Monday, March 31, 2014

Favorite Toys from Around the World

Julia, 3 (Tirana, Albania)
When my daughter was born I bought her two hefty Tonka trucks, one a grader and the other a gigantic dump truck.

I was going to make sure she had choices.  I didn't want my daughter to be conditioned to be a Barbie lovin', pink wearin', prissy little girl; she was going to play with trucks and baseballs and soccer balls and dolls and then decide what she liked best.

Well, the Tonka dump truck soon became a bassinet for her Cabbage Patch dolls and her little brother gladly traded her the grader for a plush lamb that just wasn't macho enough for him.

Are girls conditioned to want dolls?  Are boys conditioned to want trucks?  Are girls naturally attracted to more nurturing, mothering type toys, while boys want guns to go out and bring dinner home?

Henry, 5 (Berkeley, California)
An interesting book was just released called Toy Stories: Photos of Children From Around the World with Their Favorite Things by Gabrielle Galimberti.  Galimberti spent two-and-a-half years trekking through 58 countries asking children what they prized most.  I laughed at some of the photos because I recognized a few of these kids.

Take Henry from Berkeley.  I mean I have friends that live in Berkeley and yes, their little boys like trucks, planes, megatrons, dinosaurs, and snakes.  I mean, it's Berkeley, I can't tell you how many times I took my own son, the volcano freak, to the Lawrence Hall of Science.  He loved it, his sister not so much--although she thought the Planetarium was pretty cool (emphasis on pretty).

Enea, 3 (Boulder, Colorado)
On the other hand, there is Enea from Boulder, Colorado...and, yes, I also recognize him since I have a grandson who lives there...and, yes, Grandma did send him a cape (I mean who doesn't love caped superheroes), and, yes, he does attend a drumming class and I'm pretty sure I sent him a guitar for Christmas.

Then there are some really poignant photos.  The one that struck me the most was little Maudy.  She has the greatest "CHEESE" of a smile while sporting her yellow sunglasses.  This little gal's  favorite things, a box of plastic sunglasses, fell off the back of a truck.  What do you do with a box of plastic sunglasses?  She set up a market, of course, and then let the trading begin.
Maudy, 3 (Kaululushi, Zambia)

Maudy also reminds me of how much "stuff" we have in America.  I know the first trip I took to another country as a young person taught me one thing...we are so lucky.  We have clean water, toilets, doctors, and FOOD.  That's a good lesson to learn . . . go traveling young people!  But I digress . . .

Another photo that really struck me was of Pavel, a five-year-old from the Ukraine.  He was surrounded by toy guns and a Bobby helmet.  With the current state of affairs in that country, it's scary to see this anxiety trickle down to the playroom.

Here's what I noticed (at least in the few photos posted in the article) the kids whose parents had some disposable income were surrounded by what we would call gender specific toys - boys liked trucks, sports, guns while girls liked dolls and stuffed animals.  Kids that have nothing basically turned whatever they could find into toys, from sunglasses to gnarled dinosaurs.

Brainpickings states that this is a "visual catalog of the culturally conditioned imagination" which seems pretty obvious - it's hard not be conditioned by your culture unless you live in a cave all by yourself.  In spite of all our attempts to avoid culturally conditioning our children - give your daughter a truck, give your son a doll - these kids seem to gravitate towards gendered social norms, or at least they did a few years ago. 

Do you think that the current society is better able to give children freedom to pick their own toys?  Do you think that kids now don't have a need to conform to social roles through play? Would you give you daughter a truck?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hunter S. Thompson on Power


What is power?

According to Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Journalist extraordinaire, "Power is language.  Power is being able to use language.

"Power is the ability to help people.

"Power is taking risks.

"Power can be ruthless.

"Power is doing the right thing at the wrong time"

This thirty-second commercial was created for Macintosh in the 1990s when Steve "Jobs waxed lyrical about the 'crazy ones, misfits, rebels and rule breakers?' No surprise, then, that Apple decided to burnish its rebel credentials by hiring none other than the father of gonzo journalism to star in one of its TV spots."

