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On this day of resurrection...
March 23, 2008 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Speaking of speeches, David Eggers delivers one at TED on grassroots community tutoring for kids who need help with their English homework: "There's something about the kids finishing their homework in a given day, working one on one, getting all this attention. They finish their homework, they go home -- they're finished. They don't stall. They don't do their homework in front of the TV. They're allowed to go home 5:30, enjoy their family, enjoy other hobbies, get outside, play and that makes a happy family. A bunch of happy families in a neighborhood is a happy community. A bunch of happy communities tied together is a happy city and a happy world, right? So, the key to it all is homework." Love him or hate him (mefi consensus) it's a great example of nervous energy microphilanthropy, social entrepreneurship and, if I may make the connection, machines of loving grace. [previously]
posted by kliuless (26 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have watched this several times this week. I thought it was fantastic.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 8:25 AM on March 23, 2008


Excellent. This is one of the reasons TED is my favorite website. Terrific talk!
posted by dobbs at 8:44 AM on March 23, 2008


826NYC could really use some more drop-in tutoring volunteers. One day I was there, the coordinator had to turn away a lot of kids because there were only two tutors available. You can submit a volunteer application at their website.

Also, I will never even pretend not to have a terrible crush on Mr. Eggers. He is the sort of clumsy, grinning, open face of good that I aspire to being myself, preciousness be damned.
posted by lauranesson at 9:20 AM on March 23, 2008


Heh, funnily enough, when the Japanese and Koreans do this it's called a cram school (I used to run one), and everyone says how terrible it is that kids have to study after school.

Anyway, it's great that Eggers has imported this idea to the States. His commitment to education and kids is great. His commitment to McSweeney's is not so great.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:48 AM on March 23, 2008


It's NOT a cram school - watch the video and you'll see. It's not about rote learning, it's about helping kids learn English and learn to exercise their creativity.
posted by twsf at 10:53 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And their homework, just like a cram school.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:03 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


At cram schools, you don't get to write a comic book when you're done with your homework. There are also very few pirate-themed cram schools, to my knowledge.

I am fairly certain that cram schools are not free. I think cram schools are not staffed by writers and artists whose primary mission is to instill kids with a love of the written word.

But other than that, sure. Just like a cram school.
posted by jennyjenny at 11:23 AM on March 23, 2008


I've been repeating the words "machines of loving grace" over and over. The following question is directed to kliuless: may I use those words in a future poem? TIA. janetleigh
posted by thatdowdygirl at 11:47 AM on March 23, 2008


From the TED website:
"Our mission: Spreading ideas"
"Attendance at TED is by invitation only..."

TED = Thousand Elitist Douchebags?!

While there are occasionally some marginally interesting TED speeches, most of them are rambling, self-important, uninformative, feelgood pieces of crap.

They really should make a TED drinking game...
When you hear the word "transformative" in one of their presentations, take a shot of spiked koolade.

(I would've suggested a thimbleful everytime you heard the word "uh", but that could easily lead to alcohol poisoning.)
posted by markkraft at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


At cram schools, you don't get to write a comic book when you're done with your homework.

Big, fat, hairy deal. When my wife and I ran a cram school we taught math and English, had seventy students and employed four instructors. We were trying to help D students become C students, and C students become B students. There wasn't much time for writing comic books and showing kids how "cool" learning was. But we did create a friendly and safe environment for kids to study in with their friends. Our success was measured by our enrollment numbers - if kids didn't like it, they would go somewhere else.

Comic books and pirate-themed classrooms are neat, but gimmicky. The fact is (and I'm speaking as a former teacher with a BEd), there are a lot of kids who spin their wheels unless whatever they're studying is spelled out in concrete terms. You can talk about creativity all you want, but for a certain strata of students (the ones that struggle and eventually drop out) its all a distraction and an impediment to learning.

Learning isn't always fun. It's hard work. Ask anyone who's ever had to figure out CSS.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:18 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


My improvement would be to allow kids more free-time before it is dark out.
posted by Shakeer at 12:43 PM on March 23, 2008


If you watch the TED speech, the way Eggers describes the 826 tutoring centers, his description very closely resembles the description of the cram schools ("juku") in KokoRyu's link:

"Academic juku actually perform several educational functions: They provide supplementary education that many children need just to keep up with the regular school curriculum, remedial education for the increasing numbers of children who fall behind in their work, and preparation for students striving to improve test scores and preparing for the all-important upper-secondary and university entrance examinations. In many ways, juku compensate for the formal education system's inability or unwillingness to address particular individual problems."

This is very, very close to what Eggers says about 826 Valencia (except for the bit about test scores).
posted by jayder at 1:13 PM on March 23, 2008


Learning isn't always fun. It's hard work. Ask anyone who's ever had to figure out CSS.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:18 PM on March 23 [+] [!]


Geeeentlemeeen! Start grrrriiindin' your aaaxes!!!
posted by basicchannel at 1:28 PM on March 23, 2008


Learning isn't always fun. It's hard work.

I believe the point is to be innovative and try to make learning more fun, not intimidating and daunting. Something the kids would be drawn to in the face of video games (not that video games don't foster skills and learning). This isn't to diminish what you have done, it's very admirable and impressive, but even from your description of it there is a clear difference between the Superhero Supply shop and a cram school.
posted by aburd at 1:29 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


thatdowdygirl, FYO (sorry):

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.


