John Oliver’s very sharp critique of charter schools went viral. In one week, it has had more than 5 million views.
The San Francisco Mime Troupe performs free in parks across northern California all summer. Their current performance satirizes what is called “education reform.”
In “Schooled,” the San Francisco Mime Troupe argues that the purpose of education is to build citizens, to prepare young adults to make informed decisions in their civic life. The company’s free summer show of its 57th season also makes a compelling case that art is foundational to a healthy democracy.
As is tradition, the troupe will stage this show in parks throughout Northern California until Labor Day, so the context of each performance will vary greatly. But as performed in Dolores Park on the Fourth of July, “Schooled” juxtaposed stark extremes.
The Mime Troupe is run as a collective, with “The Communist Manifesto” required reading for all members. All its shows impart that work’s philosophy. “Schooled” is no different. It pillories the flaws in the U.S. education system, especially its dependency on digital technology as a Band-Aid for deeper structural problems — underfunding, the achievement gap — and, in tandem, its overreliance on the corporations that profit from that technology.
In “Schooled,” the evil corporation is Learning Academy of Virtual Achievement, or LAVA, which seeks to “spread” to Eleanor Roosevelt High School. LAVA’s emissary is Fredersen J. Babbit (Lisa Hori-Garcia), a dead ringer for Donald Trump, complete with the hair and mucus-ridden vocal cords. He peddles learning tablets, cleverly rendered by the props department with an iridescent surface, so that as an actor rotates one, its screen shimmers in the sun.
Public schooling is not a Communist idea; it is a democratic idea. It is the way the entire community takes responsibility for the learning of the children of the community.
The bad guys are not just the guys peddling technology and wanting to make a buck. The bad guys are the ones who insist on privatizing what belongs to the public and use their money to buy support.
Humorist Andy Borowitz notes the reports that the Trump campaign is short on cash. He says that Trump will auction New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on EBay to raise money.
What do you think he will raise?
Valerie Strauss reviews the flap-flap over Bill Gates’ conclusion that poor people should raise chickens. She wonders what teachers would say to Gates if they had the chance, having suffered through his disastrous education theories and experiments for nearly 15 years.
The best line in her post is this one:
Some critics said the program was a publicity stunt and wouldn’t solve the underlying problems of poverty in Africa. “Our father, Who art Uncle Bill, Hallowed be thy whims …” Nigerian satirist and author Elnathan John wrote on Twitter.
You deserve a laugh today!
This is a delightful and polished speech given by an eighth grader to his classmates, teachers, administrators, and families at graduation from a middle school in suburban Chicago.
Reader Akedemos writes:
“Breaking: AIR Loses All Exams for the State of Florida; Officials Walk Into Ocean in Support of Common Core
“Update: Revealed as Hoax; Subversive Ad Gimmick for Upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean Movie”
The headmaster of the Acorn School in the town of Nailsworth warned that reading fantasy books like the Harry Potter series and “Lord of the Rings” may cause brain damage.
Dissenters to his view pointed out that the classics he prefers are also violent.
In a lengthy blog post that went viral over the weekend, Graeme Whiting, the headmaster of the Acorn School in the English town of Nailsworth, claimed that popular fantasy books “can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children….”
The principal lamented the fact that children can buy these books without a “Special licence.”
“Buying sensational books is like feeding your child with spoons of added sugar,” Whiting wrote, “heaps of it, and when the child becomes addicted it will seek more and more, which if related to books, fills the bank vaults of those who write un-sensitive books for young children!”
Whiting praised the “old-fashioned values of traditional literature,” offering as examples William Shakespeare, John Keats, Charles Dickens and “Shelley.” (He didn’t specify whether he meant Percy Bysshe Shelley, author of “The Necessity of Atheism,” or Mary Shelley, author of the pioneering horror novel “Frankenstein.”)
The principal ended his post with the lines, “Beware the devil in the text! Choose beauty for your young children!”
Admirers of authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling reacted to Whiting’s blog post with disbelief.
In the Guardian, fantasy author Samantha Shannon criticized Whiting for hypocrisy, noting that Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”
has a character who is brutally raped and mutilated by attackers, and later murdered by her father.
“The logic of dictators and book-burners throughout history, crystallised in all its nonsensical glory: that imagination can only flourish when it’s kept inside a cage,” Shannon wrote.
And at Bustle, writer Kristian Wilson contends that Whiting is “clearly Voldemort in disguise,” and suggested that the principal probably hasn’t read the authors he claims to love.
“If he had,” Wilson wrote, “he’d know that Wordsworth’s Lucy poems are full of dead women, Keats’ ‘Lamia’ is all about sex, the Shelleys wrote tales of torture and horror, Dickens’ body of work is full of prostitutes and orphans, and Shakespeare covered every graphic and occult theme you can think of.
Is this why the Common Core puts more value on “informational text” than fiction?
From our poet, SomeDAM Poet:
“Pattern for Success”
Gates dropped out
Which bred success
That dropout’s best
Design a test
That none can pass
And Gates’ success
Is theirs at last!
Poet forgot to mention that the pattern works best if you have rich parents.
A few days ago, in the midst of the discussion of the Tennessee legislation allowing mental health professionals to refuse to serve any patient if the patient was offensive to them on religious grounds, our daily commenter Duane Swacker informed us of a relatively new but fast-growing religion: the Pastafarians. This religion worships the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Those who may have been inclined to scoff should stop their scoffing. A woman who identified as a Pastafarian just won the right to have her driver’s license photo taken with a colander on her head. That has some relationship to pasta, straining it, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
So far as I know the Pastafarians have not yet sought vouchers, but their branches in Arizona, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Nevada, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin certainly qualify to receive them.
Just when you get feeling really down about the way things are going in this country, you come across something like this, and it gives you a laugh and some hope for the future.
Time to laugh!
Terry Castle is an accomplished writer and Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. She and her partner were invited to a fundraising party for Hillary Clinton at a swanky Palo Alto abode. She has written a hilarious account of their attendance at the party.
I can’t reproduce any samples because part of its impact and humor come from her use of typefaces and wordplay. I think you will laugh.