Maybe If We Had Known That We Didn’t Know. . .

28 10 2011

This is headlined as “The Boomer Parent’s Lament”:

“Maybe if I knew that our children would be coming of age in an economy that would crush even the best and brightest among them, I would have cared a little less about their score on an advanced placement history test, and a little more about helping them find happiness in moments at the margin.”

UNSCHOOLING boomer parents though, knew this all along and we aren’t lamenting any such thing. Finding happiness in the moment and the margin AND smack-dab in the middle of the morning too, while everyone else was sweating yet another test — that was the whole program, the whole point, the whole power of our story.

Didn’t JJ just finish saying something like that? 😉

There was a book excerpt in the NYT Sunday magazine so stunning that I ordered the book online. I was waiting to read it before blogging anything about it but it’s been on my mind in every current conversation, now including this one. The book is “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and its professor author Daniel Kahneman was a 2002 Nobel laureate in economics.

The big point is that we humans tend to hold fast to (often false) confidence that we’re doing the right thing and that we can “know” what that is, even when we’re smart enough to SEE that we aren’t, and don’t, and can’t.

The Hazards of Confidence:

We rarely experienced doubt or conflicting impressions. . . [but] as it turned out, despite our certainty about the potential of individual candidates, our forecasts were largely useless.

The evidence was overwhelming. . . our ability to predict performance at the school was negligible. Our forecasts were better than blind guesses, but not by much.

What do you think about the right way to school kids and prepare them for quantifiable success? How confident are you that you’re right about that? 😉





What’s in a Word Like Debt, Deficit, Tax?

29 07 2011

”Time and time again,” Smoot shouted, ”the universe has turned out to be really simple.”

Perlmutter nodded eagerly. ”It’s like, why are we able to understand the universe at our level?”

”Right. Exactly. It’s a universe for beginners! ‘The Universe for Dummies’!”

But as Smoot and Perlmutter know, it is also inarguably a universe for Nobelists, and one that in the past decade has become exponentially more complicated.

So it turns out that JJ’s thinking is relatively Einsteinian! We can prove it with a simple equation in which words rather than numbers add up to be both right and wrong, which one supposes would make Shakespeare Einsteinian, too (did I say simple?) derived from this Business Week cover story:

E=squishy=JJ

We Thinking Parents study education words — words like accountability and discipline, heck, the word “school” itself! — and how such words are not merely too small and worn out to help us succeed, but too largely wrong about the realities they purport to address even to measure the enormity of our failure.

Here’s the meaning behind this week’s economic news: it’s not just education. Number words too small for the biggest and squishiest meanings threaten Read the rest of this entry »





Private Power of Story in Censorship

15 11 2010

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (subscription only)
“The Future of Free Speech”
By Tim Wu

Tim Wu is a professor of law at Columbia Law School. His new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, was just published by Knopf.

This is what speech management looks like in 2010. No one elected Facebook or YouTube, and neither one is beholden to the First Amendment. Nonetheless, it is their decisions that dictate, effectively, who gets heard.

What’s the answer? There is no easy answer. Monopolies like Google, Facebook, and Hollywood have certain advantages: That’s why they tend to come into existence. That means the American public needs to be aware of the dangers that private censors can pose to free speech.

The American Constitution was written to control abuses of power, but it didn’t account for the heavy concentration of private power that we see today.

And in the end, power is power, whether in private or public hands.

More snooking on censorship power of story:

School theatre and citizen censorship

Ideas are incombustible

More t-shirts and dress message stories, from stupid to dead serious this time

So we were saying censorship is a bad thing . . .

How the Oscars offended me today

Palin’s “Actual Responsibilities” as Madame Mayor

Ignorance makes the N-word Even Scarier Unspoken





Why Is This GOP Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?

11 10 2010

“This is art designed to improve humanity,
but it has the opposite effect because — it’s a lie.”
— The Furious Energy of Liberty

Is this the story of parental involvement, a good-sport dad just connecting with his son through wholesome historical theatre?

An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio’s 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.

What about said exculpatory son btw, and whatever he learned from his dad as Nazi in their family time together? (I’ve wondered the same about father-son bonding over guns meant for killing life, especially in the name of pro-life politics.) Is it fair game for citizens and voters to ask ourselves such questions as we get to know more about a person in private family life?

Or maybe nothing personal should be the pivotal point when we’re evaluating the candidacy Read the rest of this entry »





Banned Books Week: Think for Yourself, Let Others Do the Same

1 09 2010

Thinking Parents know how enthusiastically we celebrate Banned Books Week here at Snook, every September. Last year’s theme was “Ideas Are Incombustible” and imo still fits the social inferno some folks are stoking with spittle-soaked frenzy.

This year’s official theme features a robot unplugging his head from the Borg download, happily reading a real book instead. (No technology required, not even a Kindle.)

