Have We Failed Them?

A friend of my son told me that her cohort was the most educated generation ever. I disagreed. I told her that while I believe that hers could claim more degrees and graduations than ever before, I didn’t really believe they were truly educated. I feel like way too many college graduates have, more or less, just spent 4-6 years learning a trade, like engineering, or software, or psychiatry. They have a LOT of knowledge in a narrow field of study or two. They don’t come out exposed to the ideas and having had the struggles that teach a person how to use that knowledge in a wise way. For the most part, they aren’t exposed to the great literature, even English majors read excerpts and synopses. They’ve memorized a few dates of events and the capitals of a lot of the countries of the world, but they aren’t taught how empires rise and fall, how history can spin on the smallest of incidents.

This is not necessarily the students’ fault, though they could do much to educate themselves while they were studying for their degree. I believe our schools have failed them and failed us. We depend on this rising generation for their innovation and creative abilities to improve life on earth.

The imagination and curiosity killing starts in kindergarten.

“Don’t explore and play and think; sit here in this chair and color this sheet. No, don’t color it blue. It’s obviously an apple; it must be red.

“I don’t care that numbers ‘just work together’ in your head and you always get the right answer. I care that you follow this strict procedure, carefully and laboriously writing each smidgen of information down, in the proper order. No, 3 x 4 is NOT the same thing as 4 x 3 and 12/4 is not division, it’s fractions, and we won’t be getting to either of those things until next year.”

This is not a rant about it being better in the old days. This is not new in the high schools. It was the same when I was there. I didn’t learn to think and learn and explore and grow. I learned to game the system. Nowadays most kids learn early how to game the system and to do it better than I did. They learn what’s important. Like forming straight lines on the way to the cafeteria. Like making sure you fill in the entire bubble on the score sheet. Like finding out what the teacher wants and giving it to her by memorizing just enough to get by on the quizzes. And you learn to go to the pep rally to cheer on the “real” important high school subjects—sports, and winning at all cost.

What’s changed is that now that whole attitude of making kids open their brains to be spoon fed only what they need to get a job, or into law school or the like, has crept upwards and outwards until colleges are just 13th grade. Plus, going to college is so expensive that you have to rush through as fast as you can, getting the minimum amount of credits however you can. There’s no exploring. There’s no asking questions that won’t be on the test. There’s no remembering or letting what you’ve learned influence you beyond the test. High school was like that when I was there, but college wasn’t. We were exposed to a wide variety of thoughts and ways of thinking. We were challenged to examine our own shortcomings and areas of prejudice. We were exposed to new ideas that our teenage brains just hadn’t been ready for.

Now, kids are exposed to almost everything (thanks TV and internet) at a younger and younger age. This has not increased their thinking skills. It has inoculated them against surprise. It has made them think that because they heard about something when they were nine, that they understand it with the depth of a mature human. They read graphic novels of the great literary books and say they read the book. They can’t be forced to read the “dense” prose of even a couple of hundred years ago.

That’s a large part of why I homeschooled. I didn’t want my boys spoon-fed the “correct” curriculum. I tried to show them a broad range of thoughts and thinking and how to apply their thinking and analyzing to anything they encounter. To be able to learn anything they want to or need to. —If you don’t know something, get some books and find out about it. If you need to do something you’ve never done before, figure out how to learn to do it. Don’t be afraid to take on new things.

That’s how we get innovators, leaders, and artists.

If you disagree (or agree) I would love to discuss this in the comments

Weaving the yarn…

Folks work with crochet hooks, knitting needles, material and thread, and everything a person would think of when weaving with yarn. Sometimes we weave items for friends, for presents, for sale, or just to satisfy ourselves with a peaceful hobby.

IMG_20170813_193619050

The project may exist as one large piece or may be many small pieces that are woven together to compliment and contrast each other. The same is true of stories. Perhaps only one story is being told. But many times there are multiple threads that work together to make a strong finished product. Perhaps that is why in days gone by stories were called yarns. I think of the well-woven stories of Mark Twain and how his characters twisted and complemented each other into a perfectly fabricated tale.

