Education: More on rethinking education.

The last time I posted to this blog, I opined that I believed it was time for us to rethink the purpose of education. More than two years later, I am more convinced than ever that premise is true.

From my view, the modern education system is a weird chimera of the classical notion of creating a well-rounded person by versing them in most or all of what was known at the time and the industrial notion of creating a class of workers with an interchangeable skill set. While there are arguments for both of those notions, the extremes to which we have taken them in the last few decades has left an education system that is broken and rotting from within.

I believe the fundamental purpose of modern education should be to equip every learner to be able to understand, use, and manipulate the vast store of information freely available to anyone who wants to access it. What that kind of education will look like will be different for every person based on their unique strengths and weaknesses.

As a result, I also believe the notion of massed group education by age and grade is also obsolete and needs to be replaced by a system that focuses on developing a student’s strengths and buttressing their weaknesses.

Yes, that means, in order to do what I am suggesting, we would have to replace vast swaths of the education system as we know it. Likely, that would mean reimagining teachers as managers for students who are, to a great degree, educating themselves with guidance. It would mean focusing the money part of education on developing coherent guidance for each student. It would mean dismantling the mass industrial model in favor of a focused individualized one.

Further, this new model would have to focus on all the things currently lacking from the industrial model. It would get kids outside as much as possible. It would emphasize physical and emotional development as much as it would academic and social development. It would focus on making students lifelong learners and thinkers over making them complaint workers.

I understand this is a pipe dream in the current climate, but the radical reform of education in some form is almost inevitable. If we start thinking about it now, maybe when the time comes, we’ll be able to make something good happen.

DLH

Read more at my Education site...

Creativecraft: Inspiration

Fire it up!

I hate inspiration.

There, I said it.

Inspiration is an infuriating creature. It’s capricious. Fickle. Unpredictable. Unreliable. It rarely gets work done and is notorious for abandoning me right in the middle of something that needs done.

And it is indispensable to my creative process.

The fact is that every idea I’ve ever had, no matter what it is, is a child of inspiration. That relationship may be subtle, like a whisper carried on a breeze, or it may be unmistakable, like a lightning strike. Either way, inspiration births ideas and everything that comes from it.

Nevertheless, I hate it because I can’t control it. I want it to obey me and to produce on command. It laughs and disappears for days and months and years, only to return with no apparent prompting to dump a pile of ill-begotten offspring on me and disappear again.

So, it is a surprise when inspiration appears with the true intent of showing me a new thing, opening up a vista of possibility to me that had been heretofore obscured and impossible to get to.

This time, inspiration showed up in the form of an internet article about a dumpster fire toy. I know, right?

But that’s what it was. A spark that, pun intended, caught fire and burned away the dead wood that was obscuring my path to something I’ve been trying to find my way to for decades without success. Suddenly, there it is, the thing I’ve been looking for in all its glory.

A dumpster fire.

Yeah, inspiration. I hate it. And I love it.

Please don’t leave. Please come back.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Time calculus

There was a time when I was that person who claimed I didn’t have time to exercise. To me then, exercise was a waste because the other things I was doing with my life seemed far more important. In fact, I was that person not all that long ago. But today, as I was walking, I came to a sudden epiphany that my view was myopic in a specific sort of way.

The fact is, for the year and a half before I ended up in the hospital, my health was deteriorating whether I was willing to admit it or not. I lost some or all of many days to illness and fatigue to the point I was no longer able to do the things I needed and wanted to be doing.

If we imagine that state resulting in a loss of four hours of productivity a day as an average, I lost something along the lines of 2,190 hours of useful time due to bad health. And that was before I ended up in the hospital.

In that hospital, I lost six full days, an additional 144 hours, and since I have been home, my productivity has been minimal to the tune of a couple of hours a day, meaning for the last 30, I’ve easily lost 240 more hours beyond that.

In total, since the true beginnings of this current episode, I’ve easily lost as many as 2,574 hours of productive time, and that’s probably a conservative estimate.

In contrast, since I have returned to walking again, I’ve spent about an hour each day. If I were to simply stick to that amount of time, it would take me more than seven years to “waste” the time I’ve already wasted walking.

And, as anyone exercising knows, fitness is not a waste. Rather, since I have returned to walking, I am getting stronger, my head is clearer, I am less fatigued, and I am more certain of my recovery than I have yet been.

So, even when I reach my eventual goal of two hours of exercise a day, I will really be gaining hours more of productive time rescued from what once had been the time waste of my poor health.

I get the logical explanation isn’t for everyone, but the nature of this realization makes me even more eager to continue. I will improve because of what I am doing, and that can never be a waste.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Worldview: Education: Perhaps the answer is to rethink what we mean by education

Recent events have spawned what has been for me some vitriolic but otherwise meaningless debates about education in the United States. The debates have been vitriolic because the sides involved have dug into positions that are primarily rhetorical in nature and have been meaningless because most of the rhetoric has little to do with how education in the US in 2017 actually works. It is easy to fall into such a trap when passions are so high, and I understand why people did. Nevertheless, I do not see how the nature of that debate helps solve any of the problems people perceive about modern public education.

