Tag Archives: education

The Problem with textbooks

Few people outside of the field of education are aware of what has happened to the textbook industry. A small percentage of parents who take an active role in their children’s education have some idea, and perhaps some politicians who are involved  in education know a bit as well. While many in academia see the downward spiral of textbook quality, few are speaking out about it.

The trends in textbook publishing affect all levels of education, from preschool to postgraduate studies. Public and private schools, rich and poor, urban and rural, all draw from the same pool of textbooks. They have little choice in the matter; the textbook industry has gone through the same relentless wave of consolidation as almost every other industry over the past few decades.

The textbooks I am most familiar with are ESL (English as a second language) books since that is the subject I am currently teaching. However, I have looked closely at my students’ textbooks for their biology, physics, chemistry, history, and health classes, and I see the same design and content changes occurring everywhere.

First, the overall dumbing down of the texts is undeniable. One rarely encounters a word that requires  a dictionary to understand. In the secondary school texts, the lexical, grammatical, and syntactical level seems to be stuck at around the 6th grade. At the university level, it’s not much better.

Much of the content presented in modern textbooks is thinly disguised corporate propaganda. Textbook publishers are reluctant to divulge how much of textbook content is taken directly from corporate sources, but we can be sure it is substantial. Corporations are known to write entire and complete legislative bills which they hand to congress for approval.  Corporate lobbyists write speeches for politicians. Transnational corporations now control everything of value on the planet, so it follows that they are writing textbooks as well. Some of this corporate propaganda is subtle and woven into the content unobtrusively.  In some chapters, the propaganda is more blatant, such as when biology texts discuss GMOs. Monsanto definitely has its dirty hands in the education field.

Besides the obvious propaganda pushing GMOs , Darwinian evolution, quantum physics, and space exploration, there’s also the social engineering type of brainwashing. This includes the celebration of rampant consumerism, transgenderism, homosexuality, multiculturalism, hi-tech, celebrity culture, shopping, social media, and general superficiality. Parents who have not looked at an English textbook for 20 or 30 years would  be appalled at what they see. Nearly every page of the ESL text which I used for a recent course discussed one of those subjects. Consumerism and high-tech gadgets such as smartphones are especially popular topics for learning. The not-so-subtle message being taught to students, outside of the embedded grammar lesson, is this: The only meaning you can derive from life is through shopping, consumerism, acquisition, and the acceptance of a multicultural and inclusive world. The only pictures one sees on the pages are photos of models,  smiling and joyful in their sleek modern offices, making loads of money which they will spend in fancy restaurants and department stores.  Traditional families are absent. Pictures of rural life are nearly absent as well. The world is presented as one giant playground, basically. It’s filled with exciting and exotic cities which  you can visit on your next ‘holiday,’ and return home with giant shopping bags filled with the loot you collected overseas. Oh, the joys of being a yuppie! That, essentially, is the dream being sold. Everyone can be a rich yuppie, living in a high-rise in some ‘bustling’ metropolis.

Every page of modern textbooks must have a photo. On some pages, more than 50 percent of the total space is filled with photos. The people in the photos are utterly fake. Most of them are models. They looks about as real as a GMO tomato. They’re always smiling and laughing, of course. They’re always attractive. They always seem to be on holiday. They’re usually talking on their smartphones and striding confidently to their next high-powered business meeting.

Do these photos contribute anything to the lesson being taught? Do they enhance the subject matter or clarify important points? No, they do not, not in the least. They’re just filler. Publishers insert them because they claim that students will not look at a page filled only with text. Actually, the publishers are correct when they state this. I once gave my students a book to read. It had no pictures. They gasped audibly and complained loudly and bitterly to me. How could they possibly read a book with no pictures? It would be so boring….

We must ask, though, how our kids became so frightened and/or bored with a page of text. Television and computers deserve the bulk of the blame, but parents and educators have done too little to instill a love of reading to students. Education publishers help to create this problem, and then turn around and state that they are merely responding to market demand.

The hundreds or thousands of photos placed into a typical textbook today drives up the cost of the text enormously. The expensive and glossy paper on which the photos are placed is considerably more pricy that simple paper for text. Moreover, it’s not just lots of unnecessary, ugly, and fake photos that one sees on textbook pages. Graphic designers now play a role even more important than content writers. Every page must be a different color. Oh, yes. Pages must be multi-hued with flashy background themes. Black text on white background, white text on black background, green on black, blue on yellow-whatever. Every page must now resemble a website. Many pages are so repulsive to look at that I ignore them when working through a chapter. I don’t want my students to look at something so ugly and so manipulative.

Students coming up through the system today have no idea that textbooks used to be different. With their immaturity and lack of perspective, they naturally assume that things have always been this way. They are unaware that students used to read books with no pictures! And sometimes those books were hundreds of pages long, and filled with highly technical details.

In conclusion, I regard modern textbooks as abominations. They are filled to overflowing with shameless propaganda, touting GMOs and transhumanism, among other things. Their slick and glossy pages, designed by well-paid graphic designers, are all about style, not substance. Content has now receded into the background. Actual text now coves less than half of most pages and the lessons are presented in small doses so as not to stretch students’ minds too much.

 

 

My problem(s) with British English

I don’t like British English. Only in the last couple of years did I realize this. I was born and raised in the United States and wasn’t exposed to much British English during my time there; besides watching the occasional Monty Python movie, BBC documentary or BBC newscast, I heard and read little of it.

However, my circumstances have changed. I am currently  teaching English as a second language in Southeast Asia, and my daily exposure to British English has caused me to form some strong opinions about it. This exposure comes in two forms: 1) the local media and 2) the British  ESL textbooks which most, if not all, language centers in Asia use.

