Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday's Odds and Ends

First off, I just have to say a few words about the launch of the Winnsboro pictorial history book that I wrote with our local historian, Bill Jones. The official title is Images of America - Winnsboro, and it was published by Aradia publishing. Regular visitors to my blog have probably figured out that I live near this small town in East Texas, and I have loved it since we moved here almost 12 years ago. Not only is it a beautiful setting with lots of trees and gentle rolling hills, the town is a mecca of creative energy. We have lots of artists, musicians, actors, and writers who live in and around town, and it is a wonderful place to nurture creativity of any kind.

I am thrilled to have this book out to showcase the town and the people, and doubly thrilled to have the launch party this Sunday at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts, which is also dear to my heart as I get to play there on stage a lot. 

NSA chief Army General Keith Alexander recently spoke at a cybersecurity convention and told the attendees, "You're the greatest tech talent anywhere in the world. Help us."

I'm not sure I want the NSA to have any more help in gathering data on what people are doing on the Internet. Yesterday I joked on Facebook about doing research about drugs and drug trafficking for the next book in the Seasons Series. I said I might have to worry about the NSA and then maybe a DEA agent showing up on my doorstep. While that was a joke yesterday, today I wonder. 

Courtland Milloy, a columnist for the Washington Post recently wrote about innovation in schools, or rather the lack of it. In his piece, Let's Teach Innovation Like Amazon, he wrote,
"Have backbone, disagree and commit," Amazon encourages. In all but the very best high schools, that kind of attitude is often quashed.
And once quashed, it's hard to get back. Obedience to the point of subservience, rote learning -- that's what passes for success at many public schools.
After mentioning the fact that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos likes to find solutions to complex problems in ways that appear messy and encourages teams to tolerate approaches that appear chaotic, Milloy followed with:
In many public schools, students never get a chance to experiment with such styles of problem solving. Many schools no longer offer art. No instrumental music, no choir, no theater and no debate. There's no money, or no room in the standardized curriculum.

After 12 years of that kind of creative repression, a student is hardly prepared for more than servitude on the bottom rungs of the American economic ladder.
Yet still our education systems continue to push for rote, standardization, and very little that encourages critical thinking and creative problem solving. And the arts continue to disappear. I saw the importance of the arts during the drama camp we had recently at our local theatre. Those kids did some amazing creative problem solving as they came up with set designs, props, light designs, story elements, and music. Don't tell me that does not help them academically.

Now for just a bit of fun from Baby Blues:

There are several pictures of Wanda and Darryl at a restaurant. In each picture one of them is holding the baby, Wren, while trying to eat, or take a drink. They are doing all the usual things to quiet a fussy baby, patting her, bouncing her, and swinging her back and forth. In the last panel when the family is walking out the door, Darryl says, "Do you ever wonder what it would be like to sit down for a whole meal?"

Wanda says, "People do that?"

I could really relate to that one. How about you? What do you think about the arts - or lack thereof - in education?

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