Our Permanent, Intangible Enemies

It seems pretty evident to me that sometimes you choose your enemy, but sometimes the enemy chooses you. And sometimes things act as enemies that we may not usually think of in those terms. Those enemies are nebulous, incorporeal. Not nations, nor people, but ideas, concepts, for which the terminology of battle may be ill-suited.

When it comes to things like that, I think of permanent as opposed to temporary enemies. Permanent or abiding enemies may not hold our attention as much as temporary foes that spring up and must be dealt with ad-hoc. A short-term enemy attacks; a long-term enemy infiltrates. Perennial enemies operate at lower levels and over longer timelines, it seems, than do enemies that charge us with sudden ferocity.

Charles Dickens identified two such eternal enemies in A Christmas Carol. In one memorable scene Scrooge is surprised to learn that the Ghost of Christmas Present stands upon two dirty, emaciated children he names as Ignorance and Want. The human race may face other timeless and shadowy enemies, but these two must be included on the list.

Are they brother and sister, as intimated by Dickens, or are they partners of some sort? Do they feed one another, help one another, keep one another alive? Is one dominant? Is one the forcing function of the other?

Are they related to what may be considered another perennial and sinister enemy of mankind: injustice? Is our political or ideological outlook based (at least in part) on which of these, Ignorance or Want, we consider cause and which effect? This may be something of a chicken-and-egg argument, but we often differ over which problem is worse and deserves the most (and the most immediate) attention.

We have met the enemy...
(Image: “We have met the enemy…,” by Thad Zajdowicz, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Unfortunately, these permanent, intangible enemies do not arouse as high a degree of fervor as more acute and palpable enemies. Even if they did, in the long run we have to include Ignorance in the same category as Want in terms of Christ’s observation, to wit: that just as we will always have some poor with us, so too we will always have some dimwitted. We cannot eliminate either, but we would do well as a society if we could minimize both.

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An ‘Interstellar’ STEM Scholarship

No, it’s not a chance to study at the Vulcan Science Academy or anything, but it is a genuine $2500 scholarship sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop!

TVIW is now taking applications for its 2018 Scholarship Program, sponsored by Baen Books and Rob & Ruann Hampson. TVIW will award two undergraduate scholarships and one graduate scholarship. All scholarships are merit-based, and require applicants to complete an essay with the application.

Applicants for the undergraduate scholarships must be high school seniors in the southeast United States (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina Tennessee, or Virginia). They must be accepted to or enrolled in an accredited college or university, pursuing a degree in a STEM-related field. Applicants for the graduate scholarship must be full-time college or university students majoring in a STEM-related field, and seeking a STEM-related graduate degree.

You can learn more about the scholarships at this link. The deadline for all applications is May 15.

Share this out and spread the word!

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I’ve Only Been Saying This for a Freaking Quarter CENTURY

What’s this? Labeling certain students as “gifted” might have a downside?

Through personal conversations with her students, [Stanford education professor Jo] Boaler began to see how being labeled “gifted” or “smart” as children stunted even these bright and successful young people….

It’s hard to feel sorry for Stanford students, many of whom have had amazing opportunities not offered to peers precisely because someone recognized them as smart, but their experiences do call into question the practice of labeling in the first place.

Wow, if only someone had pointed out potential problems with sequestering certain students and labeling them as “gifted” — oh, wait, I did that, in the first edition of Quality Education. Granted, I put the topic in an appendix entitled “The Gifted and Talented Myth,” which in retrospect wasn’t the best place to highlight it, but it was there.

In the new edition, the subject of “gifted and talented” programs takes a more prominent position in four short chapters instead of one lengthy appendix.

Gifted and talented education usually is not limited to letting students with special aptitudes learn at a faster rate. These programs often remove some few students from their original classrooms, place them together with other “gifted” students, and focus more attention on their efforts. The students are told explicitly that they are part of the “gifted and talented” program, and become increasingly aware of differences between themselves and other students. But at what level does a student simply have a better grasp of a subject as opposed to being “gifted”? The differentiation is not always clear.

