Posts Tagged ‘college’

Let’s get something straight.

I understand that the human language is flexible. I understand that words have meaning that change and evolve over time, and I understand that people are going to use words how they want to use words. I understand that the original definition of the word “hack” meant to tinker with or achieving a goal through non-conventional means, okay? I get that.

But I hate the oversaturation of the word now in 2015.  I was born and raised in the generation where I was taught “hacking” was the cracking of a computer system. When I hear someone describe something as a “life hack,” I’m sorry,  but my skin crawls. I am a tech freak at heart, and unless you’re breaking a code or calling someone a hack, other uses do not jive with me. Okay?

hacking

Photo CC- by bareform, and THIS IS HACKING OKAY JEEZ

“Hacking” Education

So, a young fellow by the name of Logan LaPlante gave a TEDTalk at an age where most of the people I know were still bumbling through angsty adolescence and could barely decide what color of ripped jeans to wear.

Mr. LaPlante’s message is simple: we need to reform education. We need to make sure kids are happy and healthy above all else, and we need to foster their passions rather than squash them with conventional, ineffective education techniques.

Bud Hunt wrote a blog post with similar ideas entitled “Make/Hack/Play,” stating that the three things we need to emphasize in education are creation, innovation, and freedom.

I’m on the fence with this one, ladies and gentlemen. I’m 100% on board with emphasis on freedom, on happiness over test scores, on pursuing passions over outdated curricula. What I am not 100% on board with, is the recent tendency to fetishize innovation over all else. People eat TED Talks up. How often do you watch one, feel an immense burst of inspiration, and then… do absolutely nothing with it? I know I’m guilty. This is my problem: this emphasis on radical innovation creates an environment in which laziness breeds rampant. We can feel better about ourselves for not doing anything to change the world, so long as we listen to and agree with people who have good ideas about how to do so.

Public school is the sharpest double-edged sword there ever was. Kids learn social skills, make friends, and give their parents 8 hour breaks from their hormonal outrages. School also forces kids into cliques, fosters an excellent “dog eat dog, kill or be killed” social environment, and gives many people debilitating anxietal and self esteem issues from day one. Too smart? You’re a nerd, and you’re a faggot, and you make everyone else look bad because you’re a freak. Too slow? You’re a retard, and a moron, and you should just give up now. Like the color black or skateboards? You’re a stoner, and you’re a goth, and you love drugs, and you’re a delinquent who will never amount to anything.

That’s public school. It forges some of us in steel and makes us strong. Others become brittle in the process. They look fine on the outside, but inside, there’s pieces missing.

change

Photo CC-by Feggy Art

Is There an Answer?

I have no blanket solution toward fixing the broken education system. That’s what it is: it’s broken. I don’t care about dissenting opinions. Students in certain European countries go to college for free. Then they churn out more scientists, doctors, and credible artists than we could possibly dream of. A system where the amount of money you’ll be rewarded for an education is relative to how well you fill bubbles in on a ScanTron is fundamentally fucked up. Period.

I believe people like Mr. LaPlante and Mr. Hunt are on the right track. Public schools attempt to teach obedience and discipline over all else. We claim recess is only for little kids, but anyone who can throw a football reasonably well is perpetually carried through high school, and a lot of colleges. We expect kids to know enough about their passions and their lives to dictate where they go between ages 16 and 18. Kids haven’t experienced a fraction of their lives or passions at 18, yet school systems expect them to choose ONE major through college and stick with it, lest their wallet now and forever be perpetually raped by the United States Government.

It starts at a ground level. Not every school is going to get to have a curricula that involves skiing or glass blowing or anything like that. Some people are so staunchly in favor of a broken system that it’s quite baffling.

Teachers: foster creativity. Foster passion. It’s okay to like football. It’s also okay to like dance, computer science, Calculus, scratch drawing. We need critical thinkers, we need analysts. Enough of the “out of the box” bullshit. Forget the box altogether. Thinking in or out of the box keeps you firmly in the status quo. Be the teacher that cares enough to not talk down to your students, but not let them breeze through. Don’t let students think learning is “for fags,” don’t let them think failure is all they’ll ever amount to.

