Of Namings and Essays


Gaston (Photo credit: Max xx) — Not this Gaston, who is a cat, and has nothing to do with my article. But yay cats!

There is much going our family these last two weeks dealing with naming.  First, my partner began settling into the idea that this baby (I’m at 17 weeks) is happening, and we began making serious lists of names, none of which we seem to really agree upon (“No, we’re not naming him Gaston.  What don’t you like about Caelan?  Well, I’ve already decided, if it’s a girl, which I don’t think it is, we’re naming her Calpurnia Elizabeth,” and so on).  Second, a conversation with another homeschooled student led to a the naming of groups of youth, generally based on sex or gender, for which I’ve written a longer post on LiveJournal detailing said names and linking them to a feminist article I’d read just prior to the conversation, which sent off all sorts of triggers for me.

And it’s this article that makes me come to you, dear readers, for suggestions.  If you’ve been reading long, then you know we’re on our third year of the experiment of “Reading Selections” with my daughter and my friend’s eldest son.  This year, I’m having them focus more on argumentative essays and their analysis than short stories or poetry as I usually do.  While I have a couple of modern articles like the one above lined up, they’re primarily dealing with women and misogyny.  What I’m seeking are one or two strong arguments about the societal prejudice of adolescent males, somewhat along the same lines as the 12-year-old girl article.  Thus far, I’ve only found a story-like essay dealing with the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the perception of young men, especially of color.  So, please, if you have strong argumentative essays dealing with the common ways in which young men are perceived by society and/or authority figures, I’d love to read them.  Thanks!

FoldIt – Solving Puzzles for Science


Image via Wikipedia

RawStory featured the story about online gamers who helped crack enzymes in the same family as the AIDS virus. It refers to a program called FoldIt, still in beta at the time of this post, that I had never heard of before. Apparently, my partner had tried it for a short time, but hadn’t mentioned it. This sort of gaming is a new and growing phenomenon wherein gamers used their problem-solving energy in virtual worlds to help solve real world problems.

I mentioned this before when I first heard about Evoke. After nearly a year, I still haven’t received confirmation from them, but my status still reads as pending approval. In the meantime, I’m going to give FoldIt a shot, and encourage my daughter–and her 11 year old, elastic brain–to do the same.  Even better, FoldIt works with Windows and Mac platforms, so we can both play on our respective laptops.

Another RSAnimate Lecture: 21st Century Enlightenment

These are questions and ideas with which we wrestle every day in our education and they are the underlying principles we must consider for each action taken.  What is it that we are teaching our children?  Surely, it must be more than just the academic.

Quick Links: Art, Cooking, Music, Environment, and Literacy

Just posting some quick links related to schooling.  Some are resources, others are resources or commentary.  Follow and enjoy.  🙂

Kids Draw & Cook is a blog that displays recipes by kids along with their artwork to represent or present the meal. Its the youthful version of They Draw & Cook, which features recipes as presented by artists.  Children’s submissions always welcome.

Many researchers and educators have touted the link between music and mathematics and sciences, as well as they ways musical training influences developing minds.  Here is yet another well-written argument in support of music education and its funding.

The Story of Stuff is a project that shows videos that are engaging, easy to understand, and yet not condescending to viewers of all ages.  Presented by a non-threatening middle class “soccer mom” archetype along with simplistic black and white animation, they touch on topics related to capitalist/materialist culture, the broken systems that create environmental toxins and waste, and what we can do to change the ways in which we interact with our world and its resources.  Highly recommended; I suggest starting with the eWaste/Electronics piece.  It’ll make you wonder about the computer you’re using to watch the video.

An encounter with the college aged functionally illiterate, and the problems such youth represent for the state of our nation and its future.

Inspiration: Self-Actualization Speech at Stanford

William Deresiewicz gave a speech in May to the Freshmen class at Stanford, addressing the need to make choices for oneself, and to have courage in the face of those choices.  He emphasized that one requires frequent self-evaluation throughout the journey of one’s life, and that there is more to “success” than getting a high paying job.  I think this speech probably flew over the heads of most of the students listening, and it might have been better received by a bunch of fifth graders at a TED Conference.

Nevertheless, his words are something we all ought to consider, because people who think for themselves, make choices based in their own values, and work to broaden themselves beyond a specialty, tend to turn into extraordinary people.  They also tend to make informed choices as citizens in the political arena, show pride in the work they do regardless of its financial rewards, and work toward building an imaginative community.

Self-actualization isn’t a new concept, it’s rather old, since many people throughout history have been or made themselves self-actualized.  It’s a goal I strive for within myself, and one I hope my child will achieve.  It’s not an easy path, not when your choices go against the grain of what society expects of you, but it can be spiritually, emotionally, and mentally rewarding.  In some cases, there’s even a financial reward, but that’s usually not the goal, unless one’s values are squarely in the money seat.

So when you’re working with your children, helping to guide them along their path, consider what choices you’re making, and encourage them to make their own.  After all, these ideals are at the heart of many homeschooling and unschooling philosophies.

Geography: World Mapper & Social Justice

NPR just posted an article about World Mapper, a site dedicated to revealing the world through people and what they do.  As the NPR article says, “Oh My Gosh, What Happened to Paraguay?”

In the selection of any major indicator such as internet use or land area to population, one can see how drastically the world changes.  The haves and have-nots become all too obvious, and the effects of governmental policies and politics show up within these maps.

As an anthropologist and a parent who believes the U.S.’s students aren’t being taught enough about the world (especially geography and civics), this kind of map site might just get kids and parents talking–and not just about the way we mark our globes!  Because these reveal social shifts within our global population, discussions about social justice and awareness can be brought in; there is a great opportunity to inspire children to think about ways that these disparities come about and how they might be able to work toward changing them.