What is the value of school?

Before I left for Turkey, my mom got me a Barnes and Noble gift card so that I could download fun things on my new and fancy, black magic Nook. Today I finally used it and downloaded Why School: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere. As a teacher and learning enthusiast, this title jumped out at me. I’m only about six pages in, but the author, Will Richards, has already raised enough valid points and questions that I felt the strong urge to send these questions into the blogosphere.

“In this new story, real learning happens anytime, anywhere, with anyone we like–not just with a teacher and some same-age peers, in a classroom, from September to June. More important, it happens around the things we learners choose to learn, not what someone else tells us to learn.

This new story requires us to ask the difficult yet crucial question: why school? I’m not suggesting we consider scrapping school altogether. I’m suggesting that this moment requires us to think deeply about why we need school. Or to ask, more specifically, what’s the value of school now that opportunities for learning without it are exploding all around us?”
This is not exactly a question that I want to answer right away. It should take some time and thought, and perhaps research. I know that, as a student, I enjoy the school setting; I enjoy classrooms and lectures and class discussions and exposure to things that perhaps I would not stumble upon on my own. Yes, I enjoy learning and researching and reading on my own, but I really do enjoy the structure of school as well. But as a teacher, I am constantly challenged to appeal to students who do not enjoy a traditional classroom setting. So what is the value of school? What can we learn in school that we can’t learn out of it? And how is the structure advantageous to the current generation? I’m not sure yet, but I’m going to keep reading and get back to you. In the meantime, I’m interested to hear the thoughts of others on this topic.

2012 Book # 11

Ok, I know I’m skipping around a bit, but I really have been keeping track of the books I’ve been reading. I haven’t quite gotten around to writing about the others yet, but I thought that this one was pertinent enough that it couldn’t want any longer.  About a week ago, I finished Dr. Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade: Why the 20s Matter and How to Make the Most of them Now.  To best sum up how I felt about it, I’ll just share my Amazon review:

I am a twenty five year old English teacher, living a life similar to many others of my generation–affected by the economic downturn and expectations to do great things, when so much seems to hold us back.

When I first picked up Dr. Jay’s book, I expected it to be cliché and full of “carpe diem” sentiments. I’m so glad to say that I was wrong. My copy of The Defining Decade is saturated in highlighter and ink, because there were very few pages that didn’t constitute notes. Everything in that book spoke to me in a way that no book, parent, friend, or advisor ever has. Though I’d been trying to get my life together, I started trying harder. I gained a new perspective. I made myself a timeline. I recommended it to all my twenty-something friends and even lent out my copy, scribbles and highlights included.

It has lit a new fire within me; I finished it feeling relieved and reassured that things will work out and that I just have to continue trying.

In her book, Dr. Jay speaks directly to a generation that is often spoken down to or dismissed. From one twenty-something to another, this book will relate to you and your situation in life. Dr. Jay gets us and she really wants to help us achieve great things, big and small.

Though I may not agree with every single detail of the book, I fully agree with the overall sentiment: make the most of your life.  If you are a twenty-something or a parent of a twenty-something, read this book immediately. Grade: A+

5 Things I love about my generation

Generation Y, aka’d as Millinials,  is those of us born between 1980-2000. I recently posted a response to a fellow Millinial who listed 5 things which confused her about our generation. After addressing her points, I thought I might add what I really appreciate about Generation Y.  True, it’s hard to be original, but Lord knows we try. And turns out that there are actually lots of things to appreciate about us. I had a hard time picking only five for now.

1. Flashmobs

The idea of people, often strangers, coming together for a brief moment to perform a choreographed dance in public is simply genius. It’s happy, fun, and distracting.  Life is often taken too seriously and even if they are a fad, I am in full support of flashmobs. Since the first time I saw the below video, it has been on my checklist to be in a flashmob. Honestly, what could be more fun?

2. Our desire to connect

I’m not saying that other generations have not had this desire, but Generation Y has taken it to a new level. Whether it is Facebook, blogging, email, chats, or texting, we need to be heard. Some may argue that because of these things, we have learned to listen less, but I disagree. Though it is nice to get off Facebook and talk to people face-to-face, tools such as these have helped me keep in touch with people I might otherwise have lost track of, simply because life can get busy. In addition, I am also still a fan of those Sunday phone chats where we catch up on events of the past month, but until then, I might post a cool video on your wall, or text you a punny joke I just heard.  (The bike couldn’t stand on its own because it was two-tired.) Things like Skype allow my roommate to talk to her mother in Turkey every day. Meetup.com allows me to meet people who share my interests in the area I just moved to. To me, this is a wonderful thing. The long story short is that we are connecting and in more ways than ever before. The world continues to get smaller and more accessible and we want to be a part of it.

3. Wikipedia

As an English teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my students not to use Wikipedia as a reliable source. You can’t count on who updates it or if they do so correctly. However, it is a fantastic tool to look up basic information and you can always go check out their sources if you need to cite something.

