Saturday, March 17

literacy

Over on Language Log, a couple of interesting pieces - Learning to Read in Dulkw'ahke and one largely on the politicization of reading education.

Interesting because I haven't really given this stuff a lot of thought beyond noticing the American not-so-crypto-fascist right's obsession with the idea that Phonics is Ordained from On High. I hang out with teachers, so I've heard the conversation often enough, but I've been operating under the impression that for most people who actually teach reading there's a false dichotomy at work in all the ideological noise.

Liberman et al. say that there's something real at stake, that "whole language" instruction is a big factor in the way American schools presently teach reading, and generally a Real Bad Idea, despite what the politics of the debate would lead decent observers to guess. (Say what you will about logical fallacies; there's a pretty fair precedent for assuming that James Dobson is on the wrong(est available) side of a given discussion.)

And then again, I hang out with folks in democratic ed. The working free school teachers I've spent time with seem to have a fairly pragmatic, do-what-works approach to the actual teaching of reading, but they're also deliberately laid-back about the timing of the thing. "They'll read when they're ready, why force it?" seems to be the defining attitude.

a short list of things badly or not at all understood by yours truly

Basic biology. Chemistry. Physics. Linguistics. The work of Friedrich Nietzsche. The general history of technology & science. JavaScript. Bookbinding. Woodworking. Statistics. Brewing, distilling, winemaking, and the cultivation of cannabis. Basic automechanics. Functional programming. Classical Greek. Stringed instruments. Electricity. Cameras. Sewing. SQL. James Joyce. Meter. Architecture. Engineering. Typography.

other notes collected from paper

Self-deception is a higher order function.

I've been reading The Evolution of Useful Things, by one Henry Petroski. The thesis seems to center on incremental change, context, and (most importantly) failure. He had a ~500 page history of the pencil on the shelf next to this one. I'm tempted. Judging by Petroski's cites, it looks like there's a larger body of work on the history of technology than I'd suspected.

Via David, Jos{e'} Ortega y Gasset: Humans have not a nature but a history.

Note taken at work, watching a presentation to publishing industry executives: Fuck Howard Gardner.

Resignation Song: enjoy your illusion of freedom while you still have got it, you poor son of a bitch.

On a bathroom wall in a Boulder coffee house:

The Laughing Goat:
real? no, just fancy.
more graffiti, please.

2 girls with interesting hair in Environment Colorado shirts iterate over the passing crowd, take passing abuse. Two dudes busk by the door - guitar and bongos. The guys a table over are talking poker.

Too much state, too many systems.

The lazy susan in the corner cupboard is, like so many things, a good idea on paper. It's like hierarchy in wiki software. In theory there are practical benefits; in practice, it's just bad. Bad bad bad. Fuck the lazy susan. We should migrate to a tiered spice rack.