I’ve had 2 types of teachers talk to me in my life. I’ve had teachers who’ve told me “y’know, teaching is an alright gig. It’s job security. It isn’t my first choice, but eh,” and I’ve had teachers who told me, “If you don’t feel the call to educate, don’t waste your own or anyone else’s time.”

I think I understand the difference now.

Docendo discimus

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages..

I’m back!

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Photo CC-by Bart Maguire, who presumably went on an adventure.

Yes, it’s a new year (and my final one) here at Chadron State, and the prodigal son truly returns to the English and Humanities department with a vengeance. This year I’ll be comparing religions, novelizing graphics, and literally digitizing with the very best of ’em. In all seriousness, it feels good to be back among the bookworms and writers among us.

That brings me to the main event of the post: Dr. Elisabeth Ellington’s Literacy in the Digital Age class. This class is going to center a lot, I’m guessing, on learning. About learning. Wait, what?

So, on the note of learning, I’m being asked to give something new a whirl here. I’m still blogging in my lovable Cracked,com format of witty banter-image-witty banter-image, but now I’m being asked to give it an actual purpose – 5 things that shaped me as a learner – and to do it all without potentially violating copyright law.
I think I can handle that.

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Photo CC-by az. Quite the name.
The first of five key experiences in my life that shaped the way I learn, and the way I pretty much operate at all today, was learning to read.

I know that sounds like a “duh,” but I could read on my own before kindergarten. I have my mom to thank for that. When I was around 4 or 5, every day was ended with a Goosebumps book. She read them to me, often had me read a few pages, and I would inevitably pass out on the couch. Not only do I have her to thank for my ability to read, but for my affinity for all things dark and spooky. Thanks, ma.

Seriously, though, being literate early on has given me the biggest jumpstart I could ever need. When you can read, the world is open to you. Travel isn’t an issue, you can do almost anything with a How-To book and a decently put together YouTube video, and you are never incapable of communicating with someone.. despite possibly being a continent or two away. Reading = writing. From literacy comes a growth of vocabulary, empathy, geographical knowledge, what have you. Reading is step one on the journey that is learning. When people say “I haven’t read a book since high school,” I want to vomit. On them. Hopefully I’ve eaten something messy the night before.

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Photo CC-by crypto, because street signs are apparently all the rage right now.

It wouldn’t be until late middle school-early high school that I would come across a teacher that I truly respected. If my appearance in the “About Me” section of this blog doesn’t give it away, I have a bit of a problem with authority figures. Always have, always will – only now I can use the excuse of being an adult for when my mouth happens to fire off like a cannon.

That being said, Mr. Dick RIschling taught the marching bands at Alliance High / Alliance Middle School in Alliance, Nebraska for I believe 33 years, and I was fortunate enough to be a small part of those years. Those who made the mistake of thinking band was an excuse to dick around for 45 minutes and get an easy A were in for a brutal wake up call. This man provided me with such great quotes as

“I love conflict, I win them all!” 

Dick Rischling was the type of man who would go for a two-mile run and smoke every 15 minutes while still running. He had zero time for slackers, zero tolerance for class clowns, and was not afraid to say what he thought. He was like the Gordon Ramsay of marching band. Ask other AHS graduates if I’m kidding. The man taught me to stand up straight and carry myself with some dignity, to force my nose to the grindstone, and kept me humble when my sarcastic mouth got the better of me. If my mom provided me with the tools to learn, Dick Rischling provided me with the devotion that was necessary.

So I had the skills, and I had the motivation. What’s left?

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Photo CC-by Nate Cochran, and a damn fine picture if I do say so myself

Self-confidence. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I began to branch out and discover something about myself. I was borderline misanthropic, extremely anti-social, and probably pretty socially awkward. I had a set circle of friends I had always had, and other than out with them, I went nowhere. I hung out at home, read, played video games, and surfed the web. My life was pretty consistently boring this way until my parents bought me a guitar.