But remember those days when encyclopedias were 40 books long and hundreds of dollars? It was something to be admired if your family kept one in the house–otherwise you had to dig through the library collections. Wikipedia is an excellent resource if you’re curious about, well, anything. True, readers should be cautious of the validity of all posts, but a good reader knows to be cautious of whatever they read.

Just try spending a couple hours on Wikipedia one day. Chances are you might learn something.

4. Independence, resilience, determination, and craftiness

It is no secret that the economy sucks right now. Finding a job is a job within itself. If you are not currently unemployed, you probably know a couple people who are. The Baby Boomers are retiring later, allowing jobs to ask for more experience and making it hard for my generation to gain any. We may have grown up in a thriving economy, but we’re having to grow up a lot more with the situation we’re currently in. But don’t think we’re going to let this get us down.

True, we may not have jobs, or health care, or a bunch of food in our pantry and we may live with five other people just to make the rent payments, but somehow, we still enjoy ourselves. We’re resourceful. Thrift shops are hip. We blog about cheap recipes and free things to check out around your city. We use the times as inspiration to write, paint, or make music.  We know how to travel on a very very small budget (thank you hostelworld and couch surfer). If we can’t find a job, we might as well enjoy what’s going on around us. We’ve learned how to fight and stand up for those less fortunate, because we know what it’s like to be without. I may not agree with some of my fellow Millinials, but I definitely appreciate their passion.

5. A decent sense of humor

And out of our resilience and determination to make the best of our situation, we’ve developed a sense of humor. We know how to take life seriously, but it doesn’t mean that we have to.

Confusion caused by judgement

I recently read a Freshly Pressed post entitled “Sometimes My Own Generation Confuses Me.” In the post, the author lists five things about our generation, Generation Y, which confuse her:

  1. Wearing sweatpants or pajamas outside
  2. Dubstep
  3. Modern video games
  4. The beautiful orange skin/bleached hair combination
  5. iPods 24/7

While I could understand some of her points or concerns, there was a condescending tone in her words which I thought unnecessary.  As a representative of the same generation, I see our habits, trends, and idiosyncrasies in a more endearing light than my counterpart.  I’m sure you’re nice, Classic Confusion, and from the sound of your blog, I’m certain you think you’re witty. And since you seem so confused by our generation, I thought I could help shed some light.

Before I continue my retaliation, perhaps I should provide a brief background of Generation Y. We are the generation born between 1980 and 2000. We are commonly children of divorce, we are more technologically inclined, and though many of us are college graduates, we are having a damn hard time finding jobs.

As to the above list:

1. Wearing sweatpants or pajamas outside

I can count on one hand the number of times I have left the house in sweat pants or pajamas. (This does not include family trips when I was younger and was dragged out of bed at 4am so we could get an “early start”.) Yes, I love comfort. Yes, I have left the house in a sweatshirt. Yes, I have worn capri leggings out of my house (though often when going hiking or to the gym).  But I do usually have a hard time walking out in anything less casual than jeans. But it also does not bother me that others choose to do so.

But hey, look at it this way—if you are taking the time to look nice and others are dressing in sweats, that means you look better, right? Or does it?…

2. Dubstep

“You can’t even sing along to this nonsense.” I don’t think the point is to sing along. I think the point is to just enjoy it. Though I haven’t gotten into Dubstep as much as some of my friends have, I have found that it is good for studying or dancing. Just look at this guy, for instance:

Not to mention, I couldn’t mix beats like that. Props.

3. Modern video games

You are 100% right that Nintendo 64 is amazing in every way.  Old school gaming systems are classic for a reason. Just the other day I was playing Lion King on my Super Nintendo.  But if you think there are no noteworthy games out now, you are sadly mistaken.

Obviously you have never played Just Dance.

4. The orange skin/bleached hair combination

I have to point out that this is not a new trend. This one has been around for quite some time now and I have never really been a fan.  However, I don’t feel that I have room to talk. I’ve never tried to turn my skin orange and prefer my hair large and curly. I watched The Nanny growing up, and we all fit a certain stereotype. J

5. iPods 24/7

I also have an iPod, but you have me beat on the iPhone. My phone calls and texts and that makes me happy enough.

Your complaints against the 24/7 iPods are that they listen to their “crappy” music too loud, or that they don’t pay attention to what’s going on. You should be glad that they even have headphones. At least they’re not blasting a boom box on the subway. (PS-Have you ever tried to carry an old school boom box? Those things are ridiculously heavy. )

As for the people not paying attention—those people probably wouldn’t pay attention even if they didn’t have the iPods. Believe me, we tend to space out a bit. Luckily for me, though, I had my iPod with me while writing this so I was able to concentrate enough to respond to your post.

Plus, whenever I listen to my iPod, I like to think I look as ridiculous and awesome as this: