lose competition? Losing? — so a child learns through misery, to do anything necessary to inflict that misery on the other guy instead?? COD and his commenters had wise words about kids and sports winning-losing, but today I have some new words of my own too.

Training for everything with the goal of making other people into losers so you can triumph, isn’t my idea of family values to teach kids,  much less my idea of world-class education to serve our national security interests, with the future of the entire human race and our planet as the ultimate grand prize at stake.

Remember the Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games” — brilliant whiz kid trains himself for the highest possible level of gaming competition, matches minds with the very best human scientists and then dramatically beats the most advanced top-secret national defense computer in the world, by teaching it (and himself) the most important human lesson of all: the only way to win is not to play the game.

The win-or-lose game.

JJ Ross has left a new comment at Mrs C’s blog, on the post with a heartbreaking picture of her seven-year-old son burying his head in defeat at his first chess tournament, sitting right next to the winner and her crowing, competitive and way-overly involved (imo) dad, which she headlined as “The Hardest Lesson”:

“Her dad said that she bombed her first tournament and that it’s just like playing an instrument. It’s training, just like a marathon or anything else.”

Talk about competitive, wow. And I don’t mean the child. [shudder]

Just for some different perspective — Read the rest of this entry »





Back to School Take-Home Quiz: The Ethics of Teaching and Training

25 08 2007

 

People want to do the right thing.
What the right thing is, however,
depends on what you value.

Michael Pollan in The Sun Magazine, May 2006, in which he says our cognitive and cultural tools have been turned against us by industry.

COD has a head-scratching thread about how we treat puppies and snakes (all animals, actually) and how we justify it ethically. It all connects in my mind to whether compulsion in educating and “socializing” children is ethical — puppies are socialized too, “schooled” by responsible owners in standard behavior taught with standard methods — and then to Dr. Anne Foerst, theologian of robot learning, as a better philosopher on moral-ethical education riddles than Rob Reich, and finally, to ways we all could “progress” in the ethics of compulsory schooling and training, rather than devolving:

About Rob Reich, disingenuousness is one problem he doesn’t seem to have, unlike most liberal critics of home education. I really do believe he believes it is an ethical problem to teach any captive audience, and if he would extend that to all education — as we propose to do here — instead of limiting it to homeschooling, it could be a GREAT discussion, maybe groundbreaking. Read the rest of this entry »





Sporting Independence Even From Mom and Dad?

4 07 2007

In honor of both the Fourth and Wimbledon — combined with education of course — two blogposts from Tennis Planet:

“Players who owe it to their parents- BIGTIME”

“Why don’t the sons and daughters of sports legends become legends?”





Noise Assaults Nuance Until We’re All Just Numb-Skulls

1 07 2007

Increasingly, authentic noise and artificial noise are indistinguishable, ultimately numbing.

Is this story about schooling and politics? It is if you’re an allegorical cat . . .

“Point Is Made on Grass Court, No Amplification Needed”
By HARVEY ARATON
New York Times July 1, 2007
. . .it was a pleasure again yesterday to have left behind the exploding scoreboards and ear-splitting music of the playoffs spring and the baseball summer, the clown mascots, the busty cheerleaders and the wanton juvenility that have become America’s sporting trademark.

. . .like me.
I see power of story in all sports but I pay particular attention to tennis. Last year during Wimbledon I connected systemic academic problems with tennis training and coaching, and my Culture Kitchen blog diaries often connect the school and sport stupidities belched out by massive mindless noise machines:

I realized that the ending really seemed surreal at best. Why on earth would the corporate sponsor know more than the WTA CEO about tennis? Say, who’s running the women’s tennis tour anyway? I have to admit that I’m still confused. Why is this plot so hard to follow?

On or off the courts, in or out of court, that’s assault by noise, environmental pollution dangerous to living creatures, destructive to healthy habits and habitats.

Assault by NOISE (in sports, religion, politics, Broadway and action movies, sensationalized cable “news”, popular music, spam and sock puppets online) can spoil anything and everything, numbing us to each other, to our own authentic inner ear and to the possibility of peace anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »





Does the Church Play Tennis, Can Prayer Save School and

10 06 2007

. . .are you my mother? My sister, my daughter?

Or my competitor and erstwhile enemy . . .

