Sunday, January 28, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The other day, Phillip and I were discussing what we would study if we could start college over again. Phillip said he would study engineering with a slightly different focus. I, on the other hand, would probably have changed my course list much more drastically. I learned some valuable things majoring in Linguistics, but I probably would have taken just a class or two* in it and chosen an entirely different major, like Sociology. That discipline intrigues me because it studies aspects of our behavior and interaction that we rarely notice unless someone draws our attention to them.
Morrie, the sociology professor in Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morrie, is an good example of how a sociologist can focus your attention on norms we often take for granted. For example, one evening Morrie was attending a college game. The home team was doing very well, and students in the stands began cheering, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” Morrie listened for a minute, then stood up and shouted, “What’s wrong with being number two?” Unable to think of a satisfactory answer, the students fell silent.
Is there anything wrong with coming in second? We don’t encourage mediocrity, but we do tell our kids that doing your best and having fun are more important than winning. If we’ve performed to the best of our ability and had a good time doing it, does it really matter whether we beat someone else in the process?
*It’s not that I disliked Linguistics itself. The trouble was that I was most interested in the sociological aspect of it - how we communicate and interpret what others say. BYU’s undergrad program focused more on the scientific nuts and bolts – syntax, phonetics, etc. Frankly, the question of whether my t’s are aspirated doesn’t light a fire in me.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Among other things, Esquith has his students apply for “jobs,” for which they receive some sort of wage. They can also earn overtime pay through extracurricular activities. The students must use their earnings to pay rent on their desks each month, and the desks in the front of the room cost more because they’re in a “better neighborhood.” To teach the principle of ownership vs. renting, the teacher allows children who save their money to buy their desks and not have to pay rent anymore. Some of the more entrepreneurial children buy other kids’ desks and charge them rent.
Another interesting part of the segment was a recording of Esquith giving his students a word problem. Try it yourself and see if you know as much about math (and your government) as his fifth-graders: Take the number of Supreme Court justices, add the number of members of the U.S. Senate, add 1, divide the sum in half, divide by 11. Esquith told the students to show their answer by holding up the right number of fingers, and within moments he identified a girl who was showing him the correct answer of five. Is that what you got?