About a year later, around April 29th, 2009, the band I’m in, Monster in the Mirror, had their first concert. Something lying dormant inside me woke up that night. The general consensus was shock: this shy, kinda weird kid who didn’t say much in class was a natural on stage. The crowd of 200 or so people loved us. And 6 years later, we’re still a band.

Being up on a stage allowed me to be everything I wasn’t. Up there, I was loud, I was mean, I was aggressive, I was a commanding force. And it all felt good. After that, I began to speak up in classes. My sarcasm and my opinionated nonsense became more and more frequent. I knew what I was talking about. If I didn’t, I knew I could learn, and I knew I could be good at it. Now I make money making an ass of myself on stage, and I’m slowly but surely beginning a career as a writer, something else I thought I could never do. Never underestimate the power of knowing you can do something. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

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Photo CC-by Phillip Taylor, of something that doesn’t exist in 2015

Success is nice, of course, but to me, the most powerful teaching / learning tool is failure. For me, the hardest lesson I ever learned was learned the hard way. That lesson, quite simply, is not to settle.

I was in a relationship for 4 years, 2 in high school, and 2 in college. When that relationship started to fall apart, I panicked, and did the worst possible thing in an attempt to try and salvage what was left. I proposed.

19 and engaged. Never thought that would be me, but it was. I’m not against early engagements: if you think you know, then go for it. Just be prepared for what could happen. But take it from me: never, ever, ever, ever propose out of fear. You’re building pillars of salt on top of a waterbed. It was doomed to fail from the start. Friends and family tried to warn me, but I was comfortable in my routine of boredom. I don’t regret the time spent, because the lesson I learned was invaluable. Still, it’s left me with some extra bags that I’d very much like to get rid of, and have yet to figure out how. I do have someone very special who’s helping me with that, though. Things do get better.

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Photo CC-by SNIJLAB Rotterdam

That being said, the bottom-line lesson that has come from all of this, and the thing that will best facilitate both teachers and learners alike, is flexibility. Don’t become rigid in any way. I understand that routine and familiarity is comfortable, but standing water breeds pestilence. Not everyone learns the same way you do. Not everyone teaches the same way you do. Deal with these things. You can make plans for 6 years from next Tuesday all you want, but the fact of the matter is, life is unpredictable. Sometimes it’ll flip the table on you, and you’ve got to be prepared to pick up the pieces and rearrange the silverware, ya dig?

So, that’s it for me. 5 things that shaped the way I learn, but in all honesty, these 5 things shaped my life; who I am as a person. Maybe those things are synonymous – being a person and being a learner. Whoa. I just blew my own mind. I think I need to sit down.

Percipio Percepi Perceptum

Hey boys and girls, did you miss me?

Yes, yes, the prodigal son returns much to the chagrin of all 20 or so people that actually follow me. I haven’t updated this blog since roughly September, when my first publication(s) were headed out. Annnnd a lot of new things have happened in my life since then. With a little encouragement from a certain special someone, I decided I should breathe some life into this. Especially considering that I haven’t written for “The Eagle” (our College’s newspaper) more than once this whole semester.

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above: semi-accurate representation of me this semester

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, “holy shit I’m almost a senior in college.” When I walk out of this place next year with a Bachelor’s in Literature with a minor in Music, how unemployable do you think I’m going to be? Here’s a shocker for you (that some people will hate me for), I’m pretty sure I’m going to get my first few B’s of my college career. Granted, that doesn’t upset me. There are people that will be disgusted with the fact that I’ve lasted this long with all A’s, because, you know, <sarcasm> I wake up every morning with the thought “I’m just going to put everyone else to shame.” That’s just how I operate. I’m kind of a dick. </sarcasm> I knew going into this semester it would be a transitional one for me.

