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Sunday
Jan182009

Education is wasted on the young

My friend John Dyer sent me the link to this interesting site: The Spirit of the New Humanities: A Brief Introduction by Richard E. Miller, <http://www.newhum.com/>. This take on the "humanities" is in contrast to what I remember taking in high school and college. Miller's book/course uses contemporary non-fiction narratives to help student think about modern problems and their complexity. It seems "practical."

In humanities classes I remember, we chronologically studied "art" - literature, fine art, music and architecture - to more or less delve into the really big themes like man's relationship to God and stuff like that. Puzzling over "the human condition" as portried in classical art forms was the goal, not solving less abstract issues like global warming and poverty.

Roman ruins at Jerash, Jordan, November 2008. Doric, Corinthian or Ionic?

Personally, I like Miller's contemporary approach to humanities for one simple reason. Based solely on my own experience, traditional humanities instruction is wasted on the young.

From the humanities classes I've taken, I think I can still remember the difference between Ionic, Corinthian and Doric columns and that's about it. In fact most of what I remember from all my high school and college classes would probably take me less than a couple hours to write down. Now I am awfully glad I was taught to read, write and solve math problems (through geometry anyway). I appreciate that I was taught some basics of science and government and public speaking. But way too much information simply went way over my head. I didn't have any life experiences to which I could relate artists' commentary.

Now I am all in favor of using Shakespeare and Brugel and Dvorak and Chartres Cathedral to explore "the human condition." But let's wait until the learner is, say, 45 or so. A few life experiences - like having a bad boss - might help one understand what Dante was getting at when designing the Inferno. At a younger age, practiality ought to be rule.

I hate to see education wasted on the young.

 

Saturday
Jan172009

If newspapers go away

It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper. Jerry Seinfeld (1954 - )

A newspaper consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or not. Henry Fielding (1707 - 1754)

My mornings usually start like this:

  • Put on the robe and slippers.
  • Make coffee.
  • Feed the cats.
  • Take the (cold) walk down the driveway to retrieve the newspaper from the mailbox.
  • Clean up the cat barf.
  • Get coffee.
  • Settle in the recliner, open the Mankato Free Press and solve the Jumble, read the funnies, scan the news, and read the editorials.
  • Shower, dress and go to work.

Because the newspaper is, and has been, such a big part of my life-long morning ritual*, I read Seth Godin's recent post, "When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?" with dismay. This small panic was intensified when I read yesterday that our major state newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, filed for bankruptcy. It seems I may have to consider what I would miss should print newspapers go away sooner than I would like.

Godin flatly states that nothing will be lost should newspapers stop publishing in print, even arguing that investigative journalism and in-depth reporting will continue. (This might be one area where I agree with Keen's Cult of the Amatuer diatribe.) Yikes.

I thought I'd just check Godin out on a few things out and see if I really can cancel my "Mankato Free Mess" subscription. First the important stuff...

Looks like all the important parts of the paper are online and most have RSS feeds. So far, so good.

I already subscribe to the RSS feeds for NYT columnists David Brooks, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, and Paul Krugman. No problems there. Garrison Keillor's "Old Scout" columns are available online, a week after publication it seems but without RSS feed. Local papers have feeds for local columnists and opinion sections.

For "hard" news, I can subscribe to a dozen separate categories of news feed including "strange" at the Associate Press. CNN and NPR both have feeds. Locally, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Mankato Free Press both happily send send stories to my GoogleReader. The Jefferson-German Lakes Association Newsletter still seems to be print only.

OK, you get the idea. Yes, about everything in the paper I enjoy reading can also be found online. And more. And without the cost or long walk down the driveway wearing a bathrobe in -40 degree wind-chill.

Am I just sentimental believing I would really miss the printed newspaper? Is this another example of me resisting pounding my old square 1.0 mind into a new round 2.0 world?

Maybe it is the spread of ego-casting, reduction of editorial view diversity, and just plain loss of the serendipitous findings of interesting "stuff" that saddens me. And having nothing on which set my shoes when I poiish them.

How about it - would you miss the print edition of the that fish-wrapper you read?

*The ritual changed for five years when I worked in Saudi Arabia. While there was a daily English paper, it was not delivered, heavily censored, and there was no "Sunday" paper - something I missed the entire time I worked there. You expats today have it pretty darned cushy!

Friday
Jan162009

Real men read

One of Minnesota's own, Tori Jensen, is getting national press for her "Real Men Read" project. A great summary can be found here on the Education World website.

This is very cool and should be a model for any school who may find that its male demographic reading scores could use a bump.

(That's Tori's superintendent in the poster at the right.)

Oh, I fixed the link to ALA's Read Poster generator. Find example and link here.