Tag: Education

Don’t Talk Back — Unless You’re Working Out Some Personal Issues

 

Restorative-Justice-Ven-DiagramYou may have heard me say it here before: California is the world’s largest open-air asylum. I’ve always thought that, but it became much clearer to me after I decamped from my native Golden State to Tennessee last year. Now every time that I sent foot back on California soil — as I did last night — I’m struck by the air of unreality that characterizes the place. All you have to do is look around for a few minutes before you start thinking “Is it possible that there’s a gas leak in this entire state that no one knows about?” That’s about the same reaction I had reading through the San Francisco Chronicle this morning, which notes this — ahem — innovation taking place in Oakland schools:

Mouthing off in class or failing to follow a teacher’s instructions will no longer lead to suspension in Oakland schools, a ban that will be phased in and be fully in effect just over a year from now, the school board unanimously decided Wednesday night.

Oakland Unified will become one of a handful of California school districts that restrict suspensions to more serious offenses and eliminate the punishment for willful defiance — a broad category of misbehavior that includes minor offenses such as refusing to take a hat off or ignoring teacher requests to stop texting and more severe incidents like swearing at a teacher or storming out of class. San Francisco and Los Angeles are also among those districts.

The Trouble with Private Schools

 

shutterstock_50734714Let me first establish my bona fides in order for you, the Ricochetti, to understand that this is a cri de coeur. I was homeschooled K-12, am a proud alumna of Hillsdale College, and for many years taught in private classical schools (I now have a position that supports school choice and excellent curriculum and teachers). I loved the kids and I loved my subject. It was a privilege to open up the virtues and vices of the classical world to my students and to challenge their minds to understand the thoughts of Cicero and Plato.

Here is why I left teaching: I began to despair that real K-12 education was possible in the 21st century. Was it because a) the children were glued to their screens? b) too much testing? c) the Common Core standards? d) administrative burdens? e) uninvolved parents?

None of the above. It was because of helicopter parents. Their fear of failure was crippling children’s ability to learn. There were often excuses for low grades and frequently explicit pressure to change them. These were parents at conservative, Christian, private schools. We teachers were not strangers to the end-of-the-year conference in which an administrator would sit down with the teacher and parents and facilitate a “compromise” in which the teacher would raise the student’s grade in exchange for getting to continue their employment. Over time, many teachers learned not to give Fs (or even Cs) to any students lest they be subjected to vitriol in their inboxes or in person, and vicious gossip about them to other parents.

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Plato’s Republic is occasionally–ok, constantly–mentioned as a book promoting communism. Don’t believe the hype. For a start, the account of the declining democracy in Book 8 of the Republic is a goldmine if you’re interested in criticism of leftist redistributionist politics; see here for more on that. (By the way, one of the laws Socrates recommends in Book 8 would have prevented the subprime loans […]

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When I posted my “luck” story last week, on the privilege of subbing in Kindergarten for an excellent teacher, I referred to my first day in Kinder at that school six years ago–when the classroom atmosphere wasn’t so ideal. I said that later, I’d share what I had written at the end of that intense work […]

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Econ 101 For Colleges

 

IMG_0484A commonly-held leftist meme is that conservatives hate education. The technical word for this is “nonsense”: conservatives value education just as highly as liberals, and it bears repeating that the majority of college graduates vote Republican. Conservatives do, however, have strong criticisms of academia, which is a related but distinct matter from higher-education itself.

Of late, a new criticism has grown regarding the rise of the government-educational complex, specifically regarding the positive feedback* loop between tuition prices and easy student credit. The more money the government offers at below-market rates, the more colleges raise the fees, prompting even more generous loans, and setting up another cycle of the same. When you further consider that the availability of the loans is completely divorced from consideration of the degrees’ potential value and that their value is almost uniquely protected from normal market pressures, you realize that we’re not dealing with a market failure, so much as a conscious and successful effort to prohibit the existence of one.

