Sunday, March 24, 2013

We Can Fix Highschool (By Making it More Like College)

     Institutionalized education of any sort has institutionalized problems.  Higher Ed's failings get almost as much headline time as public school's, even though they fail in drastically different ways.  Philosophically marrying the two could re-energize both failing systems.  How can we mold high school's failings to match college's successes?

1-Allow specialization.  Colleges encourage specialization instead of pressing for “general education”.  High schools could replace survey classes like Brit lit and biology with 19th century poets and ornithology   Specialization allows students better use of their time and a chance to study their passions, leading to better attitudes and atmospheres.

2-Write across the curriculum.  College courses often require papers to measure students’ learning.  Shift the focus in high school classrooms from studying for tests to articulating their knowledge.  Writing across the curriculum means more practice on a basic tool for citizenship.

3-Allow flexible scheduling.  Adolescents need almost as much sleep as five year olds, yet they’re saddled with 6 am bus rides and homework that drags into the night.  They spend their days sequestered in a sterile environment  forbidden to enjoy the sun or walk in the rain.  Make high school class periods shorter, more focused, and with many time options for fulfilling requirements.

4-Respect pupils.  Maturity happens over the course of years, not one one magical birthday.  Allow students to complain, suggest, express their convictions, and wear whatever they want (as long as they don’t hurt other students).  Further democracy and allow them to make their own rules.  If long-haired boys were that distracting, top colleges would have kicked them out year ago.

5-Encourage independence.  Help students find alternative ways to learn and then give them credit for it.  Suggest a wide range of sanctionedextended learning opportunities, work with local colleges, and run an efficient independent study program.

What do you think?  Can high school take queues from colleges?  Or should the reverse happen?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hello, 2013!

Between a National Open our region's first qualifying tournament, I've started off the new year with a lot on my plate.
This year is a big one for me: I turn 18 in less than a month and will be attending college this fall.  To those of you still persevering through mounds and mounds of applications or financial aid paperwork, take heart!  Soon you'll have shiny acceptance letters landing in your mail box and you'll face the next challenge: decisions.  The first of May looms closer and closer.
Much of the year is in flux right now.  I'm hoping to do some traveling this summer and be in school next fall, but the details are up in the air.  One of the only things I know for sure is that I'll be attending the NCFCA national Championship in Tulsa this year--my biographical narrative on Dr. Seuss prequalified a week ago.
I've been pondering what to do with this blog.  I haven't posted as much as I used to because I'm not sure of where I want to take it in.  I think a theme is important for giving any writing collection direction, and as of yet the "theme" of this blog is still up in the air. I may end up starting a new blog for posts on travel, writing, and education, keeping this one for my more "article" oriented posts.
I'm off to another tournament tomorrow but hopefully I'll be back to writing--in one format or another--before long.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 in Review

This break from pleasantly coherent tea and life updates is brought to you by my bucket list!

2012 was a year of checkmarks--my "complete ten bucket list items" resolution was wonderfully successful! 

Over the past 12 months I've:
*Been to King's Cross and had my picture taken at the official platform 9 and 3/4
*Eaten fish and chips in England
*Had tea in England
*Irish step danced in Ireland
*Rode the Tube
*Saw Shakespeare (Julius Caesar) performed in England
*Visited Stonehenge
*...The National Gallery
*...and London (obviously).

I also slept in a hammock, read The Lord of the Rings, directed a play, did push-ups in a row, taught other homeschoolers, pulled an all nighter (do not recommend!), and studied improvisational comedy.  That's 17 items checked off of the bucket list!  My mother is begging me to slow down for fear I fulfill my life dreams before a ripe old age.
What's on the agenda for next year?  Ten more shiny check marks!  I take whatever opportunities I'm given. Have a blessed Christmas and an relaxing vacation!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: A Review

After sleeping in from the premier of The Hobbit last night, one of the first things I did was check Rotten Tomatoes' "Tomato Meter" for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Literally overnight the approval of audiences and critics alike plummeted from an acceptable 75 to a measly 68.
Last night I stayed up far past my usual bedtime, sucking down caffeine in preparation for the next installment of Middle Earth Cinema.  All my movie watching compatriots agreed that no one acquainted with the book would expect a fourth Fellowship of the Rings, and indeed, it's apparent that the new cast and crew steered  the film in a very different direction.
First, new talent was needed to carry a new story, and Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage both   debuted gracefully. Jackson also brought in a new voice in production: Guillermo del Torro.  Del Torro left his mark on the script for better or for worse.  Overall, it wasn't as tightly written as the script for LOTR.  A few of the throwaway jokes were even downright uncomfortable.*  In some spots, the script positively sparkled.  The tradition of weaving in descriptive passages and chapter titles continued, along with effective use of Tolkien's lyrics.
Peter Jackson's best directorial decision was casting Martin Freeman as Bilbo.  Freeman seems to be making his career brilliantly playing reluctant adventurers and audience surrogates.  The "unexpected party" scene is delightful reading, but Freeman plays it so beautifully that the forming of the company is downright hilarious.
As my mother keeps reminding me,** the movie is long.  Really long.  Last night, I only saw a third of the story told in the prequel.  It didn't feel strained, happily, although the tangential expeditions into middle earth history occasionally dragged on a bit long.
As a whole, movie feels different, more like an epic fairy tale than a simple epic.  The animals and dwarves were beautifully rendered, but were oddly anthropomorphised, lacked the sharp realism from LOTR.  Although Bilbo leaves the Shire early in the movie, it follows him through Middle Earth, dusting the whole movie with a quaint air.  The bottom line?  See The Hobbit, if only for Martin Freeman and "Riddles in the Dark".  The shining moments far outweigh the dull ones.

*I'm not blaming del Torro for everything that's wrong with The Hobbit, but the heavy-handed one liners definitely are his trademark.

**Thank you for driving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thoughts on Splash! MIT 2012

It’s that time of the year where MIT opens up its campus to thousands of students.  The college students, many of them from MIT or Brown, are there to teach workshops on topics from Circular Gallifreyan to Sex Ed to Advanced Calculus.  The students are there to pack as many classes as possible into a twelve-hour day.
Last year was my first year as a Splash! student.  I was overwhelmed by two things: first, the passions of the teachers, teaching subjects they were passionate about to share knowledge, not gain money or recognition, and second the freedom we were granted.  We had complete run of the campus.  One lovely hour was spent wandering through the hard sciences wing, completely lost but soaking in the fascinating displays and posters.  ”Introduction to Classic Doctor Who” is not given priority over “Quantum Mechanics”.  I’m sure I learned more in my energetic and fun Doctor Who class about the television business than I would have from a physics course taught in a monotone.  The flexibility, academically and other wise, was incredible.
The other thing that has always impressed me was the kaleidoscope of humans that show up to Splash.  There was the goth girl who played violin for a dance class, the muslim girl in hijab in my poetry class.  Every slice of humanity was represented through a few thousand twelve-to-twenty-two year olds.  I remember telling my mom last year that if school was like Splash!, I would go.
This year is the last year I’m old enough to take classes via the Splash! program.  I hope to return the favor next year, as a teacher.

[Originally posted on Tumblr]