The various print media in Asia , including newspapers and magazines, are always written using British spelling and the British lexicon. The ESL textbooks are often printed by Cambridge or Oxford University Presses. If not, they are  printed by  giant publishing houses such as MacMillan (British) and Pearson PLC (British).

Journalists and writers working in Asia use, presumbably, the Oxford Style Manual when composing their articles. They certainly are not using the Associated Press Stylebook or the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Hence, when I am perusing the daily newspapers in Saigon, Phnom Penh, or Bangkok, I always read about ‘labour’ disputes, ‘tonnes’ of rice, and ‘programmes.’

This, then,  is my first major complaint with British English: the spelling. Why do the Brits insist on doing stupid things like adding unnecessary letters to words? Program is just fine as it is. It does not require or need an extra m or e to make it more official sounding. It’s the same situation with ton. T-O-N. It’s simple, direct, and to-the-point. Yet, the Brits want to glop on an n and an e to this word as well. And what is with the equally irritating habit of inserting unnecessary u’s into otherwise functional words such as labor, color, neighbor, and favor? I once had a British colleague here tell me that the extra u ‘softened’ the words. Give me a break.

The list of British English words that are spelled nonsensically is too long to list here. However, it should be noted that it is, indeed, a long list. Why spell complection as complexion? That just looks wrong. Where else do we put an ‘x’ into the middle of a word like that?

The British take logically spelled words like center, fiber, theater and liter and insist on transposing the e and r which makes them look retarded. Last week, I came across one of those glossy travel mags that are often left lying around in 4- and 5-star resorts. It was titled ‘Traveller.’ I had to blink to make sure I was reading it correctly. My first thought was, “Is that possibly a typo?” I mean, that’s not how traveler is spelled. But then the idea hit me: “Is that some stupid alternative British spelling?” I looked it up online and sure enough, adding an extra ‘l’ to words like that is standard practice in the British Isles. Thanks, Oxford and Cambridge.

It gets worse. Words like maneuver and estrogen are bludgeoned  with extra o’s in Brit-land. Just look at this word: manoeuvre. Does that look correct? Yes, I know we stole that one from the French, but we are using English, so let’s use the spelling that makes the most sense and reflects how we pronounce it.

British slang words and phrases are equally tiresome. This too is a long list. Let’s begin with one of the worst- knickers. Does that word conjure an image of something colorful, silky, and sexy under a woman’s skirt? No, not at all. The word panty however does conjure that image. Score one for the Americans.

A Brit might say, “What about the word herb? You Americans, for no logical reason, don’t pronounce the h while we do. Now who’s the silly one?”   It’s a fair observation, but I’m inclined to think the hippies (American)  had a hand in this one. You see, hippies have for a long time used herb as a synonym for marijuana. Every day at 4:20 p.m., they sit down and say, “It’s time to smoke some herb (silent h).  Any hippie will tell you that word rolls off the tongue  so much more smoothly when the hard h is dropped. ‘Erb’ just sounds sexier than Herb. So even here, Americans have been on the right track.

If you live in a room, or group of rooms, inside a building, then you live in an apartment. It’s not a ‘flat.’ That word is properly used to mean ‘level.’ If I am interested in something, then I am, well, interested in it. I am most certainly not keen on it. If I am really interested, then I might say that I am excited about it.

When I was growing up, the word brilliant always meant ‘having or showing great intelligence.’ However, it seems that over the decades more and more meanings have been attached to this overused word, thanks to our British friends who love to use it like confetti: a brilliant goal, a brilliant show, etc. In these circumstances, there’s always a better, more precise word to use in the context, if they would but try.

The loathsome recent trend of saying ‘sorry’ whenever ‘excuse me’ used to suffice must have been started in Great Britain. There’s no way brusque and direct Americans would initiate such a tortured  assault on meaning. Hell, they’re even teaching this now in textbooks!  Seriously. Chapters that teach phone manners, social gatherings and such state that when you interrupt, ask directions, or bump into somebody, you should say ‘sorry’ instead of ‘excuse me.’

Hey Brits, percent is one word, not two. It’s a synonym for percentage, you know. I don’t care if the dictionary says that both spellings are acceptable. The American usage is better and more commonsensical, as usual. And finally, the woman who gave birth to you is your Mom, not your Mum.  Listen to a baby calling for his mama. It sounds like MOM-A, never like MUM-A.  Let’s keep the word Mum with its proper meaning- silent.

 

 

 

Ten volunteering ideas to benefit your community

Here are ten things you can do now to start making a difference in your community. Volunteering your time, energy, and skills to contribute to the betterment of humankind has always been and will always be a noble enterprise.

Teach kids to swim. 

I live in a country which currently records about 6,000 drowning deaths per year, the vast majority of which are children under the age of 16. Other countries, espcecially in Asia and Africa,  have similar statistics. Even in rich countries in North America and Europe, many children do not learn how to swim.

Becoming a certified swimming instructor is a relatively easy task. Once you know how to teach swimming, finding students will be easy. Walk around your neighborhood and you’ll find at least half of the kids don’t know how to swim. Learning how to swim will enrich the child’s life enormously and prevent him from meeting an unnecessary early death.

Teach English

You don’t need to be a certified English instructor in order to teach English. If it is your native tongue, look around your neighborhood to see if there are people who speak English as a second or third language. They and their kids are likely in need of some instruction. Volunteer your time and assist  them with whatever they need the most help with, whether it be simple conversation, writing, public speaking, or reading.

Teach reading 

Illiteracy is still a huge problem in many parts of the world. Parents who are illiterate will not pass on the habit of reading to their children. If you can teach a child to read and also  share a love of books, you will be giving a gift that will last a lifetime. Help a kid to wean off the smartphone and learn the joy of book reading.

