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Author Topic: Cartoon movie politics
josh
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posted 19 November 2004 03:02 PM      Profile for josh     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:

At first blush, it's hard to imagine anyone objecting to "The Polar Express," adapted from Chris Van Allsburg's bestselling children's book. It's about a lonely boy who's taken to the North Pole on Christmas Eve by a mysterious train conductor, who gathers emotionally needy kids on his way to Santa's workshop.

But in the "culture wars" age, issues swirl as ubiquitously as the snowflakes around Santa's beard. One issue is the "Polar Express" view of Christmas, bedecked in exclusively secular terms: It's loud about presents and decorations, silent on religious meanings.

And then there's the film's ultimate message to the main character - summed up in the word "believe," punched by the conductor on the lonely boy's ticket as a reminder of what's important in life. The boy's big mistake has been losing his faith in Santa Claus as he grows older.

The movie's big mistake, according to some critics, is illustrating the importance of faith by hooking it onto Santa, who - let's face it - doesn't exist. This may bother religious viewers who consider faith too important to fritter away on myths.

Those to the left of the political spectrum - perhaps unable to let go of the political season - are also irked by the message they see embedded in the movie: that facts and logic can't hold a candle to "believing."

"The message of blind faith, though certainly harmless in the context of a Santa Claus story, may trouble viewers who see the same principle at work today in US foreign policy," says critic Stuart Klawans, author of "Left in the Dark" and "Film Follies."

. . . .

Is there a subtle sociological statement embedded in "The Incredibles"?

"I can't help thinking of [philosopher Friedrich] Nietzsche and his idea that some people are better and more deserving than others," says Mikita Brottman, professor of language and literature at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

"The movie salutes Superman," Dr. Brottman adds. "Not the 'superman' in comic books but the one [despots] believe in. Its idea seems to be that even in a democracy some people are 'more equal' than others, and the rest of us shouldn't be so presumptuous as to get in their way."

Reviewers have been raising these concerns, too. "The Incredibles" suggests "a thorough, feverish immersion in both American comic books and the philosophy of Ayn Rand," writes A.O. Scott in The New York Times, referring to the founder of "objectivism," a philosophy anchored in capitalism and atheism.

When the "Incredibles" hero "balances a globe-shaped robot on his shoulders, should we be thinking of 'Atlas Shrugged'?" writes Newsday critic John Anderson, citing Rand's most famous novel, about a "strike" by gifted leaders that brings an ungrateful society to its knees. The movie's chief subplot, about a superhero imitator, "suggests not only class warfare, but also something approaching a Divine Right of Superheroes," he adds.

"The Incredibles" is great fun, these reviews agree, but they all sense a subtext that's serious. The film is "a fun-filled foray into animated action, fantasy, and adventure," as Mr. Anderson puts it. "And objectivism. And tort reform," he adds, noting that the villains include citizens who sue superheroes over injuries they've incurred during rescues.


http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1119/p11s02-almo.html

Personally, I'll settle for getting away from it all and live (vicarioiusly of course) under the sea with the SpongeBob movie.


From: the twilight zone between the U.S. and Canada | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Debra
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posted 19 November 2004 03:07 PM      Profile for Debra   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well it's all interesting theory but sometimes a cigar is just bad for your health.
From: The only difference between graffiti & philosophy is the word fuck... | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Reality. Bites.
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posted 19 November 2004 03:38 PM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think it's a few decades too late to start worrying about Christmas being a Santa-centred holiday.

As for The Incredibles, I found it more of a light-hearted look at what life would really be like for superheroes if they actually existed.

But they don't.


From: Gone for good | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 19 November 2004 09:14 PM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I loved the Incredibles, (I've seen it twice already!) but the overman complex is in full bloom and it did irritate me.

Besides killing off all "real" superheroes (what does that mean?), and replacing them with his own fraudulent escapades, the villain Syndrome (get it?) has an even more fiendish long-term plan. He's going to sell his brilliant inventions so that everyone can be super, and then no one will be (cue nefarious laughter). How is this so terrible? It seems like the egos of those who happen to have superpowers is the most important thing in the film (it never shows where the powers come from, which is appropriate since it might reveal that there is nothing deserving about being rocketed from a doomed planet or bitten by a radioactive spider, etc., and hence undercut the film's elitist message).

