From NPR: Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control:

It’s playtime at the Geraldyn O. Foster Early Childhood Center in Bridgeton, N.J., and in one corner of a busy classroom, 4-year-olds Zee Logan and Emmy Hernandez want to play bookstore.

In a normal preschool, playing bookstore would be a pretty casual affair. They would just pick up some books, set the shiny toy cash register on the table by the blackboard, and get down to business.

But this isn’t a normal school. It’s based on the Tools of the Mind program. In other words, it’s a school where almost every moment of the day is devoted in some way to teaching the kids — mostly low-income children who live in the poor surrounding community — how to regulate their behavior and emotions.

So before Emmy and Zee even think about picking up a toy, they sit down with their teacher at a small classroom table and fill out some paperwork.

In the audio for the story a psychologist talks about how free play and imaginative games actually teach children to control their impulses because the imagination games are always governed by social and cultural norms and narratives (the psychologists mentions the rules of parenthood and going to sleep as her examples). But, looking at the Abu Ghraib photos I posted last night, and thinking about the book I’m reading about men’s violence against women, what if it is those rules that are problematic or even dangerous? How can the play of children help them to question or transcend the norms they perceive and follow in their lives and communities?

Still, the idea of preparation for imaginative play, as discussed in this story seems to offer some possibility to this. Children and teachers could discuss the differences between their perceived norms, or decide upon fantastic new rules for their play that might not be drawn from their actual experiences or perceptions (e.g. when playing house fathers and mothers must share cleaning responsibilities equally).

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NYT blog post on community forum on gentrification in NYC

My feedreader brought me this interesting blog post about a forum in NYC about gentrification in neighborhoods.

A community leader once optimistic about development in Harlem said:

We want the gentry, because they represent people who can support the commercial businesses, and attract more. But we don’t want to be overrun by them. We don’t want to be smothered by them, and we want to make sure the working women and men we were concerned about are not run out of the neighborhood that they stuck with and fought for and even died for.

Errol Louis, a New York Daily News columnist who seems much more pro-development is quoted as saying:

“Terms like ‘oversuccessful,’ terms that get thrown around like ‘out of scale’ — even gentrification itself – these are terms of art,” Mr. Louis said. “These are differences of opinion. These are things that have to be fought out at the community level, frankly. It’s probably too late by the time you get to the public hearing.”

Sadly, the last sentence reads true to me, but I feel like whether it’s residents of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, or in Bloomington, it can be nearly impossible to become involved in the process of neighborhood development before it’s too late.


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e-learning and a changing collegiate culture

Online classes were just emerging as I left college.  There was a piece on Morning Edition this morning about the technology and trends in general and an instance of them at on University of Illinois branch.  I think this technology is inevitable and it does have some egalitarian advantages, as the president of the University of Illinois system state:

“But let’s be honest, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the world who don’t have the privilege of earning their education by leaving home, giving up their job, leaving the family and living on one of these campuses,” White said.

Still, there are also implications for a trend that is apparent even with living in a college town and meeting a lot of students on tour.  The idea of a university as a forum and a place where you might get exposed to unexpected ideas or ideas across disciplines is quickly eroding.  Technology plays a role in furthering this cultural shift.  As one professor says:

“But I can assure you that the next generation of students are ’24/7 students’ that want stuff right now. They don’t want to come to your class and listen to a professor lecture and tell funny stories,” Mims said. “They want just what they need to succeed in that class and get a job and be successful in life.”

I did a fundraising event for Pages to Prisoners in partnership with a local multi-cultural sorority.  The sorority members made a presentation about prison and education issues, and one woman read an article about the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that allows incarcerated people in New York get a liberal arts college degree.  When one of the inmates who was participating in the program was asked why it was important for inmates to receive a liberal arts education as opposed to vocational training, the man said that while job training could teach you how to do a specific job, the Bard education that he was getting through the program was teaching him how to think.

I fear that the “I want what I think I want when I want it” collegian is going to further erode the value of knowledge and discourse in culture.