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Saturday
Aug162008

Direct Feed


When no one was going to pay for the public schools anymore and they were all like filled with guns and drugs and English teachers who were really pimps and stuff, some of the big media congloms got together and gave all this money and bought the schools so that all of them could have computers and pizza for lunch and stuff, which they gave for free, and now we do stuff in classes about how to work technology and how to find bargains and what's the best way to get a job and how to decorate our bedroom.
Titus, the narrator of MT Anderson's dystopian sci-fi YA novel Feed (Candlewick, 2002), is neurologically connected directly to consumerism-driven future version of the Internet. The feed looks up instantaneous answers to nearly every question he might ask, allows him a constant flow a chat with friends, and bombards him with target marketing ads. Titus doesn't read or write very well.

A number of things are disturbing about this book -  and good social satire should be disturbing. Teen expletive-infused language had not gotten any better in the 100 years or so in the future, and it is now also laced with advertising slogans. The kids don't talk about Coke, but always "the great taste of Coke." These are not rebellious teens. No fighting Big Brother for Titus and buddies. And Titus is not noble. As his girlfriend Violet become progressive less functional with her malfunctioning feed, he withdraws rather than comforts her. These kids act very much like today's kids - only more so.
People were really excited when they first came out with feeds. It was all da, da, da, this big educational thing, da, da, da, your child will have the advantage, encyclopedias at their fingertips, etc. That's one the great things about the feed - that you can be supersmart without ever working. Everyone is supersmart now, You can look things up automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and shit.
This is not the world's best book, but it ought to be read by educational technology policy-makers. (I think I got the title from Jeff Utecht's blog. His wife made him read it as I remember.) The best science-fiction serves as a early warning system about a possible logical extension of today's trends. (See "Reading the Future.")

So don't say we haven't been warned.
I was staring at a girl's sweater. I couldn't like focus on the teacher. The teacher was a hologram that day. There had been some funding cuts. The school band was gone, and so were the alive teachers.
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It's been a crazy week here on Lake Jefferson. Big family to-do early in the week to celebrate my son's graduation from college, along with th grandsons and those older people who always seem to come with them visiting. The implementation of the student information system (Infinite Campus), installation of 62 more "smart" classrooms, and one-on-one training of teachers getting new computers has kept the office busy. Off to Houston tomorrow afternoon to do a day of workshops on Tuesday and then back to work preparing for teachers returning in full force next week.

How can August look so far away in June?

The family August 2008 (minus my brother and his clan)


Saturday
Aug162008

Do you feel lucky, punk?

Do you suppose the superintendent in Texas that is allowing teachers to pack heat is a Blue Skunk reader?

See Arm the Teachers from last November.

Friday
Aug152008

Grateful for Gary

If affluent children enjoy beautiful campuses, arts programs, interesting literature, modern technology, field trips, carefree recess, and teachers who know them, I suggest that we create such schools for all children. What’s good for the sons and daughters of the billionaires should be good enough the rest of the children, too. Gary Stager

Gary Stager gets on my nerves. Often. But it most often it is his pugnacious style, not his conclusions, that irritates me.

But then there are worse things than having an author irritate one now and again.

His article 'School Wars" in Good Magazine, a mainstream "life-style" publication should be required reading by - well - by everyone. He does a slam dunk on the impact business-driven politics have had on education over the past 8 years or so in the U.S.

The voice of the professional educator is rarely heard in the popular press. We are very prolific when it comes to writing for each other, but few of us make the effort to preach to the sinner and not just the choir. Gary's doing missionary work for education.

Thank you, Gary. Keep up the good work. Continue to irritate us.