Whatever irritation is building in my view of young feminism and its view of me as thorn in their gender equity side, it doesn’t taint my love and admiration for young feminists I know IRL. We are different yet seamlessly compatible within the larger whole, connected with very blurred boundaries between our lives and concerns, our thoughts and feelings and power of story.

Favorite Daughter you know. But here’s another young feminist I can’t wait to see take the world by the tail:
Does the Church Play Tennis?

This essay touched on everything in play for our summer games, I think. School, church, groupthink and pressure to conform to the congregation, mystic memes versus science, regimentation and standardization, fine print and literalism versus organic performance from love and passion, change and fear of change, ignorance. Women and girls thinking for themselves and expressing it as it has meaning in their own lives, never mind the conventional controls of society . . .

Education is the biggest fear of the church, or at least secular education. Why do you think there are so many Christian schools? Why do you think that small children are sent to Sunday School from the time they are old enough to be away from their parents? Because the Church believes that if they can get to these children at a young age, they can brainwash them into believing whatever they put in front of them. Unfortunately, this is true.

See how you’d comment, what connections you see. Here are mine:

I’ve done both, tennis and protestant church stuff.

In my lifetime the rackets for tennis got better and better, through research and science. The rules changed to accommodate the new possibilities.

The rackets for church have gotten much worse. I don’t play anymore.

Have you read about this new superstitious ritualism of smearing holy oil all over government courthouses and capitol hearing rooms? And in Florida last year we had schoolfolk secretly “anointing” all the little kids’ desks, the night before the Big Test.
Spiritual warfare they call it.
Any god that would fall for that deserves the decay and decline that must surely follow, as human understanding of reality recedes.

Keep up the good blogging!
Doctor J

Then I kept thinking about it and added:

. . .did you know tennis used to be played by monks using human flesh as their rackets??

Google racket history and you’ll see. I wrote about this once at Culture Kitchen . . . tennis power of story and how tennis and school/church treat individuals as interchangeable parts, to ill effect.

 

Monk or tennis player? Yes. 🙂

 





Colleges Hot to Attract Winter Wonderkind

1 12 2006

They still diss football players as scholars but ski bums are high-class recruits?

The good news–unschoolers and homeschoolers exemplify the same personal strengths that snowboarders and ice skaters apparently do, and can make excellent college students for all the same reasons.

The bad news may be that as a professional class, the so-called intellectuals guarding higher education gates so diligently the year round, do not. They haven’t learned to make daring leaps yet, not so much from white sports –pun intended– to all sports, but from prizing individual strength and concentration to — well, selecting for individual strength and concentration! (How hard should that be, seriously?)

ski-big.jpg

Let’s hope the admissions game players don’t fall through the ice instead, with some idiot No Child Left Inside winter-sports mandate.

If admissions officials are as disciplined, daring and open to mastering new academic tricks as they find these accomplished athletes to be, maybe they can follow the recommended half-pipe learning curve for snowboarders, and turn this first little thrill of lifting off for a split second, into some extraordinary moves worthy of oohs and ahhs from an adoring public audience.

Among colleges, specialized winter schools have earned a reputation for producing not only accomplished athletes, but students who can handle the intellectual rigors of a campus.

“From an academic point of view, we certainly have a high opinion of ski academies,” said Bob Clagett, dean of admissions at Middlebury College, adding that academy graduates often arrive with extraordinary time-management skills. “They end up being some of the strongest students we have.”

Winter-school students, whose applications are not packed with a variety of extracurriculars, are not necessarily penalized for it.

“We far prefer to see a higher level of talent and experience in fewer areas than dabbling in many,” Mr. Clagett said.

Growing up in Florida means we don’t know Snow, but tennis academies here are world-renowned and most other sports are available to aspiring young people at a very high level. My kids are deeply into the arts and entertainment rather than athletics, but it all seems like the same power of story to me and shares the same happy ending, if we can keep our own focus on what counts.bollitieri-tennis-coach-blonde-kid.jpg

Public success isn’t decided by the diplomas and deeds you have on file, any more than success at home is having the right marriage and birth certificates on file, or money in the bank.

If success is defined not by law or riches, rule or school, but by who you become, and how you pass THAT on to your children — then how could any lawyer or bureaucrat possibly belong between you and your child in that process?