But hey, no need to get your undies in a bunch over such things. It was great fun. I might see it again before it leaves the theatres.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
MacD
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posted 19 November 2004 09:25 PM      Profile for MacD     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Of course, the "Supers" in the Incredibles lived to help other people, a worldview that Ayn Rand despised. If the movie were true to Rand's vision of society, the Supers would feel no obligation to anyone but themselves, and would therefore hire themselves out to the highest bidder, rather than acting out of any sense of ethics.
From: Redmonton, Alberta | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Reality. Bites.
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posted 19 November 2004 09:42 PM      Profile for Reality. Bites.        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Jacob Two-Two:
He's going to sell his brilliant inventions so that everyone can be super, and then no one will be (cue nefarious laughter). How is this so terrible?

With great power comes great responsibility, don'tcha know?


From: Gone for good | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
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posted 22 November 2004 01:28 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I saw the Incredibles. It was fun, but deeply pessimistic. We're trapped in dreary modernity, a life of mediocrity, monotony, bureaucracy, and conformity. The only way out is to be born with superpowers, or to be an evil genius. For the rest of you losers, it's back to work.
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
clockwork
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posted 22 November 2004 04:36 AM      Profile for clockwork     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Quote in regards to the politics of The Incredibles:
quote:
The movie never quite resolves the issue. In the end, Dash is allowed to race but is coached not to get too far ahead of the pack. The writer and director, Brad Bird, offered a less ambiguous answer in an interview. "Wrong-headed liberalism seeks to give trophies to everyone just for existing," he said. "It seems to render achievement meaningless. That's a weird goal."


When Every Child Is Good Enough

As an aside, I think of myself as quite left wing but then left wing in Brampton ain't the same as left wing in Toronto. I was streamed. I never thought anything against streaming in education. I even spent grade 11 lunch classes helping out the ESL students in math. THe whole idea that "liberals" want everyone equal is foreign to me even though I consider myself slightly left of liberal so maybe this is an American thing with American undertones I've yet to grasp. Frankly, I'm all for competitive awards.

My comments, of course, are in regards to the column I posted. CDN (or Peel Region) education is different than down south. The public schools mentioned in the column are foriegn to me, they aren't what I experienced in high school.

[ 22 November 2004: Message edited by: clockwork ]


From: Pokaroo! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
MacD
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posted 22 November 2004 05:22 PM      Profile for MacD     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
One of the issues that "the Left", at least in education policy circles, has with streaming is that it is too often a reflection of class and race rather than scholastic ability. Numerous studies (mostly in the U.S.A.) have shown that African-American students tend to get placed in lower streams compared to white students even when their academic history suggests comparable ability. In this sense (and in many, many others), the education system is not meritocratic; rather it tends to reinforce social inequality. To use the article's metaphor of a race in track and field, imagine that in a 100 m race, the privileged students get to start 25 m ahead and the "at-risk" students have to start 25 m behind.

The metaphor of a track and field race is interesting because it is competition for competition's sake. There is no intrinsic value except for the entertainment value of the competition. It seems to me that this is a very BAD metaphor for what schools should be. If education is to be a competition to sort the best and brightest from the merely average, then the majority of students would derive no benefit from such a system. To make such a system mandatory is extremely unethical and, to use libertarian language favoured by the Right, an unjustified intrusion of the State into the private lives of students. Mandatory schooling can only be justified if every student who is compelled to attend derives some benefit from it. The "liberal" view of education as meeting the needs of all students comes from this ethical view.

The Right has controlled the education agenda since the early 80's, yet according to conservative rhetoric, the system is getting worse and worse. The typical response is to blame teachers' unions and then demand more of the reforms that have failed to produce school improvement. One needs to consider the possibility that it is the conservative agenda of competition that is causing mediocrity in the schools.

The conservative agenda of ranking students demands standardized curricula and standardized tests. Mediocrity comes not from the curriculum but from the standardization. Any standard must be set for the average (i.e. mediocre) students. A standard that is too high be unable to differentiate between average and below-average students, while a standard too low will not differentiate between average and above-average. In Alberta, most-tested of any province, the provincial guidelines for high school standards are that 15% of the students taking any course should achieve "Excellence" and 15% should fail. In such an environment, what reason do the top students have to go beyond the curriculum expectations? If the goal is to rank students, what incentive do those destined to be low in the rankings have to even try? The "wrong-headed liberalism [that] seeks to give trophies to everyone just for existing" is an attempt to provide an incentive to students in a setting that provides few intrinsic rewards for learning. It is not a "liberal" ideal of education but a strategy for coping with the education system as defined by conservatives.