You can tell the robot is happy from its glowing eyes and smile of satisfaction. If you follow the sequence of robot art through the whole list of books known to have been challenged during the past year, you can see the free-to-read robot’s power of story play out — thinking for yourself and letting others do the same turns into real liberty (and eyes aglow from books) for all.

Who could be against that? Well, this parent for one:

Lee, Harper
To Kill a Mockingbird

Removed from the St. Edmund Campion Secondary
School classrooms in Brampton, Ontario, Canada
(2009) because a parent objected to language used
in the novel, including the word “nigger.”
Source: Nov2009, pp. 203–4.

And this guy — who sounds like he should cut way back on the caffeine and might keep deadly firearms at home but perversely fixates on the threat of library books in his child’s backpack instead. We loved this book when FavD was a kid, read it aloud together and then went on to read several more Read the rest of this entry »





We Need to Sing Our Epics or Lose Them

20 08 2010

For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, conflicting power of story.

Snook, as faithful readers can attest, is all about narratives and the power of story — in education, relationships, science, politics, work and play, war and peace, in the meaning of life itself. Search this blog using the phrase “power of story” to stay busy reading and thinking for many hours. Add music/musical theatre and “thinking and feeling” to your search, and plan on making this your new homepage indefinitely. 😉

We’ve animated Snook with epic discussions of the Great Derangement of Matt Taibbi, the language stories and Political Mind of George Lakoff, the political right-speak realism of Frank Schaeffer, the situational ethics of Philip Zimbardo and his Lucifer Effect, Harvard’s Howard Gardner on educating kids to love truth and America instead of fighting over it, Don Beck and Ken Wilber’s memes, Richard Florida and his “creative class” plus meaningful movies from Milk and Mindwalk to Hairspray and Madagascar, not to mention Harry Potter and Stanley Fish, plus the leading science lights of edge dot org.

(More Mindwalk and Harry Potter. More Stanley Fishing for meaning of life memes. And the beat goes on . . .)

But nobody tells the story of story better than this new offering from another expert, one with a name that sings a story too, Read the rest of this entry »





Librarians Save the Day! Eleven Movies with Power of Story Power

16 08 2010

Favorite Daughter will love, love, love this: Librarians Save the Day!

While writers might seem more glamorous, librarians are the quiet heroes of the literary world. They stand up against censorship, they uncover ancient mysteries, they laugh in the face of computerization and stop the corporate world dead in its tracks.

From Katharine Hepburn to Rachel Weisz, we’ve rounded up films that give librarians the center stage. Remember these?





Why Educate Our Kids? Part Four: Audience Behavior

13 06 2010

So today as Spunky started a new conversation about what it means for a child to be “well-educated” I noticed it afresh and thought I’d mention some of what it makes me wonder, about what’s being taught and learned and why to our kids out of school, not in.

The phone number is painted on the glass, too: want your child well-educated in mind, body and spirit all at the same time? Who needs School OR Church? Just call 8-WE-KICK. . .

Y’all know the way our kids are educated out of school and church. One big part of it is musical theatre:

Favorite Daughter at age 17 in her college honors history class, answered a bonus question for a perfect score on the final, that her professor couldn’t figure out how she knew, because it wasn’t in the text of the lecture notes: name all five of the members appointed to write the Declaration of Independence and the colonies each represented in the Congress. So he asked outright what her secret source was, and got a good laugh when she started singing, “But Mr. Adams” from the musical 1776.

See also There is Nothing Sexier Than a Baritone and “How can we learn about our present if we don’t educate people about what happened in our past?””

So when I saw commentary on Helen Thomas having tragically overstayed the audience’s support for her role on the public stage, it spoke to me about everything in America’s power of story:

Botchirng an exit cue in a stage production can result in dramatic disaster, says Sara Freeman, a professor of theater history at the University of Oregon. . . . staying onstage when you are supposed to exit is considered “very bad etiquette or an act of outright aggression or disrespect” in the theater world. . .”and upends planned narrative or visual effects. It distracts attention from what the focus is supposed to be in the story.”

Freeman says she has a million stories of actors who missed their entrance cues, “but missed exits are rarer because they usually have to be chosen. It’s far harder to not exit by accident.”

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth:

I believe we’re in an age where a view of humanity as dark and “herd-like” should not govern . . . I believe we must take the high road by simply telling people the truth about the products, services and issues we represent. That presupposes that we can in good conscience represent nondeceptive, truthful clients. . .

My own view is that manipulating the darker forces of human nature is inappropriate. . . . Here are my Ten Commandments . . . Read the rest of this entry »





The Dismal Taste of High-Yield Corporate School: Shakespearian Tragedy

29 05 2010

What’s in a name? Substitute “kid” for “tomato” and “school” for “plant” — you get the idea. Substitute individual creativity for “sugar” and “flavor” and other nutrients given short shrift by factory farm schooling in service of corporate-backed political controls.