But, the part that so many crafters forget is the inspector. When goods are woven, they are inspected to make sure the stitches are even, all of the loops hold, that no elements are out of place, and that the end product will be admired by the wearer.

Stories are the same. As word crafters, we weave our tales with different backgrounds, characters, actions, dialog, and energy. But without the inspector (editor) to make sure there aren’t any dangling threads, the story might unravel and leave the reader confused or unsatisfied.

Never doubt the fact that every author needs an editor who can trim away excess material, pull and tuck here and there for a perfect fit, and make sure all of the loops are connected and tied up before the story is over.

Winner

Craft your words, weave your tale,
and find an editor that can make
your story the winner you want it to be!

 

 

Thanks, Intent to Win for the guest post!

The Versatile Blogger Award

I was nominated as “Versatile” by the wonderful Superwifeandmummy. I think she did it mostly out of kindness, but I’m going to try to live up to my new award. You should check her blog out, she is very versatile herself, and often funny too.

First I want to give a sincere thank you to Superwifeandmummy for thinking of me for this award.

The Versatile Blogger Award was created to feature and recognize blogs that have unique content, high quality of writing, and fantastic photos.

The Versatile Blogger Award states: Honour those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.

It’s a way of saying thanks, y’all.

Rules for the nominations:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Nominate up to 15 bloggers for this award and inform them.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Put the logo of Versatile Blogger in your post and display the rules.

First, my 7 very randomly picked facts about me:

  1. I love animals and currently live with 4.
  2. I collect owls. (Not real ones)
  3. I know a lot of random facts and tell them to people whether they want to hear them or not.
  4. I’ve been to Taiwan for a wonderful girls-only vacation my good friend paid for.
  5. I homeschooled my two children.
  6. I edit/proof for money.
  7. My grandmother just had a big 90th birthday party.

I would like to nominate:

  • Probably the most versatile writer I know, Dar, at Writing for Me.
  • Jules at MomJul, who’s just getting started but I know will be greatly versatile.
  • Sarah Doughty at Heartstring Eulogies, upon whom I have a poetry crush.
  • Jack Bennet at Bennet to Blog, also another rising young poet.
  • The extremely versatile (and educational) Nel at Reactionary Tales.
  • And of course the very versatile Mainepaperpusher at Everyone Else Has the Best Titles, who really introduced me to the social side of blogging (and probably has this award).

Thanks for helping me along in this blogging thing. I could not have continued without all of you.

I completely understand that some people do not particularly want to take part in awards and that’s fine. I just want others to know about your blogs.

SO

A Little Goes a Long Way…

Sometimes writers believe that adding a touch of their natural speak helps the reader feel more comfortable with their words. I believe this to be true to a point.

If you read Stephen King, you can almost hear that New England accent from many of the actors in his movies. If you read Charlaine Harris, you can hear the Southern drawl of the people from Bon Temps, Louisiana. Having that speech in your mind helps the reader hear what the characters are feeling as well as what they are saying.

But a little can go a long way in the written words. When the conversation of the novel or other work is so abbreviated or drawn out that it impedes the reading of the text, that is too much. A well placed “Y’all” isn’t too bad but making the Southern (or any other) lingo so heavy that it is unreadable or understandable defeats the purpose of writing the story.

This link provides an interesting view on when the use of translators is necessary even for people who are speaking the same language:

http://brave-new-words.blogspot.com/2006/12/translators-responsibilities-when.html 

Which brings me to another point. In worldwide blogging, we often run into blogs written in the native language of the posting person rather than automatically to American or British English. There is always a button at the top of the blog which asks if you wish to translate. I’m always uncertain about using the translate button. We’ve learned from auto fill on our texts that what we meant to say is not what is sent a good portion of the time. How do we know that the translate button really works? How do we know we are reading what the posting person wrote or felt?