Teach nutrition and healthy cooking

Obesity is spreading like wildfire around the world. We need to start fighting back against the fast food conglomerates, the evil GMO seed companies, and junk food manufacturers. Most people receive no nutrition education whatsoever during their formative years. They don’t know how to read a food label, how to calculate calories, or how to cook a simple, inexpensive, delicious, and healthy meal. People will rarely go to a bookstore to buy a book on nutrition and take it home to read and study. They need a mentor and a counselor to guide them to a healthier lifestyle.

Teach gardening, fishing, and hunting

‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat forever.’ If you possess skills related to procuring your own food outside of the global capitalist food chain, then you can help others to do the same and gain a freedom they didn’t know existed. As more and more people move to the cities, these skills are rapidly being lost. Keep them alive by teaching the next generation.

Teach music

Everybody would love to play an instrument, but most need a nudge to get started. It’s not the money factor; second-hand instruments can be had for a dime. The time can be easily be found to practice. Even so-called ‘super busy’ people waste time during the week doing silly things like updating Facebook. What most truly lack is a good teacher who is affordable and available. You can be that person.

Teach martial arts

You don’t need to be an expert or a black belt to teach, especially to kids. This is not about opening a martial arts academy. If you possess some competency at a martial art, and you are willing to teach for free, then you can have a class  in your back yard or basement. Share what you know. Some knowledge of a martial art has enormous benefits. Your students will learn self-defense, get in shape, and gain self-confidence.

Teach CPR

Every town has a Red Cross chapter or a local clinic which offers CPR classes. Go one step further and become a certified trainer so that you can pass the skill onto others. When tragedies happen, the vast majority of people freeze like statues. They are scared and have no idea what to do. You can be the hero who jumps into action immediately.

Be a mentor

Millions of young boys around the world lack fathers and father figures. They long for the company of an older man who cares about their development and growth, even if they don’t consciously know it. Spending a few hours on a weekend afternoon with a fatherless boy and exposing him to some culture will often work miracles.

Teach money management

It’s a sad fact of modern life that our world revolves around money, yet most people don’t have a clue about how to manage their own finances. They have difficulty balancing their accounts and planning for the future. They don’t understand how, when, and where they should use a credit card. On a higher level, they don’t really even understand what ‘money’ is. Bonus points if you can explain the banking system.

 

Bonus: Pick up trash and litter

It has always perplexed me how people will ignore the trash and litter that blights their neighborhood. I think it has something to do with people’s notions of private property, space, and responsibility. Folks mistakenly believe that their ‘home’ extends no further than their front door. Therefore, that trash across the street is ‘not their problem.’ It is someone else’s problem, usually the city or municipal government. They will walk by that trash day after day after day, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the problem and to act on it. By taking action and collecting trash and offering your neighbors an example, you just may start a chain reaction. Be extra bags and gloves to give to curious onlookers.

 

The destruction of language

In December of 2014, I wrote an article about the destruction of language and grammar. Since that time, the trend has accelerated. Wherever we look- in newspapers, magazines, blogs, emails, textbooks, novels, and everyday conversation- we can observe the rapid disintegration of the ability to use the English language with any degree of facility, fluency, and grammatical correctness.

The English language is under attack from many directions. From the top, it is under assault from the ruling powers, commonly known as the NWO. Their agenda is clear: dumb down the masses by inverting and changing the meaning of words and muddle people’s brains by making a mishmash of all accepted grammatical rules. Since they control all of the media, their power and influence to carry out such an agenda is considerable. Hence, whenever you read a story from any large news organization,  it is quite easy to see the actual workings of this plan. The paragraph form has now almost completely disappeared from news articles, replaced by one and two sentence snippets. Any academic words above a third grade level have been excised, replaced with simple and easy-to-understand words and phrases which will require no one to consult a dictionary.

Academia has been thoroughly and definitively infiltrated and compromised by these same elites and interests. The written word, which formerly constituted 99 percent  of textbooks, now occupies, at best, only half of the course book. The  other 50 percent is now taken up with color photos, mostly of celebrities. What little text there is does nothing to challenge readers.

 

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English is also being worn away from below. English is, for better or worse, the lingua franca of our time. All over the world, English is being learned by native speakers of hundreds of different languages. The vast majority of these students attain only an advanced beginner or intermediate level of speaking and writing. Before they have mastered the use of all of the verb tenses, the paragraph, cohesion, and coherency, they are using what they know in the real world. These non-native speakers combine their limited grasp of grammar with the slang, colloquialisms, and texting / internet lingo they pick up from the media and friends.

Though the attacks from above and below would probably be sufficient to complete the annihilation of English, there are other powerful forces  that we must contend with: tech gadgets such as smartphones and social media. It would be impossible to overstate the damage that has been inflicted upon language and grammar from smartphones, Facebook, twitter, and texting.

Smartphones, tablets, and all touchscreen devices by their very nature discourage not only academic and literary writing but also any coherent thinking whatsoever. How can one construct a detailed and persuasive letter or essay by typing with their thumbs on a flat screen? It simply can’t be done. The technology itself ensures that.

Facebook provided the initial impetus for people to jettison grammar rules and proper punctuation when posting comments. Everyone began to throw up quick comments on their friends’ walls without bothering to check if it looked or sounded correct. Twitter was the final nail in the coffin. Just as touch screen technology actively discourages long, careful, and disciplined writing, Twitter forbids it. Since only a limited number of characters are allowed, subjects, prepositions, adverbs and more must be thrown by the wayside. Pronoun  subjects  have  suffered a death blow from Twitter. Nowadays, instead of “I was elated at the news of his marriage,” we have “Elated. Great news.”  This TwitterEnglish has now  insidiously permeated into many other forms of written language.  More and more, I notice that when my friends and family send me emails, they omit the subject from the majority of their sentences. Typically, the emails  read like this: “Went to the store yesterday. Saw an old friend. Came home late. Considering a vacation out West this year. Worried about my friend…” etc.