But more than Fear and Loathing, Thompson was notorious not only for his drug-induced road trips, but also for his temper . . . and he was no techie.
According to Open Culture, "Presumably, simply having Thompson in the ad gave Apple enough countercultural cachet, since he never mentions either the company or its product. This may have been the result of previous grievances: according to legend, the journalist had received a Mac from the editors of the San Francisco Examiner in the mid-1980s, in hopes that the gadget would help him transmit his perennially late copy to the paper on time. Despite its many features, however, the Mac couldn’t stand up to Thompson’s temper (he was known to lose his cool when dealing with electronics). In a fit of rage, Thompson blew the machine to smithereens with his shotgun, and sent the remains to his editors. Power, indeed."
 But for all his quirks, Thompson answers a perennial question, "What is power?"

 How would you answer?  Education, language, position, politics, influencing behavior, making a difference . . . what kind of power do you want to exert on the world?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Introducing the Introduction

An essay introduction is just like a personal introduction . . . and yes, it is an art.  They are both a first impression and quickly determine whether you want to read a paper or engage with a person.

Let's look at seven standard types of introductions that you can use in ANY essay.  Since I have found examples to be the best teachers, let's look at seven introductory paragraphs for a single thesis statement:
Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.
A Personal or Fictional Anecdote
As I walked into my first college class, I wondered who would be sitting to my right or left. I remember fearing that everyone would stare at me because I was an "older" student. I soon realized that while many teens were in the class, I was not the only student who had waited a number of years before seeking a college education.  Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.

Cite A Quotation
World War I ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, once said: "Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." If fear is necessary for courage, than many students entering the college classroom for the first time are courageous.  These students, no matter what their ages, are often fearful about the demands of college life, but they have taken the first step to overcome their anxieties by walking through the classroom door.  Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.

Raise a Question
Do you remember what it was like the first day of your first college class?  Can you remember feeling as if every student in the class were staring at you as you made your way to your desk? Were you surprised to find in your class so many different types of students - students of various ages and backgrounds? Many of today's college classrooms feature an inter-generational student population.  Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.

Provide Relevant Statistics
According to a recent college admissions booklet, the average age of a student at Hope Junior College is 28.3 years. The statistic shows that many students in Hope Junior College's classrooms are over the age of 30. These mature students have discovered that they need to upgrade their job skills or learn new ones if they are to complete in an increasingly technological society, so they find themselves in the the classrooms sitting next to students in their late teens and twenties.  Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.

Give Background Information About the Topic
The job market, both nationally and internationally, is becoming increasingly competitive and technologically advanced in the twenty-first century. Many workers are finding themselves educationally under-prepared for the challenges of their jobs and are seeking to retool themselves to meet these challenges. These experienced workers are returning to the college classroom for retraining and joining those young people preparing to enter the job market for the first time. Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.

Create an Analogy
College students walking into a classroom for the first time are like aliens leaving a spaceship and stepping forth in an unknown world. Neither the college students nor the aliens know what lies ahead. College students, no matter what their ages, are often fearful about the demands of  college life, but they have taken the first step to overcome their anxieties just by walking through the classroom door. Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.

Challenge a Common Perception
Many people, when they think of a freshman classroom, envision row after row of eighteen-year-olds eager to begin their college experiences. These people would be surprised to discover that the average age of a college freshman at most colleges and university is well above eighteen. Men and women are coming back to the classroom after an absence of many years. Some want to to learn a new skill; others want to pursue a particular interest such as history.  Two types of students who attend college are the eighteen-year-old who just graduated from high school and the returning student who seeks a new career.

One thing to keep in mind: citations.  If you choose to use the introductions that feature a quotation, relevant statistics, or background information you may need to cite that material (thank you Diablo Valley College Learning Center for the handout this post is based on).

Which type of introduction do you routinely use?  I know for me it is the anecdote.  Pretend you are asked to write an introduction you have never used before, which would you like to try?  Why?