Is Early Childhood Education Oxymoronic?

19 07 2011

I am doubtful whether parents want or need ‘a highly skilled, graduate-led workforce’ breathing down their necks as they change nappies and hang out in playgrounds; and in any case, early childhood is about nurture through affection, not training for ‘future life chances’.

Ministers should learn to pick on somebody their own size.

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What’s in a Name? Can You Hum a Few Bars?

16 07 2011

Remember Beetleness and Daffodility?

. . .sorting and naming the natural world is a universal, deep-seated and fundamental human activity, one we cannot afford to lose because it is essential to understanding the living world, and our place in it.

THIS PROFUSION OF HUMMINGBIRDS is from the book “Kunstformen der Natur,” by Ernst Haeckel, 1900. The names of the birds, like Topaza pella, or crimson topaz (third from top), and Sparganura sappho, or red-tailed comet (with forked tail), seem as lush and elaborate as their coloration.

THIS PROFUSION OF HUMMINGBIRDS is from the book “Kunstformen der Natur,” by Ernst Haeckel, 1900. The names of the birds, like Topaza pella, or crimson topaz (third from top), and Sparganura sappho, or red-tailed comet (with forked tail), seem as lush and elaborate as their coloration.

Taxonomy in my mind is power of story, more art than science. It means making meaning from human cognition and emotion, which regardless of how and whether we distinguish between them, together constitute the whole of our reality.

So I think (and feel) that taxonomy can’t be defined solely in terms of the “natural” world, as beauty apart from human thinking and feeling. Read the rest of this entry »





Your Brain as Victorian Attic Full of Mismatched Clocks

12 07 2011

At Culture Kitchen I once wrote “We the Clockkeepers: Our Tyranny of Time”, about losing our natural wild time and how over the centuries of civilization we’ve learned the hard way that “the keeper of my time is my keeper.”

Then today I saw a neuroscientist interviewed about each brain being a fingerprint and thinking with complex, layered ways and means uncontrolled by, unknown to and largely unknowable by ourselves even as we are actively in the middle of it.

So I wanted to connect the two, maybe keep my subconscious (my real keeper?) from putting them where I couldn’t find them again!

The question raises a fundamental issue of consciousness: how much of what we perceive exists outside of us and how much is a product of our minds? Time is a dimension like any other, fixed and defined down to its tiniest increments: millennia to microseconds, aeons to quartz oscillations. Yet the data rarely matches our reality. . .

Why does time slow down when we fear for our lives? Does the brain shift gears for a few suspended seconds and perceive the world at half speed, or is some other mechanism at work?

. . . Just how many clocks we contain still isn’t clear. The most recent neuroscience papers make the brain sound like a Victorian attic, full of odd, vaguely labelled objects ticking away in every corner.





“Thinking Thoughts No One Has Thunk”

6 07 2011

NPR
July 6, 2011
by Robert Krulwich

Charles Darwin did this, slowly and painfully, and so can you.

Every day we walk through the world. We look around. We think we see what’s going on, but it is hard to remember how routinized we are as we look, how we automatically see things from our accustomed angle, never thinking of alternate possibilities. . .

Darwin knew what he wanted to see, but he knew there are many ways to weigh the evidence. And so for the next few decades he would look at his Big Idea from every possible angle, supportive, contrarian — every way possible. Just to make sure he wasn’t missing a point of view. Just to test his guess against all the other guesses.

There’s a stubborn, happy bravery in that.





USA: Uneasy State of America This Fourth of July

4 07 2011

The Culture War and Cultural Chasms
. . .And so real hatred and resentment blooms thanks to a war by proxy between two groups pretending to be what they are not, but making everyone else pay for their lack of a core identity or any genuine skill of their own. Trash vs Posers.

Beep IS deep. 🙂

Or maybe it’s like an autoimmune disorder wherein the body turns on itself. Our defenses so revved up that we can no longer tell who the enemy is. At times I get caught up in this too. It’s so easy, with the ease at which groups are demonized these days, the constant fear being pumped into our society for the purposes of mass emotional manipulation.

Beep really got my mind going with this (more than I can do justice at the moment, with burgers and corn on the grill.) America is a strong, rich, diverse nation by any measure. We define ourselves by successful competition in every one of those measures — we’re Number One, we’re Number One! Otherwise, who would we be? (WOULD we be, at all, or would America cease to be? )

Isn’t THAT our number one fear, that as we celebrate again for having won the world in the 18th century and defended our title through the the 19th and 20th, that our dominance is behind us, our glory days done, that USA doesn’t mean Number One anymore?

This year, intramural culture wars don’t feel like America’s existential threat most to be feared, more like Read the rest of this entry »





Truth of Economy Even Your Kids Can Grasp, in Two Minutes

16 06 2011




Power of Story in One Teacher’s Century-long Life

17 05 2011

At 100 Still a Teacher, and Quite a Character:

. . . she recalled how difficult it was to get fully certified by a byzantine school bureaucracy. The examiners had her explain a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and told her afterward she had given “a poor interpretation.” Having been blocked once before because of a trace of a greenhorn accent, she refused to be stopped a second time.

So she did what any true aspirant would have done: she wrote a letter to Ms. Millay and had her evaluate her interpretation.

“You gave a much better explanation of it than I myself should have,” the poet wrote back, and the chastened examiners saved face by urging Ms. Kaufman to try for the license again.

This power of story goes beyond one poem and what’s in work-school words like teacher, certification and accountability. It’s about human identity, who we are and how we came to be and what to do with it.

Her grandfather was the great Yiddish storyteller Sholem Aleichem, a writer who was able to squeeze heartbreaking humor out of the most threadbare deprivation and wove the bittersweet Tevye stories that became Read the rest of this entry »