 

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Finally, we must also mention YouTube. If you want to see just how far down the destruction of language can go, simply spend a few minutes reading the comments of any popular YouTube video. Every time I think a nadir has been reached, the bottom falls out and it plunges down further still. Probably the most prevalent comment on YouTube is ‘U r an idiot. LOL.’  I’ve been wondering lately if all of the comments like that are from real flesh and blood readers and how many are produced by paid trolls at Langley, Virginia and computer programs. That may sound far-fetched, but it shouldn’t. The NWO wants to discourage, by all means possible, rational dialogue and real, honest discourse. Why wouldn’t they be active on YouTube, dropping millions of dopey and insulting comments, thereby dragging down the overall level of communication and discouraging people from talking to one another?

 

 

 

Hipsters, the fake left, and misguided youth

It’s never been easy to make sense of the world, but in 2016, the Powers-That-Be (PTB) have turned reality upside down and inside out so that forming a coherent picture of our situation  has become a herculean task. It’s a particularly arduous chore for those under the age of 35, as they are the most susceptible to brainwashing, propaganda, peer pressure, social engineering, and the various effects of the media to which they are constantly exposed. It’s not easy being a youth in today’s world.

For those in their 20s who want to fit in, be cool, and make lots of friends, they must of necessity ‘toe the line’ when it comes to their beliefs and attitudes. Youth today are under more pressure than ever to engage in groupthink in large part due to the effects of social media such as facebook.

Social media is a good place to begin. Even though 80-year-old grandmothers have facebook accounts, it’s the youth who spend the most time online networking on social media. You are simply not allowed to disengage from this MATRIX as doing so would cost you most of your friends and brand you as an ‘eccentric’ at best and ‘fucking weirdo’ at worst. And the higher up you are in the social hierarchy (think hipsters and djs), the more time you must devote to your online presence.

The slavish devotion to social media is a corollary of our unquestioning acceptance and  devotion to technology in general. Anything that is branded, marketed and sold as ‘new’, ‘improved’ or  ‘modern’, especially in the arena of technology, will be gobbled up by the masses in copious quantities. Again, the youth, with their desire to be on the cutting age and be with the hip crowd, will be easy game for the corporations selling their addictive techno toys.

Facebook and Instagram have transformed the notion of narcissism from a negative quality to a positive one. In the past, to be labeled a narcissist was a put-down. It was an insult. To be a narcissist signified that you were only concerned with yourself, that you had little to no concern for your family, your community, or your country.  But the unholy combination of Facebook and the camera phone has birthed the phenomenon known as the ‘selfie’ which has brought narcissism and narcissistic behavior to hitherto unknown levels. We see girls, particularly those from the 13-29 age group, walking around all day taking selfies, for no reason at all. They do it just….to do it. Taking selfies has now become an almost unconscious, reflexive behavior. ‘My friends are doing it, so I guess I need to do it too’. Middle-aged and elderly people engage in this abominable behavior as well, sending a clear message to the youth that ‘it’s ok and acceptable.’

The LGBT agenda, marketed most aggressively by those on the fake left, has snared today’s youth brilliantly. I used to support gay rights, gay marriage, the rainbow flag and the rest of that garbage until I wised up, so I know firsthand how easily one can be duped. When I first came upon information about the  ‘agenda’ behind the gay rights movement, I dismissed it outright. I thought the idea of an agenda or hidden hand was just a made-up story from a bunch of disgruntled Christians and ultra-conservatives. But, by and by, I noticed how the gay rights issue was getting an inordinate amount of media coverage; I noticed that politicians, including Barack Obama  were spending a lot of time giving their opinions on it (mostly in supporting it) ; I noticed that entertainers, especially young pop stars, were singing about their homosexual desires and experiences ; I noticed Hollywood coming out with movies about gay lovers. Gradually, I began to see that the idea of an agenda wasn’t so farfetched after all. Sadly, most 20-somethings haven’t grasped this yet. They march proudly in gay pride parades, waving their rainbow flags and cheering, completely oblivious to the fact that they are being played like a fiddle by a hidden hand that has an agenda to destroy the family and religion.

I have here in front of me the most recent copy of slick magazine marketed to rich, urban, English-speaking expats and tourists in Southeast Asia. The picture on the cover is a young transgender. When I  open to the article, I read his ‘heartwarming’ story and his struggle for acceptance in a traditional, family-based society. See how this goes? This type of story in the mass media is not an uncommon occurrence. Moreover, nightclubs here often have benefit shows dedicated to ‘LGBT’ rights. We’re all supposed to come and cheer our queer brothers and sisters.

I could write much more about this topic. I could talk about how the youth have been told to love modern ‘art,’ which is a complete creation of the CIA, how they’ve been manipulated into supporting multi-culturalism, how they’ve been cleverly suckered into supporting a corporate tool like Obama,  and how they’ve been dumbed down to such an extent that being intelligent is not cool and being ignorant and stupid is seen as hip. Even the corporatocracy  itself is no longer questioned, let along rebelled against. Wearing t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with corporate logos is acceptable and trendy.

What can we do? As a teacher, I try my best to decondition my students from the programming as best as I can. I try to put books in their hands. I talk to them. For those of us who are 50 and over, the best we can do is model sane behavior. Youth today increasingly have no one to look to see how to act in a proper manner in a sane society. If you are 50-year-old father of four, and you are taking selfies and checking your smartphone while you are sitting at a restaurant with your family, you are failing. It’s time to look in the mirror.

