Monday, October 31, 2011

Speaking Engagement

I will be speaking on creative fiction writing and my own writing journey at the Catoosa County Library on Sunday, November 13, at 2:00.  I will also read from my work and sign books.

Different look at Millennials

The article below is from Chuck Colson's organization, Breakpoint Ministry.  It is a totally different look at Millennials.
I have sat through, and read, countless presentations on the Millennial generation, the good and bad.  Usually these presentations revolve around Millennials' use of (dependence on) technologies, their different views of knowledge and knowledge acquisition (learning), their different work ethic (not bad, just differently motivated), and other issues related to college classroom pedagogy.  It is important information, and I would encourage anyone unfamiliar with it to get cracking.  

I have a Millennial at home, and some of what I hear is true of him, some of it is not, because he was raised by two old farts who didn't want him to be a product of his generation.  We didn't have cable till he was 17, and he was expected to work and pay his own bills, etc.  But what is below is true of him and his work situation, and it is causing his some angst, as well as me.

Generation Limbo
Hope for Struggling Young People
October 31, 2011
The poet Gertrude Stein called the young survivors of the First World War the “Lost Generation.” Now the media have noticed an updated “Lost Generation” — or what The New York Times calls “Generation Limbo”: Young people generally between the ages of 18 and 29 have lost all hope because of the current economic crisis.
Also called Millennials, they have “literally lost their future,” according to columnist Elise Jordan. She bases this conclusion on just-released data from the U.S. Census. And the data is grim.
The employment rate for this age group is at its lowest level since World War II, falling 12 percentage points just since the year 2000. The number of Americans aged 25 to 34 who are living with their parents has jumped by over 14 percent since the Great Recession began, to a total of 5.9 million.
Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies found that one in three young families is below the poverty line. Of those with children, 36 percent are in poverty.
And, as I’ve mentioned before, the economic meltdown is driving down the marriage rates of working-class young people, while driving up the rates of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births.
And the problem reaches all economic and social levels. The New York Times speaks of “Highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects.”
This Generation Limbo is in desperate need of hope. Jordan notes that today’s shell-shocked Millennials, “rather than turning to literature or the arts or even booze, dull the pain by worshipping the cult of celebrity, wondering why their own specialness doesn’t translate into hefty paychecks.”
Quite a picture! But we know what they need, don’t we?
This economic crisis can be a great spiritual opportunity for the Church. Think about it: Man doesn’t live by bread — or economic prospects — alone. We must not only preach this kind of lifestyle, but model it before a watching world. We need to show young neighbors that faith in Christ makes sense during the good times and the bad times.
No, I haven’t forgotten that many young people today, according to the book UnChristian, look on evangelical Christians with suspicion. One reason is that they often accuse us of talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
But that’s why our witness has to be authentic — and tangible. I can’t help but think of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Folks banded together, helped their neighbors, fed and clothed the down and out. Well, when young people see us engaged in such visible signs of love in Christ’s name, it will make an impression.
Here are a few questions to consider: Do you know any young non-Christians? If any were to visit your church, would they feel welcome? How can your church tailor its ministries to help struggling members of Generation Limbo in practical ways?
The answers will be different whatever context in which you find yourself in. But don’t wait for members of the Millennial Generation to walk through your church doors. Maybe you should go find them.
So why not take a simple first step? Invite a young non-believer over for coffee and just listen.

Learning: Not a Zero Sum Game

I think this word sums up what is wrong with a lot of people's thinking.

The economy is not a zero sum game.  It is not one big pie that has to be cut up into more and more smaller pieces.  We create more pies; we can create more and more pies to feed more and more people.

Now, I know the response--this is capitalism, and capitalism exploits the environment by using up resources.  But capitalism as a way of thinking can find ways not to use resources and still create wealth.  It happens all the time.  Capitalism frees people to use their creativity and innovation to create wealth and by doing so create jobs.

Learning is not a zero sum game.  My students think their brains are only so big and that they must protect their brain capacity.   But neuroscience has proven that learning creates more synapses.  However, as capitalism creates wealth through hard work, learning creates more "brain capacity" for knowledge through hard work.   Learning takes effort, something no one wants to admit to; "LEARNING SHOULD BE FUN!" (where did that come from?  Disney, the people who have used capitalism to sell fun.)

Life is not a zero sum game.  If the land is too small to grow crops, either find a way to produce more crops from seed or start using towers to grow food.  I think if we see life as a zero sum game, we only fear want when it doesn't have to exist.

It all depends if you believe we live in an open system or closed system.  I believe we are in an open system.

Grades: So bad as motivation?

Some colleagues and I got into a discussion about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation the other day.  We were in a discussion group about course redesign.  Most expressed a negative sense about grades and using them as motivators.  To be contrary, I disagree.

Grades are good motivators.  Why should a student strive for the highest grade he/she can get in a class?  I am not even sure I consider a grade an extrinsic motivator, for a couple of reasons.  It doesn't always translate into money, a real extrinsic motivator (I'm not sure it ever did for me), and often the grade is earned because the student is engaged and also wants to please the instructor and himself/herself (all intrinsic). 

To me, it is bad teaching if the student can earn the grade without the kind of deep, engaged, paradigm-changing-learning that we want for them.  Why are you giving good grades to students who haven't experienced this kind of engagement?  is the question I would ask.  The fault lies in our assessment methods (multiple-choice tests), not in the students' desire for good grades.  Asian students get awesome grades--do we assume they are motivated wrongly?  They are simply motivated, holistically. 

Because our students come to class with different levels of ability, grades sometimes reflect the deficiencies in their backgrounds.  But so would level of engagement.  We can't just measure how excited a student gets about a class period, either; not all of us wear our excitement on our fields.  This is why writing assignments, reflective practice, collaboration, etc.  are so important.  And what I am learning is that less is more.  Maybe by the time I retire I will finally understand that concept.  At the same time, read my Zero Sum Game post.  I think the students should, and could, work twice as hard as they do.  All the research says they spend much less time on class preparation and study than they should; the old rule of two hours for every one in class is not anywhere near what they do.  People rise to the level of (reasonable) expectations and responsibilities we place on them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

MaryEllen Weimer thought

I have not posted to this blog in a long time, but as my blogging is a ministry, I need to come to it with that attitude.  I received this email (article posted on website) from Faculty Focus this morning.  I hope it's ok to post this.  I found it just what I needed this morning.  It is from MaryEllen Weimer, who writes a lot about learner-centered teaching.