Tuesday, August 28, 2012

is there an american dream 2.0?

i have been wondering about this lately-what is the american dream of 2012? and beyond? how much more does it involve compared to the american dream of the 1900's? how many toys does it take to feel like you have "made it?"

let me back up. the school system in the city where i live is issuing each child a computer or tablet to help with homework. because kids learn (and do everything else, probably) on the internet. this is starting from kindergarten. children as young as 5 are being issued iPads to use in class as teaching aids. after a certain age, they are permitted to take them home. because every 10 year old needs a laptop to learn?

what are we doing? this is how tax dollars should be spent? what are we doing teaching our kids that the only way to learn is through a screen. you know what kindergartners need? blocks. field trips. naps. coloring books. teachers with job security and small class sizes. back in the dark ages, when i was in elementary school, we did have computer classes. which i am in favor of, by the way. schools should absolutely have computer labs and students should be taught proper typing skills and other computer skills. but let's face it. kids are extremely quick at picking up how to use technology. and the way it evolves, they will probably be doing it their whole lives, frequently. but in school? is it actually easier to learn on a computer rather than with a pen and paper? what about all those physical learners, who actually need to do things to figure them out? kids who learn by doodling while taking notes-which has been proven to be an effective tool for remembering facts.  how are kids going to be able to use all aspects of their brain if they are never unplugged?

i am not the most creative person in the world, but i have found i do my best thinking outdoors. away from distractions. away from buttons and screens and sound effects and games that you love because of how quickly they make the time pass. is that encouraged in school? rarely. if ever. doing outreach work, i have seen kids who never go outside for more than a few minutes having so much fun just playing outside. with each other. and i hate seeing those moments ruined by smart phones. by the ease with which technology steals our attention, and our hours. how often do we encourage ourselves and, more importantly, kids, to turn everything off and do something? and how does having a computer shoved in your face make you more likely to feel that's important?

part of the idea behind this is it levels the playing field between kids who have computers at home and those who don't. supposedly they will only be educational tools, with key social websites and games blocked. good luck finding a group of kids who can't work around that software. while research and other forms of school work (textbook reduction is a plus for sure) can be made easier with the use of computers, this just doesn't seem like more than a flashy fix to problems that have deeper implications. once again, computer labs and libraries seem to be the obvious solution. kids are much less likely to abuse their computer time in an institutionalized setting-not their living rooms.

but this is what's so appealing about this solution-everyone having technology at their fingertips, all the time. it's not a phone we all want, it's a smart phone. it's not dial-up, it's wireless. it's not cable, it's on-demand and TiVo. we don't just want it all, we want it all now. which means that if we lose any of that instant gratification factor, will we be able to cope? and what about the next generation, who has never lived without all the bells, whistles, and distractions that make our lives easier?

do we know how to work without these miracle machines?
what do we, as americans, really want?
how can we expect a generation who has been touching screens and staring at bright lights their whole lives to really think outside the box and find creative solutions if they never get away from search engines and how-tos?
would americans rather have gigantic houses with plenty of yard but spotty cable/internet or tiny apartments with small windows and neighbors on all sides?
do we want our families to grow up strong and happy or technologically savvy with big tvs?
is there a merging of the 2? how does the average american measure success-the school system where each student has a computer vs. the one where the teachers are creating lesson plans and using tangible examples?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

talking to recently returned peace corps volunteers

they warn you about this as they're trying to prepare you to go home (god bless them, they do try) but talking to people about peace corps who aren't familiar with the program or your life when you get back can be a rather baffling experience. as an RPCV (returned peace corps volunteer) you eventually reach a point where you appreciate most questions and a chance to talk about this huge part of your life. i am more than willing have a frank, open discussion with any given person over the merits/drawbacks of PC as an organization and my time overseas in general. but. but only if the person realizes that i and many of my good friends gave 2 years of my life to serve and that if you wanna tell me your opinion about it you better respect that and be sure to listen mine, too. so if you ever encounter a returned peace corps volunteer (especially a newly returned one) here's some to do's (and some don't do's).

DO ask questions-but only if you're really ready to listen to the answer. and the more specific, the better. i would happily answer the weirdest question you can think of rather than have to try and think of an interesting reply to something you feel like you're expected to say.

DON'T tell them about how you almost did pc "but." we know the "buts," we all considered them when we decided to go. it's not for everybody, and people go at different times in their lives.

DO tell them if you want to do pc (even if it's "someday") and ask them their HONEST opinion on their experience, they can give you better perspective than anyone else.