Beneath the rather nonsensical nature of the debate lies what appears to be a more fundamental realization that education, especially its public variety, is less up to the fundamental task of educating than anyone would like it to be. The various sides in the debate nibble around the edges of this notion, thinking that minor tweaks like who runs the system or who pays for it and how will answer this fundamental deficiency. Perhaps, however, what all of us should be considering is transforming education into something sufficient for the world we live in now.

I am not just talking about transforming how or what we educate. Instead, I am suggesting we need to revisit the fundamental question of what we even mean when we talk about educating someone. Our world has changed dramatically from what it was a twenty years ago, let alone a hundred and more when the heart of the system we use to educate now was first conceived. Are the notions that drove the system that long ago even appropriate now? Do they adequately educate now? What do we even mean when we talk about educated and education?

I am not questioning that everyone needs access to knowledge and skills in order to be a productive member of society. Rather, I am asking if being a productive member of society is the actual objective of the current system. The reasons we educate have evolved over time–the first argument for public education was to create informed citizens, then later, capable workers, the still later students suited to go on to college. Are any of those reasons still valid now? Are all of them? And is the system we are using to educate fulfilling any of them?

To me, given my view of the 21st century, it seems that the purpose of education is to equip individuals to navigate an ever more connected, sophisticated, and automated world in whatever ways suit an individual’s talents and skills best. The unimaginative view used in the current education system that equipping every individual with the same basic, unfocused set of tools then requiring them to some how figure out how to use them in a world of near infinite possibility seems only capable of producing the result it is: unprecedented un-, under-, and mis-employment among some of the most educated people the US has ever produced by measure of time, money, and effort spent educating.

Granted, there are certain minimum educational standards most individuals need to achieve in order to navigate modern life, but I believe we have to ask whether indoctrinating those standards requires 12 or more years while we meanwhile fail to equip those same individuals with practical, meaningful skills in order to support themselves. In specific, does the old saw of making sure an individual can read, write, do math, have a basic view of history and government, and so on trump teaching them how to grow their own food, fix a car, program a computer, install an electrical outlet, or the thousands of other practical skills an individual could also learn and put to good use?

None of this is to say that the entirety of the system we have now should be abandoned, but we need to ask ourselves the fundamental question whether the system we have, unchanged at any fundamental level, is accomplishing the task we want it to accomplish, and we cannot answer that question until we understand what exactly it is we want that system to accomplish in the first place.

I understand there are no easy answers here, but no one said this was supposed to be easy, and we are never going to have answers if we do not start asking the hard questions. Now seems as good a time as any to start.

DLH

Read more at my Education weblog...

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: So, what’s this all about?

It’s sometimes hard to know where to begin an explanation of something that has been coming my whole adult life, so I will start with the event that triggered the birth of this blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital for almost a week as the result of acute pancreatitis brought on by a dangerous elevation of my blood-borne triglycerides. The condition was serious enough the doctors opted to reduce my triglyceride levels by removing them using a process called plasmapheresis. The whole experience was the most intense and painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life, and I realized that I am willing to do extreme things to never have to experience it again.

That brings me to the reality of how I ended up in that state. The circumstances that lead to my hospitalization were not just the result of some unexplained biological malfunction, although there is also that element to the story. Instead, a large part of how I ended up in that state began decades ago when I, for a variety of reasons I suppose I may get into over the life of this blog, chose to stop taking care of my body.

In fact, over the past decade, I had pretty much given up on taking care of myself at all, most often with the excuse I had more important things to do. I didn’t. Instead, that excuse was worse than an excuse: it was a lie.

This blog will be my documentation of the refutation of that lie. Over the course of the next weeks and months and, perhaps, even years, I plan to document my journey away from the lie of not taking care of myself toward the truth of taking care of myself so I can do all the things I do better. I want to share this journey with anyone who cares to follow along for the accountability of it, for mutual encouragement, and to provide a place to document the things I discover along the way.

As to the name of the blog, once upon a time, I considered myself to be a rambler, or as the Irish call it, a rover. I tend to wander without being lost, and have long believed that the journey is more important than the destination. I suspect my journey back to health will follow the same meandering but purposeful path so many other parts of my life have.

So, this is all about finding my way back to a place I should have never left: healthy and productive. I invite you to join me on that road.

DLH

Read more at my The Rambling Road weblog...

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Writing: Dear scientists: please stop ruining science fiction

There is an aspect to science fiction some members of the scientific world seem to have forgotten about: most often, science fiction is speculative fiction. That is, it is not always a story about what is, or even what we imagine could be, but rather a story about what might happen if something was.

