Such Good Reasoning

On Sports Tonight, Ron Borges claimed that all NFL quarterbacks know that nothing is done to a game ball that they don’t want done, and because of that assumption Brady must be guilty.

Such poor reasoning has been displayed nationwide by the least accomplished scribblers to the most decorated journalists and personalities and even the most grossly-overpaid private investigator-lawyer on the planet: Theodore Wells (reportedly paid $45 million for the Brady-balls affair). Folks, we’re in the wrong damn businesses…

Here is Borges: “Because they (NFL quarterbacks) all know…  They know nothing’s done with those balls that the quarterback doesn’t want done.

Gee, Ron, remember that for the Championship game against the lackluster Colts Brady demanded footballs be inflated to 13 psi. He didn’t want floppy balls, especially in those conditions. The gig was a set-up.

The rest of the tiny piece that I took the quote from is at http://www.csnne.com/new-england-patriots/borges-im-told-belichick-never-believed-brady

It isn’t much, but if you’re interested, there you have it.

Y’all enjoy your day.

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A little Deflategate to lighten the day

If you’re into football, or footballs, or, as some I know are, just Tom Brady, you might enjoy a comprehensive and intelligent article about the silliness known as deflategate and the business of the NFL. My article is at

https://medium.com/@briandsadie/hoping-for-right-but-getting-it-wrong-mr-goodell-s-errant-decision-8b42c83622f0

All best. Good reading and good day!

Brian D. Sadie

eloquentb

 

 

 

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Something Good for Goodness Sake

Honoring Seymour Papert and Helping the World, Too

Some ideas and the efforts resulting from them deserve encouragement and, when possible, tangible support. But all too often even effective, efficient, and good-hearted organizations receive little or no recognition and sensible funding. Without a major family-brand name obscurity, ineffectiveness, and, ultimately, dissolution typically result. With that in mind, I’m noting two organizations with good intentions and viable approaches to helping some kids and their mentors make the world a little better.

On Wednesday, December 4, One Planet Education Network (OPEN) and Small Solutions, Big Ideas (SSBI) hosted an event honoring education and classroom technology pioneer Seymour Papert. Experts and innovators shared their experience and insight about current developments in educational gaming and related products and approaches.

Sandra Thaxter, Executive Director of SSBI, and OPEN Executive Director George Newman opened the night’s presentations, discussions, and demonstrations. SSBI provides computing technology that enables better communication and children’s education in Africa. OPEN has established a system of educational games and media approaches that facilitate a broad, hands-on education about such problems as poaching of endangered species, environmental degradation, and hurdles to effect and enforce progressive, humane policy change.

Constructionist and former MIT Professor Seymour Papert was honored for his prescience and contributions to children’s education, including his promotion of technology use in classrooms. Speakers included Mitch Resnick of the MIT Media Lab; artificial intelligence and education expert Cynthia Solomon; Brian Silverman; publisher and author Meredith Hamilton of BumpBump Books; Artemis Papert; and Gary Stager.

The night’s event underscored cooperative problem solving: The technology available and provided by such non-profits as SSBI helps OPEN connect students worldwide, students who not only learn about math, science, and basic humanities, but also about the world and its ways in politics and business and the role of cultural difference in both causing problems and finding solutions to them.

Inspired by Papert’s thought and work, the organizations promote collaborative projects to improve educational, environmental, and human rights conditions, particularly by developing effective education systems in the world’s deeply impoverished areas. SSBI’s unique access to emerging market economies and its partners for development and field use of products and programs enables it to both provide students with necessary items and teach them skills that will enable them to work in the global milieu even if they continue to address global conservation or human rights challenges. OPEN’s series of educational programs encourages students to learn of real-world challenges, communicate and partner with others wherever they may be, and pragmatically address the problems. OPEN’s boots on the ground, cross-cultural games-based learning is exemplified by New York City elementary schoolteacher Johnny Ronelus, whose pupils are working with others in Africa to end poaching and save the Black Rhino from extinction. OPEN is currently in the second phase of Kids Worldwide Unite: Save the Black Rhino and is preparing a major undertaking to further education about and address the depletion and degradation of the ocean environment.

http://www.smallsolutionsbigideas.org
http://www.oneplaneteducation.com

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In the Land of Surveillance and Drones, Shit Happens

by Brian D. Sadie

As the proverbial saying indicates, shit happens, and I wonder why it does so often and for no good reason. How is it that so much shit occurs that really shouldn’t in a free, openly democratic nation that advertises the promotion and protection of the rights and privacy of all individuals equally through ethically responsible, morally sound governance – governance that is supposed to include the honest, just application of law according to the case at hand and with the understanding that all human beings are due equal rights with equal access to liberty (a word with a big meaning) and to being left alone? Although the founders of this nation indicated a right to due legal process, it must be noted yet again that due process and the rule of law ensure little more than a life-draining drag to the depths of hell with no guarantee of goodness and right, especially for those not politically or financially connected, secure, or rich. Bad things often – typically – happen to good people in due process according to law.