 

 

 

 

Dissecting more techno cheerleaders in the media. Case study: the iPad in classrooms

For writers, bloggers  and so-called journalists working in the media today, playing to the prejudices of their readers is part of their job. This is especially true for journalists and columnists who write about technology. When your readership consists of people who own a smartphone (or two), a tablet, and a laptop, reminding them that they are ‘cool,’  and ‘cutting edge’ will earn you a loyal following.

Let’s examine a recent article from the same glossy magazine which we looked at in my previous article. The author is a grade 2 homeroom teacher at a well-known international school in Ho Chi Minh City. The article is only six paragraphs long. The editors could have made it longer but chose to use one third of the page to post a color photo of a seven-year-old girl with a huge smile on her face holding an Ipad. We haven’t even gotten to the first sentence and already we know what direction the article is going to take. The upper right hand corner of the page has a professional photo of the author, an attractive woman in her 20s with perfect teeth who is smiling broadly. We, the readers, have been set up nicely to drink the  kool-aid which is being served.

The title of the article is “Techie Students- How tablets have enhanced learning.” The author wastes no time establishing her thesis which she posits clearly in the first sentence, stating…”using iPads in the classroom has been ideal for promoting new ways of learning.” Hmm,’promoting new ways of learning.’ That’s a big statement. She claims that the iPad is not just a tool which can be used in addition to books, but that it helps us learn in new ways.  If she means that all the lessons can now be given on the computer with bright flashing graphics, cartoon characters, and games, than I guess that qualifies.

The following sentence reads like an advertisement from Apple: “The iPad is a perfect digital tool for our young learners because it’s small, portable, visual, and hands-on..” Hey, this woman could be a sales rep. The author goes on to say that she avoids using it as a form of entertainment but rather as a way to empower her students to channel their interests and for ‘discovery, creation and collaborative learning.’ That’s wonderful, but can’t all of those things be done just as well without iPads or computers? Can’t you ‘discover’ things in books? Do you need a computer to create something beautiful and meaningful? All you need to create is a pencil and piece of paper. Or a canvas and paintbrushes. Or an instrument.

It gets worse. The author claims that ‘the tablets are excellent for developing research skills.’ No, they aren’t. Tablets do not develop research skills. I also work with ‘young learners’ and I can tell you that their research skills are generally very deficient, in spite of the fact that they spend hours per day on computers. Punching in a search term on google does not qualify as ‘research skills.’ Here’s how most students today do ‘research’ : They enter a term on google. They quickly choose either the first or second entry that appears on the screen, rarely even scrolling to the bottom of the page and practically never going beyond page one of search results. They don’t know how to distinguish between different sources and none of them understand that wikipedia is  fallible and biased.

Checking their Facebook in lecture hall:

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I’m only on the third paragraph but the writer’s insipid line of reasoning and her ‘rah-rah’ cheerleading for the the techno-school has left me somewhere between complete boredom and frustration. Check out this line: “Less cumbersome and more effective than dictionaries, we often use google translate or google images when coming across unknown words or concepts.” Is she kidding? A dictionary is ‘cumbersome?’ Actually, looking up words in dictionaries utilizes ancillary skills and often will lead students to other unfamiliar words as they are flipping through the pages. Punching in a word on google requires you to use far less of your brain  than looking it up in a dictionary, but this clueless teacher is so caught up in her flashing lights of her screens that she can’t see that. And Google Translate? If this teacher has really  used it, then she must know that the translations between languages are often horribly wrong. She’s teaching her students that google is God. She claims that she is ’empowering’ them, when what she is really doing is making them into little robotic consumers of digital garbage.

The author claims her grade 2 students are becoming ‘independent in their learning.’ Wow. I’ve read somewhere that Mozart was independent in his learning when he was seven years old, but that’s the only example I can think of. What does this woman think her students are going to do when teacher is not around? Do research on the causes of the French Revolution? No. They will play computer games or go into Facebook. Surely she knows that and we the readers know that, but she thinks her audience is so stupid that she can throw out this drivel and nobody will call her on it.

Who needs books?

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Techno teacher then tells us that she has her students make movies during class time using iMovie. The students even made a zombie movie! Yippee! After hyping iMovie, she then goes on to hype another app, this one called ‘Comic Life.’ You can guess where this is all leading.

This article is about as one-sided as you can get. It, and so many similar articles in the media, pitch the argument that ‘technology is great.’ Also, ‘technology enhances learning.’ And most of all, ‘technology empowers people.’

Since most parents today buy their young children smart phones and tablets by the time they are able to walk, the author is simply cozying up to them and telling them that they are doing the right thing. Furthermore, the school is staying at the cutting edge by ‘utilizing the latest technology in the classroom.’  Digital content and techno learning has not made us any smarter and never will. I suggest the author obtain a copy of “The Dumbest Generation” by  Mark Bauerlein and carefully read it before she writes any more articles.

 

 

Dissecting the techno cheerleaders in the media

Humanity is on an inexorable march towards transhumanism. Led by the likes of ‘futurist’ Ray Kurzweil, the transhumanist propaganda machine utilizes the media to its full potential  and employs a small army of writers, bloggers, and media personalities. A big part of this propaganda push is to continually hammer home a number of themes, such as technological progress is always positive (or at least that the benefits always outweigh the negative consequences). In close tandem with this notion is the idea that anyone who opposes the new is better paradigm is an old-fashioned, out-of-touch fuddy-duddy.

