Part of the reason I started Hapgood was to try to break the habit of wasting time engaging in Big Rhetorical Debates about Stuff That Capital-M Matters. Hapgood is largely about me getting back to the research and implementation focus that grounds me, and keeping the rhetorical stuff intermittent and focused on pressing concerns.
I’m not aiming for 100% success in that, but so far, so good.
So, having consciously avoided these debates, I was upset last week when I finally got around to reading the iDC mailing-list archives people had been telling me about and found the extent to which my name had been tossed around as a sort of plug for the Edupunk’s Guide. I stand by the things I’ve said, but my point was never to defend the Guide per se, but to simply argue that middle-aged educational technologists are not the only audience that people write books for, and a book that is reductive to us might be enlarging to someone else. I feel instead I’ve been pushed into a position as the token supporter of this.
I’m not. I really don’t want to write another word about Edupunk, never mind the guide. And post-iDC reading I’m not feeling very charitable to the Guide or its author at this particular moment. Actually, angry is closer to the truth, at least for the moment.
But I find I have to post on this one more time. And the reason has nothing to do with Anya or Edupunk or EDUPUNK or iDC but with my high-school age niece. A while back, my brother had told me my niece (a junior) was struggling with the question of what she would do after high school. And seeing an opportunity there, I suggested that if she wanted to read the Edupunk’s guide and write up a review for me that I’d post it here. Real data from a real high-schooler. Win/win.
Due to a communication glitch, that review didn’t arrive until today, at a point where I’m sick of the whole drama. But it’d be unfair to everyone involved not to post it.
Here’s the upshot: My niece, Emma Caulfield, really liked it. you can read the full review here (which, keep in mind is written by a high-schooler, and sounds a bit book-reporty), but I think the crucial graf is this one:
I am currently a junior in high school, everyone knows one’s junior year brings a lot of academic pressure: the PSATs, the SATs, hard classes, high expectations, and looking into higher education. Stress sets in junior year—it’s well known. It was really refreshing for me to [read] this book, to see that not everything is as cut and dry as it is made out to be. It is easy to look at the future in black and white, but that makes things both more scary and less realistic. This book helped me to see that, to understand that it’s okay to be a little bit of an “Edupunk” to think a little out of the box. To read this book you don’t have to be dead set on a plan for the future, in fact maybe it’s better that you go into it with a totally open mind—it has a lot to offer, for anyone.
I honestly didn’t talk to Emma at all about this review (just passed the request through my brother) but this was my point, I think, about books like this. If they enlarge a high school junior’s conception of education I’m not entirely sure how important it is that it’s reductive for us.
And probably the best comment came from my brother who has been a bit worried about Emma’s sense of life direction, if only in the way that all parents of high school juniors are worried about their kid’s sense of life direction. He said simply:
You know, I think it actually helped her.
That’s it. And if you are a Dad of a teen or tween you know that that’s a pretty good plug. Your toolbox for helping teenage girls is woefully small, every little thing helps.
In any case, I hope if people want to quote someone about the Guide they can quote Emma, or my brother, and I can maybe get out of this discussion. But I want to leave it with my point understood — it’s not what your words say, it’s what they do, and I think this book will likely do some good.
As far as the larger Edupunk discussion, I’m out of it. Please batch replace all quotes of mine on the debate with the word “meh”. I’m sure it will add exactly as much to the discussion.
[P.S. I did promise my niece I’d put the whole review somewhere up under her byline, I’m still figuring out where the best place to do that is — if it ends up being here, that’s why the duplication.]