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    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Friday Fragments
March 14, 2013 - 9:05pm

The obstacles aren’t trivial, but I drew hope from seeing Education Secretary Arne Duncan tweet approvingly a link to a story about Maryland K-12 schools adopting later start times.  

Knowing what we know about adolescent sleep cycles, the idea of forcing them to sit through pre-calc at 7:30 in the morning is self-defeating.  It’s setting everyone up to fail.  

Yes, moving school days later will impact after-school activities, whether they be sports, clubs, or jobs.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  And if it means that students are actually awake enough to learn something, I’ll take that deal anytime.

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A few decades ago, Piotr Sloterdijk defined cynicism as enlightened false consciousness.  It’s a sort of pose of wisdom that simply substitutes one form of illusion for another.  But its superior attitude actually blocks learning.

I was reminded of that in reading this piece in the Chronicle.  It’s a superficially clever piece about outcomes assessment, which tries to paint assessment as a sort of epistemological circle.  If grades don’t tell us what we need to know, the author asks, then how does assessment?

Sigh.

The answer is that assessment looks at a different thing to answer a different question.  Grades look at the individual parts (“courses”) of a curriculum.  Assessment looks at the curriculum as a whole.  Does the whole equal the sum of the parts, or is something missing?  

It’s a simple enough distinction.  I would have expected the Chronicle to know better.

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The Boy did us proud.  We’re pretty strict about rationing “tech time,” which is our catchall term for time on computers, the kindle fire, or whatever.  The kids chafe at the limits, of course, but that’s to be expected.

Last week TB wrote us a two-page manifesto explaining -- clearly and logically -- why he should get more tech time, especially on weekends.  The piece was pointed but not angry, well-constructed, and pretty convincing.  For an eleven year old, I thought that was pretty good.

We met him halfway, giving him more time on weekends.  I’m thinking that if an eleven year old boy can sit down and write out a rational solution to what’s frustrating him, we should encourage that.  There are certainly worse ways for adolescent boys to handle frustration.

Apparently, I’ve passed on the blogger gene.  Poor kid.

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http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/10/4086458/father-hacks-donkey-kong-for-daughter-swaps-mario-pauline

This Dad wins the week.  In order to let his daughter play center stage, he hacked Donkey Kong so that the princess rescues Mario.  

From one Dad to another, I have to say: well played, sir.  Well played.

 

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