The relentlessly upbeat cheerleading that accompanies articles about technology, especially stories discussing the release of updated smartphones and related gadgets, can be seen in all mass market magazines and newspapers. There is no subtlety or nuance in most of these articles, no shades of grey.

Let’s examine a recent article in the mass media to see how this brainwashing works. The article is titled, oddly enough, “The Idiot Box,” and I found it in a glossy magazine marketed to wealthy expatriates in Southeast Asia. The author, some guy named Michael Arnold, opines that modern technological gadgets such as the Ipad are great for kids because they give them unlimited knowledge at their fingertips. Arnold tries, quite awkwardly and unconvincingly, to knit the history of  television into his argument and even manages to throw out the epithet ‘luddite’ to discredit people who question the transhumanist juggernaut.

The author begins by stating that he finds arguments against humanity’s overreliance on technology to be not ‘particularly compelling.’ He then goes on to say that arguments against the Ipad are the same arguments used against the personal computer, the world wide web and the television. The inference here is that since all those inventions have turned out so wonderfully for humanity, why worry about putting Ipads into the hands of five-year-olds?

According to Arnold, we humans have not become too reliant on machines and technology and in fact we need more!  Perhaps he missed the story last week of the guy who drove his car off a cliff because he was using his GPS instead of his eyes, a map, and common sense. Or maybe he missed the story of the three men who have died recently in Taiwan after gaming for  days in internet cafes without food, drink, or water. He hasn’t  noticed stories  of kids around the world who literally go into severe withdrawal when their digital toys are taken from them? Perhaps he hasn’t  seen, as I have, people who cannot sleep at night unless the television screen is playing in front of their bed. Did he not catch the recent story from China  which stated that the Chinese government has recognized internet addiction as one of the most serious crises facing the youth of China and has taken measures to combat it, including setting up treatment centers for hooked teenagers?

Arnold says that those of us who question the technological juggernaut have a ‘fear of change’ and since change is the defining characteristic of our age, we need to get over it. Indeed, change does define the 20th century, but this change didn’t just happen by accident. It was planned, and the results of that change have been the destruction of the family and the disintegration of society.

The next paragraph is where Mr. Arnold really outs himself. He writes that parents who ban television in the home are ‘extreme’ and that television was ‘the greatest medium of communication’ of our parents’ age. Television, according to Arnold, gave us ‘unprecedented exposure to human drama, stories with actual morals, and information about the outside world.’ What’s more, those silly cartoons taught him ‘how to have the strength to forgive.’ Now, I don’t know if  he really believes all this or if he is just reading from a template, but this is naive and absurd beyond belief. Does Mr. Arnold know who really invented television, and for what purposes? Does he know anything about Walt Disney and his shady background, including his links to Intelligence and occult societies?  Has he not read Aldous Huxley, Neil Postman, or Jerry Mander? Does he know who Edward Bernays was?

Arnold then blithely states that ‘rather less credence is given to the demonization of television nowadays.’ Oh, really? And from where did he pull that fact? Actually, the evidence demonstrating the destructive influence of television is far greater and more compelling than it was 50 years ago when intellectuals and concerned parents were complaining about it.

Now that his mask is off, Arnold cannot help himself and starts to really lay it on thick, gleefully stating that we (the television generation) are ‘eager for our kids to enjoy the kind of quality entertainment we remember having back then.’ Wow. Quality entertainment?? What is this guy talking about?

He doesn’t wish for his kids to spend their time reading the classics, or going to museums, or playing outside, or doing sports, or hiking in nature. Instead, he wants them inside watching reruns of ‘quality’ entertainment, such as Happy Days and Starsky and Hutch. 

 

No, they’re not doing math or reading biology. They’re playing games. Sorry, parents.

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I would love to send the author a copy of Mark Bauerlein’s 2009 book titled The Dumbest Generation, in which he thoroughly demolishes the argument put forward by techno enthusiasts that Ipads, computers, and smart phones make kids smarter and improve their academic performance.

Finally, Arnold relates the story of Steve Jobs not allowing his kids to play with the Ipad. To mention this story is a risky move , as it might blow a hole in his ‘tech gadgets are cool’ argument. He spins it my calling Jobs a ‘notorious hippie,’ and then, in a bizarre turn of logic, casts himself as risk taker by allowing his kids to use these devices. Come again? Let’s see if we can wrap our brains around that one. Arnold says that he is not following the example set by Jobs, and is therefore going his own way. He’s a conformist, but kind of a rebel at the same time. Get it?

In fact, this guy is doing what 99.99 percent of all parents are doing nowadays: letting their kids run loose with tech gadgets from  infancy onwards and hoping for the best. Arnold and people like him are the worst kind of spineless conformists, cloaking their naivete, ignorance  and cowardice in a thin veneer of pseudo-intellectualism.

 

Taiwanese man dies after 3 days of gaming

A  story appeared on mainstream news outlets last week regarding a young man in Taiwan who died of cardiac arrest at an internet cafe:

Hong Kong (CNN)A 32-year-old man was found dead in an Internet cafe in Taiwan after a marathon three-day gaming binge, the island’s second death of an online gamer this year.The man, surnamed Hsieh, entered the cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, on January 6, Jennifer Wu, a police spokesperson from the Hunei district precint told CNN.

An employee found him motionless and sprawled on a table at 10 a.m. on January 8 and he was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead from cardiac failure, she added.”He has been unemployed for a long time, and internet cafes were the only place he could go to,” she said.”His family said he would disappear for two to three days on end.”

It is not known exactly how long the man lay dead in the Internet cafe but police said his corpse had begun to stiffen so he must have been dead for several hours before they arrived on the scene.Police said gamers in the café continued as if nothing happened even when the police and paramedics arrived.

