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Monday, May 21, 2012

African American Soldiers: For Love of Liberty

Aaron L Myers II shared a link.
www.hulu.com
If US history is to be believed, then the face of the Armed Services was white. For Love of Liberty finally sets the record straight for the 2.5 million black soldiers who fought in American wars, whose efforts are largely unaccounted for.

The Unteachables: A Generation that Cannot Learn


The greatest tragedy of  education is not the students' lack of skills, but of teachable character.
 
by
Janice Fiamengo
Bio
“The honeymoon is over.” Instructors who award low grades in humanities disciplines will likely be familiar with a phenomenon that occurs after the first essays are returned to students: former smiles vanish, hands once jubilantly raised to answer questions are now resentfully folded across chests, offended pride and sulkiness replace the careless cheer of former days. Too often, the smiles are gone for good because the customary “B+” or “A” grades have been withheld, and many students cannot forgive the insult.

The matter doesn’t always end there. Some students are prepared for a fight, writing emails of entreaty or threat, or besieging the instructor in his office to make clear that the grade is unacceptable. Every instructor who has been so besieged knows the legion of excuses and expressions of indignation offered, the certainty that such work was always judged acceptable in the past, the implication that a few small slip-ups, a wrong word or two, have been blown out of proportion. When one points out grievous inadequacies — factual errors, self-contradiction, illogical argument, and howlers of nonsensical phrasing — the student shrugs it off: yes, yes, a few mistakes, the consequences of too much coffee, my roommate’s poor typing, another assignment due the same day; but you could still see what I meant, couldn’t you, and the general idea was good, wasn’t it? “I’m better at the big ideas,” students have sometimes boasted to me. “On the details, well … ”

Meetings about bad grades are uncomfortable not merely because it is unpleasant to wound feelings unaccustomed to the sting. Too often, such meetings are exercises in futility. I have spent hours explaining an essay’s grammatical, stylistic, and logical weaknesses in the wearying certainty that the student was unable, both intellectually and emotionally, to comprehend what I was saying or to act on my advice. It is rare for such students to be genuinely desirous and capable of learning how to improve. Most of them simply hope that I will come around. Their belief that nothing requires improvement except the grade is one of the biggest obstacles that teachers face in the modern university. And that is perhaps the real tragedy of our education system: not only that so many students enter university lacking the basic skills and knowledge to succeed in their courses — terrible in itself — but also that they often arrive essentially unteachable, lacking the personal qualities necessary to respond to criticism.

The unteachable student has been told all her life that she is excellent: gifted, creative, insightful, thoughtful, able to succeed at whatever she tries, full of potential and innate ability. Pedagogical wisdom since at least the time of John Dewey — and in some form all the way back to William Wordsworth’s divinely anointed child “trailing clouds of glory” — has stressed the development of self-esteem and a sense of achievement. Education, as Dewey made clear in such works as The Child and the Curriculum (1902), was not about transferring a cultural inheritance from one generation to the next; it was about students’ self-realization. It involved liberating pupils from that stuffy, often stifling, inheritance into free and unforced learning aided by sympathy and encouragement. The teacher was not so much to teach or judge as to elicit a response, leading the student to discover for herself what she, in a sense, already knew. In the past twenty years, the well-documented phenomenon of grade inflation in humanities subjects — the awarding of high “Bs” and “As” to the vast majority of students — has increased the conviction that everyone is first-rate.

This pedagogy of self-esteem developed in response to the excesses of rote learning and harsh discipline that were thought to characterize earlier eras. In Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, Mr. Gradgrind, the teacher who ridicules a terrified Sissy Jupe for her inability to define a horse (“Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth … ”), was seen to epitomize a soulless pedagogical regime that deadened creativity and satisfaction. Dickens and his readers believed such teaching to be a form of mental and emotional abuse, and the need to protect students from the stigma of failure became an article of faith amongst progressive educators. For them, the stultifying apparatus of the past had to be entirely replaced. Memorization itself, the foundation of traditional teaching, came to be seen as an enemy of creative thought: pejorative similes for memory work such as “rote learning” and “fact-grinding” suggest the classroom equivalent of a military drill, harsh and unaccommodating. The progressive approach, in contrast, emphasizes variety, pleasure, and student interest and self-motivation above all.

