Sunday, November 29, 2009


This has been bouncing around in my head for a while now. Both homework, and why I haven't been feeling as passionate about stopping it recently. A while back, (before I started this blog,) I was very angry about how much homework we were being given when there wasn't...well, anything to support the argument that the other side could give me. The best argument I ever got was a condescending, "You know, there's never been a double-blind test with parachutes." (Note to debaters: being condescending, regardless of respective ages, levels of experience, etc., only makes the speaker look bad.)

What I have finally come to is this: I have reached a level where I am picking many of my classes. This means that I am 1) in the correct level, 2)interested in most of the subjects I am taking, and 3)getting more free reign, since the teachers know you have to have some interest to be in this level in the first place. This results in it looking like the issue is solved, since it has stopped affecting me as much.

Yet, still, I know it's happening. My classmates, my friends in middle school, all of them are being kept up late by homework.

(Note to people who wonder why these people aren't complaining: A)they are and B)they're swamped with homework.)

This thinking has also led to me thinking about what types of homework I dislike. Because, yes, homework can be useful--but nothing about homework makes it intrinsically useful. Some teachers think it is, leading to:

Homework for Homework's Sake
This is exactly what it sounds like. It is when a teacher assigns homework, not because the class needs to memorize something or the teacher needs to make sure that everyone is caught up, but simply because it is homework.
Negative Effect: Association. This solidifies an idea that all homework is useless in a student's mind, because this homework is useless. Should s/he run into any genuinely useful homework, how much of a chance will s/he give the assignment?
Common Justifications: The arms race argument ("Well, they're doing it!"), discipline, study habits

The infamous More of the Same. Especially common in so-called 'advanced' classes that just pile on the work, hoping this increased work load will make it look like more is being taught, or that it is being taught more thoroughly.
Negative Effect: It creates a learning environment in which everything becomes boring, because it is drilled incessantly until it becomes so.
Common Justifications: "[What if t/T]hey didn't understand it the first time!", memory, "They won't practice any other way." (If they already understand, they don't need to.)

Punishment Work
This is when a student does something wrong, be it missing problems on a test, answering a question wrong in class, or stumbling over a presentation. It may be given to an individual student who has done something wrong, or the entire class. I would like to take a moment to separate this from test corrections: Test corrections are when one tells the student to look over the test and figure out how to do the problems s/he did wrong. Punishment work is when, for every problem missed, the student must complete ten problems of the same type. Punishment work may also be simpler, such as writing lines. "I will (not) x..."
Negative Effect: Association, but even moreso than HWFHWS. This is not just something the student does not enjoy--indeed, HWFHWS may be fun if the teacher knows how to work the assignment. This is a definitive "You are doing this because you have done something wrong," and gives the idea that homework--and by extension, possibly all academic work outside school--is a punishment. If you are doing everything right, then you don't need to do homework.
Common Justifications: Discipline, study habits, Spare the rod and spoil the child, "They'll know better next time." (which is a kinder way to say "This'll teach 'em," as far as I can tell).

And then we just have homework in general. If there is not a place for less priviledged students to get access to computers, good art supplies, or whatever else one needs to do the homework assigned, then suddenly we have an ever-growing gap--or, almost as bad, we don't, because the homework has no effect. Or a negative one.

Suggested Reading (for those interested):
The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn ( for some information/reviews.) [One interesting bit of information I found in this book was a connection to bloodletting. I seem to have misplaced the book, but he talks about a scientist who decided to perform experiments to see if bloodletting worked. It didn't. His conclusion? Bleed earlier, bleed heavier.]

And...I would give links on the other side, but every time I try I find someone who starts out by calling me (or rather, anyone with my position) a liar. About that insultingly. If someone can find a nice one, please share.

EDIT: Scratch the previous paragraph, the second comment on this very post is suggested reading.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Travel Log

I have been several hours from home for the past few days (Thursday Friday Saturday). Here's a summary of what happened, since I'm not about to make a normal-sized blog post right now. EDIT: Upon rereading, I suppose I was.