So – with apologies to A-categoricals, which just can’t always hold – shit happens when or because

People being silly do stupid things
Frightened people do irresponsible things.
Those in politics and law depend on the above.

Uncritical voters permit others to assume authority or power over their lives to gain a feeling of being protected, safe, secure, but it’s irresponsible to ask, allow, or expect others to control society with increased surveillance, police, and military tactics and authority, and especially so by watching and recording other people’s everyday movements and conversations, even under the guise or with a promise of protection. No fear, no feeling of incapacity or general insecurity, warrants calls for notional security against political terror or randomly-occurring violence by the exercise of gross violations of privacy and otherwise circumscribing personal and social freedom and civil rights.

Dissent arising from surveillance and other excessive policing is appropriate. After all, the United States developed the idea that a person’s privacy and liberty trumps all civil authority and governance except when a person violates the freedom and rights of another. Institutional or governmental control in the private realm and social sphere were deemed inappropriate and even immoral by those bewigged conspirators and revolutionaries.

Shit does indeed happen: The universe, even existence itself, doesn’t seem to recognize or care about fairness. Bad people exist and they do bad things. Fairness and equality are worldly ideas.

Even those intending to protect someone they care about are corrupted when party to supporting authoritarian behavior and helping a police state, however locally or small the operation. State, city, or town, it’s all the same – people and entities that ask for voter permission to spy and surveille, and those that otherwise assume authority or exercise power over the information and lives of others, even in the name of national security – want, seek, and enjoy having power and control over others to begin with.

The United States used to know itself. It presented a pretty solid idea of what it stood for and how to maintain at least some of the principles lauded as revolutionary and assuring privacy, individual liberty, and the pursuit of life and happiness unless one sought to violate the rights of, or harm, another.

Since 9/11, though, American society and most of its media have appeared increasingly angst-ridden and weak, unwilling to think and speak critically at length or act with an ethical backbone to maintain, or regain, the reality of individual privacy. This matters, whether you know and like it or not, because privacy is the basis of all civil society. Fundamentally, and for better or worse according to the degree to which it is assured, privacy affects the reality of our world because it is an intellectual and emotional milestone and base of childhood development and, ultimately, thought and behavior.

Life is fraught with uncertainty and any viable, morally sound social contract requires personal responsibility. Ethical governance operates without violating the human right of individual privacy and liberty. This is the basis of a more democratic polity and truly diverse, freer society.

Not much to expect or ask for, I know, but maybe we can all keep some boots handy for those days when shit hits the fan and drops, biblically, from the sky.

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Some Good Things for Teaching and Improving Literacy: Summer Fun That Keeps the Mind Sharp

by Brian D. Sadie

Summer isn’t just a name. It’s also a fun time for kids and teens, but they can pay for not keeping sharp when school begins again. The cumulative loss of academic skill over vacation called summer slide waits for many unable to enjoy themselves and keep pace at the same time, but the dog days don’t have to leave a student howling at the moon or feeling zombie-like when crisp air and leaves take wind because even learning can be fun during summertime. So take a bight out of brain-loss by engaging in a few enjoyable activities while the sun rides high and nights are short. Some great ways to enjoy summer vacation and keep prepared for school include playing games, reading, drawing, and watching movies. You’ll all be happy you did and the kids’ll be ahead in class.

Teaching and enabling kids to enjoy themselves with engaging material and activities typically results in some inspirational moments and work. Technical innovation has provided things that, when used with a range of other materials and varying formats and styles, hold kids’ interest.

Pencils (and brushes and clay) are lovely. The change from digital and typing to holding these historically and developmentally significant tools has immediate effect, both conscious and unconscious. The feel and texture are unique and vary according to manufacture. The less-colorful abstract palette of pure graphite and charcoal pencils helps kids develop or formulate ideas that cross easily into the literary world. Both writing and drawing with hand-held implements facilitate improved memory function and overall performance by engaging multiple areas of the brain. Writing, especially using cursive letters, reinforces memory on all fronts with more highly developed motor activity and creative impulse. Full memory, inspired critical thinking, and improved control often result. Actors rehearse their lines and movements for similar reasons. Other fine art activity, including painting or playing with clay, stimulates the mind and, during vacations, keeps brain loss at bay. These activities not only fire imagination, playfulness, and experimentation, and often with great emotion, but they also strengthen and assist logical functions.