As usual, Megan McArdle puts it best. Writing about students trapped under mountains of debt for nearly useless degrees, she says:

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We are lucky–blessed–when we can get paid to do the work we love. I am privileged to have two education-related jobs, to devote myself to tasks that give long-term satisfaction, and then to receive affirmation from colleagues and kids–like gravy on something already good. Working with Kindergartners in the school system has been an unexpected […]

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We need to keep talking about education around here, right? A lack of good education is one of the root problems with the country, isn’t it? Critical thinking has long been a buzzword in education, but there are some questions we might ask about it. Questions like: What is critical thinking exactly? Is more critical thinking […]

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To close out a week about methods of teaching and persuading through games, it would help to cite evidence that such instruction does occur. Here are some things I’ve learned from games over the many years. Fellow gamers, please share your own examples. From SimCity, I was introduced to concepts of city planning at an […]

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We have discussed sandbox learning. We have discussed the use of scripted narratives in video games. Now, I will describe the process of emergent storytelling — or, perhaps more accurately, story-finding. This last design strategy attempts to mix the centrality of a player’s own decisions and creativity in sandbox games with the dramatic focus and […]

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What Video Games Can Teach Us About Narrative

 

Earlier this week, I addressed the potential for popular fiction to be compelling without being exclusively fun. Yesterday, I introduced the sandbox model of games, which offers opportunities for learning without direct instruction. Today, I will discuss instruction and persuasion through traditional storytelling and its translation into interactive environments.

The potential of traditional storytelling to offer insights or arguments doesn’t need to be explained. We are all familiar with the occasional power of novels and movies to make us consider, reflect, imagine, or feel. But it’s worth noting that not all linear fiction is focused on plot. Some stories are driven by events. Others are driven by characters. Even static settings can be major themes by themselves, which is why so many fans of The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, or the Aubrey-Maturin series dig into lore and history in addition to enjoying those narratives. Sometimes, we are challenged to unravel puzzles and to anticipate the next plot twist. Other times, we passively enjoy witnessing the interplay between a group of delightful companions, without any expectation of final resolution.

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Eric Wallace of podcasting fame directed my attention to an article by Ian Bogost over at The Atlantic. I seem to remember reading Bogost’s articles before or debating design issues with him on Star Wars: Galaxies developer Raph Koster’s blog. Skipping past all the liberal victim mongering, the focus of Bogost’s essay is how to […]

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A philosopher writing in the New York Times: Don’t blame postmodern philosophers for moral relativism. Blame the public schools. And there’s more. The article speaks for itself pretty darn well. I’m resisting the urge to add anything to it. Maybe better informed Ricochetti can add helpful things in response, perhaps along these lines: What are the immediate […]

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Setting aside the commonality of broken and chaotic family structures, especially among the welfare class, the average family structure in modern America seems to involve the following:  A household consisting of two parents and their children.  The children (hopefully) grow up and move out, establishing their own residences — often in a different city — […]

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Back to School

 

shutterstock_28662005How many people here have been to college more than once? By that, I mean that years passed between a first and second degree, perhaps even in unrelated fields. When did you go back? Why did you go back? How was it different the second time?

I didn’t make the most of my first college experience. Since I decided to focus my career on my writing skills, an English major seemed appropriate. One doesn’t need a degree to learn to write. But employers expect a degree. So there I was, grudgingly. That grudging attitude wasn’t helpful. Nor were the frivolous elective courses. And if any degree would do, I was stupid to pursue a degree in the Liberal Arts.

So now, a decade later, I’m looking into programming degree plans. Any advice? Is an Associate’s degree sufficient for many decent jobs? I’m considering an AAS (Associate of Applied Science) with advanced certificates in C++ and Visual Basic. Programming experience would be useful in many fields, both for corporate and entrepreneurial efforts. But I’m particularly interested in game design, of which I’m fairly familiar and have connections.

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If you’ve never heard of Youhanabad (“the City of John”): here. And, yes, there is a Forman Christian College in Pakistan. Please pray for them, and for the people of Youhanabad, and, especially, for the bombers. The bad news that started this: here. And the really bad news: here. But let’s call this the good news: We […]

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I always understood the point of the tenure system in Universities. A professor may have an unusual point of view and may need protection from the prevailing winds. But I was surprised to learn that there is a tenure system in K-12. What controversial material is being protected via tenures in K-12? And all one […]

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