Posts tagged “Reader Review” include a few top articles from my weekly reading. Their topics may vary, but their quality and provocation quotient won’t. Enjoy.
Kenyan Author Binyavanga Wainaina Tells Us All:
“We Must Free Our Imaginations.”
Africa is a Country: #Watch Binyavanga’s brilliant YouTube documentary calling out the BS behind “African” homophobia (Elliot Ross)
In a 6-part Youtube series, Wainaina addresses his peers—middle class Kenyans and Africans—and challenges them on their cultural indoctrination. He’s not the first post-colonial writer to reflect on how “civilizing” education can deaden curiosity, creativity, risk tolerance, and the willingness to challenge paths that are safely average. Each video is between 4 and 8 minutes long and well worth watching.
Note: These videos don’t include captions and so are not text-reader accessible. If I find a solid transcript, I’ll update the post.
When Technology’s Used to Control, Not Connect
Motherboard: Maybe the Most Orwellian Text Message A Government’s Ever Sent (Brian Merchant)
In the first Reader Review, I shared a Wall Street Journal article on how consumer companies used cellular location data to track customer interests/purchasing patterns and then segment them for tailored marketing. I wrote:
Socially, we’re still figuring what “privacy” means, and what it’s reasonable to expect from our governments, companies, religions, and clubs.
That’s why Motherboard’s report on civic surveillance stood out to me. Ukraine’s government has just passed a law prohibiting public demonstrations. Motherboard reports that citizens whose phones had been located near a demonstration received a text message informing them that they’d been added to a government database. “Chilling” is not the only word that comes to mind.
I’ll be checking for updates on this story.
On Being There When Someone’s Hurt
New York Times: The Art of Presence (David Brooks)
This is a remarkably humane column from the New York Times‘ David Brooks about how to connect with others as they experience or express trauma. The suggestions: Be there. Don’t compare. Bring soup. Don’t say ‘You’ll get over it’. Build with people. Don’t sermonize, explain away, or dismiss.
Just as Brené Brown’s breaks down empathy, Brooks breaks down presence. Both remind us that humane connection heals.
HT to Trischa Goodwin for the share.
Education Testmaker ETS Shifts to Workplace Readiness…
What’s Really Going On Here?
NPR: Certification test focuses on readying students for work, not college (Gwen Ifill)
As part of our continuing work with a local public school system, my colleagues and I have been monitoring developments in U.S. education. The rise of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or STEAM (science, technology, arts, engineering, and mathematics) is one development that’s been ramping up for the last 15 years or so. “Workplace readiness” is another that responds to ancient concerns about a disconnect between the educational system and the employing market. These concerns are especially sharp now that US higher education is so costly and costs fall more on students than ever before.
What each of these trends means seems to ride a lot on analysts’ perspective, and observers even disagree on whether there’s a “STEM crisis” at all. One IEEE writer thinks the crisis is mythical and that the myth is damaging to STEM professionals and society; by contrast the National Academies are absolutely certain there’s a Category 5 storm approaching.
In both cases, though, objections and alarms rise or fall on how many degrees and jobs there are, not how much innovative activity is happening or how scientifically informed the lay population is. We don’t even agree on the measures to use so how can we judge progress or decline or agree on how to move forward?
Enter Educational Testing Service, stage left.
Since being founded during the U.S’ post-WWII public education boom, ETS has entrenched itself in the education services industry, positioned itself as a gatekeeper, and driven an emphasis on regularizing student skills assessment. Almost everyone who has entered college, graduate school, or any higher ed preparatory program has first had to pass through ETS’ battery of tests: SAT, ACT, CLEP, TOEFL, and/or GRE (ETS also influenced but no longer manages the MCAT [medicine]).
I have a lot of questions about ETS’ move into “preparing students for work” but this intro is already too long. Read or watch the NPR segment and let me know some of yours.
IHOP: Dominionist Theology and Delusional Leadership
Rolling Stone: Love and Death In the International House of Prayer: A Cultlike Christian Group’s Darkest Secrets (Jeff Tietz)
One of the hardest things to read this week came via Rolling Stone’s long-form piece on the International House of Prayer, the IHOP that doesn’t serve happiness via fluffy pancakes. Between tight, controlling theology and a leadership culture that required deference to delusion, vulnerable students didn’t stand a chance.
The whole article is unsettling. But about a third of the way through is a passage that disturbed me because it was all too familiar:
“With a community of believers around me, I’m not vulnerable,” [student Micah Moore] told a friend. Moore became as zealous as anyone in the group. He often spoke of the fallen world. “God is so pure and we are so sinful that the only way we can ever go near him is because of Jesus. Without Jesus, God can’t even look at us.”
HT to Boze Herrington, quoted in the piece and now recovering from his experiences.