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 . . .





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 »





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 »





JJ’s Got a Naughty and Nice List

18 12 2009

It’s a good thing I am not in charge, she muttered darkly . . .
Most public figures* including everyone with more money than morals would be in BIG trouble this year!

Although I heard Andre Agassi* answering some questions after a speech on NPR today and he makes the Nice list regardless of his clueless youthful excess, for honesty and modesty and public service and decent fatherhood, having reached his senior emeritas status.





Homeschool Vibe Still Brainy Counterculture Good for America

13 08 2009

Yo-yo unschool types are world class again! No, not competing, lending their theatre tech expertise to help run the show. 🙂

Yoyo world 2009_logo

Last August I blogged Favorite Daughter and lots of your wonderful, smart, free-spirit kids too, as Yo-yo’s Brainy Counterculture Vibe Good for Homeschooling and America. Today I’m reposting it because it fits the political — and educational, see Lynn’s current conversation! — climate more than ever.

And this event itself is current again, as are the summer political contests and staged trick demonstrations I still connect with it as power of story. Favorite Daughter came back from Europe, spent a couple of days buying books for fall term, got a haircut and some sleep, then repacked her Tom Bihn Aeronaut wonderbag and took off again, for this year’s World Yo-yo Contest. She’s there working as a roadie right now; her boyfriend is running the live feed if you have kids who might enjoy it . . .

*******

Have you got this vibe going in your family? We do!

Evolved home education and most all forms of “alternative education” just go hand-in-hand with this vibe. (Anti-intellectual church-driven school-at-home excepted, of course.)

I’ll bet your kids exude it too — Colleen’s long-haired Jerry, Not June Cleaver’s skateboarders, Nance’s two quintessential unschoolers, Doc’s quirky country fair quartet, Daryl’s dancers, COD’s fencer and equestrian. Heck, I was a brainy counterculture fencer myself, once upon a time. (The True Vibe can’t be contained, even in regular public school!)

Always unschooled Favorite Daughter and her mostly-schooled boyfriend were part of The World Yo-Yo Contest in Orlando. For five thrilling days, they were organizer Greg Cohen’s trusted roadies and grips and security behind the scenes, technical crew supporting and marveling at these brainy counterculture young boys and what they could do.

The contest from July 31 to Aug. 2 drew 196 competitors from 20 countries, mostly teenage boys, who exuded an unthreatening and brainy counterculture vibe. They looked like skateboarders stuck inside on a rainy day.

Many admitted to not quite fitting in back home, where no one seems to take the yo-yo as seriously as they do. Most dressed in black T-shirts and wore their hair long. They had callused middle fingers and forearms scarred by string marks, and often carried Read the rest of this entry »





Presidential Medals of Freedom, Pitchers’ Duel for the Hall of Fame

12 08 2009

First, today’s Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees are SO interesting and eclectic, not chosen by grades or standards or statistics but for whatever unique power of story the current president sees in each one and what they represent for America.

I may blog more on this but here, see what you see in this group of 16 from Sandra Day O’Connor and Billie Jean King to Sidney Poitier, Stephen Hawking (“a mediocre student”, says the president to laughter) and Desmond Tutu.

Oh, and don’t forget Chita Rivera and Harvey Milk. Ted Kennedy. I am awash in power in story!

From the July/August Atlantic Magazine comes
“Pitchers’ Duel: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Hall of Fame standards in the steroid era”:

[I’ll explain this part to Nance later! 😀 ]

Clemens won 354 games over his career, racking up a shelf-buckling seven Cy Youngs in the process; by the numbers, he was arguably the best pitcher of all time. Schilling’s 216 wins, like most of his career statistics, are very good; still, by the numerology that has traditionally governed Hall of Fame voting, he is at best a marginal prospect.

But baseball numbers no longer inspire the same faith that they used to.

. . .“As he got older, [Schilling] became more and more a student of the game Read the rest of this entry »





What A Day for Limbaugh to Insult Girls Everywhere

15 07 2009

I have HAD it. Sonia Sotomayor is constrained by the unjust rules, sitting alone and representing herself against a phalanx of white male bullies, just for the right to be a Girl and get into position to finally help have that be a good thing instead of an institutionalized handicap. And at the same moment, Rush Limbaugh is on the radio trying to denigrate President Obama (again) but instead this time, insulting every female on the planet.

Obama “throws like a girl”; Bush “is a man”

What is WRONG with these guys?? I mean, I know Limbaugh’s literally deaf but what excuse do the rest of them have?

He ranted for half an hour at the top of his show today as Young Son and I listened, wondering if he saw the feel-good power of story nationally televised last night, that we had watched and loved. (Even the Yankees and the National League opponents!)

On the upside, here’s a truly heart-warming story for everyone about last night’s All-Star Game. Which was a big American League victory, credited to Papelbon btw, whoo-hoo! Pedroida got to stay home with the baby-and-mom-to-be . . .

All the Sox were super imo and the President too, even if he DID have another team’s jacket on.

He shook hands with the players in the locker room before the game, which we don’t recall Read the rest of this entry »