It sounds good. The problem, as traditionalists have argued (but without much success), is that the utopian approach hasn’t worked as intended. Rather than forming cheerful, self-directed learners, the pedagogy of self-esteem has often created disaffected, passive pupils, bored precisely because they were never forced to learn. As Hilda Neatby commented in 1953, the students she was encountering at university were “distinctly blasé” about their coursework. A professor of history, Neatby was driven to investigate progressive education after noting how ill-equipped her students were for the high-level thinking required of them; her So Little For the Mind remains well-worth reading. In her assessment:
The bored “graduates” of elementary and high schools seem, in progressive language, to be “incompletely socialized.” Ignorant even of things that they might be expected to know, they do not care to learn. They lack an object in life, they are unaware of the joy of achievement. They have been allowed to assume that happiness is a goal, rather than a by-product.
The emphasis on feeling good, as Neatby argued, prevents rather than encourages the real satisfactions of learning.

Of course, the progressive approach has advantages, not the least of which is that it enables university administrators to boast of the ever-greater numbers of students taking degrees at their institutions.

Previously disadvantaged groups have gained access to higher education as never before, and more and more students are being provided with the much-touted credentials believed to guarantee success in the workforce. Thus our universities participate in a happy make-believe. Students get their degrees. Parents are reassured that their money has been well-spent. And compliant professors are, if not exactly satisfied — it corrodes the soul to give unearned grades — at least relieved not to encounter student complaints.

More than a few students know that something fishy is going on. The intelligent ones see their indifferent, mediocre, or inept counterparts receiving grades similar to their own, and the realization offends their sense of justice. Moreover, there is little satisfaction in consciously playing the system. The smart student with his easy “A” knows that he has not been challenged to develop his intellect. I remember once walking in the hallway behind a student who had just picked up her final term essay; as she joined her friends, she flipped to the back of the paper without reading any of the instructor’s comments. “An A,” she said jubilantly, but with a strong undertone of derision. “And I didn’t even read the book!” As the paper thudded into the trash basket, her friends joined in the disdainful laughter.

In contrast, the weak student who believes in his high grades has also had a disservice done him. He has been misled about his abilities, falsely persuaded that career paths and goals are open that may be out of reach. Eventually, the fraud will be revealed: by an employer who finds him inadequate, by his own dawning recognition that he cannot achieve what he hoped. The reckoning will likely be bitter; evidence exists that the pedagogy of false esteem can even cause psychological harm. When students who have always been praised must confront the reality of their low achievement, their tendency is, as researchers James Coté and Anton Allahar report, not to confront the problem directly but to hit back at its perceived source — the teacher who has given them the bad news, the employer who does not renew a contract. Far more than their adequate peers when faced with difficulties, these students experience a range of negative reactions, including anger, anxiety, and depression.

Even more seriously, such students have not only been misled but fundamentally malformed. They have never learned to listen to criticism, to recover from disappointment, or to slog through difficulties with no guarantee of success except commitment. The person who is never challenged is also never refined, never learns to cope with the setbacks that come on the way to high endeavor. And it is not only in the academic realm, of course, that they may be hampered: a full life outside of university also requires the ability to confront one’s weaknesses and recover from defeat. Despite the admittedly important emphasis on character formation in our schools — on tolerance, anti-racism, refusal of bullying, and so on — it seems that we have failed to show students what real achievement looks like and what it will require of them.

Related: Can the Humanities Be Saved?

Information and Entertainment Media 5/21/2012

Say Goodby to House. Hulu to produce TV. TV anywhere. " There's an Ap for That". SAG-AFTRA hires first Executive Director. The Avengers Continue to Dominate. Universal Theme Parks show big bang. "Community" Lead Producer fired. Movie Theaters going Chinese.



From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for all of the latest industry news from the LA Times.