Richard Brautigan
posted by Grangousier at 1:43 PM on March 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


FYI, that is. I have no idea what FYO would mean, and dread to think.
posted by Grangousier at 1:43 PM on March 23, 2008


While I admit it's nice when education can be more entertaining, what we see in this case is the first clear example of "trying to make learning more fun" becoming window dressing, by precise definition.
posted by markkraft at 1:45 PM on March 23, 2008


if this McCrammeys thing somehow keeps Eggers away from writing, I say go for it.
posted by matteo at 2:35 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I come from a cram school culture (Malaysia) and I can tell you that it's nothing like what Eggers is explaining. From KokoRyu's description, "preparation for students striving to improve test scores" is the only reason those schools exist at all. Most of the students that go to "tuition centers" in Malaysia don't actually need the extra help - they're doing well on their own. But they fork out all these money because they think that without spending hours at tuition centers doing sample exam papers over and over, learning how to answer papers in just the right way to score extra points, they won't get the desired straight As.

The people who really need the help can't get it - because they can't afford tuition centers, and because the schools have already given up on them. Because I opted to do Humanities instead of Science, I was in the "last class" - which was otherwise full of people who had failed their Form 3 exams. Every other week we were told that we would not succeed, that we were always doomed to failure. One kid had hysteria and couldn't come to school for a while; our Malay Language teacher said "I hope she doesn't do her exam here, she'd ruin our perfect record". Some teachers just don't bother showing up.

Writing isn't really respected here either. Sure, there are composition lessons, but it's more about scoring points than creativity. If you don't follow a rigid examination-based structure, you'd be in trouble. And comic books? Novels? Publication? What nonsense is that! (I actually had a teacher in Std 2 tell me to "stop writing nonsense" in one of my stories.)

Something like the 826 shops would be a dream. Free tuition? One on one, instead of crammed into a class of 40 just like in school? You could ask anything and you won't be laughed at? You could do anything? You don't have to worry about grades? You could actually make something real that could be published (like the books)? In a superhero store? Some sort of creative space like that would be amazing. As it is, creative pursuits aren't respected enough in Malaysian educational culture because it doesn't add to test scores. I've been thinking of starting such a resource for a while and this sounds like an awesome model.
posted by divabat at 2:54 PM on March 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Comic books and pirate-themed classrooms are neat, but gimmicky. The fact is (and I'm speaking as a former teacher with a BEd), there are a lot of kids who spin their wheels unless whatever they're studying is spelled out in concrete terms.

Have you watched the video yet? The theme storefronts go way beyond gimmicks, they're disarming, and fun, they make it OK for the kids to be seen going there, there's no negative stigma attached. If I were a student forced to go to a cram school, or a huntington learning center, or something along those lines, I'd feel not a small amount of shame.

These places exist to get kids excited about creating something with the written word, and to get kids used to completing homework immediately after school. They're forming very good habits, and giving kids 1-on-1 time with volunteers. Real-life adults who will listen to them! Not teachers, or even trained tutors. If you've experienced what it's like to show a kid that what they think matters, that their ideas are good, and someone is listening, you'll know how transformative it really is.


Learning isn't always fun. It's hard work. Ask anyone who's ever had to figure out CSS.

Or you can sit on the internet and grind your axe.
posted by splatta at 5:03 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Grangousier:

You had me going there for a minute re FYO.. ;> the 'dread' belonged to me wondering what it meant - For Your Opprobrium.. Obsequiousness...Offense...? Must say Brautigan did the phrase justice. Thank you for not leaving me wondering!
posted by thatdowdygirl at 6:32 PM on March 23, 2008


Comic books and pirate-themed classrooms are neat, but gimmicky.

So were the Harry Potter books but they sure were worth it for how many kids discovered the fun of reading through them.

oh...and...

Q: Hey, Anyone! What was learning CSS like: Fun or hard work?
A: It was really fun!
Q :Oh yeah? Why do you say that?
A: Because I had a good CSS tutor who volunteered his time to help me out one-on-one, otherwise I might have given up when the learning curve became too steep.

Now, debugging IE6...whole different story.
posted by paddysat at 11:45 PM on March 23, 2008


I enjoyed learning CSS. Also, tutoring centers described in lecture ≠ cram school/juku.
posted by mexican at 2:58 AM on March 24, 2008


re: machines of loving grace

a little embarrassed by the attribution, but yeah, it's by/from richard "troutfishing" brautigan, who's like the US version of russell hoban or something :P iae, it's neat (and there's a reason why!) that it's so recognisable as poetry... tools for big love is/are still available tho :D btw, if i may (liberally!) quote kevin kelly:
Big love is a renewable building material, says Clay Shirky. Like the Ise Shrine in Japan which is rebuilt -- out of love -- every 20 years. Turns out the longest lasting things don't have an enduring edifice, but an enduring process.

Clay says the best predictor of longevity for a system is not to inspect the business model but to answer this question: Do the people who like the place/building/system/product take care of each other? Not just take care of the object of veneration but take mutual care of the fans?

In other words, do they run on love?

About five years ago I wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal declaring that the "internet runs on love, not greed." You can read it here. Clay has expanded, deepened, and brilliantly enhanced the argument. He ends a recent talk with these memorable lines.
We have always loved one another. We’re human, its something we’re good at. But up until recently, the radius and half-life of that affection has always been quite limited. With love alone, you can get together a birthday party. Add coordinating tools, and you can write an operating system. In the past, we would do little things for love, but big things, big things required money. Now we can do big things for love.
Here's the video of his talk...cheers!
posted by kliuless at 5:09 AM on March 24, 2008


I've been repeating the words "machines of loving grace" over and over. The following question is directed to kliuless: may I use those words in a future poem?

Well, the phrase may have already been tapped for poetry, but certainly it would be the perfect name for my new band which will combine the intensity and urgency of guitar-driven alternative rock with the mechanized pulse of industrial and techno?
posted by anazgnos at 11:35 AM on March 24, 2008



Learning isn't always fun. It's hard work. No, not always. But it's more likely to succeed when it is.
posted by MrMerlot at 3:38 AM on March 25, 2008


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