My relationship of 4 years ended back in November, and with that came an entire paradigm shift that most people probably experience once or twice in their lives. It started back when I was in high school, persisted through some rocky times, and stupidly, I proposed because of the promise of a false sense of security. But, as a good friend of mine says, “a ring never plugged no hole,” and indeed, it did not. It takes two to tango, folks, but three’s a crowd. On the bright side, that paradigm shift allowed me to pursue a 2-year-long crush that happens to double as the love of my life, so, there’s that. Am I sharing too much with you people?

the above statement is false

In terms of writing, I’m in a really strange place. I have ideas for miles and miles, and unlike when I was just starting off, I actually believe I can do these ideas justice. That was why I never wrote before, I was afraid of the “loss-of-self” that would happen to the idea between my brain and the paper. To any other writers in this predicament, my best piece of advice is: get the fuck over it. Write it down. If you hate it, you can edit it and edit it until you don’t, or sometimes you just have to hate it. H.P. Lovecraft loathed some of his most famous works. Anyway, point being, I have ideas, and I have (enough) confidence to give them a whirl… I just need to actually sit down and write them out. Typically, about the time I feel “inspired” to write is the time when I’m tired enough to want to pass out. This is called creative insomnia, and I feel no strong desire to be an insomniac. As well as it would work with my “brooding author” image, I like sleep.

Since September, I’ve had 5 short stories published. 4 in the Demonic Visions series, books 1, 2, and 3, editted and compiled by Chris Robertson. 1 by the lovely ladies at Sirens Call Publications, a few of which join me in said Demonic Visions books. In June, Demonic Visions 4 will come out, and provided I can pull my head out of my ass, I’ll have a story or two featured in there as well. My goal over the summer, as far as my writing career goes, is to branch out a bit. I love the DV series, but I feel like I need to get around a bit more with my writing, so that I might not seem like a one-trick pony. Hopefully I’ve impressed a reader (*cough* publisher) or two with my work.

Is anyone really surprised that I have work in a book with this kind of cover? You knew what you were getting into.

Recently, I feel as though adulthood has slowly settled its way into my brain. I haven’t necessarily felt ostracized from my friends, just like we are growing in separate directions. I no longer feel the need to empty my wallet during each Steam sale. Instead, payday usually brings a new slew of books onto my shelf. This year, I made it a point to be sociable and a party kind of person. Now that I’ve experienced that and found my happy medium, I’m retreating back into cynic-mode. People here at Chadron are really big fans of compromising their beliefs or opinions depending on who’s around, and I hate that shit. I have a Metallica tattoo on my left shoulder, but don’t tell the music department. They’ll all laugh heartily and scoff at me, despite the fact that half of them are most likely Metallica fans themselves. But it isn’t the cool thing to do. Apparently, high school mentality dies hard.

Thoughts of post-college life used to petrify me. Now, I’m excited to see what it holds. Even if it’s sorrow or rage or whathaveyou, at least I will have lived and learned outside of the realm of my hometown. I’m gonna pass the mic to my man William Blake to close this one off: “Expect poison from the standing water.”

 

Vola libere, sed semper domum redi

 

“When life gives you lemons, chunk it right back.” ― Bill Watterson

I’m going to get this out of the way first and foremost: I neither loved nor hated Virginia Euwer Wolff’s “Make Lemonade”. For me, it had its touching moments, but on the whole, I wasn’t super impressed, nor did I walk away bleary-eyed. There were times when I was genuinely enthralled, and others where I felt my hands turning the page simply so I would have the necessary fuel for this blog post. Usually, a book I love (or hate) creates very polarizing feelings in me. This book left me with an “eh” and shrugged shoulders.

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I know what we’re going to do today!

So, what’s happening?