The Skinny: I'm in Boston for the cable industry's big convention and, of course, it is supposed to rain! I'm also bummed the hotel doesn't offer free Wi-Fi. I'll make Marriott a deal. They can skip the complimentary USA Today and Wall Street Journal in return for free Wi-Fi. Monday's headlines include a look at the weekend box office, which was again dominated by "The Avengers," how Comcast's Universal Studios theme parks are making gains, and more drama behind the scenes of NBC's comedy"Community."

Comcast and iPhone Full televison/cable remote iPhone Ap. Comcast plans to introduce an iPhone app that enables people to use motions and gestures as signals to control their televisions. Next time you shake your iPhone at the television, you could end up freezing the screen.
Cable giant Comcast Corp., which has more than 20 million subscribers and is the nation's largest cable operator, is showcasing new technologies at the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. trade show here -- including an app that enables people to use motions and gestures as signals to control their televisions.

Comcast has already been working on making iPhones, iPads and other devices into remote controls. Now an iPhone can  become a remote and its keypad can be used to search for content by title as part of Comcast's X1 cloud-enabled television platform. The X1 platform stores movies and other content in a virtual file instead of in a cable box, hence the phrase cloud.

The service will launch first on Comcast's Boston systems before it rolls out across the country.
Comcast also gave a demonstration of its new "Project Dayview" service, which can turn the television into a virtual planner, complete with traffic reports, meeting schedules, emails and, of course, what's on television. The device interfaces across TV, laptops, tablets and smart phone.

Sharing WiFi TV free even outside you providers area.  Several major cable companies are teaming up on a new initiative to allow their subscribers to access Wi-Fi in so-called public hot spots even if they are in an area not served by their own local provider.

In other words, if someone is a Time Warner Cable subscriber but traveling out of a town and in a region served by Comcast Corp., they can still access free wireless by logging in with "Cable WiFi." The catch is that you have to already be a broadband subscriber and register to use the service. Cable operators taking part in the service include Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Cox.
More and more cable companies are offering free Wi-Fi in public areas outside the home to their customers. The cable operators involved in this venture have more than 50,000 hot spots in their various footprints.

The cable giants made the announcement on the first day of the annual National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. convention being held in Boston this week.
"This effort adds great value to our high-speed Internet customers by providing free wireless Internet access on all of their Wi-Fi enabled devices in our markets and additional areas across the country," said Nomi Bergman, president of Bright House Networks, which has systems in Florida.


Former FCC Chair warns of regulation of the Internet. The government needs to take a light touch when it comes to regulating the Internet, warned Michael Powell, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission who is now head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., which is the cable industry's lobbying arm."Letting politics allocate resources – rather than market economics and entrepreneurs – would kill investment and leave the Internet in the state we find today’s post office, electric grid or crumbling transportation system," To continue reading click on More..



Good night, House. Fox's long-running drama "House" ends its run Monday night. "House" proved that Fox could launch an adult drama that didn't require lots of explosions. The show, about a brilliant but moody doctor battling a nasty pill habit, went on to become a hit around the globe. USA Today looks at the surprising success of "House."


NBC's Community
NBC's "Community" is losing its creative muse as executive producer Dan Harmon is leaving the show. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times / May 21, 2012


'Community' news. Dan Harmon, the creator of NBC's "Community," which has a small but very loyal audience, was fired as the show's executive producer Friday by Sony, the producer of the comedy. The move came just days after NBC said it was bringing the show back for another 13 episodes in the fall. Hmmm. Do you think NBC only agreed to bring it back if Harmon, who got into a nasty fight with "Community" co-star Chevy Chase and who has a reputation for being difficult to work with, was taken off the show? I wonder. Here's what Harmon said about his exit on his blog (the title of which may not be safe for work) and here are takes from Vulture and the Hollywood Reporter.

Daily Dose: A few months ago, there were big headlines about Fox Sports wanting to launch a national cable channel to compete with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN. Not getting as big a headline was the dismissal of those stories  by Corp. President Chase Carey. OnNews Corp.'s recent earnings call, Carey pretty much dismissed the idea and said the reports were "a bit overblown" and that Fox doesn't have any plans on the front burner for such a service.

More...