DO understand that, depending on where they were, they are unaware of what has been going on for the past few years and may only know the big news stories (and have probably missed a bunch of awesome youtube video trends)

DO say thank you, if you want. i never expect it but it is always nice to hear, considering that most days peace corps is the best thing for the U.S.'s international reputation (at least with the poorer communities where they serve). and after spending 2 years away from my family and friends in relative safety, i have a whole new appreciation for our armed forces serving overseas and i try and thank every single one of them i meet. the fact that they sacrificed so much time with their families and possibly even their lives for our country is so much bigger than anything i can imagine. so even if you don't feel inclined to thank those of us waging peace, please, please thank those out there waging war (no matter what your personal politics may be, they're putting their lives on the line for you, regardless).

DON'T bring up the 20/20 story (rape/lack of support) thing unless you know the person really well. its hard to talk about, and hard to explain how much emphasis is put on safety during training, and how sometimes things can go bad anywhere. accidents happen everywhere in the world.

DO feel free to ask about most embarrassing moments of service. almost everyone has a pretty good story.

DON'T hesitate to buy them a beer because they're probably fairly broke and have been missing delicious American craft beers. (ok. this one applies pretty specifically to me but i KNOW there are plenty of RPCVs out there who share my circumstances)

i hope this helps your next encounter with an RPCV go smoothly and pleasantly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

slipping back on my bloggin shoes

i think they still fit.
so this blog is an experiment for me, a sort of out-pouring of things i think about from day to day but never seem to have an appropriate outlet for.
what i'm trying to say is this blog is me resisting twitter just a little bit longer.
here are some things i've been musing over lately:

-why did the Queen stop at just 2 corgis when she clearly loves them? she could have an army. she's the queen.
-does it seem like Bob Costas resents Ryan Seacrest for slowly usurping his role as Olympics coverage overlord?
-how much glitter eyeshadow is too much?
-did you see how bored Prince Harry looked during men's gymnastics? the jokes on him, because of his bad attitude the British got the bronze medal (jk. Japan earned it.)
-volleyball is awesome.
-i wish i had cable so i could watch archery.
-i would like Ryan Lochte a lot more if he never opened his mouth. Maybe Missy Franklin should just do all his interviews from now on.

-all the press about the new batman movie is saying Anne Hathaway had to lose an incredible amount of weight to fit in her Catwoman suit for the movie. what does this mean? they intentionally made the suit really small so she would have to be in super crazy thin shape? that suit wasn't even all that impressive. except for the claws.

-i love podcasts (too much) but i wish they had a way of keeping the people doing them from interuppting each other. what's so great about this uncut flow? half the time the interuptions pertain to topics that only interest the 2 people doing the podcast. and not, you know, the people they're doing to podcast for. edit that business out.

-speaking of podcasts, i heard on one that the TSA is supposed to stop patting down celebrities going through airport security. are celebrities the new drug mule? except for Snoop Lion. when you change your name to celebrate Bob Marley, you can expect to ALWAYS be patted down.

-pinterest makes me feel inferior. but then they have cute pictures that remind me i don't care that i'm not going to use 75% of the pins on my boards.

-i bet the people who work for TMZ lie at family reunions and say they do something useful.

-does octomom's success marketing her body reflect worse on american culture or octomom? when is kate gosselin gonna take her under her organized and probably botoxed wing and teach her a thing or two about keeping it classy, multiple-birth style? and by classy i really just mean clothed. more kids=more people to be mortified by your behavior.

-i know NASA is supposed to be working hard on getting to the Moon and Mars in the next 30 years or so. but i suggest they focus on the Moon to shut those conspiracy theorists up before Neil Armstrong dies. or are they stalling until the esteemed Armstrong dies so he can't write a tell-all about the first time? either way, the man's a patriot.

-speaking of conspiracy theorists, if there was a show where they got to explain their crazy theories each week and face off in a debate with a panel of experts, i'd watch it. i would also totally watch a big brother/hoarders crossover. if they were allowed to shop online.

-i would not want my future employers reading this blog. however, since i have very few future employers on the horizion, i'm going to say what i please. does anybody want to offer me a job correcting their dumb status updates/blogs? i actually understand the rules of capitalization, despite my "style."

-as a young(ish) adult, i have been considering trying to eliminate words and phrases from my vocabulary such as like, lol, oh my god, and most vernacular. however, then how would i communicate with anyone younger than me? decisions, decisions.