Teaching With A Purpose

Something I have noticed is that lots of people have issues with math and other areas because they don’t know the ‘Why’ of it. What is the purpose for learning? How can I use it practically? I think this is one of the biggest cruxes of the education problem.

Sometimes a student will find something interesting and follow on in their own time, but often they won’t have the interest, so we need to encourage it. We need to provide the purpose, before, during, and after the study. Why do I need to learn a language? Why do I need to learn all of it? Where is it applicable to use this knowledge?

There are also points where students will get discouraged, and need help. Being able to encourage them to continue further, is another task – one complicated by increasing class sizes.  How can we enable this process in a manner that acknowledges the issues, as well as helping to prevent them to begin with? This is yet another question that needs answered.

Every case is unique, though, and I have no preconception that this would help everyone, but if it could help a student or two engage further in the class, it is well worth it. It has a cost in time, in prep and class-time, but if it can evoke passion for learning and bring it into the ambiance of the learning environment it can’t hurt. I wish I could be more firm in the conception of this idea, but I haven’t fully fleshed out how to best engage them.

This Is Me

Some things gather under my skin, and no matter how much I wish to let them go it’s hard. They come from my culture that I have come from and exist in. I do not respond well to being demeaned and I do not respond well to being boxed into absolutist opinions that I do not hold. I don’t like being pushed into generalized areas, just because I hold a particular view. I do not like being told how I should feel, it is personal.

I have been called privileged, this is something I do not deny; I am privileged in many ways:

I am white.
I have a family that cares.
I was born in the first world, America, in a decent age (though, maybe not the best.).
I am healthier than many.
I know the value of a dollar.
I know the value of honest (and dishonest) work.

And many others.

What bugs me with this is that people will try to demean me because of one of these privileges, often the color of my skin, while I sit there aghast at their hypocrisy and ignorance as they hold privileges that I do envy. They have had opportunities from that privilege than I have never had, and will never have (at least in similar manner). It is something that agravates me.

I hold many views, and I am flexible to change in many, though maybe not entirely. I do not look up to any large entities; I find the government to suck and I find corporations to suck. I often will side with one of them over the other, that would be corporations over government; the reason for that is that corporations often have an alternative to choose from.

I do not deny the fact that corporations can do many bad things, anyone who says otherwise or feels me a corporatist knows nothing of me and the cultural history I have grown up in. I was born and raised in WV, it is a place I love, but this place holds some very gruesome stories that are no less than usurious. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, there was a culture of financiers and corporations abusing the people of Appalachia. In the many coal-towns created on land purchased by these outsiders, often essentially stolen via mineral right sales, they would pay with company vouchers, instead of true monetary funds, that could only be used at a company store. These companies had a lock on these persons, and their families, livelihoods; the companies had enslaved these men and done so legally.

I will not deny the capacity of increased rights granted by government or clawed back by unions in these and other circumstance. Yes, I stand critical of unions in this day and age, they have become in many ways a hindrance to necessary change. I do not feel they are bad in and of themselves, but they tend not to work in an effective manner, they have become an unnecessary bureaucratic layer.

I also do not deny that there are corporations who do some despicable things, e.g. Wal*Mart (which has a voucher system like that of the coal-towns, in Mexico), Monsanto, News Corp.; yet, I will often stand up to protect or support a corporate entity, its employees, or its actions, as I find reactions to vilify them often without proper consideration. This is often a source of strife for me, as people try to ascribe me to an absolute position of corporate privileges, something I would never do. I support corporations, as I said above, because they often offer a choice and the freedom to leave, while government actions I am beholden to as a citizen.

Growing up in small town America, that holds members at both ends of the income spectrum in a quite polarized fashion, and yet seeing them get along. I have grown to know many wealthy people, and respect them for their accomplishments; I know many hard-working people in the middle that will struggle to get by week-to-week, month-to-month; and I know many people that will struggle, sometimes not due to their own causes; Most of all I know that people in each of those groups will help each other out,  under just about any circumstance. There may be some animosity between the groups, but we are still friends and family, everyone is connected, and willing to offer help if you just ask.

I often think this might just be small-town culture, rural vs. urban living, but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that looking at it there seems to be more apathy, wanting, and strife that seems to come from urban areas. Maybe it’s because of sheer numbers, or the lack of capacity to fend for oneself in earnest due to the packing of so many in such a small space, or maybe people have had to shed their ability to care on a personal level about those they pass on the street because of frequency. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like such a dichotomy.