If we want an education system that values excellence and abhors mediocrity, we need to eliminate standardization, to give students freedom to pursue interests and greater control over their learning, so that they can create for themselves a program of studies that is meaningful to them. We need to eliminate "standards" that effectively create a maximum as well as a minimum level of achievement. We need to compell public universities to develop admission criteria that are actually related to success in post-secondary education, and can be defended on such grounds according to the same standards of evidence that are demanded in all academic disciplines, rather than allow them to base admission on cheap and easy criteria such as standardized test scores, that are no more effective in predicting success than IQ scores and family income data.

** End of Rant **

[ 22 November 2004: Message edited by: MacD ]


From: Redmonton, Alberta | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 22 November 2004 05:45 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I thought The Incredibles did have a reloatively reactionary message. They are an elite; and their greatest problem is that they are forced to follow the rules that everyone else does.

Moreover, the father is Strong, the Mother is Flexible, the young boy is Athletic, and the young girl's special power has to do with her appearance.

And I didn't like them blaming tort lawyers fo4r the need to become ordinary, either. That is a standard gripe of the American right; there's just too many plaintiffs for corporations to get anything done!


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 22 November 2004 05:51 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
That is a standard gripe of the American right; there's just too many plaintiffs for corporations to get anything done!

Isn't this the same country where a man is suing CBS for having been forcibly exposed to Janet Jackson's nipple?


From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
clockwork
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posted 24 November 2004 05:07 AM      Profile for clockwork     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I never saw the Incredibles so my point might make no sense in regards to commentary on the movie:
quote:
I thought The Incredibles did have a reloatively reactionary message. They are an elite; and their greatest problem is that they are forced to follow the rules that everyone else does.

Following the rules in my book doesn't mean conforming to what every one else does. If the rule in a race is finishing it first to win, it's social pressure that tells one to finish only slightly ahead. The rules are arbitrary (is the better person one that can run a hundred metres or a thousand?). The social pressure like the one described influences the outcome which, I'd argue, is a leftwing viewpoint. But then, to make this comment I really need to see the movie for context.

In that sense, it might be a reactionary movie because the "elite" are forced to play by someone else's rules that won't assure they win. (in real life, I'm sure Mr. and Mrs Incredible aren?t the only gifted, superhero family out there).

Anyway:

quote:
If we want an education system that values excellence and abhors mediocrity, we need to eliminate standardization, to give students freedom to pursue interests and greater control over their learning,

Why? Explain more.

quote:
We need to compell public universities to develop admission criteria that are actually related to success in post-secondary education,

Okay, so a university should only accept students that would do well at university. No brainier, obviously.
quote:
and can be defended on such grounds according to the same standards of evidence that are demanded in all academic disciplines, rather than allow them to base admission on cheap and easy criteria such as standardized test scores, that are no more effective in predicting success than IQ scores and family income data.

Sooo? professors should sit around and analyze every english essay, every integration problem written to ascertain the relative merits of where one student went wrong and another didn't?

Here is a question: what would be a good indicator of academic success? Obviously standardize testing isn't, so? should the government spend more money investigating every applicants life to glean some indicator of success? Should they resort to astrology if it works? This guy is a Pieces so he'd be great in marine biology. Or maybe statistical studies like they do in the insurance industry: No, this kid owns a Honda, he's more prone to failing than a teenage GM owner. (er.. my rhetoric is dismissive but I do expect an answer that doesn't involve calling me names)


From: Pokaroo! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 24 November 2004 06:06 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by rasmus raven:
I saw the Incredibles. It was fun, but deeply pessimistic. We're trapped in dreary modernity, a life of mediocrity, monotony, bureaucracy, and conformity. The only way out is to be born with superpowers, or to be an evil genius. For the rest of you losers, it's back to work.

I loved the movie too, but that subplot really did bother me as well. I didn't pull out the Nietzsche (although I see the parallels) but it did kind of bug me, this whole idea that there are those who are born to lead.

However...the thing that reconciled me to it and made me feel a bit better is that these people are irresistably drawn to helping others who aren't superheroes. They really value the others as people. That's where the Randian or Nietzschean parallel breaks down. Dagny and the other "capables" in Atlas Shrugged didn't want to help anyone else. They wanted to run the world and make everyone else their peons, and for those peons to be grateful to lick their boots. They looked at everyone else with contempt.