David White SAG-AFTRA
Former SAG Executive Director David White was named Sunday as the sole national executive director of the newly-formed union SAG-AFTRA. (May 1, 2009)


The newly-convened SAG-AFTRA board of directors has confirmed David White as the merged union's sole national executive director.

The national board of SAG-AFTRA voted overwhelmingly Sunday to select White for the job, approving a new three-year contract.

White, the former SAG executive director, was widely expected to assume the new position as the chief administrative officer in the union of about 160,000 members. White had been serving as co-national executive director with former AFTRA leader Kim Roberts Hedpeth, who announced last month that she was resigning.

"I'm thrilled about the prospect of helping to build this new organization and grateful for the board's vote of confidence,'' White said in an interview.

The 43-year-old former entertainment industry attorney and general counsel for SAG, was hired as SAG's executive director on an interim basis in January 2009, replacing Doug Allen. Allen had been ousted from the job after clashing with board members. White was officially named to the position in October of that year.

White led SAG through the nearly two-year process to merge with the smaller performers union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The merger was approved in a referendum vote March 31.

Also at its first meeting, the board approved a $95-million budget for the coming year and agreed to allocate funds from its reserves to cover costs of upcoming contract negotiations this fall for work in commercials.

SAG-AFTRA, which has about 630 employees, is facing a deficit of $2.7 million related to one-time transition costs tied to the merger of the unions. Union officials expect a 10% reduction in staff this year through attrition.

Officials did not disclose White's salary in his new job.
 
Headquarters of twofour54, the entertainment and media company that is partnering with Digital Domain to open an animation and visual effects studio in Abu Dhabi. 
Annimation and Special Effects with the Middle East in mind. Digital Domain, the award-winning visual effects company behind the blockbuster “Transformers” films and “Tron: Legacy,” is expanding into the Middle East with plans to open a 150,000-square-foot production studio in Abu Dhabi in 2015.
Parent company Digital Domain Media Group, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., said Sunday night that it was partnering with Abu Dhabi government-backed media and entertainment company twofour54 to build a studio that would create English- and Arabic-language animated movies targeted at Middle Eastern audiences

So much for a high-seas battle. "The Avengers" continued to dominate the box office, easily beating "Battleship" and "The Dictator." "The Avengers" took in just over $55 million while "Battleship" made only $25.3 million. I honestly thought "Battleship" was a clunker from Day 1 but then I got worried that maybe I wasn't in the right demographic. Glad I'm not losing my touch. "Battleship" star Taylor Kitsch, whose last movie was Disney's "John Carter," might want to get a new agent. Also struggling was the female-skewing comedy "What to Expect When You're Expecting," which took in $10.5 million. Box office coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.


Which has shorter lines and cleaner bathrooms? Is Comcast Corp.'s Universal Studios theme parks gearing up to take a shot at Walt Disney Co.'s empire of rides? While Disney has eight parks and a big lead, the New York Times notes that "Universal is starting to look a lot less puny." A big part of Universal's gains are from its investment in rides based on the "Harry Potter" franchise. All I know is that one of the reasons I don't have kids is because of a fear of standing in long lines under the hot sun in a theme park. The other reasons are best left for me and my team of therapists.

  More...


Patrons outside an AMC theater in Century City.There's something about Wanda. Midwest US Minded Theater Chain to Turn Chinese? As had been expected, Chinese movie theater owner Dalian Wanda Group has struck a deal to buy AMC Entertainment Inc. for $2.6 billion. AMC is America's second-largest movie theater chain and has more than 5,000 screens. "This transaction will help make Wanda a truly global cinema owner, with theaters and technology that enhance the movie going experience for audiences in the world's two largest markets," said Wang Jianlin, Wanda's chairman and president. More from the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg.

Hulu hopes to jump through new hoop. Having already established itself as a library for television shows, the online video site is hoping that this summer it can prove that it can sustain original programming. Next month, Hulu, whose owners include News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp., is launching three original series and has also acquired rights to seven shows never seen before in the United States. But will Hulu attract enough eyeballs to make the economics of original content work? The Wall Street Journal looks at Hulu's next step.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Megan Ellison, daughter of Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison, is making her own mark in Hollywood.

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