Wednesday-Worked on finishing up what homework I could, studying/cramming music.

Thursday-Woke up, drove to our first rehearsal place, which was a church, got a check to make sure I knew my music. People were singing outside the room, both songs they were going to be checked on (mostly in their assigned octets) and just plain randomly. I got in; we had our first rehearsal until 9:30 (breaks for lunch, dinner). Highlights: 1)More than half the room singing a song they had, which included stomping and clapping. They got spontaneous applause. 2)A group of guys gathered around the piano and started singing showtunes, with one accompanying.

Friday-Woke up at the hotel, had breakfast with the choir group in a reserved room. Went straight from there to the rehearsal, break for lunch, more rehearsing, got out for dinner and we had the evening free. Highlights: I got a solo in 'Babathandaza', one of the songs our director had arranged (he had done three out of our six). Sin nje nje nje... When we got out early we went to the movie theater (New Moon was sold out, shocker), and saw Disney's A Christmas Carol, which was awesome.
Jokes at the theater that I don't expect too many of you to get: The ice cream server was dressed up as a traditional vampire. Characters were matched up with flavors: Vanilla was Bella Swan, Birthday Cake (which was also the Flavor of the Month) was Edward Cullin [sic], and Mississippi Mud Pie was Seattle Emo Mud Pie.

Saturday-Final wrap-up rehearsals and concert performance, then goodbyes. Highlights: THE ENTIRETY OF THE CONCERT. But in particular, 'Babathandaza', 'Sto Me E Milo' and 'Aglepta'. Oh my [deit[y/ies] of choice] 'Aglepta'.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog

Yes, I'm a little late. Still. (And I ran out of things to write on.)

I suggest it. Strongly. My brother dislikes all things musical, and he suggests this. If you have not seen it, you will go see it. *Jedi handwave* If you have, what did you think? *Points to the comment section*

Points for:

* Music. Good, catchy, and sounds simpler than it is.
* Plot. It has one, and you don't need a PhD (in Horribleness or otherwise) or to be in kindergarten to follow it without feeling out of place.
* Joss Whedon. (Hey, how many bad things has he done recently?)
* Commentary! The Musical is exactly what it sounds like (better when watched with the visuals, just as a warning to any pirates..).
* Free. Very cheap. About nine bucks for the whole thing on iTunes. (I would personally suggest the DVD, but the short itself is great on its own regardless, and the DVD is probably available through any rental service you already have because it is awesome.)

Points against:

* Beginning. It drags a little. Personally, I like it, but it doesn't exactly give you a great idea of how the rest of the story is going to go. In my opinion, this means that if you don't like the first ten or so minutes, then give it a bit more time, but take this as you will.
* I can't think of enough points against to call it neutrality. So, yeah.

Links: (direct link to the video) (WARNING! Unmarked spoilers. However, it does warn you when these start. This, and associated pages, does happen to be an interesting read post-viewing, however.) (Yes, it's commentary gets it's own page.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gifted Kids

I need to stop reading these stories about gifted children from people who never were gifted children. If you're not gifted and/or close to someone who is--and I don't mean s/he's in your biology class, I mean you two are best friends and share everything--then stop it.

It's a different experience. Say you're talking about the top five percent of the population. Is five percent a good cross-section of the population? No. We can note patterns, maybe, but five percent of the water in a glass may be the five percent that's different. And if there's oil in the water, then it is certainly very different.

So say you think that children in Ender's Game are portrayed incorrectly because you didn't think that way when you were a kid, and neither did any of your friends. This is an inherently flawed position for two reasons. First of all, these kids are the cream of the crop pushed to their limits. They are supposed to be the extreme, so saying that they should fit what an average person thinks like is not going to work. And we are social animals, so the people we tend to run into are those similar to us. Opposites attract, but there has to be some similarity or else the only cause is strife.

