Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I read an early review of this that called it a utopian novel.  I have been completely saturated by all the dystopians and haven't been able to read one for a couple months, but a utopian gave me pause and I decided what the heck.  And I am very grateful that I did!

I thought the writing was brilliant at times, but it was the idea that really brought me around.  I understand the value of dystopian novels, find a flaw in our society and highlight it, so that we can recognize that it exists and hopefully begin the discussion about how to make it better.  The problem is, I don't think we always get to the 'how-do-we-make-it-better' discussion.  And then we are left with readers empathizing with characters in terrible situations.  While this empathy has value, we as a society need to spend more time on constructive plans to make things better.  

We need to develop visions of our future, so that it is better than the world we inherited.  Maybe this is why our government can't move forward with anything.  They certainly know what is wrong, but nobody can figure out how to make it better.  This is about how we think.  It is easy to see the problems.  The football faithful call this 'armchair' quarterbacking.  The rest of us use the 20-20 hindsight phrase.  As a people we can critique with the best of them.

"You should of done this!"

"Why didn't you try that!"

I mean really.  We are willing to tear decisions people make apart.  Our talk shows allow us to focus on a decision someone made and then more often than not we begin our witch hunt.  I know people make stupid decisions, and I am by no means exonerating all of the bonehead decisions, there is a reason I like the 'Darwin Awards'.  But, give me a break! Like you could of dropped a robot on the surface of Mars that can do geological surveys.  We do impressive stuff as well.  Amazing stuff!

I think it is that forever entrenched news argument, that the news people still don't get.  That is, why not report good news.  News that makes us wonder what could be.  What world we could live in if we work hard to get to that understanding.  A world of utopias, not dystopias.  A world where bad ideas are accepted as unfortunate mistakes that we correct as quickly as possible and move forward.

This is somewhat idealistic.  I mean look at Fukushima.  But let's start with small things, like the bad pass your quarterback made or the wrong turn your friend made to get to the park.  People, for the most part, believe they are making good decisions.  Utopias shed the same light on society's problem, just in a more positive way.  In a utopian novel, the problems with our society have been solved, so they can be looked at in a different way.  A way in which there is a path that could lead to a solution.  

That is what we are after.  A solution.  That is why we spend so much time in school.  We are learning that it is a solution we are after, not simply highlighting what is wrong.

Great stuff Janet Edwards!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The dystopian nature of Charbonneau's writing might make you glance over the poignant theme as you sink your teeth into the more meaty aspects ... crumbling society, small town love in the face of everything, and can the world be saved.

But it is the title of the first and second novel that lead me to believe we are dealing with a writer who has pondered education and what education should and should not be about.  And that was what I ended up paying attention to and why I made this book a Community Book Discussion book at our high school.  

How high stakes have we become in our methods to find the best of the best of the best?  Because it is definitely true that only people who know how to find the curvature of a certain line should become doctors or ... excuse me.  When did we leave, "Plays nice with others" behind for these more cognitive skills.  There needs to be a balanced caring human being behind the engineer.  Why exactly did we think that playing nice with others wasn't a baseline skill that all people should have.  Lawyers that can create rules for all people need to be understanding, compassionate people.  They might not understand homosexuality or be part of a minority, but they better be able to listen to folks that belong to those groups. Whether they believe in homosexuality or not, they should at least be able to listen to someone who is trying to communicate to them that homosexuality isn't a disease or a choice or whatever other crazy notion the Defense of Marriage Act people believe.  How can you make a law when you don't understand the people whose lives would be changed by the law?

It's not that I don't like school.  I was a kid that loved all the testing because I did really well on them.  But testing with the goal of finding the best of the best is wrong.  Testing should be designed to make all students achieve more and become more of the person they want to become.  Students should try to do their personal best.  Not some state accepted 'best'.  And certainly not the 'best' that asks a student to believe their best is acceptable at the cost of their classmates happiness, let alone their classmates' lives.   

Empathy is a trait that many have left behind through the trials and tribulations of our high testing society.  Charbonneau makes that loud and clear.  Independent Study is the title of the second in the series.  It's not a flashy title, but I like that she thinks this is where education should be headed.  My favorite teacher in my life was my fifth grade teacher who was all about independent study.  Self directed learning makes a lot of sense.  I am anxious to find out what the title of the third in the series is and where she hopes to push those who are listening to her narrative on education.