I know that last idea is hard for some because science fiction, unfortunately, came to have science in the name. Depending on who you ask, that name came about because its writers wanted to define their fiction as describing a universe bounded by physical laws and to differentiate it from fantasy. Certainly all along, the lines between sci-fi and fantasy have blurred, but I’m not even really talking about those works. Yes, there is even hard science fiction wherein authors chose to constrain themselves within the boundaries of what we believe to be true, and that’s fine.

However, the fact remains that the great body of what comes to be called science fiction isn’t really about science at all. Instead, it’s about imagining a world similar to our own where different rules now apply because we’ve discovered new ones. It’s possible that those rules may be implausible based on our current understanding of science, but that fact does not represent a detraction from the ideas being explored in the work.

Moreover, the demand that science fiction adhere to our current understanding of science undermines one of science fiction’s most powerful benefits: its ability to fire the imagination to see beyond the constraints of what be believe to be the rules to discover rules we did not understand existed before that moment.

To me, the benefit of science fiction’s ability to speculate isn’t to engender a, “That’s not possible,” response so much as it is to bring out, “But what if it is?”

I understand, for scientists who trade in the currency of what we believe to be true now, that kind of speculation can seem counter productive. But for society as a whole, it’s part of the fuel that drives the engine of imagination, innovation, and advancement. Let’s stop putting a limit on what might be possible in works of fiction so that we can find out if those ideas might be possible in fact.

DLH

Read more at my Writing site...

Worldview: On derivative creativity

Good ideas have the habit of spawning other good ideas. In fact, modern society owes most of its existence to the process of one person improving on or creating from something someone else has done.

Yet, there is a trend in modern society to try to counteract that process for the sake of protecting “rights,” which itself is a thinly guised attempt to protect profit. We could have a long, and likely fruitless, debate about profit, but I’d rather talk about a different idea: encouraging derivative creativity as a way of keeping ideas fresh.

Why is the modern, often corporate, instinct to crush rather than absorb? In all sorts of endeavors, people who are not part of the original creative process create things that make the original creation better. Yet, far too often, cease and desist letters and lawsuits follow.

What if, instead, we take a different approach that is far more in keeping with the history of ideas? Instead of lawsuits, why not try engaging these derivative creators and bring them into the scope of the creation?

In doing so, we have the opportunity to do something the history of derivative ideas often lacked: formally promote the advancement of those ideas. It stands to reason we would all be better off for it given how we have already benefited so far.

DLH

[Instigation: Star Trek fan film creators sued by CBS, Paramount for copyright infringement]

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Writing: Done before it started: a NaNoWriMo cautionary tale

I had a great idea for NaNoWriMo this year, one I conceived of months ago and have thought about a lot since then. Unfortunately, thinking is all I did about it, with the result being that my attempt at writing 50,000 words in 30 days died almost before it began.

There is something of a common problem among writers (and I’m not going to get into the philosophical, psychological, and practical battles here about what defines a writer) in that we often don’t write. We want to write. We think about writing. We talk about writing. Then we don’t actually write.

For the past year or so, this has been my shortcoming in the extreme. I actually really do love writing. I crave it, to be honest. I feel more complete when I am writing. Then for a variety of reasons, I don’t actually write.

My caution, then, and my encouragement for all of us flailing writers out there is to not let another November sneak up on us with a years worth of wishing about writing without any writing actually having been done. I’m not saying it will be easy or that it will be good, but if you’re like me, you need to do it.

So let’s.

DLH

Read more at my Writing site...

Writing: Pondering NaNoWriMo 2015 and the act of writing at all

I know it’s a while until November, but experience says it’s never really too early for one to get ready for National Novel Writing Month. For those who might have missed it, NaNoWriMo is an event put on by the Office of Letters and Light that encourages people to write 50,000 words in 30 days in an effort to encourage people to write. It’s a lot more difficult than it might sound, it turns out.

I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo six times starting in 2007 and achieved the 50k word goal in 2010. In fact, achieving that goal in 2010 reinforced for me something I’ve come to realize and have tried to avoid since I started taking writing classes in 2006: I’m not a novelist.

Instead, what I have discovered is that I am a short storiest. A really short storiest. In fact, I’ve found my comfort zone lies at around 2500 words, and writing 10k works feels like trying to move the earth. Why does that matter? Because if one wants to succeed as a writer, the best way to do so is to write to one’s strengths.

Of course, success in writing is relative. Another thing I’ve realized along the way is that my long-time dream of being a successful, published writer is probably just that: a dream. Some might find that sad, but what I’ve realized along the way is that I write because I have to get this stuff out of my head. If someone else likes it, I’m glad, but I like not having these ideas slowly drive me insane even more.

So, what does that mean for NaNoWriMo 2015? Basically, cheating. My plan is to write a thematic anthology of stories, more or less 30 stories in 30 days all centered around a single topic. For me, it’s the best of both worlds: I try to write 50k words in 30 days, but I do it by writing 2700ish word short stories everyday for 30 days.

I’m looking forward to the challenge. And to the relief. More will follow…

DLH

Read more at my Writing site...