Friday, October 31, 2008

History and Faith

The very first post on this blog was looking at the role of subjectivity in the discipline of History. Well, time to look at one of my biases: religion.

When reading about Christian historians this weekend, I flinched away from it. Though I am a Christian and my faith and my faith community is very important to me, I did not like thinking of my faith influencing my more scholarly pursuits. While working through a majority of the essays edited by Ronald Wells in History and the Christian Historian, I dismissed much of what I read. I blame this on my being raised during a time that the Religious Right was on TV and radio constantly. I grew up seeing people who believe in my same God celebrating that the victims of hate crimes where going to Hell. I suppose that I’m just a little more John Winthrop than William Brewster, but I like deeply religious groups to have some self confidence issues or at least a strong tradition of humility.Therefore after reading and thinking about Christian historians, I felt that my faith did not influence my approach to history in any significant way. The only problem is that is not quite true.

In the past two years almost every major history paper I have written has been connected to religion: Augustine’s influence on marriage, the role of Huguenots during Richelieu’s France, Lincoln’s Calvinist upbringing. That is not to say all of my papers were about Christianity, in fact the paper I’ve spent the most time and effort on was about the effects of traditional Kikuyu beliefs on Kenya’s independence. So though I don’t just write about Christianity, I do certainly seem to look at religion. More specifically I seem to take a topic already covered by others I look at it with a religious lens, much like the aforementioned Marxists or feminists might do with their own lenses.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rubik's Cube

Rubik's CubeImage via WikipediaThis weekend my roommate got a Rubik's Cube. Though this could easily become a post about possible destroyers of productivity, it's not (I was actually very productive this weekend). No, today I want to talk about how I learned to solve a Rubik's Cube and how that reflects upon methods and types of learning.

First of all, I just messed around with the cube, I figured out how to drop cubes out and how to get at least the first layer put together.

Then, I had my roommmate show me how he gets the second layer consistently and how he even holds the cube. See, he holds the cube at an angle and turns the cube as if the mostly right side is the front. Though I'm sure it works for him, I kept my holding method that I developed during my initial “play” phase.

Finally, I decided to look online for more complex and complete thoughts on solving the Rubik's Cube. Online I found lists of algorithmic move sets that would allow me to solve any cubes. These lists would move only part of the cube without the rest. After a little bit of time I learned many of these algorithms and was soon almost solving a cube in minutes.

However the catch was I memorized the lists of moves but I stopped paying attention. I was no longer thinking “I need to move white around and down” but was instead thinking “ok after two right turns I have to....”. Now this was not all that bad ounce I realized what was going on. Once I started self checking, once I started learning why the algorithms worked at the same time I learned the algorithms. As with most things, a balance was necessary. A balance between play and knowledge.

So what does this have to do with education? Well hopefully that's self evident, but just in case not: a balance between play and knowledge is key to education. Not just teaching or classroom education, but also self-education. When I'm preparing a lesson plan for someone else, or researching a topic myself. And the balance found during my time with the Rubik's Cube was not the only part relevant. I needed to play, I needed to memorize things that experts had figured out, but I also needed to connect what I memorized to what I had learned during play.

Also, a friend was very key to the experience. Without my roommate I won't have gotten my hands on the cube in the first place, and I also won't have obtained a social aspect to my learning, which was also very key. I learned from him, but I also connected the cube to my relationship. After the relationship was there I wanted to solve the cube not just for myself, but so I could show him and show him what I had learned.

To summarize:


Sunday, October 26, 2008

What I've Learned This Week

The Komono Dragons and Sharks can reproduce asexually
That Komono Dragons can be transgendered can give you free stockphotos
TEDTalks are awesome
How to solve a Rubik's Cube
That neither Judaism or Islam believe in original sin
In Harlem there is a thriving community of Senegalese
Subscribing to two dozen podcasts in one day might not be a good idea
Pragmatic Communication Disorder is now considered a syndrome
Swollen tendons can indicate tendonitis or a fractured wrist
The college Health Center doesn't feel qualified to tell say which my tendons indicate
End of school breaks can be rough.
Erin McKean is awesome, really awesome.
Erinaceous means pertain to the hedgehog family or of the nature of a hedgehog.
Erinaceous is not in the New Oxford American Dictionary that is preloaded on my Mac.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Voice Finding: Coda

Neil Patrick Harris photographed by Eric SchwabelOne time last year in a sociology class a friend of mine commented that she wished that she could think as fast as I do. After talking to her briefly about what she meant by that, I commented that I did not think faster than her, I simply started talking sooner than her. While she would sit quiet until she knew what she was going to say, I tend to start talking and figure out what I'm going to say as I say it.

Last week I briefly reflected on my aims and objectives about this blog. However, I did not really know what I wanted out of the blog until I posted about it. Therefore now I'm going to again post about what I want out of this blog.

Simply and concisely put: this blog is not about me becoming a better teacher or a better historian. This blog is a way in which I will become a better teacher and a better historian. It forces me to sit down and think about my obsessions and then write about them. Now this does not really change any of my objectives for this blog, but it will change how I write and what I write about.

Also, I'm going to start holding unto blog posts for a few days until I know what I'm going to say so I don't end up posting twice about everything.

On a unrelated note: Just realized that Neil Patrick Harris in not only in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, but also in Assassins, my favorite musical, which maybe sometime I'll blog about.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Brief Overview of the Debate

This blog is about my experiences becoming a history teacher. It is therefore assumed that I care about history, particularly United States history and probably civics. This assumption is true, I care greatly for the United States and in fact feel motived to teach largely due to feelings to civic duty and contributing by helping create the next generation of effective citizens. Though this post won't delve deeper into my feelings about patriotism, civic duty, or government I do feel compelled to comment on tonight's debate.

Disclaimer: I am a capital D Democrat, but I am also a capital C critic.

To John: I am not your friend, please stop claiming me as such every few seconds. And while you are stopping your lying about my feelings for you, please stop lying about Obama's comments about Pakistan. I understand how there was room for pronoun confusion when he said, “take them out,” but after he clarified that he meant Bin Laden not Pakistan, why did you repeat your belief that Obama is threatening Pakistan with a military attack?

To Obama: Yeah, I understand that John tends to stretch the truth, or even out right lie. However, you have to move past that. Correct him, call him out, but don't spend three minutes re-explaining your position. In fact, please become more concise in general. I follow politics, I think, more than most and am versed in political vocabulary, but even I had problems following your answers at times. For example: your answer to United States response to hypothetical Iranian aggression without UN approval. Sure, you gave the impression that you would act without approval but would also seek approval, but you never really came right out and said so. I appreciate your balanced and nuanced views, but you need to give concise, simplified answers in a debate format. Being long winded does not do you any good.

To Tom: Great job. Love you on Meet the Press and I hope you remain active in the media for years to come.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Start of Coalescence

I thoroughly enjoy cooking. Though it was a hobby I did not pick up until recently now that I have a kitchen I look forward to making dinner for myself and my house mates. Cooking for twelve people leaves little space for elegance or fancy but I try to bring my cuisine up a level with some sauces including some beef stock that I made a few weeks back.

Now so far, I've never combined my newly developed love of cooking (particularly from the French side of the spectrum) and my longer developed enjoyment of history. This week I'm planning on looking into the history of sauces and stocks. On Friday or Saturday I'll post what I find.