Role Model (4:06 E.R.T.)

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”

These words were written by Lord Byron.  His wife decided their daughter should be less … romantic and so encouraged Ada Lovelace to study math instead of literature and poetry.  And today she is considered one of the “mothers” of mathematics.  Apparently she has her own day now, which I missed by two days.  But this article talks about her importance, her day, and somewhat on the importance of role models.  I would say as someone who taught history for a long time I used to conduct an experiment of sorts and have my students go through the textbook looking for any mention or picture of women or any minority.  Usually you would get 4 women and 3-4 minorities per U.S. History book.  That for a course on a country with a symbol standing in a harbor with a poem on a plaque, written by a woman, asking for poor, tired huddled masses, refuse from another shore, who were homeless.  And many of those who in my early years of teaching did well were white males.  But as I diverged from traditional texts and included more minorities into the history other students began to see themselves in that history.  If an African-American child has never seen an African-American president, its hard to envision themselves in that position.  Young girls have an easier time envisioning themselves as a Disney princess than a president, CEO, engineer, or supreme court justice.  Seeing people that resemble you helps you envision yourself in that position.  So no matter what the field, discuss role models from various backgrounds in your field to encourage future diversity and success, unless its 18th/19th century romantic poetry, just ask Ada.

And while I have talked about universal basic income, or basic living wages, now our President is thinking about the issue.  I think this issue really is going to come to the fore earlier, but perhaps it will take that long politically.  As jobs are replaced by AI what will we do with the millions of jobs displaced people?  Well imagine if they had the ability to live and do things they enjoyed?  I know, some will say these people are paid to play videogames or hang around.  Having taught for 15 years or so, I have a bit more faith in humans.  Some people will do that.  I think others will be able to spend more time with their families, and perhaps raise happier children.  Perhaps some can go back to school to learn professions which they can work in. Perhaps others will create great works of art.  But unlike a depression where people lose their jobs, and nothing is being produced, in this case production and services will continue or increase with massive job losses.  It will be an entirely new animal and a huge political football.

I love the title of this, why isn’t science class more like learning baseball?  And the reverse logic she uses near the end about taking the joy out of baseball by making students read about it, give them standardized quizzes, and only let those who are great students actually play it in grad school, priceless.  I’ve said this for years, though she has some very worked out analogies which are great.  We assume people learn with lectures and tests, because that was a model adopted c 1850 at the height of industrialization.  There weren’t studies done, it just worked, sort of.  And we assume that is how learning occurs.  Lave and Wenger wouldn’t agree, nor many constructivists, and so this article excerpted from a book makes a great case for making math, science or writing an apprentice based activity.

Finally, I’ll admit that I read this article because I wondered how many more “in” terms they could add with gamification and growth mindset.  However, I was pleasantly surprised so I’m linking to it.  Gamification has become overused.  In its initial meaning of using game based ideas in a class or using a relevant game in a class I was fine with.  But then you have people who give a badge for each day of attendance, and squeeze all that is good and worthy from the idea.  But the author is citing one of the experts, Jane McGonigal, not to be confused with Minerva McGonigall from Harry Potter.  And they apply it in a useful manner to the growth mindset.  So for an entry into either idea I think its useful, or for thinking about how one might intelligently join the two I think its interesting.

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