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Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

I don’t even know what to say about this, other than to wonder about the motivations of the board of trustees and that I’m fairly certain that Newman has “caused considerable damage” to the University through the creation of this climate of fear. So much for the protections of tenure.

Here is a story about the situation from Inside Higher Ed (this is the one I’ve seen most frequently on Facebook) as well as one from the Washington Post.

Update: The fired faculty members have received offers of reinstatement and the faculty as a whole has called for Newman to resign by Monday morning.


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There are some jobs that are typically recognized as difficult. Most people, for example, probably don’t think that they could walk into an operating room and be a successful surgeon. Others, however, are often assumed to be easy. Teaching, for example, is something that many people assume they could be successful at. I’ve also seen musicians criticize those who make electronic music because they are “just pushing buttons.” As with teachers and electronic music artists, assuming that somebody has an easy job devalues the work that they do.  Once in a while, though, people have the opportunity to try something that others make look easy, discovering that it is, in fact, rather difficult.

Enter Super Mario Maker.

Super Mario Maker is a videogame for Nintendo’s Wii U game console. In the game, players are able to create their own Super Mario Bros. levels, share those levels, and play levels created by others. In reviewing the game, Sean Buckley of Engadget summed up his experience nicely, stating:

It didn’t make any sense. I’d dreamed about making Nintendo games since I was 6 years old, but when the company gave me the chance to prove a game design genius lived under my skin, I flopped. It was then that a shocking and heartbreaking realization washed over me: I hate making video games.

My ego didn’t take this realization well. As both a hobbyist gamer and a journalist that covers games, I’ve always humored the little voice in the back of my head that said, “I could do this if I wanted. I could make games.” No, Super Mario Maker has shown me, I can’t — not really. Yes, technically I can construct a stage from set pieces I’ve seen in other Mario games, but I’m not really creating anything. My by-the-numbers Mario levels (a few power-ups to start, some pipes to leap over, maybe a Hammer brother or two and a flagpole at the end) feel more like light plagiarism than original content. Why do I suck at this so much?

Michael Thomsen at the Washington Post focused on how bad others are at creating Super Mario levels, arguing:

“Super Mario Maker” is a bad comedy. Released in coordination with the 30-year anniversary of “Super Mario Bros.,” it indulges players in the fantasy that they’d be good at making video game levels. This sort of self-deception has become common in the age of digital consumption, and while there’s something utopian in “Super Mario Maker’s” appeals to community participation and sharing, the game quickly collapses into a scratch sheet of horrible ideas and levels you’ll regret having played. It’s a tool for the mass production of cultural refuse, single-use distractions that fail to replicate the spirit of the original.

So it turns out that the people who have been making the Super Mario Bros. games all these years actually had talents and skills that most of us don’t have. I think this is great! I wish that we could have other opportunities to try what people do in a simplified manner. Imagine Super Teacher Maker where surgeons are given seven hours in a room with 25 eight year olds and asked to teach them math, or Super EDM Maker where a guitar player (or, better yet, a singer!) is given a computer and asked to create music. Maybe then we would start to recognize that everybody has hard jobs, even if our jobs are hard in different ways.

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A recent Washington Post editorial questioned Obama for failing to pardon more people.  As the article states:

Mr. Obama has thus far extended mercy to a mere 17 individuals, most of whom committed relatively minor offenses decades ago. … At this pace, Mr. Obama is likely to fall below the 189 pardons issued by George W. Bush — the modern president with the worst track record in this area.

Mr. Obama need only look to the thousands of Americans — many of them young, African American men — incarcerated for inexcusably lengthy periods because of draconian crack cocaine laws. Mr. Obama joined with a bipartisan coalition in Congress to reduce the penalties and make them more proportional to the crime. Some inmates may benefit from a U.S. Sentencing Commission decision this summer that allows judges to resentence inmates under new guidelines reflecting the penalty reductions. But many nonviolent offenders worthy of relief will be out of luck because they were sentenced to mandatory minimum prison terms. This is exactly the kind of situation that cries out for presidential intervention.

Aside from the interesting framing of a president failing to pardon people that the criminal justice system has dealt with as a problem – note that Bush has the “worst” track record in this area for his paltry number of pardons – is it really hard to imagine the backlash that the first black president would face if he decided to pardon thousands of young, African American men incarcerated under laws that began in the Reagan era?

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On Saturday, Kevin Huffman, a Washington Post opinion writer, discussed the “keys for success” in our education system, arguing that they go beyond “funding and families” (the former is a topic I have mentioned before).  The article opens with the story of two Teach for America educators who started a series of charter schools in the Rio Grande Valley.  They argue that the success of their students – the first class graduated this year and 100% of them are going to college – was based on:

“the thinking around the problem. I have no control over what goes in on in the kids’ Colonia. But we can create a culture. Kids here feel part of a family, part of a team, part of something special.”

This is in line with the argument that some sociologists (and non-sociologists such as Jonathan Kozol) have made.

Strangely, I expected Huffman to argue that they keys to success were related to creating this type of culture in poor areas, even in schools without high levels of funding.  Instead, he argues that we need to focus on “people, policies, and parents.”  (It is interesting that we can control “parents” but not “families.”)  In fact, none of his keys focus on creating a nurturing school culture.  I agree that we need to get to work on the issue of education, but it would help if we could recognize that giving incentives to good teachers in poor districts will not change the cultures of these schools.

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