Archive for July, 2017

Two new(ish) ideas

July 12, 2017

Germs of ideas…could make good PhD theses for someone…

  1. ‘International Forum’ for each university department: all students are invited to (and maybe get credit for) a forum where they can openly discuss how questions, issues and ideas in their discipline are addressed in their own country or culture. This could start out with discussion of how the home country approaches the discipline and higher education generally, and then move on to topics in the discipline. Students would have ownership of the forum, but staff would also be involved to learn from what the students say and contribute their own insights.
  2. Pairing primary and secondary school classes up with other classes around the world: as a very big idea, this would be part of the national curriculum (and countries worldwide would be encouraged to take part by some likely international body). Each school year the class would be paired with a class in a different country, and perhaps be given a general type of interaction as befitted the age of the students; for example, younger students might exchange drawings and photos of their school, home, local shops, etc. while older students could talk about cultural events or explore social norms. It would be hoped that the regularity of the interactions would, over time, help the students to approach each other without judgment or preconception, and thus by the time they got to the harder topics would not need a lot of scaffolding to treat each other respectfully. As much of this interaction would be done online (live video, shared multimedia spaces, blogs, apps, etc.) this would also be an opportunity to develop digital skills and digital literacy, explicitly and implicitly. There are plenty of examples of this type of thing as a one-off, but a sustained approach would be very interesting…

Others: crowdfunded book to fight hate

July 5, 2017

A professor at Durham is editing a book, Others, via crowdfunding. The explicit goal of the book, compiled of writing from prominent authors like Noam Chomsky, is to fight hate and raise funds for refugees–the proceeds will be donated to Refugee Action and Stop-Hate UK.

The argument is that literature can help the reader to walk in others’ shoes and understand others’ points of view…basically the empathy argument that I’ve blogged about before…so the book is meant to pack a double punch as far as its goals. Of course, I find this interesting as an unequivocating purpose of literature to change attitudes and open minds. But I do have a few questions…

  • Who is going to read the book? Will it not be people who are already devoted to the ideals that are being encouraged? Not that this doesn’t mean it won’t have a positive effect anyway, but maybe not on the people who need it most…
  • Does the funding method also mean that people who can’t afford to donate won’t be able to read it…?
  • What will writing for this book be like? Will the authors write as they always do, or will they be worried about whether their offerings are appropriate for the book…are relevant enough? (I’m sure we’ve all encountered otherwise worthy authors stumbling when trying to write fiction for a particular purpose.)
  • Getting a bit more philosophical, what does this whole thing mean? What does it say about the monetary value of writing, or of books, or of fighting hate…? What does it say about why people write, or why people read? What does it say about social media and personal persona-building when this gets retweeted (by people like me)?