It is a quandary I am facing daily. For the people who often use the translate button, how well do you believe it translates what might be regional or other versions of the basic language?

I would like to know your feelings.

Photo Credit: How many languages are there in the world? Stephen R. Anderson  https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/how-many-languages-are-there-world 

 

Obsolete Information storage types

Learning and the Technology Tornado

Some years, I just don’t want to learn one more damn thing. Most of the time that would have to do with computers. You learn things that quickly become obsolete so that you have to learn something else that… You get the idea.

For instance just in my life:

  • Phone from landline to cell. When I was young not every family had a phone in their house. Now every 14 year old has a phone in his pocket!
  • Floppy disk – 5 inch, Floppy Disk – 3 inch, CD, DVD, Blue ray, Cloud, Streaming (need I say more?)
  • Microwave ovens went from being something on the Jetsons to an every day small appliance.
  • Lights: Incandescent, CFL, LED
  • Hard drives going from 40Kbytes of storage to megabytes to gigabytes to a full Terabyte of storage
  • Transistor radio, Boom Box, Walkman, Discman, iPod, wireless earphones
  • Small black and white TV, color TV, projection screen TV, flat screen TV using LCD, then LED TV
  • Manual Typewriter, Electric Typewriter, Word processor, Computer, Laptop, Phone

This is just quick list of things I’m aware of. I know you could add more. (And do so in the comments.) It’s confusing and seemingly never ending. We invent or learn something new and then something newer or better comes along and that knowledge or that skill is obsolete.

Does this rapid change of what is important information affect the kids and how they learn or don’t learn? They have seen, in their lives, information and technology, and what is important, change over and over.

So why learn it thoroughly or analyze it?

That’s what alarms me. I see this refusal to learn, almost a willful ignorance justified by, “well I can Google that,” or, “I don’t need to know that” “I passed the test, I can forget that and move on to the next chapter.” No point in learning something you can buy or get off the Internet.

That’s a dangerous attitude that can spread to every kind of knowledge. Why learn stuff you can look up? Why understand government? Why study history? Why ask why about anything?

Then this attitude spreads to physical objects. Not perfect? Throw it away. Get a newer, better one. It worries me for today’s children. They are growing up in a disposable society.

Will the next thing to become disposable be people?

We might want to slow this merry-go-round down before it spins completely out of control. Teach kids to ask why, to question, to value intelligence. Or there won’t be enough creative, innovative people to come up with the next new thing.

I realize that perhaps I’m being a doom and gloom old person. Perhaps things are just exaggerated in my aging brain. I hope so.

But just in case, teach your children about wisdom and history and complicated systems like government. Challenge them to analyze and think for themselves and not just buy into whatever fad passes for reality today. Create leaders who think beyond the superficial.

It’s our only hope.

Don’t Fear the Reaper-uh-Editor

I like to share my funny and interesting adventures with people. I love to hear them laugh. But life’s not always funny. Or even fun.

Some things just have to be endured. Struggled through. Worked out. For those times you need good friends and people who know the things you need to know.

You can’t go through life without help, and you can’t create good writing without an editor.

Writing has the same ups and downs that life throws at us. Sometimes characters write themselves. Those are the giddy moments. Your hands can’t even keep up with your brain. Sometimes the words stick somewhere in your elbow instead of flowing out the ends of your fingers. Those are the moments that you just keep plodding along, struggling, but not giving up. You finally think you have it down. You work and work and write and write and try to fix all the errors and then the manuscript comes back bleeding red ink. No one enjoys that. But it’s not the tragedy that you think it is. It’s a chance to improve.

Some authors are so afraid of an editor’s pen that they just skip that step. Or they pick an editor they know will be “kind” to them. Someone who will let them get by with less than their best. Trust me; long run, that is not the least bit kind. You need honesty from your editor. You need support and collaboration from your editor.

Don’t cheat yourself out of a strict, experienced editor. Those are the best kind.