Whereas the superheroes in the movie didn't want to run the world - they just wanted to help people - save them from fires, shake their kitties out of trees (that was pretty funny ) and catch the bad guys. They just wanted to help in their own way, using their own gifts, rather than putting down others who didn't have them. After all, they thought their baby was born without superpowers, and they were happy about it because he'd be "normal". That's not really a Nietzschean or Randian thing.

The tort reform subplot, however, was contemptible, I agree.

Edited to say: Jeff, the major superpower that the daughter used wasn't tied to her looks - she was able to conjure up a forcefield, which is what mostly saved her and her family over and over again, although the power to turn invisible was helpful. However, although you could consider turning invisible as "looks" based, I don't think it's presented as a beauty thing - I think it's presented as a convenient, strategic thing. In fact, she had TWO major superpowers, and she was the one who kept saving the rest of the family with her forcefields, which could be seen as making her, the young girl, the most powerful one of all.

[ 24 November 2004: Message edited by: Michelle ]


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Sharon
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posted 24 November 2004 08:26 AM      Profile for Sharon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I haven't seen The Incredibles but it inspired Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail to launch another of her regular attacks on the education system. Here's a short excerpt. I won't post the link because it's by subscription:

quote:
The theme of The Incredibles is the suppression of individual talent by the masses. It is, among other things, a full-frontal assault on the current education system and its misguided egalitarianism. Any parent with a gifted kid will stand up and cheer.

"Meeting the needs of gifted kids is thought to be elitist," says Tammy Barrett, a Toronto mother of three who got so fed up that she founded a private elementary school with a gifted education program. Our attitudes toward people with more natural ability, she says, amount to "a kind of reverse snobbery." She says many people are horrified to learn that she has opened an "elitist" school. Then they ask how they can put their infants on the waiting list.

Lack of funding is, in part, to blame for the neglect of gifted kids. But so is the prevailing philosophy of education, which holds that every kid is gifted in her or his own way. These days, the schools are implacably opposed to letting bright kids skip a grade (or to holding slower kids back). Never mind about the smart ones; they will learn to help the others. This philosophy ensures that both the brightest and the dullest on the Bell curve are condemned to years of steady torture.

The increasing feminization of the system (where co-operative learning comes first, and getting the right answer is way down the list) has made it worse. The kids are full of self-esteem but sadly deluded about their skills.



From: Halifax, Nova Scotia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Hinterland
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posted 24 November 2004 12:31 PM      Profile for Hinterland        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Margaret Wente really is suffering from acute self-centredness, bordering on autism, isn't she? I'm convinced she thinks she herself is a gifted writer and thinker, even though her writing is predictable and devoid of any insight.
From: Qubec/Ontario | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
Puetski Murder
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posted 24 November 2004 12:33 PM      Profile for Puetski Murder     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Haha, that is rich coming from Margaret Wente. I think my boyfriend still has this piece she once wrote about kids who fail math. It was so steeped in sarcastic writing, that only a language arts failure would miss it. It contained gems such as Janie felt like a "piece of human garbage" for failing math, and once she got a tutor she "soared to the middle of the pack". Yeah, she soared all right.

Someone on Amazon.com wrote a hilarious review of the movie "Milo and Otis". A lot of other reviewers concentrated on the obvious animal abuse that took place during filming, but one guy got so indignant at the idea that a dog would search for a cat. Whatever, he says, so unrealistic. Moreover Milo and Otis teaches kids how to rebel against society, since they leave the farm, put themselves in danger, and never listen to authority.

If I squint real hard, I can see that, but it looks more like a baby-boomer saga. One Wild Type (Milo) gets swept downstream by an uncontrollable river current. He goes on a radical adventure trying to find his way home. The Sensible One (Otis) goes after him and faces his own set of dangers and adventures. Eventually, they meet sensible females, procreate, find each other, and return to the farm they came from. More parallels to Forrest Gump than teaching children to rebel.

Still, I laughed very hard.


From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 24 November 2004 02:27 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Wente may be, in general, a bit insufferable, but I agree with most of what she's written above. I wouldn't suggest that any student needs to be ostracized, or permanently labelled, but if we've lowered the bar to ankle-height so as not to hurt anyone's feeeeelings, that's a bit far.
From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 24 November 2004 02:28 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:
Wente may be, in general, a bit insufferable, but I agree with most of what she's written above.