Reading does, too. Reading for pleasure is marvelous. Reading for school – well, it can be fun but is often more like work. So how can your children enjoy the summer while not losing their recently gained intellectual edge? Suggest they read a varied range, from low-level potboilers, political thrillers, and detective stories to great classic literature. Have them read a real newspaper, too, but thoughtfully: The different types of information presentation, storytelling, language, perception, and meaning will come to light while, for those inclined, developing emotional awareness and stirring creativity.

This approach to reading keeps the mind flexible and up on both historical and current events. It also helps your children learn to appreciate and like history by showing them a use and application for their knowledge of it. Just think of the worst school history books and how they presented information: famous or significant people and events were dully indicated and seldom more. Now think of a letter, story, or novel that fleshes out the human. Most of us are made for more than simply memorizing facts – it is the emotional and intellectual connections that bring us to life.

Remember, too, that holding and reading a book is a fundamental organic activity and therefore irreplaceable. The experience and act itself demands greater attention from the participant than many might be used to today. Reading a printed book has an effect similar to that of writing by hand and should be respected, promoted, and treasured. Flickering images on any screen are perceived differently by the brain: we don’t respond the same to online reading as we do to material read from a printed book. We also tend to spend more time becoming involved with physically tangible items, even those we read. Memory and thought work differently with these things and nicely augment film and online experiences.

This brings us to another wonderful activity: watching movies. Films are historical treasure-chests, cultural stores of images, sound, and story. They keep you going, too, whether they’re old black-and-white classics with fast-talking proto-feminists and cynical toughs sparring and flirting in deep, subtle shots or something for a suburban multiplex or college town art-house. The language of film requires attention and observant, thoughtful viewers are often rewarded on multiple levels and in different ways. After viewing, and less as a teacher or parent than a lover of films and life, talk with your kids and listen to them: know where they’re coming from and what they’re thinking about what they’ve just experienced. You’ll enjoy yourselves and the experience can lead to far-ranging and far-reaching discussion about anything and everything that will remain in your children’s minds, inspiring and helping them later, if they, and you, are lucky. The films and your discussion may even lead to your doing something together that you might otherwise not have thought of or done.

Don’t dismiss all goofy or limited movies, though! A great bad movie can be perfect, and serious laughter is fantastic. Sometimes it’s the best thing. Generally, though, better films are best. Don’t believe me? Although feelings about it will vary over time, watch 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s probably the thinnest screenplay in recent film history. There are few words and limited dialogue spoken between the characters, especially for a two hour, twenty-minute film, but every word was deliberately included and relates, directly and indirectly, to a suggested meaning underlying the film’s structure and images used throughout. And don’t forget the music: Kubrick cued every phrase of it himself. He wanted you to hear it at that moment. As my then-fifteen-year-old son said after watching it for the first time, “I liked it. It’s slow for today, but beautiful, and there’s a lot there. You don’t forget it.”

So it is that preparing intellectually and technically for tomorrow’s world is fun, and there are different ways to do it. Just as audio-visual material reinforces learning and excites students, web-based literacy programs can also engage kids as they navigate the highly sophisticated world of language arts. As with foreign language instruction, the best online platforms provide comprehensive tools for instruction in the finer points of language, writing, and editing. Remember, though, that editing on the printed page results in better correction than only doing so online and in a hurry. Like it or not and despite the ability to disseminate things almost immediately, reality continues to prove that, while inspiration might seem to strike suddenly, time is essential for refinement. Stepping away from one’s work makes for better development and results in clearer, more enjoyable communication later. When online or with a computer, people tend to feel they must hurry. Even if they needn’t they demonstrate far less focus and discrete attention to detail than otherwise. So do yourself and everyone else a favor: Take a break! Writers, even those who blog, and those who read will – subconsciously, at least – be thankful.

Creating and viewing both relax and stimulate and the summer may provide sufficient time for many unfamiliar or unable to work at either the time to do so. Drawing, painting, sculpting, or any other fine art activity can fire imagination, stir playfulness, and lead to enlightening experimentation. Painting, akin to drawing, is a phenomenal experience, the effects of which remain little understood but are universally acknowledged as invaluable for many reasons and on many levels. Camera work is enlightening and relaxing, too.

