Tag Archives: Purpose of Education

How to Build A Fictional Education System

Few things say as much to me about a culture as its education system. What a society values, it teaches to its young, and that means its values are at the core of any system designed to teach and enculturate children.

Education is a big issue right now. People are drowning in student debt, but many of them are unable to get jobs in the fields that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire qualifications in.  We’re wrestling with questions about what education is for, what constitutes a good one, and how much it should cost.  Eventually, questions like that will (or should) filter into our speculative fiction.

There are lots of middle grade and YA books where schools function as a setting element.  Harry Potter, Vampire Academy, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid come to mind. In those stories, if education is relevant at all, it’s a catalyst for adventure or an obstacle that the characters have to deal with while trying to get what they want.  So the education systems are familiar: residential English school, American-style public school. They’re a backdrop, or a motif, not a problem in themselves.

Adult lit doesn’t spend much time on education at all, unless we’re dealing with some kind of magical initiation and training. In those cases, again, the method and problems associated with the educational system are usually not discussed beyond the protagonist whining or complaining about the hardass mentor. I’m betting we’ll see a shift in the next 10 to 15 years because more and more people are returning to school later in life, and we have increasing numbers of college grads who can’t get the jobs they want.

Check out The Foxes of Synn by Rose B. Fischer

I’m also betting on this because, in the past five years, I’ve had two long-term, large-scale spec fic projects up-end themselves and decide that they were suddenly going to start making a HUGE DEAL about how the education systems in their societies are broken, holding people back, and need to change.  Well, I’m not a political writer, and I’m not a psychic, but I do pay attention to social movements, and I listen to what is important to people.  I didn’t plan to write about education, but I figure if both of my story worlds have decided that education needs to be written about, I’m gonna go with it.

So, when I realized this was happening in my work, I took a step back and started asking myself some hard questions. What is the purpose of education? David’s tackled that here in a Feminist Friday Post and here in an analysis of education in Naruto. What does the ideal education system look like? Who should have access to education, and who should pay for it? Is education really the social equalizer? The more questions I asked, the more I didn’t have good answers – and I still don’t, but that’s okay with me because I never want to preach to my audience.  I want to pose questions and let my readers make up their own minds.

I decided to get more purposeful about the education systems in my universes, though, and to that end, I came up with a list of “ideal education system criteria.”

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Interview of Luther Siler: Author, Teacher, Geek

Our blogging friend Luther Siler of infinitefreetime.com has a book that came out this week, Searching for Malumba. It’s about Education, a topic we’re passionate about. Links below to get you to the book and many other writings by Luther!