I'm shocked!

quote:
I wouldn't suggest that any student needs to be ostracized, or permanently labelled, but if we've lowered the bar to ankle-height so as not to hurt anyone's feeeeelings, that's a bit far.

Who's suggesting that?


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Hinterland
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posted 24 November 2004 02:35 PM      Profile for Hinterland        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
My parents generation had the same critique of my education, and the frustrating part of this was that a lot of that criticism was based on perception, not on fact. It's tedious. You can forgive Magoo for this, but not someone who writes in a national newspaper.

[ 24 November 2004: Message edited by: Hinterland ]


From: Qubec/Ontario | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
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posted 24 November 2004 03:00 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Who's suggesting that?

Nobody. I'm just making it clear that I'm not in favour of herding half the kids off to "slow learner" classes to play with dough, while the other half get enrichment. I just think that we have indeed dumbed down our public education. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to argue that our standards are still as high as ever, but they'd better do so with proper spelling and grammar.

Does anyone remember a set of reading comprehension tests that were used in middle grades like 5 and 6, back about 30 years ago? You'd read little paragraphs, answer questions to check your comprehension, then you'd move up through the various levels of competency? I distinctly remember the top levels being Aqua, Silver and Gold. Guess what colour the lowest level was named for?*

I'm suggesting we can still nurture gifted students without having to stigmatize the low achievers in that way.



*answer: Brown. I believe the next one up was Gray.

From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Hinterland
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posted 24 November 2004 03:07 PM      Profile for Hinterland        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I remember those. I was extra-privileged because I could speak English before I started school. I didn't have to go through the less esthetically-pleasing levels.

I still like the line from Barbarian Invasions about illiterate or dull young people. They're like that because adults don't teach them anything. But blaming the teachers is not the way to go. Blame all adults, and in particular, blame Margaret Wente, for showing us that mindless triviality is indeed, rewarded.

[ 24 November 2004: Message edited by: Hinterland ]


From: Qubec/Ontario | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
MacD
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posted 24 November 2004 06:09 PM      Profile for MacD     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Brad Bird, Margaret Wente, and Mr. Magoo all seem to be suffering from the same assumption that school is like a track and field event: its sole purpose is to separate winners from losers. The fact that the event and its rules are entirely arbitrary and do not relate to anything outside the event itself are overlooked.

Here are some questions that advocates of this postion have failed to address...

1) Why should all students be required/expected to learn the same things?
2) On what basis is material to be included or excluded from the curriculum?
3) How can we be sure that what students learn in school will be retained for any substantial period of time?
4) Why is memorization of curriculum knowledge requirements more important than developing an intellectual independence in students?
5) Why does challenging "top" students necessarily mean that "lower" tier students can not also receive instruction suitable to their abilities?

quote:
The increasing feminization of the system (where co-operative learning comes first, and getting the right answer is way down the list) has made it worse. The kids are full of self-esteem but sadly deluded about their skills.

This comment by Wente shows real ignorance. First, getting the right answer is not about "skills" but about short-term memory. Second, I wonder if Ms Wente has ever seen the inside of a university. How many professors sit around all day solving standardized problems in the hopes of getting the right answer? What we expect of our academics is for them to create new knowledge. Generally, this involves a team of faculty and grad students discussing non-standardized problems, designing and carrying out research, sharing that research with others through conferecnes and periodicals, and reading others' research reports to incorporate the advances that they have made. In short, co-operative learning is what real academics do for a living.

Even outside of an academic setting, economic production occurs through co-operation. Sure, capitalism uses competition as an incentive to produce and invest, but the essential feature of all modern modes of production is division of labour: i.e. co-operation.

Pedagogy that asks students to learn co-operatively aims to get students to develop skills that might actually benefit them someday; whereas "getting the right answer" (and in most cases forgetting the right answer shortly after the exam) is essentially a useless skill.


From: Redmonton, Alberta | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Raos
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posted 24 November 2004 07:37 PM      Profile for Raos     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I remember those. I was extra-privileged because I could speak English before I started school. I didn't have to go through the less esthetically-pleasing levels.