Don’t think of the editor as the enemy or as that one school teacher that enjoyed marking your papers down. Editors are your most loyal allies. A good editor wants to see the artist succeed. Wants that author to end up with something that no one can poke holes in or say wasn’t carefully written. Or edited.

Also, make use of your editor’s knowledge. Ask your line editor for not just corrections but also comments on why the words or punctuation need to be a certain way. Ask your editor if you are making the same mistakes more than once. Use your editor as a teacher. Good editors generally love what they do and are always excited to talk about language and how you can improve it. They know that the more you know about the mechanics of writing, the less you’ll have to struggle with the words. The better at your own language you are, the more smoothly the ideas will move from imagination to paper. You can devote all your energy to the creative work.

In life we need people who push us to be our very best. In writing, we all need good editors who do the same.

 

Breath and Bone Writing Prompt Challenge: Breath, Bone, And Blood/Sarah Doughty

Another poem from the extraordinary Sarah Doughty.

Brave and Reckless

I am more than the shallow breaths that escape my aching lungs, billowing up in a little white puff against the chilly, moonlit night. I am more than the weight you’ve forced me to carry on my shoulders. I am more than the distant, far-off look in my empty eyes. I am more than the bones you cracked in anger or bruised for the fun of it. I am more than the blood you spilled, for I have turned all that pain into something different. Something you can never touch.

I have turned my blood into ink. It slides down my skin like a caress. It flows in my veins and coats my insides like body armor. And it makes my mind come alive like you never could.

© Sarah Doughty

Image courtesy of Laura Makabresku


Sarah Doughty is the tingling wonder-voice behind Heartstring Eulogies. She’s also the author of The Silence…

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Editing My Teeth

There I was, once again at the mercy of my dentist. It’s not his fault; I have terrible teeth. I got the wrong tooth genes. I’ve become resigned to them. They get problems and need to be fixed.

So while I was there, having maybe had a little bit of gas, I began free-associating, and next thing I knew, I had decided my dentist was my tooth editor.

Bear with me.

They’re my teeth (Manuscript); I grew (wrote) them. I think they are a masterpiece.

I can do the basic work on them—brushing and flossing; anyone can do that. Just like most authors can do the basic line editing on their own work.

But it’s not enough. There are parts of my teeth that I can’t even see. The front looks good, the back must be fine too, right? Authors are often too close to their work to see things like awkward phrasing or missing words. They know what it’s supposed to say and their minds and just fill in with context that the reader won’t have.

My dentist, with his special tools and skills, can see problems I don’t even know to look for.

Editors have special tools and skills, like red pencils and semicolons; editors can see problems or potential problems with a manuscript that authors don’t see. Or an author might not even know could be a problem. Or how to look for these problems.

I need a specialist to find and fill holes, level things, and even just to give my teeth a much more thorough cleanup and polish than I can manage.

Authors need their editors to clean up typos and dangling modifiers, to help point out plot holes, and to generally turn an already fine manuscript into a thoroughly clean and polished masterpiece.

Authors need editors as much as editors need authors. Don’t let beautiful work end up failing for want of good polishing.

And maintain good dental health and see your dentist twice a year. 

Guest in Jest #2 Simply So

Sorry Mom.

Everyone Else Has the Best Titles

Hi, I’m Sherron, from the South, and I am a bookaholic.

I currently have my dream job, which is freelance editing. —More to read!

My mother is also an avid reader like me so we’ve always shared books back and forth. Now with the digital age we share a nook account. Works out great. She buys some, I buy some, and we both get to read without mailing the books to each other.

Recently, I was trying to get into the B&N account to add a couple of books to our library. My password didn’t work. Repeatedly. I can’t change it because they wanted to email something to my mother’s email.

I remember she’d recently had a complete computer apocalypse, and had been forced to change some passwords that only the old computer had known. I thought maybe B&N was one of them.

I email; she sends the password. Funny…

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