CG: Hi Luther, you’re a new name here on Comparative Geeks. How about a quick bio for those new to you. You know… Kind of a station identification, if you will.
L: I’m a teacher and independent author who has spent most of my life bouncing around between Indiana and Chicago.  I’m married to a lovely and patient woman and have a four-year-old son.  I spend most of my time online at my blog,www.infinitefreetime.com, and on Twitter at @nfinitefreetime.  I have at least three books out right now depending on when you run this interview, since the fourth, a book about teaching called SEARCHING FOR MALUMBA: WHY TEACHING IS TERRIBLE… AND WHY WE DO IT ANYWAY comes out on October 27th.
One of these days, I hope to own an ocelot.
Snowpiercer CoverCG: So one of the most interesting posts I’ve read on infinitefreetime.com is your Snowpiercer review… A movie you did not like. You made me go back and read my own review… And how I talked about it being such a departure from the comic. Hmmm, not really a question there… tell me a blog post that you really liked!
L: Aaugh, that Snowpiercer review.  It’s the #1 Google result if you search for “Snowpiercer stupid.”  A bit of perspective: my site right now has just under 200,000 pageviews over its entire lifetime.  The Snowpiercer review is responsible for sixteen thousand of them.  My wife keeps telling me I should watch the movie again, liveblog why it’s stupid minute by minute, and then put the entire thing on Amazon for $2.99.  It would outsell all of my other books by a ridiculous margin, I think.
As far as a blog post I really liked?  Hmm.  There is a story of attempting to be a good parent called MOAR BUTTZ that I think is pretty good.  My wife nearly laughed herself into a heart attack the first time she read it.  It’s here.
CG: OH. MY. GOD. Everyone should follow that link.
It sounds like you’ve turned some of your blogging and other non-fiction writing into Searching for Malumba. Tell us a little about what that process has been like.
Searching for MalumbaL: I’ve known the title of my book about teaching was going to be called SEARCHING FOR MALUMBA (available here, in print and digitally!) for almost as long as I’ve had a teaching career, and I started in 2000.  Most of the material in the book has been previously published somewhere, but the majority of it isn’t available any longer and you would have to have been reading me for a really, really long time, I think, to feel like you weren’t getting your money’s worth. It’s basically a Best of Luther Siler on Teaching; if you read my blog and you’ve enjoyed my talking about my job, I think you’ll like MALUMBA quite a lot.
The process itself involved learning to work with a new program– this was my first book written in Scrivener– and an awful lot of reading and thinking about my career.  I’m so ADORABLE in those early essays.  I almost left them out, but every teacher is adorable during their first year or two.
CG: I haven’t spent too much time with it, but I do really like the IDEA of Scrivener.
Malumba is about education, and so I have to ask, a topic we’ve hit on a few times here on the blog… what do you think is the Purpose of Education?
L: That’s a difficult question for me to answer, honestly; it’s like asking what the purpose of light or air or gravity is: I dunno that it has a purpose, per se, but I know I can’t live without it.  I’m one of those people who is almost never satisfied with how much I know about anything, and one of my lifelong difficulties with my job is a serious inability to connect with kids who don’t want to know things.  I don’t care what it is.  I want to know more about it than I do now.  Education is the background radiation of my entire life.
CG: I now have a burning desire to write a series of posts about the Purpose of Air/Gravity.
Of course, education isn’t the only thing you blog about… read any good comics lately?
L: Man, I’ve read almost nothing BUT good comics lately.  The Iron Man relaunch is really promising.  Gail Simone’s CLEAN ROOM just started and it’s great.  DOCTOR STRANGE.  THOR.  KARNAK.  MS. MARVEL. SAGA.  COPPERHEAD.  All of the comics– yes, ALL of them– in the recent STAR WARS relaunch have been great.  So long as you don’t touch DC, we’re in the midst of quite a renaissance right now.  There’s more good stuff out there than I can read.
(There have been times where I’ve been quite the DC fan.  Right now nothing they’re doing appeals to me.  I keep trying, though.)
CG: Yeah, I had almost gotten into the New 52 when they ended it.
Comics related question: if you could have any one superpower, what would it be?
I’d go for one of the super-scientists, Tony Stark or Batman or Reed Richards or Hank Pym without the domestic violence.  The ability to make stuff to solve whatever other superpower needs I happen to have seems promising.
CG: So basically, you want to be Forge. Sounds good!
When you’re not writing non-fiction, I hear you write fiction. I think it’s my Amazon account telling me that, since I’ve picked up a couple of your books (as yet unread, sorry…). You’ve got short stories and novels both – which do you find easier to write?
The Benevolence ArchivesL: Short stories are easier, but novels are a lot more fun.  My BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES series is a novella with six short stories and a full-length novel, and the next project in that series will be another (novel-length) short story collection.  My other series, which is going to be called THE JOHANNES CYCLE as soon as the second book is out, is full-length novels, the first of which is called SKYLIGHTS.  That said, what I’m working on this week is two short stories.  So what the heck do I know?  🙂
CG: I hear you know something about promoting Mars exploration stories around the time Mars exploration movies come out…
You have self-published your work. Any advice for others looking at self-publishing – or finding a publisher?
L: I have an article here I keep pointing people toward, about how to publish your book.
My problem in life is that I have very little patience, and my computer skills are versatile enough that I’m not especially terrified by any of the technical demands that come with self-publishing.  Since I have no patience, the thought of slaving over query letters so that I can wait six months to be told no and then start all over again is not something I’m super interested in.  As of this precise second, my books have been downloaded or purchased 2,244 times since May of 2014.  There are writers who are not that successful and there are writers who are ENORMOUSLY more successful than that.  But not a single one of those books would be out there had I not decided to self-publish.  Sooner or later, someone with some pull will read something I’ve written, and if it’s good enough, that’s the day my life is gonna change.  I’m just gonna keep hustling until that happens rather than waiting to get lucky in a slush pile somewhere.
As far as advice?  Write every day.  And if you decide to write a book, start writing it and DO NOT STOP until it is good.  That’s how you write a book: you start, and you don’t stop until it’s good.  It sounds snide, but it’s as close to the truth as I’ve been able to get.
SkylightsCG: You have to choose, favorite thing you’ve published. Go!
L: It’s actually not that hard of a choice:  SKYLIGHTS, the first book of the Johannes cycle.  SEARCHING FOR MALUMBA is really close, though.  I love THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES a lot, but it’s not as personal as either of the other books.
CG: And finally, have I talked you into reading the Snowpiercer comic yet?…
L: I’ll try anything once.
CG: How about Hickman’s Avengers?
L: One of these days, man, I’m gonna have some extra money in my pocket at the comic shop and come home with a ton of Hickman trade paperbacks.  (Sidenote: I just bought the TPB of Warren Ellis’ INJECTION, a series I’d bought on inertia without any real idea what was going on, and it was SO MUCH BETTER in trade form.)  For my money, the best Avengers story ever told was the “Under Siege” arc Roger Stern wrote, in issues 270-276.
Thanks so much for the interview, David and Holly!  I really appreciate it!