Sacrificing Flavor

The pressure for high-yield plants is responsible for the dismal taste of the supermarket tomato. Harry Klee, a plant biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, says it’s a simple matter of economics.

. . .”The grower is paid for size and yield — and flavor is irrelevant, unfortunately,” Klee says.

In fact, the yield is so great for some tomato varieties that the plant can’t keep up. Because the plants have been bred to produce so many fruits, they can’t produce enough sugars and other nutrients.

“And so what happens is you start to dilute out all of the good flavor compounds, and you get a fruit that you bite into it and it largely tastes like water,” Klee says.
“Because that’s mostly what it is.”

That which we still call a tomato wouldn’t smell or taste as sweet after we’ve diluted its flavors and aromas, dumbed it down and bred out all its delights. That which we still call an education suffers more yet from its name . . .

I don’t care for tomatoes myself but I love the fruit of another kind of vine. That’s another good play on the same school tragedy: Read the rest of this entry »





Children Teaching Themselves to Read: Psychology Today Post Goes Up

26 02 2010

Remember the Psychology Today “Freedom to Learn” call for unschooling stories? Peter Gray’s first post reporting some of what was sent in about the first question he posed — “learning to read” — showed up this week, good stuff getting a lot of eyeballs around the ‘Net.

I just added a story under it:

*************
Learning to read, then learning from reading

Submitted by JJ Ross on February 26, 2010 – 6:36am.

Learning to read isn’t necessarily a mechanical or academic process, any more than learning to sing, dance and play.

Our now 14-year-old was completely unschooled from birth. He loved stories and books and took his first reading steps very early and seamlessly along with his first actual steps, toddling into both with joy in his own idiosyncratic style. He became a computer kid and read all the colorful PC game manuals (Spiderman, the Incredibles, Lego Star Wars) taking them to bed at night to read ahead but after he knew them by heart, still wanting them open in his lap as he played the game. They got dog-eared, then raggedy and pages start falling out but he still loves and keeps these books as part of the play.

Over the years he found some boys’ series in paperback that he enjoyed but thinking all the way back to Thomas the Tank Engine, his favorites had playful color graphics, either illustrations or right in the text like Chet Gekko, and real-life tie-ins rounding them out, like action figures, cartoons, movies, fan sites online. He’s always preferred audio books to reading text and grew up listening to his favorites over and over, falling asleep to them in bed (Jim Dale’s Grammy-winning performance of the Harry Potter books e.g. and unabridged Tolkien.)

Then last summer, he performed the title role in a Shakespeare camp reading/acting Richard the Third. His interest in reading ambitious (particularly anglophile) texts with sound and action (from the video game conditioning?) just exploded. He read several Shakespeare plays and read about the history behind the plays, and then he discovered the 10th anniversary music video of Les Miserables. Great period costumes and war action, strong male characters plus it’s a “sung-through” show which means few spoken lines; the whole story is in the singing. Out of the blue he decided he wanted to read the original Victor Hugo novel, to compare it to the musical. Off to the library we went. He took it to his room and reads it late at night or sometimes on a quiet afternoon. (We’ve renewed it several times.) He gives me occasional offhand commentary about how he’s experiencing this tome I’ve never attempted. It’s 1400 pages and he is now on about page 950.

Yesterday afternoon as I was driving him somewhere, he mentioned that the reading was slow at this point because the author incorporated a 70-page narrative within the story where he’s talking directly to the reader in defense of “argot.” Argot, I wondered — never heard of it. Maybe he misunderstood something and the text is just too difficult?

Nope. He proceeded to give me quite a lively education and when I got home, I found this. Apparently learning to read (and learning through reading) is a lifelong process and this student has become my master! 😀





Young Son’s Shakespeare Set to Scotland’s Pipes

23 11 2009

As promised, a sampling of family photos from the first annual Fall Weavers Festival at historic Millstone Plantation here in Tallahassee FL.

You can see Young Son playing as Richard the Third in morning scenes staged under the Great Oak, then as great highland bagpiper with the Edinburgh-born McIlroys in the afternoon, as the sheep pasture shadows lengthen toward Lake McBride:





Shocking News: Our Dear Friend Betty Malone

19 11 2009

MEG! What happened??

Nance and I have just learned of Betty’s passing — stunned and saddened. Dear in life, dear in memory.

Betty posted a comment here Sunday, about the religious left emerging. She had been writing on FaceBook about having the flu, and then the morning of Nov. 13 said she was feeling better, ready to get cracking on her directorial work with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Now they are posting eulogy messages to her FB wall.

Are you brainwashing your child with your truth or allowing the freedom of learning to flourish in your home? — Betty Malone

Betty Malone