There’s more, of course, but that’s enough to prove today’s point.

I admit, it’s gratifying to find someone agreeing with something I said a quarter century ago. But it’s also incredibly frustrating, and rather makes me feel like:

Picard facepalm

What a way to start the week.

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P.S. If you want a FREE copy of the introduction to Quality Education, you can get one by signing up for my newsletter (you get two other free gifts, too). I’d also be pleased if you would pick up a copy from Amazon.

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Tech in Schools: Not a Cure-All

This morning the Mind/Shift website said, “It’s Time For A Deeper Conversation About How Schools Use Technology.”

… recent studies about the effect of technology on achievement have shown uninspiring results, reinvigorating the conversation about how technology is used in classrooms. Educators who have been active in this space for many years have long known that technology can be used to connect students to the broader world, give them tools to create new and interesting learning artifacts, and open up a world of digital resources. But, technology can also be used to replicate the activities and tests that have always been used in the classroom. The tension between what technology could do and what it is often used for in classrooms is at the heart of a debate over whether all the money pumped into technology is worth it.

It’s too bad no one has ever urged caution when it comes to the proliferation of technology in schools, and that it might not be as effective as people think. Oh, wait, someone did:

Education should not make the same mistake a number of industries made in the late 1980s: they turned to expensive and complex machinery to save them, only to find that the devices were not the saviors they thought.

Who said that? I did, back in the early 1990s.

Technology versus Humanity
(Image: “Technology versus Humanity,” by Gerd Leonhard, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Technology is useful, and important because it’s so ubiquitous in our modern world, but no matter how fancy it gets it’s still just an expensive tool. And far more important than the technical tools are the people — i.e., the teachers — who use them.

In case anyone is interested, I cover this in a bit more depth — as well as many other topics — in Quality Education.

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We Are All Unfinished Products … (New Video)

We haven’t had a breakthrough in my novel being available — hopefully we’ll get past the e-commerce roadblock today — so here’s a new video that considers the idea that we are never finished, but always in the process of “becoming,” as we move along the assembly line of life. And, unlike inanimate objects in a factory, we have a say in what we become.

What do you think? Where are you, and what are you becoming, on the assembly line of your life?

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Related Videos:
Looking at Education as a System
Just Doing Our Best
Every Student A Scholar?

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Every Student A Scholar? (New Video)

Talking about potential in this video, and specifically the idea that every student has the potential to be a scholar of something. The problem then is finding what it is the student is interested enough in to study in depth. Helping students find those topics of interest requires exposing them to a wide range of things, which is the nature of the “Musashi-Heinlein School” discussed in previous episodes.

What do you think? Can every student be a scholar, in something?

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Related Videos:
The Musashi-Heinlein School
Looking at Education as a System
Two-Dimensional Characters, and Education
The Dimensions of Sphericity

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New Video: The Dickensian Duo

The beginning of June seems an odd time to hearken back to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but that’s where Dickens sets out a pair of conditions that I call “The Dickensian Duo.” In this video, I introduce them, consider the relationships between them, and discuss the importance of education in addressing them.

Let me know what you think!

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Education-Related Stuff:
– Video: The Musashi-Heinlein School
– Text: Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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New Video: The Dimensions of Sphericity

A follow-up to last week’s video about “sphericity” as a metaphor for helping students grow and develop in multiple dimensions. What dimensions might we choose?

Let me know what you think!

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Related Stuff:
– Last week’s Two-Dimensional Characters, and Education video
The Musashi-Heinlein School video
– And, for good measure, Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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New Video: Two-Dimensional Characters, and Education

In writing, we try to make sure our characters are realistic; rather than “flat” and two-dimensional, we want them to be lifelike. So too in education, we want students to grow and mature in multiple dimensions. But is “well-rounded” the best metaphor?

I’d already posted the video to YouTube when I caught an error in it, so this version includes a correction I inserted.

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

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Related Stuff:
– As mentioned, The Musashi-Heinlein School video
– A lot of this derives from what I wrote in Quality Education: Why It Matters, and How to Structure the System to Sustain It

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