And thanks to Luther for the interview! Hopefully you’re not even here reading this now… you’re off perusing Luther’s books and blog – or maybe some of his stuff on Sourcerer! In closing: #LutherForHugos!

A Little Something for International Women’s Day, March 8th

Maybe you’ve been following them, maybe you’ve been a part of the conversation. Maybe you just remember one of our most popular posts here and wondered what it was about. Well, last year’s Feminist Friday posts from here and other blogs have been published in an e-book!

The cover! It's a real thing!

The cover! It’s a real thing!

You can find the book, available March 8, on Amazon for $0.99. They wouldn’t let us run it for free, so we’ve decided that any proceeds will go to a charity to be determined. There is also a free version available on Smashwords.

As an e-book, all of the links are active, so you can go from pages in the book to the original blog posts, where you can still like, comment, share – all the good stuff. If you have not engaged with these posts before, be prepared! Most of them had well over 50 comments, some incredibly long and thoughtful. Some probably worthy of being their own blog posts…

The original post I wrote for it was about the Purpose of Education, which has been spruced up to include data from the poll at the end! Turning towards education for a bit made sense, as it was a topic which kept coming up in the comments of previous posts. I also added a lot of an international perspective, by referencing the documentary Girl Rising quite a bit!

We’ve written about Education a few other times here on the blog, here’s a few other good ones to take a look at:

Also, we have a whole category here on Comparative Geeks about Feminism, take a look:

One last thing. The cover was the design work of one Jennifer Miller, please check her out and if you need graphic design work, look her up for sure! And a big thank you to Natacha Guyot of Science Fiction, Transmedia & Fandom for the editing and organizing work!

The Purpose of Education 2 – Education in Naruto

Lately we have been watching a lot of Naruto Shippuden. This is the anime series that starts three years after the events of Naruto. Quick plot: they’re ninjas, in a society of ninjas, and they go on ninja missions and do ninja training and you can never expect what they’re going to pull off because they’re NINJAS.

It’s great.

So a while back I wrote a post about the Purpose of Education, and about what it does for the student, what it means for their life. And about why we might teach. Which also tied in, for me, to a large set of posts I wrote about how Science Fiction is important which, if I may, I will sum up in this quote from Among Others, which I am reading right now:

“One of the things I’ve always liked about science fiction is the way it makes you think about things, and look at things from angles you’d never have thought about before.”

-Jo Walton, Among Others

Okay, back to Naruto. In watching the show – especially in season 3 – there’s a lot of talk about learning, about studying Ninjutsu (ninja arts) and studying with a master. A lot about knowledge as power, which, when you’re throwing around crazy ninja powers, is a literal sort of adaptation of that concept. So let me talk through what I observed in the show, and what it tells us about the Purpose of Education!

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Reading Makes Us Better People?

I feel like I’ve kind of said this before. In talking about the purpose of education. In defining and defending genres like science fiction and fantasy from discrimination. But today my dad sent around an article that does a better job than I have in explaining just how much reading can affect you, can change you – for the better.

Readers, like voicemail leavers and card writers, are now a dying breed, their numbers decreasing with every GIF list and online tabloid.

The worst part about this looming extinction is that readers are proven to be nicer and smarter than the average human, and maybe the only people worth falling in love with on this shallow hell on earth…

Because reading is something that molds you and adds to your character. Each triumph, lesson and pivotal moment of the protagonist becomes your own.

Well okay then! You can read the whole article here: http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/date-reader-readers-best-people-fall-love-scientifically-proven/662017/

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