Education Evolutions #90

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Issue number 90, a landmark of sorts is a little later than normal but should provide some easy morning reading on a snow day in New England. So have look while enjoying your morning coffee, after you have cleared the accumulation.

This week I included a couple of pieces from The Atlantic. Normally, I try to mix it up a bit more source-wise but both of these articles caught my eye for different reasons. Each sheds valuable insight into our culture and some of the less laudable aspects.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one. Our interconnected world has some serious consequences that are tricky and everyone is kind of navigating them anew. We are still adapting to the reality of just how long the memory of the Internet can be. It is a strange paradox that the digital world is both more ephemeral and permanent at the same time.

Enjoy the weather holiday.

Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

Dr. Seuss Books Can Be Racist, But Students Keep Reading Them – NPR’s Code Switch – Tiara Jenkins & Jessica Yarmosky (5-minute read)

As we recently wrapped Read Across America week, NPR’s Code Switch took on Dr. Seuss specifically but more widely our gravitation toward classic literature, even when it presents problematic, ugly aspects of our history. Code Switch is a podcast-department focusing exclusively on our shifting understanding of race, ethnicity, and culture. This piece is a text-only offering.

While some might be dismissive of calling out Dr. Seuss, I think this issue is critical to our becoming better humans beings. I am a big fan of the notion that we need to do better when we know better. Reconciling how racist or insensitive our cultural pasts have been is an act of empathy. The late Dr. Seuss may not be able to do anything about it but we can, and that doesn’t mean we have to completely throw everything out either. Facing up to things gives us opportunities to right wrongs and be inclusive instead of exclusive. That way, our understanding becomes richer, our awareness more nuanced, and everyone has a better chance to benefit.

Obviously, it can clearly become complicated when dealing with children’s literature given how early racial biases can begin to take shape in children. Yet, the fact is increasing our own awareness is never going to not be complicated. As our understanding of a whole range of historically offensive -isms deepens our actions have to keep up. Things change and will keep on changing, which is one of the reasons why it remains hard. Still, trying to be a better human is a major reason why I became a teacher.

This article instantly reminded me of the 1996 children’s book Sam and the Tigers: A New Telling of Little Black Sambo, which is a beautiful retelling of a “classic” children’s story with a tremendously complicated past. It is a fantastic book that reclaims the best of the old without the baggage. It is one of my favorite examples of doing better with better understanding in the realm of “classic” and children’s literature.

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable – The Atlantic – Derek Thompson (13-minute read)

I am not sure I completely like this article. However, I found it particularly insightful and true culturally. I have to admit to being a bit guilty of some of the things in this piece as the author does. While I feel like I have gotten better at this, I recall being generally exhausted early in my teaching career. I have since gotten better over time but it has been hard earned.

Contrary to popular understanding, teaching is the kind of profession that can cater to “workism.” It is a job that is considerably challenging and demanding. There is a whole lot going on simultaneously in a classroom, making difficult to get good in the classroom, despite any predispositions. There are plenty of teachers that should read an article like this. Plus, it might be something to consider in how we envision how our students function too.

The section that highlights how we have enshrined work into law is probably the most relevant currently. For all the comment about rich working the most, America has become a place where all but the richest workers receive fewer and fewer safeguards. Most people have to work as hard as they do because they must. As the gap has grown wider between the haves and have-nots, the rich mentioned in this article may simply have bought their own con. I am not completely sure I buy all that, however.

When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online – The Atlantic – Taylor Lorenz (7-minute read)

Once again, the collision of children and the Internet has jumped to the fore. This is one of the most complicated and thorny issues I can think of when it comes to living in our technological, social media-ted age. This is another one of those issues that is not going away and will only grow more complicated.

I count myself fortunate that I gave this issue serious reconsideration years ago in the wake of the first major quake created by the “David after the Dentist” video that at last check has been screened over 138 million times in just over a decade. I tried to find the article that forced me to confront my own behavior but couldn’t. What I can say is that it raised complex questions of parenting, consent, consequence, privacy, and more – no small issues there. The lasting impression involved considering exactly how David might feel about his Internet celebrity when say he is sitting in a survey history class of 200+ at university. That sentiment stuck with me ever since.

Things worked out alright for the DeVore’s but it certainly is not a given by any stretch. Still, as this article chronicles, the worst offenders on this front are almost always a kid’s parents. Given that a child possesses neither the capacity for consent nor consequence, we should all give pause when considering sharing something online. Schools need to be a whole lot more aware too. While considering student privacy is a major step forward for a number of schools, there are not enough compliant schools and those measures may not go far enough, actually.

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