I sincerely hope that you meant to put read and not speak. On that track, though, I remember feeling very anxious and apprehensive before starting grade 1 because I couldn't read.

quote:
1) Why should all students be required/expected to learn the same things?
2) On what basis is material to be included or excluded from the curriculum?
3) How can we be sure that what students learn in school will be retained for any substantial period of time?
4) Why is memorization of curriculum knowledge requirements more important than developing an intellectual independence in students?
5) Why does challenging "top" students necessarily mean that "lower" tier students can not also receive instruction suitable to their abilities?

1) I agree that they shouldn't be, but I think right now it affects different areas in different ways. I can only speak of the curriculum in Alberta, since the only one I'm familiar with, but why are humanities valued so much above sciences? To graduate in Alberta, you require a grade 10 level math, and grade 10 level science, and grade 12 level english, and a grade 12 level social studies. If I want to be a historian, I need a barely functioning knowledge of biology, but if I want to be a biologist, I have to have a much better grasp of history.
2) That's definately a much more difficult question, but there's going to be different answers. Your reason for thinking one item should be included in a curicullum may not mean you think something similar should be included in another.
3) I don't think you can. The only thing that's going to keep something in my mind for an extended period of time is frequent usage.
4) This is one I've never understood. What is the purpose of everything being closed book. It's unrealistic. If I'm writing a math exam, and I don't remember how to do a problem, then I can't complete that problem. If it were real life, I would be able to look for information on how to complete that problem.
5) it shouldn't, but I don't see any way to keep from stigmatizing slower students. And I can speak from both ends of the spectrum on that one. There have been classes where I ignored the teach talking 99% of the time, did no work, and pass with flying colors, beating everybody else in the class. And I've had classes where I struggled, studied, couldn't grasp concepts, tore my hair out, and still did poorly. Neither scenario is helping anybody.


From: Sweet home Alaberta | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
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Babbler # 3308

posted 24 November 2004 07:42 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, I think Margaret Wente is full of it. And I generally agree with some of the arguments against standardization etc.
At the same time, I think memory and the simple learning of facts is easy to undervalue. When it comes right down to it, you can be as brilliant and creative as you want, but brilliance and creativity operate using a base of knowledge. If you don't know anything much, you have nothing to mess around with, combine in unexpected ways etc.
I know at least one person who is definitely as smart as I am, in the sense that once she knows a topic well she will come to insights that are as deep, interesting and innovative as any I'm likely to have. But she does it with fewer topics because she has much more trouble remembering relevant facts. Once she's got them she assembles and manipulates them well, but she doesn't have as much to assemble because she doesn't retain them well. It's surprising how much impact it has. Which suggests to me that, to the extent that memory is trainable or improvable, that's something it's worth spending attention on in schooling. It does *not* suggest to me that mechanical rote learning and empty competition should be the rule, it's just a side note on the surprising value of (longer-term) memorization.

From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Hinterland
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4014

posted 24 November 2004 08:20 PM      Profile for Hinterland        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I sincerely hope that you meant to put read and not speak. On that track, though, I remember feeling very anxious and apprehensive before starting grade 1 because I couldn't read.

No, I meant speak, not read. I didn't read English before I went to school. I was able to to start at advanced English reading because I didn't have to learn to speak it. By the way, I went to exclusively French schools, so maybe you're assuming something that isn't there.

[ 24 November 2004: Message edited by: Hinterland ]


From: Qubec/Ontario | Registered: Apr 2003  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
Moderator
Babbler # 560

posted 24 November 2004 08:35 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:
Does anyone remember a set of reading comprehension tests that were used in middle grades like 5 and 6, back about 30 years ago? You'd read little paragraphs, answer questions to check your comprehension, then you'd move up through the various levels of competency? I distinctly remember the top levels being Aqua, Silver and Gold.

Heh, I never analyzed the colours of those reading comprehension studies that way. Those weren't tests, those were "reading labs" weren't they? I remember doing those (and it wasn't 30 years ago, either! ) I think they're kind of neat due to the independent learning aspect, and as a way of teaching all kids in the same class but with different reading comprehension levels - but I didn't notice that the colours were so, er...icky at the bottom and stellar at the top.

I was always top of the class in things like reading and writing when tested, but since I had a poor work ethic when it came to certain school activities, I was generally only middle-to-middle-high when it came to stuff like the reading labs, just because I couldn't be bothered to race my way through them. I never did homework either. I was such a slacker.