Asked by an interviewer how he maintained creativity and found new inspiration, the hugely-successful commercial photographer Peter Turner answered, “Plane tickets.” Well, for those without reservations, something else suffices. For another change, go outside and do something, or even nothing, but do even nothing outside sometimes. Sport does wonders, as will a walk in the nearest copse of trees or, if you’re lucky, woods – that uniquely clears one’s head and helps every aspect of memory, understanding, comprehension, and problem-solving. If woods, fields, water or a beach aren’t around, a walk somewhere different or new will do.

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After months of hard work, help your kids avoid the fall in summer by mixing these things into your break. Some of you might also find something helpful at www.summerlearning.org/?page=summer_learning_day, the National Summer Learning Association’s site promoting Friday, June 21, 2013 as Summer Learning Day. It’s their national day of awareness about the importance of summer learning in helping close the achievement gap. You might meet others at NSLA events and share ways to help young learners enjoy themselves while learning during the vacation months.

For more information about online resources and platforms see Summer Learning, Happens So Fast posted May 29, 2013 by Alison Anderson, at EdTech, Learning, Online & Blended, Partners, PreK-12, http://gettingsmart.com/2013/05/summer-learning-happens-so-fast/. Also visit http://boomwriter.com/ for ways to work on writing with younger children.

Hope this helps and that you all experience a wonderful summer. Enjoy!

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Helping Teenagers Improve Their Literacy in a Media Saturated Age

by Brian D. Sadie / 10 April 2013

Reading and writing are difficult tasks for many, even those who excel at them. Writing is especially trying because it draws on more parts of the brain than just about any other activity. Yet, over the last decade, popular demand for published books has increased even though publishers and educators have noted a sharp decline in good, proficient writing: far more errors appear, even in published books, than ever before. Despite the difficulty of writing and, for a significant portion of the country, mature reading comprehension, blogging and internet publications have sprung up by the thousands over the same period. With the apparent decline in language arts knowledge, an increase of bad editorial practice in news and publishing, and great public emphasis on instruction of maths and discrete science procedures at the expense of language instruction in school, how can we help teenagers become truly literate?

That depends on expectation and what literacy is deemed to be. Literacy means the ability to read and write competently. Not half-way, not poorly. Understanding what is read and knowing how to write correctly and well are assumed. Unfortunately, many today promote notions heedless of critical thinking, comprehension, and clear communication, and literate means to some groups that an employee can throw images and a few words into a PowerPoint report or post an amateur video. In that world, language – spoken, written, and implied – is frequently hackneyed at best, garbled as the lack of thought or comprehension giving rise to it.

That can cause difficulty for teenagers because, for all they might otherwise say, they take their cues from adults. Parents can have a great advantage and opportunity to lend a deft but influential hand during this pivotal time. A judicious use of technology may help, but remember that fun triggers the spark of inspiration. When teens are happy, enjoying themselves and those around them, they are both receptive and giving. With friendly parental guidance, improved literacy and critical thinking may often follow.

Great literature and fun stories are still at the top for improving literacy, but don’t overlook the newspaper. I know that loads of people no longer bother reading news, or even what passes for it online, but I experienced something wonderful one day while reading a quality newspaper and it has proven valuable in the long term. My then-eleven and fourteen year olds were talking about American political parties and some prominent politicians. They saw a headline in the New York Times on the table and laughed at a cover of The Economist. A few moments later, they commented and joked that today’s better comedic talent and late-night hosts were more intelligent and articulate than nearly every politician and provided better analysis and commentary than all but the best of professional news people, at least the ones on television.

Figuring they’d responded according to an adult-like skepticism and basic assumptions about the people and situation mentioned, I asked if they’d understood the full meaning of what they’d read. They admitted they hadn’t, and a wonderfully engaging, multi-disciplinary yet tightly focused discussion followed. Among other things, we spoke about culture, politics, language, meaning, reading methods, and critical thought. We covered judging other people, even prominent public figures, especially when one has little knowledge or understanding of them or the circumstance in which they operate. I let them know that, no matter the type of writing or reporting, there is always space between lines and much, sometimes important, falls through or is kept from the non-critical or even best-intentioned but still mostly-uninformed reader.

