Monday, September 14, 2009

Can Geeks be Cool? - A Wired discussion

 My husband gets Wired magazine. I'm really not that into technology, my cell phone, digital camera, and Creative Zen (my answer to an Ipod) notwithstanding. However, Wired magazine consistently contains articles that appeal to my geekiness and my interest in what new. The September 2009 issue contained an essay that surprisingly spoke to my interest in education (even as increasingly non-technological my thoughts on education are). "Revenge of the Nerds" by Daniel Roth is about how to make education relevant to kids. There are so many great ideas on how to make education exciting and interesting, but as mentioned in the article:
"The driving force in the life of a child, starting much earlier than it used to be, is to be cool, to fit in," Alex Grodd told the group. "And pretty universally, it's cool to rebel."
The premise is that in large high schools, youth culture reigns and the cool kids generally aren't the ones that are studying and trying hard to get good grades or just to learn (which isn't always the same thing). The article points to a high school that has a low student-teacher ratio and uses community mentors. The kids are kept surrounded by adults. They're required to present their projects to people outside the school. In an environment like this, it becomes cool to try harder. Everyone gets the attention (and the kind of attention) that kids at some high schools get beaten up (or severely made fun of) for getting.

So read the article, and let me know what you think. Is "stamping out youth culture" a way to infringe on the rights of children (as one article commenter implies) or is it a way to make sure that all children can participate instead of just the ones who fit in? (Or something else - not trying to imply a dichotomy here.) I kind of like the implications that this has for homeschooling - maybe socialization is not the be all-end all that it's made out to be and may even be the problem sometimes.


Jeremy said...

Stamping out youth culture as a way to infringe on the rights of children... this presupposes the idea that children have a right to develop their own culture, a presupposition that I find problematic. Youth culture should be heavily influenced and shaped by wise and caring adults. I agree that the education is severely flawed, but exchanging one set of qualifications for cool for another may not be the answer. I would argue that the problem is that we are trying to make education relevant and appealing to young people and foregoing a classical education. The youth of america are wise enough to see through an adult trying to be cool and relevant. The 30 year old teacher or mentor who wears torn designer jeans and an ear ring in his ear is seen as a joke rather than one who is in touch with what is hip and cool. The students need substance. They need actual goals and aspirations. They need a classical education that focuses on great literature, the arts, science and philosophy. They need to be taught logic and true culture.

It is my thought that a rainbow colored stick is much less satisfying than sitting at the feet of Poe, Homer, and Socrates.

What are your thoughts?

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

Jeremy, I have been mulling over your comments for a couple of days and will take them up in a future post. Thanks for visiting!

UK lass in US said...

I like the German school system where schools are divided according to abilities. I went to one of the few remaining grammar schools left in the UK (you have to pass an IQ test to get in) and there was little to no bullying. Everyone was at pretty much the same ability leveland the popular kids were popular more because they were nice rather than because they were especially 'cool'.