If I ever write a book, I'm dedicating it to my grade 7 teacher, who saw through the slack and told me he fully expects to see me writing seriously some day. And if I ever get my university degree, I'm going to mail a photocopy of it to my grade 10 English teacher with "Read it and weep, bitch!" scrawled across it in red marker.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Puetski Murder
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Babbler # 3790

posted 24 November 2004 11:23 PM      Profile for Puetski Murder     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
And if I ever get my university degree, I'm going to mail a photocopy of it to my grade 10 English teacher with "Read it and weep, bitch!" scrawled across it in red marker

You and me both. Except I'll be mailing mine to my OAC Calculus teacher who was surprised I had the mental capacity to go to university. Meaning, he was surprised I even bothered applying because any sensible university wouldn't accept someone of my obviously substandard mental calibre. Or so he told my parents.


From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
N.R.KISSED
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Babbler # 1258

posted 25 November 2004 12:26 AM      Profile for N.R.KISSED     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
self-esteem but sadly deluded about their skills.

That is truly hilarious coming from Wente someone who suffers from delusions of mediocrity.
As far as "self-esteem" it is more than apparent that the perpetually adolecent libertarians are the one's that are truly lacking. Ayn Rand is a prime example of mediocre intellect and even worse artistry. The libertarians still demand a gaggle of sycophants to prop up their fragile egos otherwise they spend the entirety of their lives lamenting their unrecognized genius and despising the common herd for their failure to appreciate them.

as though Capitalism throughout it's history has not rewared an inordinate number of incompetents, boobs and desparately untalented, unskilled and unworthy.

I also find it hilarious when those on the right seem to be suggesting that all problems in education stem from some radical plan hatched by a select clique of Marxist Educationalists at OISE involving forced equalization.

The fact that school boards can't even afford to buy texts or chalk and other underfunding issues have nothing to do with it. Chronic interfernce from right wing governments wtih testing obsessions and fear of creativity is also been very helpful.

p.s. the guy who wrote the movie sounds like an ass!


From: Republic of Parkdale | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
fuslim
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5546

posted 25 November 2004 12:42 AM      Profile for fuslim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Quote form Wente's column:

quote:
The increasing feminization of the system (where co-operative learning comes first, and getting the right answer is way down the list)...

Feminization of the system?????????

Let's see, this implies that women don't care about right answers, only cooperation...

Whereas, men, apparently, do care about right answers.

What does go through Margaret's mind????


From: Vancouver BC | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
Babbler # 3469

posted 25 November 2004 02:04 AM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Brad Bird, Margaret Wente, and Mr. Magoo all seem to be suffering from the same assumption that school is like a track and field event: its sole purpose is to separate winners from losers.

No, not at all. But if a student shows themself to be gifted, I think they should be "separated" for enriched classes, and if a student shows themself to be struggling they should be "separated" for remedial classes. I don't see any benefit to trying to make one class fit both of them.

quote:
5) Why does challenging "top" students necessarily mean that "lower" tier students can not also receive instruction suitable to their abilities?

I see no reason why they can't both be given appropriate and challenging material, save of course for:

quote:
The fact that school boards can't even afford to buy texts or chalk and other underfunding issues have nothing to do with it. Chronic interfernce from right wing governments wtih testing obsessions and fear of creativity is also been very helpful.

... which is a big factor as well.

quote:
it shouldn't, but I don't see any way to keep from stigmatizing slower students.

With regard to "stigmatization", I think if you asked former students where the majority of the stigmatizing happened to the majority of kids at their school, they'd say the Gym, not the science lab. If schools or parents are truly concerned with ensuring that no student is ever stigmatized, then I'm going to suggest to them that sports teams, at all levels, must be chosen by lottery then. No "tryouts", where some students don't "make the cut".

Sure, it could mean the captain of the basketball team is the short kid with the headgear retainer, but since everyone's only worried about ensuring that nobody's ever stigmatized, not winning any games won't matter. And the kids with natural athletic ability will be able to relax a little, without the pressure to be star jocks, and I'm sure they'd be more than happy to hand over their status and glory to whoever happens to win the lottery that year.


From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Raos
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5702

posted 25 November 2004 06:09 AM      Profile for Raos     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
No, I meant speak, not read. I didn't read English before I went to school. I was able to to start at advanced English reading because I didn't have to learn to speak it. By the way, I went to exclusively French schools, so maybe you're assuming something that isn't there.

Ahh! That would indeed make far more sense. I feel so left out being unilingual.