So I explained implication and reading between the lines. We delved into context, vocabulary and nuance, the roles and types of sources, personalities, history, and political thought. After a little guided line-by-line critical reading and a few more questions, they realized that they hadn’t understood the background to the headline and opening when they’d first mentioned the article. So it is that knowledge of several things enables greater understanding of many other things, and that leads to literacy. Language is more than words strung together: it represents thought, or the lack of it, but it always emerges from a cultural, quite human, place. There are often multiple levels to even simple prose, as thoughtful readers of the best work of Hemingway know. Sometimes a writer might not have thought what the reader takes from the work but that’s part of the process, too. Awareness, experience, and erudition inform critical inquiry and facilitate the understanding we may consider fluency. Nuance, shade of meaning, is king but such things as heartache, irony, sarcasm, and derision aren’t typically or readily identified with formatting or other markings: they are understood according to the literacy of the reader or listener.

These lessons apply to everything and can be reinforced daily, even with banter. Reading is marvelous, including aloud in a private or family performance, and helps with writing, too. Discussion of a piece can inspire a lifelong love of such activity and learning, of language, inquiry, and expression. Writing often emerges as an enjoyable means for teenagers to think and express themselves and can lead to performance art. A touch of correction during a story revision stays in the mind because, when enjoying themselves, teens are quite receptive. The same is true of learning different voices: reading aloud a letter from another era invites questions about the way of speaking, of dialect, accent, culture, history. These paths for enlightenment open easily when relaxed and happy.

Learning, inspiration, creativity: They go together and lead to real literacy, which allows independent thought. Combining a deft personal touch to parental, educational aims helps one’s rapidly-developing teens become well-informed, intellectually capable adults. Just having good things around is often enough: no need to push! One day a book comes off the shelf and voila! A new path appears, or perhaps a previously blocked one opens. Parents should feel free to inspire with great works and performances. They should provide a breadth of quality material and personal insight to help their teens make sense of today’s ubiquitous media bombardment. The questions, discussions, and activities that result become something magical: treasured memories. Those moments can be wonderful for you both and, among other, quite important, things, will help your young ones become truly literate through understanding, or at least appreciating, the human condition.

A version of this article appeared on 12 April, 2013 in TeenLife at
http://blog.teenlife.com/2013/04/helping-teenagers-improve-their-literacy-in-a-media-saturated-age/

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Digital Libraries and the Idea of Literacy

Brian D. Sadie / Tuesday, 14 May 2013

This abridged version posted at
http://bostinno.streetwise.co/channels/headline-digital-libraries-and-the-idea-of-literacy/
and http://boomwriter.tumblr.com/post/50495788602/digital-libraries-and-the-idea-of-literacy

The Digital Public Library of America launched April 18th with the goal of linking America’s libraries, archives, and museums and making them freely available to everyone. This platform will enable new and transformative uses of our newly-digitized cultural heritage. From an historical standpoint and for preservation and accessibility it’s wonderful, similar to the idea of restoring films and preserving both newly-mastered film and digital copies.

Collecting and scanning all the world’s printed publications is good, not least because it could enable more students, teachers, scholars, and the public to see the change in the meaning of words they think they understand, the shifts in political and legal thought and practice, the development of hard scientific knowledge and the preservation of methods, practices, and tools no longer widely understood. Real democratic availability without restriction is a worthy goal, but it’s only part of the plan.

To help disseminate this store of knowledge and art we need librarians: they are essential guides to the world’s collected literature, books, art, and written knowledge. Truly great librarians have real understanding of multiple languages, cultures, and disciplines and are versed in the methods and notions of knowledge, history, and the ways people catalogue and refer to ideas and information. A great librarian not only can direct a patron almost immediately to precisely where they wish or need to be but can also provide additional, wonderful, and relevant information.

Librarians are sleuths, and not because they’re masters of the arcane: all that I’ve mentioned about libraries and librarians is rudimentarily practical to human society and endeavor. We should digitize the world’s written works but also insure that today’s children and young adults are truly literate. We should teach them the ways of thinking and what things really mean so that, regardless of how they choose to act or think or behave, they’ll at least know the what and maybe even why. The hope is that some of the next generations will know and care enough to continue the preservation and dissemination of knowledge and art and all the rest that is our history.

It is essential to maintain the stores of knowledge and ways of thinking that, in printed form, always, at some point, go out of print and cease to be available. Libraries exist to get and keep editions for reference and preservation. Digitizing the world’s works increases the need for a librarian’s understanding of cataloging, so we should make sure people know how to use libraries. Then the fullness and beauty of the digital project and the works it preserves can be better appreciated.

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