Uncommon Children

Knowing of the difficulties we have encountered with various educational institutions need to normalize practically everything, a friend sent along a link to a _Huffington Post_ essay that tries to stake out a reasonable middle ground between the mandated academic norms of the so-called Common Core and the increasing tendency for educational apparati to normalize just about everything else: e.g., emotions. I couldn’t agree more with Steve Nelson’s argument that [The World Needs Uncommon Children][uc]:

> I’m not interested in helping to create a homogeneous generation of common children, raised on the Common Core and marched through a regime of controls and conformity. And I certainly don’t care to see children’s complex and powerful emotions subdued by a program that takes authentic feelings and corrals them into a contrived box of “mood meters” and catch phrases. I cherish uncommon children who dye their hair purple, ask uncomfortable questions and solve problems in ways that I’d never considered. The world needs more artists, eccentrics, rebels and dreamers, not more cookie cutter adults who mindlessly follow all the rules.

(The “purple hair” refers to the opening scene of the essay where Nelson overhears school administrators discussing whether or not they should allow or forbid colored hair.)

[uc]: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-nelson/the-world-needs-uncommon-children_b_3931076.html

Cultural Rules

[Marc Ettlinger has a terrific response][] to a question about the nature of rules in the English language, which of course applies to all natural languages, as he points out, which goes as well for pretty much all cultural formations of sufficient temporal depth and spatial spread.

[Marc Ettlinger has a terrific response]: http://www.quora.com/English-language/What-are-some-English-language-rules-that-native-speakers-dont-know-but-still-follow

The Stories Homeless Children Tell

The Miami Times title of [“Myths over Miami”][] is perhaps unfortunate, but the report is compelling both for its darkness — the children whisper to each other the secret name of “the blue lady” which, spoken at the right moment, will make bullets fall from their path — and the remarkable creativity of the children.

[“Myths over Miami”]: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/1997-06-05/news/myths-over-miami/full/

Towards a Dynamic Degree

MOOCs have yet to de-stabilize and/or transform higher education to the degree (pun!) intended by their advocates, but their place in a larger portfolio of educational offerings would probably be made more clear by the kind of ongoing certification or dynamic degrees being suggested by a number of people, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman among them, as reported by [GigaOm][].

The best known of these efforts is Mozilla’s [Open Badges][], but there are others with names like Smarterer and Degreed. While LinkedIn’s approach is social, asking connections to “endorse” each other, Mozilla seems to want to establish a kind of basic architecture for documentation of a skill and who can issue certification in it.

I think it’s a fascinating prospect, but I don’t see it so much as a replacement for the traditional degree but more as a form of supplement, a richer form of continuing education where you get credit not for simply taking a class but for actually learning distinct content or acquiring a distinct skill. It opens up new possibilities for universities to address a wider arrange of topics and issues, but to offer more flexible kinds of programming, universities are going to have a more flexible framework within which faculty can work.

So long as everything remains focused on credit hours, and, *sigh*, increasingly at my institution on the number of butts in seats, then faculty are not going to feel free to develop smaller, more particular forms of engagement. The universities that look to the strategic future and not to the tactical present when business interests have come to dominate how we think about education are the universities that are going to thrive.

[GigaOm]: http://gigaom.com/2013/09/16/linkedins-reid-hoffman-on-education-overhaul-the-degree-not-just-the-instruction/
[Open Badges]: http://openbadges.org

Starship Design

[The Economist reports][] on the most recent meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society that took up the question of starship design, which, it turns out, is enjoying a bit of a boom. This may very well be because of the recent proliferation of not only international space agencies but also of private space agencies. As the report makes clear, there is a distinct difference between getting objects into orbit, especially low earth orbit, and getting from Earth to some place else either in the solar system or, as the name *starship* implies, from one solar system to another.

[The Economist reports]: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21588349-if-starships-are-ever-built-it-will-be-far-future-does-not-deter


Dave Wise’s one-hour long documentary, [“Otherness”](http://youtu.be/vqch_NRdZuA), about his 45-day stay on Darnet Island during a difficult moment in his life was what the web promised it would deliver. Laid-off in his forties and facing a break-up with his girlfriend, Wise decided he needed some time off from the world, the social world, the everyday world, to think and, as corny as it sounds, to find himself again. The result is a documentary that is deeply personal and heartfelt. Quiet, mostly. And, I should also note, it doesn’t deliver any transformative narrative or message. Sometimes, Wise seems to suggest, we just need time to think. We don’t need to expect anything out of that time or that thinking. We just need the time.

Creative Intelligence

I mentioned to a few people at the recent meeting of the American Folklore Society that I had seen a reference to a university somewhere offering a course on “creative intelligence.” I found the link: [Creative Intelligence and Innovation](http://www.uts.edu.au/future-students/creative-intelligence-and-innovation) at the University of Technology, Sydney.