And so we have a group of kids hand-picked for this purpose and pushed to their limits. The smartest of the smartest, and adults who will not only say but mean, "Show me what you can do." This is something that just doesn't happen much today. If I had a nickel for every time a teacher told me to slow down, that we'd get to that later, or that the question I was asking was not pertinent, I would be much richer. (Or if I just had a nickel for every time my sheet was used as an answer key.) These are teachers who will not stop you and hold you back, but push you on. It's like literacy. Go back in time, scribes are well-paid and a profession that takes a lifetime to learn. Today, if you can't read and write after four years in the American schooling system, something is seriously wrong.

[Later] Also: see child drug lords. It's not quite running a country, but wow is it close. [/Later]

Don't tell me we don't think like that. I thought like that. I think like that, with a little more advanced thought behind it. You couldn't say women or blacks or whites or men or Asians or anyone else can't be smart, so don't say kids can't be. Because, yes, we will get smarter. And we'll get even smarter when we're allowed to be. Kids are kids. But what we do have access to, we have more time to focus on.

See [addictive site]: for what happens when non-geniuses try to guess what these people would act like.

For the other side I'm referring to...
see comments in:
and read the post:


Thursday, November 5, 2009


Hi there. I'm popping back in for a moment to ask a question that I hope, someday, I will understand the answer to: What is this big deal about marriage?

I don't mean why would someone be threatened by having his or her religion invaded. I don't mean why would someone who has made up his or her mind to hate someone prevent them from marrying. I don't mean why do people want to get married. I am simply asking: why is a marriage in the government such a big deal?

We, as Americans (and sorry for the ethnocentrism, but to be honest, I have nowhere near enough of a grasp of the culture to comment anywhere else), have a separation of church and state. How effective this is varies, since it's not on the books, but it is there. It's a part of our cultural mindset. I regularly see in any code of conduct I have been asked to follow that you cannot discriminate based upon "race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, immigrant status, homelessness, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age, medical condition, physical appearance or physical or mental disability." (This is taken directly from my current planner, which my school hands out to freshmen and sells to anyone else.) Would you prevent someone from marrying because he or she was black? How about because the person was sixty? Or Jewish? Poor? Ugly? In a wheelchair?

These all sound silly, don't they? Of course you wouldn't prevent Alex from marrying Sam just because Sam was black, or Asian, or whatever else, and Alex was white. Now here I am, a bisexual female. If I fall in love with Alex and I want to marry him, that's fine, no matter who he is. If I fall in love with Alex, and I want to marry her, I don't get to. Except...I do. I get to marry her in my church, or wherever you get married according to her religion. This is not stopping gays from getting married, it's just putting terminology on the books which is odd to begin with.

And then we've got the counterargument. The one that isn't religion, which I've already gone over, saying that I don't think religion and politics should mix. The other is that there is a difference between the sexes, and that men without women (bachelors, men married to men) are dangerous to society. The problem with this is readily apparent to anyone who knows a large number of bachelors or men living with their boyfriends, etc. First of all, they're not. Second of all, even if they were, the only way they could live entirely away from women would be to live entirely away from society. And beyond that, as I have already noted, taking away someone's right to marry in the government does not take away his or her right to marry.

Back to marriage. Because I am not talking about gay marriage, I am talking about marriage. If, as too many people seem ready to claim, marriage is a religious thing, why is it in our government at all? Why is anyone being married? Hey, let everyone get married in a [insert wherever people of your religion/lack thereof would get married here]. Let people get civil unions in the government, regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, immigrant status, homelessness, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, medical condition, physical appearance, or physical or mental disability. Marriage is marriage. The government has no place in a sacred union, because the government isn't sacred.

You, who believes people who wish to marry people of their own gender? You're right. You, who believe marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman in your religion? You're right (even if your religious leader disagrees, your religion is your religion). The government, having a place in the sacred part of anything sacred? Let's not. That can solve both sides.

Comments, questions, concerns?
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