For the uninitiated (that is, anyone reading this not in my adolescent lit class), Make Lemonade entails the story of 14 year old Verna LaVaughn, who takes a job babysitting 17 year old Jolly’s two (fatherless) children. Jolly is barely managing to hold the shambles of her life together, scrambling to be able to pay for rent, bills, and the things that young Jeremy (3) and Jilly (no older than 2) need. Verna takes the job, despite the fact that it could possibly begin cutting into her study time. Verna fears nothing more than the possibility of not going to college and ending up like Jolly, and her mother finds no shortage of ways to make it known that she is skeptical at best about Verna’s decision. Oh, and for any of you wondering where “Make Lemonade” comes from as a title, 3 times over Verna plants some lemon seeds for Jeremy, the first two times yield no results. This, and also an anecdote from Jolly about an old blind woman trying to buy an orange for her children being knocked down by some thugs who replace the orange with a lemon (guess what she does with this lemon?). It’s all very symbollic, the whole “life gives you lemons” schtick, yadda-yadda-yadda, overcoming adversity time!

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You don’t seem thrilled with this. Why not?

For one thing, I, on general principle, am not fond of kids. And by “I’m not fond of kids” I mean I seriously want to tear my ears off whenever children are in the vicinity. I know some of my fellow adolescent-lit-bloggers are parents, and I apologize if this opinion is for some reason offensive, but sweet jesus kids bug the crap out of me. I know they don’t know any better, but (like Verna mentions, having to stop herself from acting like I would) when a kid is being a whirlwind of destruction, that shit is not cool. You want to be angry, but can’t because they don’t know better, so you’ve got nowhere to put your irritation, and then someone will inevitably say “WELL YOU WERE A KID ONCE TOO” (no shit, lady), and it all just devolves into a big mess.

Reason #2 is there were multiple moments in this novel where I wanted to dropkick either Jolly or Verna’s mother. Hypocrisy seemed to be the word of the day for these people. Here are my brief impressions:

Jolly: “WAH HELP ME I NEED HELP I CAN’T DO THIS ALONE – OMG YOU’RE STEALING MY CHILDRENS FROM ME I DON’T NEED ANYONE I CAN DO IT MYSELF”

Verna’s Mother: “DO WHATEVER IT TAKES YOU NEED MONEY FOR COLLEGE – HOW COULD YOU TAKE THIS JOB THAT PAYS MONEY YOU BETTER NOT START SLIPPING IN SCHOOL BECAUSE SCHOOL MEANS COLLEGE”

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Above: somewhat related

Rinse and repeat this for about the entirety of the novel. And it drives me nuts. Verna’s mother offers hollow, lifeless praises to her daughter when things go right, but spends most of her time rolling her eyes, saying snappy things under her breath, and peeling potatoes. So, maybe the woman lost a husband to a freak accident. That would explain the cold exterior, and she does mean well when it comes to Verna. She just wants to see her succeed, but she’s pretty much the cliche “overworked mom” from most teen novels, shows, etc. etc. Jolly on the other hand whines and complains about needing help and about how everyone looks down on her, everyone tells her that she deserves her place because she should have “known better” – and then promptly refuses Welfare (yet accepts food stamps) and instead writes a letter to a billionaire to get him to pay her rent. Fucking genius. Plus, I just hate the names “Jolly” and “Jilly”. In the sequel, a love interest for Verna named “Jody” shows up.

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Jolly is supposedly in talks with MTV (this is a joke).

Wait.. so should we read this or not?

I’m gonna throw you guys for a loop here – I genuinely think you should read “Make Lemonade” for yourselves and form an opinion. If you enjoy it, there are two sequels. It has its redeeming moments, some of the moments between Jeremy and Verna are pretty touching (getting Jeremy new shoes, reading to him, etc.), and Jeremy as a whole serves well as a symbol of hope. Just because I didn’t on the whole like the novel doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a read. I’m sure I’m going to be the one person out of the 6+ billion on the earth that openly says I didn’t care for it much. The copyright date on the particular copy of the book I have is from 1993, the year I was born. By now, we’re desensitized to teenage pregnancy. The shit is on television and practically celebrated by our (mindless) culture, but I’m wondering if in 1993 it was a different story. I’m wondering if I would have a different disposition towards this novel had I been born prior to 93. Either way, I want to know what others think, whether they like what I’ve had to say or not.

veni quid veniat