I also do not respect people who try to tell me what, how, or should I feel. They do not share my experience, so they do not know how I will or should react. They do not know what will hurt me, nor do they know what will make me laugh. I am often within my head thinking, trying to piece everything together into a logical expression of what I believe the world to be. If you try to tell me how to feel about something, you might be wrong; you likely will be wrong. My emotion can change with the area, with the persons, with the events before, during, and after; my emotion is up for interpretation by only one individual: me.

So this was just me blowing off some steam, maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn’t. This is my life, though not all of my opinions, welcome too it. Oddly, a lot of the things that aggravate me are very similar to things that you hear of racism, but that doesn’t exist for white people, does it. Maybe it’s not racism, but it attacks the same places, they go for my sense of being, my sense of freedom, and try to control my personal emotions in an effort to dehumanize me, because I am not their ideal.

FUCK THEM. I AM ME. I WILL ALWAYS BE ME. THE VIEWS I HOLD ARE NOT ME. THE VIEWS I HOLD HAVE CHANGED BEFORE AND THEY WILL CONTINUE TO SHIFT UNTIL THE DAY I DIE. I WILL TELL YOU FREELY WHAT I BELIEVE, IF YOU THEN TRY TO CHAIN MY OPINION TO A LOGICAL EXPECTATION YOU HAVE OF THAT OPINION I WILL LIKELY RALLY AGAINST THAT. I DO NOT RESPECT SUCH EFFORTS.

First Principles

Everything must come from some logical point of understanding, unraveling into more complex forms. First principles are the basis, the irreducible components, of any logical system. If you can understand the basics, you can build up an understanding of incrementally more complex tools and systems. First principles are the foundation, necessary to build a strong structure of robust knowledge, without them you may understand how to use a tool, but not understand the tool itself.

Something of those with considerable, and respectable, intellect that also have successes to show is that they tend to refer to first principles as a huge part of their thought process. That is anecdotal, but over and over again, I’ve seen people bring up the concept of first principles, and it’s started to stick out to me. The most noted moment for me occurred when re-watching Elon Musk episode of Foundation, where he is discussing his various ideas and ventures with Kevin Rose.

For me, it’s not the first time I’ve thought of or heard the concept, particularly in an education perspective. I think it’s very important to understand the basics, at least at some point, to  build from on your own. With a solid foundation to work from granted by education one can learn and expand further from those concepts outside the bounds of education independently. The biggest key is to independent thinking, if you can reason the solutions and then process their expansions, you’re in good shape.

Sometimes you have to jump backward, saying, ‘No,’ to the commonly accepted ideas, and work your way back up. Doing this often means placing constraints within your path; once you know it is possible, the question is how to do it better, for some definition of better.  This is a tool for thinking creatively.

Languages Of Art

Every passion has it’s language; every language is itself an art. Whether an individual is crafting a simple letter or writing a thousand pages for a novel; whether she is singing a song straight from the heart; whether he is sculpting the muse from his dreams; or whether they are doing something entirely new and unique. There is a language that is held within every art, and everything is an art. Everything has a story to tell, and sometimes only the creator will know or understand that story, in whole or in part.

You can stare at a piece hanging before you, and even though you try, never understand. It is not your fault, nor the creators, nor even the piece itself; there is simply no way for you to understand it. Accept the beauty as it is, whether that comes from a true feeling of beauty in the piece or respect for the crafting of it. All things are beautiful, both the simplistic and the very intricately detailed.

Every individual will use them in his, or her, own ways. Some things may not be appealing to others, and that is okay; I know with certainty there are things that I cannot stand, but that does not make them wrong. The best way to learn the stories is to observe and ask, which is even more actionable.

Ask for the story; seek it out; it will likely be worth your time.

Persistence Of Value

I’ve had several discussions with people lately about various things, from community in my town, arts & tech in school, and also about what and how I ended up doing what I do. I may talk about those later, because they are interesting, but I’ve also noticed the idea of persistence popping up, even as an aside.

A quote of advice I received a few years ago, from someone much younger than me was, “You don’t wait for them to call you, you call them.” I sort of ignored it, probably due to person’s age as well as my assessment of their mental acuity,  though even in that moment I realized it was something I had never considered. Thinking over the recent conversations, it brought me back to that quote, but also recent changes I made. I’d now rephrase that as “Don’t wait for the actions of others to tend in your favor. Come back with a reason for them to act in a favorable way. Present your value, and if they do not see it, come back again and again with something different.”

I lived my life free from most needs, but it also means that stuff is normally easy to attain. Breaking through the walls where I need to, is different, I tend to relax and soften rather than tensing up and getting hard enough to break through. I’ve accomplished this in minor ways, but I plan on continuing further with it. Bring the value, and keep bringing it. Build and build, let the inertia continue to push you all the way. Persistence of value is the key.