According to the Taipei Times, the man was a “regular customer” who often played for consecutive days. “When tired, he would sleep face down on the table or doze off slumped in his chair,” the staff member was quoted as saying. “That is why we were not aware of his condition in the beginning. 

Taiwan is no stranger to deaths from marathon sessions of online gaming.Hsieh’s death came after 38-year-old man was found dead at an Internet cafe in Taipei on January 1 after playing video games for five days straight. And in 2012, the corpse of man who died playing online games went unnoticed for 10 hours by other gamers and staff.  CNN

Who was this man?  Unemployed, directionless, lonely, and single, he seemed to find his only happiness in life at the internet cafe, playing ultra-violent, and highly addictive online games. Did his family and friends not see any danger in his video gaming habits? Or did they nonchalantly brush any concerns aside and view it as a harmless activity? In  the bigger picture, what are these games doing to our boys and young men, not just in Taiwan, but all over the world? What are the effects of gaming on their bodies, minds, and spirits? These internet cafes filled with young men playing games can be found in cities all over Asia. Harried and stressed parents are usually relieved  to have the boys out of the house and busy doing something, and at least not getting in trouble. The cafe owners are happy to take their money. Nobody pays them any mind, and they spend countless hours of their life sitting in one position, tense, motionless, and oblivious to their surroundings. Neglecting to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom, they easily lose sense of time and of reality itself.

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It doesn’t surprise me to read that the owners of the cafe neglected to notice the dead man for many hours. Why would they? It’s not their job to check up on the patrons. ‘The guy’s slumped in his chair; I guess he’s taking a snooze.’  They couldn’t care less. Nor am I surprised that the other patrons of the cafe didn’t even bother looking up when the corpse was carried out and the paramedics and police arrived. Why let reality intrude upon their fantasy world? Nothing- and I mean NOTHING- can disturb a gamer’s concentration when he is in the midst of his game.

We are losing ourselves to the tyranny of the screen and seem not to  care. It’s easy to read a story like this and morbidly laugh, and think, ‘what a loser.’ What happened to this poor man is an extreme case and his tragic ending made news headlines. But the slower death afflicting the tens of millions of other boys in the cafes won’t make the headlines. The cafe where Mr. Hsieh died continued operating even during the police investigation, with the patrons going on as before. It will change nothing and carry on, as will all the other internet cafes in Taipei. What did they say in ‘The Godfather’?  “It’s just business.”

 

The empty promises of technology

Driving home recently, I observed that  big, sleek new techno-gadget stores have been opening throughout the city almost weekly. The market for smart phones, tablets, phablets, and  laptops along with  all of their accessories is red- hot and shows no signs of slowing down. People just can’t get enough! Businessmen, housewives, teachers, students, teenagers, and parents with young  children in tow browse the stores, looking for the latest, hottest, hippest, and trendiest new device. No child is too young now to start playing on smart phones. “If they are old enough to walk and talk, they are old enough to have a smart phone,” is the new thinking among parents. Microwave radiation? Decreased attention spans? Addiction to games?  Diminished interest in books? Squashed imaginations?  Who cares!

What will be the outcome of this multi-media saturation, particularly on the young? A couple of weeks ago, I started reading “The Dumbest Generation,” by Mark Bauerlein (2008) . With meticulous research and citing  hundreds of studies, Mr. Bauerlein demolishes the arguments put forth by technocrats that  Millennials, who have abandoned reading as a leisure activity, are doing well academically and can learn everything they need to know through computers and video games. The academic and governmental studies  do not support the pollyannish claims by the technocracy that book reading is overrated as a foundation of education and that we (the adults) need not be concerned with the lack of interest shown in books  by teens and twentysomethings.

“The Dumbest Generation” is full of eye-popping statistics and charts. It resoundingly reaffirms what I have been observing for many years: that kids no longer want to read and are cut off from nature.

Bauerlein says, “The 10-year-old’s bedroom has become, as Kaiser puts it, a ‘multi-media center.’ Children leave the dinner table, which is often accompanied by network news, reruns of Seinfeld ,and other 6 P.M. fare, and head off to their rooms to turn on their own shows or crank up iTunes while poring over some homework. Bored with that, they can check a MySpace forum, or play Mortal Kombat, or look at school pictures. The long division exercises await while the computer dings a new email coming through, the cell phone buzzes with a new message, and Toomani comes on in half an hour. They never need exit their bedrooms doors, and in most households, parents won’t interrupt them. For 55 percent of the eight-to 10-year olds , parents don’t lay down any rules for TV. For older teens, only 5 percent have parents who set limits on the video games they can play. The private access continues outside the home too, with 55 percent of eight- to 18-year olds taking a handheld video game player with them, and 65 percent carrying a portable music player.”

The author goes on to analyze how school districts around the country (and around the world) have jumped on the ‘technology is more important than books’ bandwagon. Schools have borrowed money from wherever they can and siphoned money from other areas of their budgets to hard-wire the schools for the latest in technology, including computer labs, wi-fi and even laptops for the students. Administrators, principals and bureaucrats do all this in the name of education, in the naive hope that this technology will make students more ‘excited’ about learning and improve their literacy skills and test scores. The results show otherwise, but nevertheless the technocracy presses on.

In my school, we have a small library and a computer lab next to it. Which do you think students gravitate to? When class finishes and the student needs to wait 30 minutes for the parent to pick him up, does he grab a book from the library and sit down to read, or does he go to the computer lab to play video games? The answer is obvious. The books look pretty on the shelf, but they are unread and unappreciated. The school administrators allow the students to play games as long as they want, with no supervision. Nobody takes responsibility for the student who has time to kill, and the young ones especially get hypnotized for hours.

