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Why not eliminate schooling between age 12-16? It’s biologically psychologically too turbulent a time to be cooped up inside, made to sit all the time. During these years, kids would live communally — doing some work, anyway being physically active, in the countryside; learning about sex — free of their parents. Those four ‘missing’ years of school could be added on, at a much later age. At, say, age 50-54 everyone would have to go back to school. (One could get a deferment for a few years, in special cases, if one was in a special work or creative project that couldn’t be broken off.) In this 50-54 schooling, have strong pressure to learn a new job or profession — plus liberal arts stuff, general science (ecology, biology), and language skills.
MOOCs are an essentially authoritarian structure; a one-way process in which the student is a passive recipient required to do nothing except “learn.” What he “learns” is only useful if it results in direct, measurable economc production. (Hence, for example, a degree in literature has an economic value of zero.) As a convenient by-product, the purveyors of this “education” can be “incentivized” by the profit motive. The invisible hand at work once again.
Or we can look at education as an interactive process whereby the job of the teacher is to encourage the student to think, thereby introducing him to an adult world in which he may devise a contributon of his own making.
Last week, Terry was cleaning out her office which means that she would occasionally make the rounds to our various desks asking if we wanted this or that book. Suspecting my fondness for Nick Hornby (Terry is astute.), she offered up Hornby’s collection of essays about reading, Housekeeping Versus The Dirt. Though I had read some of the individual essays, I hadn’t read them all together and plus, it’s a great title: How could I resist?
I started the book on the trolley to work the other day and the introductory essay reminded me of just how much fun and how smart and unpretentious Hornby is on the page. It’s a great plea to just read, regardless of whether it’s Tolstoy or Dan Brown and it left me so ready more.:
And please, please stop patronizing those who are reading a book — The Da Vinci Code, maybe — because they are enjoying it. For a start, none of us knows what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing. I don’t mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that’s what you want to read, it’s fine by me, because here’s something else no one will ever tell you: if you don’t read the classics, or the novel that won this year’s Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning pages should not be like walking through thick mud. The whole purpose of books is that we read them, and if you find you can’t, it might not be your inadequacy that’s to blame. “Good” books can be pretty awful sometimes.
So if you, like me, are feeling a little in love with Hornby right now, here’s our interview with him.
Police departments were amazed when they took their officers out to the range and found out not only could they learn to use the Glock pretty quickly, but the Glock also made them more accurate as marksmen. And that’s in part because it has a very light, very steady trigger pull. … Critics of the guns say the trigger pull is so light that it makes accidental discharges so likely. But the Glock always has had that dual nature to it — the advantages can be reframed as disadvantages.
For your weekend reading, a wonderful essay called “Get Over It Or Die” by Anna Baker over at Drunken Boat. It’s about Baker’s friendship with the late writer Barry Hannah. She was a student of his at the University of Mississippi and, superficially, it’s a story about the writing life and the desire for a writing life. Really, though, it’s a story how to be a good teacher and what it means to have another person who believes in you. It’s also about how to actually live life, writing or not.:
He was my friend. I’d done everything wrong in the past three years, and still, he was my friend, and that made all the difference. He believed that one of these days I was going to develop the balls to put in the hard hours without guarantee of like or love. He read all my work including the fifty pages of unrevised dribble I’d written on a two day spree—stories about suicides in Berlin, people jumping from windows, landing and cracking like plates, woman sleeping with village idiots, not knowing they were idiots, then finding out too late, after the damage was done. Long paragraphs about accordions. Long paragraphs about lesbian nuns in the middle ages meeting under the cities to have sex. All of it Barry called a waste of his time and painful for the eyes. But that didn’t mean he stopped reading.
“I auditioned for a smaller role and they said, ‘That’s really good. You want to read Jerry?’ And I said, ‘Yes, and so I went out of the room, spent 20 minutes, came back in, read Jerry.’ And they said, ‘That’s real good. You want to work on it and come tomorrow?’ I said, ‘Yes.” … I was up all night. I memorized the whole script. I wanted this role, so I went back in. They said, ‘That’s real good, that’s real good. We’ll be in touch.’ And then I heard through my agent that they were in New York auditioning, so I – jolly, jolly — got my ass on an airplane and crashed the audition. And I was making a joke — and luckily it landed — but I said, … ‘I’m afraid you’re going to screw up your movie and cast someone else in this role,’ and they went, ‘Hahaha,’ and I said, ‘No, seriously, I’ll shoot your dog if you don’t give me this role.’ And I think Ethan (Coen) had just gotten a dog.”