And Magoo, I agree entirely. Except on the count of basketball. Stigmatization levels would go through the roof were I to be chosen as captain of a basketball team by any means.


From: Sweet home Alaberta | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
MacD
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2511

posted 25 November 2004 12:19 PM      Profile for MacD     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Magoo:
But if a student shows themself to be gifted, I think they should be "separated" for enriched classes, and if a student shows themself to be struggling they should be "separated" for remedial classes. I don't see any benefit to trying to make one class fit both of them.

This is in fact what is already done. It's called streaming and it's a widely-used practice. How can we explain the mediocre results that streamed-systems produce?

Even if we do stream students, there will still be variabilty of student ability within each stream. There will be gifted students who are more (or less) gifted than the average gifted student and there will be remedial students who are above or below the remedial mean. Should we take the "gifted", "normal" and "remedial" streams and divide them into three sub-streams each? And then should we divide those streams again? Carried to its logical end, this would result in individualization of learning, which is the opposite of standardization, and this is exactly what I am in favour of.

Carried to this logical end, ranking of students would be impossible because there would be no sufficiently large group of students doing the same thing to make achievement comparisons valid. Furthermore, if curriculum is individualized to students, why would we need to group "gifted" students together, and "remedial" students together? There would be as much curricular diversity within ability-grouped classes as within interest-based or random groupings. Ability-grouping would result in stigmatization of the lower groups but would have no educational benefit.

It seems to me that the Brad Bird-Margaret Wente-Ayn Rand version of education is all about stroking the egos of the elite! Let's separate out the Supers from the Normals so that the Supers can be rightfully worshipped!


From: Redmonton, Alberta | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
Babbler # 3469

posted 25 November 2004 12:26 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Let's separate out the Supers from the Normals so that the Supers can be rightfully worshipped!

Are you talking about Gym class?


From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Raos
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5702

posted 25 November 2004 02:58 PM      Profile for Raos     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Even if we do stream students, there will still be variabilty of student ability within each stream. There will be gifted students who are more (or less) gifted than the average gifted student and there will be remedial students who are above or below the remedial mean. Should we take the "gifted", "normal" and "remedial" streams and divide them into three sub-streams each? And then should we divide those streams again? Carried to its logical end, this would result in individualization of learning, which is the opposite of standardization, and this is exactly what I am in favour of.

That sounds like a fantastic idea, but I'm not convinced that its entirely plausible. I've had some excellent teachers who's impact would have been greatly increased with more range and freedom to teach to students invidually, but I have also had mediocre and sub-par teachers that use the curiculum as a crutch, and if you take it away, I do think they would stumble and fall. How would we ensure the effectiveness of teachers?

Additionally, with class sizes as they currently, even for the gifted teachers, individualization would be very difficult for teachers. Right now, I don't see the government being very willing to pass out a few large sums of money to revolutionize our education system, or even just to reduce class sizes and burdens on teachers with things as they are.


From: Sweet home Alaberta | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
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Babbler # 3674

posted 07 December 2004 04:24 PM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
shit, did you guys see the same film as me?

why is everyone on about education, when the film doesn't mention this at all? the only way that "dash" is being "held" back at school is the fact that he can't reveal that he has super-speed, i.e. it's more a parallel for witness protection programmes than "the gifted".

graphic novels themselves have tried to tackle how superheroes fit into a changed world in a number of ways in the past 15 years: batman retiring and coming back ... twice, and notably, with "kingdom come", where the UN security council tries to drop three nuclear bombs on a good-superhero, bad-superhero fight that threatens to destroy the earth (i.e. humanity saying "hey supers, we're the ones in real control").

rasmus came closest:

quote:
I saw the Incredibles. It was fun, but deeply pessimistic. We're trapped in dreary modernity, a life of mediocrity, monotony, bureaucracy, and conformity. The only way out is to be born with superpowers, or to be an evil genius. For the rest of you losers, it's back to work.

no, the message is that we should all strive to break free from the day-in-day-out-same-old-day-kid conformity that is everyday capitalist culture and work, what society expects us to do, indeed, relies upon us to do to replicate that same capitalist society.

if we do so, we'll have more interest in being good and involved fathers (i.e. mr. incredible's change in personality) and we'll serve the public good (frozone at the end, "honey, where's my goddamned super suit").

that way, we can all be anti-capitalist superheroes.


From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged

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