Ever since I was a young boy, I have been suspicious of machines and technology. Perhaps it’s some ancient Druidic blood running through my Norwegian/Viking veins, but my greatest pleasures growing up were always found in nature and in books. My fondest memories of childhood are the simple, direct, and intimate connections I had with the natural world- swimming in my neighbors pond, exploring the local creeks, catching frogs, climbing trees, lying on my back and counting stars, rolling on the grass, collecting wild berries in the woods, scrambling over giant boulders on the Potomac River, jumping into piles of leaves, sledding down hillsides, bodysurfing in the Atlantic on a hot summer day, making snowballs, and exploring caves. None of these activities requires a machine or gadget.

When computers started appearing in the 80s and became widespread in the 90s, I felt a palpable and growing unease. “I don’t like where all this is headed,” I said to my girlfriend at the time. When I read some of the breathless and hyperbolic rantings of the techno geeks in zines like Mondo 2000 and Wired in the mid to late 90s, I became VERY worried. These pasty-faced, pale-skinned and flabby-muscled computer geeks were telling me that the transhuman world was arriving quickly and that I had better get used to the idea. Their ideas and arguments sounded, and continue to sound, absurd to me, and yet a forceful response to the transhuman agenda was lacking. Only a few lonely voices raised objections, mostly found in obscure journals and periodicals.

I began to wonder if I was the only one feeling this unease, but fortunately I eventually found writers and intellectuals such as Kirkpatrick Sale (Rebels against the future) , Daniel Quinn (Ishmael) , Jerry Mander (In the Absence of the Sacred),  John Zerzan (Running on Emptiness) , Derrick Jensen ( A Language older than words) , Neil Postman (Technopoly) , and of course Thoreau. These writers are often described with many different terms, including but not limited to ‘anti-technology’ , ‘neo-luddite’, and ‘neo-primitve.’ But despite their differences, they all share a common distrust in the current pro-technology paradigm and the covert  trans-human agenda.

 

 

The make-believe world of advertising and marketing

Advertising and marketing are  very popular majors for university students these days, especially in Asia. The only fields which are which rank as high in popularity are banking and finance and business. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this fact. Why would so many bright, young people want to devote their working lives to being paid shills? Advertising companies and departments, along with their sidekicks P.R. firms, are hired disinformation agents. They can invent and use all the euphemisms they want to describe themselves and their work, but the bottom line remains the same: they are paid to manipulate people, using whatever overt and covert means are at their disposal, to act against their best interest  and buy products which they do not need.

Perhaps the notions of idealism and ‘doing what you love’ and ‘following your bliss’ have been swept aside in modern global capitalism with its ‘dog eat dog’ mentality.  Furthermore, today’s youth have grown up in a corporate world, with corporatism infusing every aspect of their lives from birth. Like a fish swimming in water, today’s youth have no conception of a world without corporations and are used to the daily barrage of propaganda, advertising, and lies spewing forth from the plasma televisions bolted into their bedroom walls. Graduating university and going to work for ‘The Man’ is the most natural thing in the world.

It doesn’t really matter anymore how absurd the advertising is. People don’t complain or subject it to its proper ridicule. The sum total of all the daily images, words, video, etc. just becomes a big blur.

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I work as an educator in the highly competitive English teaching industry in Asia. Not surprisingly, the private schools here devote a significant portion of their working budgets to advertising and marketing. Everything the schools  sell to students has the company logo on it, with the backpack being the most important item. The bigger schools will often place a five or six-story high photo of smiling, happy students on the sides of their buildings. I always chuckle when I walk by these buildings and see the photo. The schools are different, the students are different, but the basic theme is always the same: a group of fifteen or twenty kids sitting with ramrod straight backs, eyes fixed on the teacher with happy smiles, and each of them raising their hands high to volunteer to answer a question. Any teacher who has spent a day or two in a classroom will tell you that such a class has never existed and will never exist. The typical shy and passive Asian student rarely raises his hand to volunteer, and when he or she does, it is a subtle and wary gesture, with the elbow often remaining on the desktop. No matter. The advertising departments forge ahead with their idealized class of happy, enthusiastic students. “Okay, everybody raise your hand for the photo. One, two, three. Got it!”

I recently wandered into a local outlet of the ‘The Body Shop.’ This pseudo eco-groovy corporation  likes to grab hold of whatever trend is hot in the field of natural health, incorporate it into their line of products and then of course advertise the hell out of it. Hence, they have distinct sections of their stores devoted to pomegranate, aloe vera, hemp, maca root, seaweed, tea tree, vitamin c, vitamin e, shea butter, cacao, almond, and jojoba. Each section is accompanied by large back-lit photos of pomegranates, aloe vera plants, and tea tree plants. There’s just one problem- very little of these natural ingredients actually goes into the products. Most of the items contain ingredient lists like this: tocopherol acetate, p-Anisic Acid, Disodium ETA, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Polysorbate 20, and PPG-2. The disconnect between the colorful advertising and the actual ingredients in the containers couldn’t be more obvious. And yet, we the consumers are not supposed to notice that, let alone care about it, let alone complain about it. Everyone- the plastic smile automatons who work there and the oblivious customers- simply goes along. 

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If you read through the ingredient list on ‘The Body Shop’ products, you will also encounter the words “Against animal testing.”  Pay close attention to the words , as they were undoubtedly crafted by the marketing department in close association with the legal department. It doesn’t say ‘Our company and all of our affiliates do not engage in any form of animal testing for any of our products- 100% guaranteed.’  NO. The corporation simply states that they are ‘against’ the practice, which of course means absolutely nothing. This legalese claptrap ensures that the Body Shop cannot be sued in court if any of their suppliers is found out to be engaging in animal torture, I mean ‘testing.’