I don’t know if I can find the proper words to describe what’s happened to education, but every single day the system gets a little worse. The bureaucrats have transposed manufacturing principles onto instruction, expecting to increase productivity by implementing lean production measures. But teaching a human being how to read, write, calculate, and think is not the same process as bolting together two components. Everyone learns a little differently, and skilled teachers adapt their methods to individuals. Today, the bureaucrats want a one-size-fits-all homogeneous model that only skims rote memory. It cannot and will not produce practical application of skills.
For most of us who teach, morale has never been lower. We are grossly overworked, grossly underpaid, and grossly frustrated by political forces that on one hand blame us for the failures of their system while on the other accuse us of causing economic turmoil with our luxurious pay and benefits. Most of us are quite literally at our breaking points, emotionally and financially. We have been placed in an impossible situation, asked to do an impossible job, stripped of nearly all authority, and then blamed for poor student performance. Meanwhile, we’re competing for the students’ attention with Twitter and YouTube. It’s nearly impossible to pry them away from their smartphones and laptops, but then, we’re blamed for not “engaging” them properly.
Our only hope for fixing this situation is for enough people to come forward and demand change. We need lower student-teacher ratios, higher pay, less standardized testing, more focus on application, less bureaucracy, and more autonomy in the classroom. We have to shift accountability back onto the students themselves. We have to halt this trend towards homogeneous curriculum and focus on personalized instruction that fosters skills application. We have to find some way to teach the next generation that not everything is supposed to be entertaining, and instead of catering to their deficits by adding flashing lights and buzzers to curriculum, teach them how to focus for more than thirty seconds. I say the next generation because I’m afraid this one is already damaged beyond repair.
Please, heed my warning: This country is about to lose an entire generation of educators. Once we are gone, whether it be from burnout, breakdown, or disgust, a wealth of knowledge will be lost from the system. Once we are gone, I fear what the system will become and what it will produce. Once thing I see for certain, we as a country are losing our ability to compete with other developed nations. We are falling woefully behind and more closely resemble a developing or third world country than the greatest nation on the planet.
This was a fun fantasy story that focused mostly on dwarves, and specifically on Roskin. He is on a year long adventure in the outside world prior to taking on his role as the next ruler of the Kiredurk nation. He has decided to set himself a goal to obtain a lost dwarven piece of art called the brotherhood of dwarves, thinking it will bring him recognition and adventure. But the journey isn’t easy, and he encounters many setbacks along the way.
While I enjoyed the premise of the story, I found the execution a little rough in the beginning. The story starts with an encyclopedia-like description of dwarves, and the various dwarf nations and histories. It then had an overview of Roskin and his life and only really became a true story after Roskin left his home. Prior to that, and even at points after, it felt like I was being told about the story instead of experiencing it first hand.
I found the story picked up the further into it I got, especially the ending scenes. I felt those scenes and wished the rest of the book had the same level of reader involvement and interaction.
While Roskin was the main character, I felt that Crushaw was a much stronger, well-developed character. He stood out as flawed and realistic, and his story was quite touching. By comparison, Roskin felt wishy-washy and under developed. When I look back over the descriptions from the beginning of the story to his actions at the end, it doesn’t feel like the same character, and not just in a growth sort of way, it’s more a fundmental change.
Overall, this was a quick pure fantasy, quest-style story that is worth reading, once you get past the info dump in the beginning. I would guess that based on the quality of the story in the later part of the book that subsequent volumes in the series will be better executed than this one, and will make reading this one worth it.
To see the original review, please visit:
Brotherhood is about Roskin, a prince and heir to the throne but his mother was his father’s first wife, a wild elf making Roskin heir, but different than everyone else. He has always felt his difference and when he is told he gets a year of travel as a poor shlub before ruling, he decides to start a fairly uninformed, half-formulated quest to retrieve a statue called the Brotherhood of Dwarves from a fortified castle in a neighboring kingdom. His plan is to convince an aged, retired general to help him.
As soon as Roskin no longer has his insignia he is pushed around, beaten and treated like the lowest of the low, before even leaving his own kingdom! This is one young dwarf who has a long road of growing and understanding of the world to gather. Roskin is completely niaive and does ridiculously dangerous things, both brave and foolish and kind of falls into his quest, with good intentions, but truly no clue.
I had a bit of a hard time adjusting to the book, I am not one who typically goes in for this type of fantasy, dwarves and war and those long crazy names you only find in this stuff, but it grew on me, just like Roskin. He was one of those teenaged characters who thinks they know what is going on but don’t, that kind of irritate you until eventually they realize what a bone-head they have been, have some angst and then grow up. Roskin really grew into himself and began to “get it” after a bit. He has to go through some trials and make a few friends. But he does finally grow and develop. Yay!
I really was enjoying things a lot as the intensity of the finale hit and folks pulled themselves together to do what needed doing. Roskin’s quest is by no means over at the end of this book, though it might have changed…but I am going to have to read book 2 to really find out where he is going. And luckily I have it!! :) It started as a 3 star book for me, but ended as a 4 star, so I guess I give it 3.5+ stars carved in the handle of a sword.
Here is the link to the review on Goodreads:
In 1801, at his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson faced a divided nation. The election had been highly contentious, the sides torn between those who wished to dissolve the union and those who wished to preserve it. After Jefferson won the election, thus saving the federal government, there were many who wished to run his opponents out of the country or in some way punish them for their opposition. In his address, Jefferson spoke these words:
“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions….If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
This is the guiding philosophy of my life, but unfortunately, today, too many Americans seem to have forgotten these principles of a democratic republic. Yes, the majority rules, but the minority deserves equal respect and protection under the law. Anything less is tyranny and oppression. Today, the words of Jefferson need to be heard and heeded more than ever. Even the most misguided fool deserves a voice in this country as long as “reason is left free to combat” them, but now as much as ever, we need to eradicate political intolerance from both ends of the spectrum and re-cultivate a culture of common ground. If the polar extremes continue to have their way, our democratic republic will die, and we will find ourselves under the yolk of a police state enforcing one side’s unbending rules.
Right now, the greatest threat to our nation is that the extremes are the voices most being heard. Those of us who still believe in the system set forth by our founders, those of us who still believe in true liberty, not a fascist facade prescribed by political allegiance, need to speak up. We must make our voices heard above the din of the extremists. Those of us who want to live in a country where we are free to worship as we see fit, speak our minds without fear of imprisonment, and live our lives as we best see fit must come together and demand that our elected officials and mass media stop promoting only the extremes. I still believe there is time to save our country, but we have to raise our voices now. We have to stop bickering over every divisive issue and demand elected officials who live up to Jefferson’s vision of following the rule of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. We have to shine the light of reason on the irrational. If you agree, make your voice heard.
Here’s the crux of our problem illustrated by two specific examples. The other day, while listening to the radio, I caught a few moments of a debate over gun control. It was the typical back and forth liberal versus conservative banter, but towards the end of the segment, the conservative challenged the liberal to talk to NRA members, not the executives mind you, but everyday people. Her response, and I’m paraphrasing, was something to the effect that she had nothing to say to those people. The second example comes from the gay marriage debate. On Facebook, two different religious conservative friends of mine posted similar rants about having other people’s sins forced upon them. In both of these examples, there is a common thread that shuts down dialogue and allows no room for discussion.
In the first example, the liberal woman refuses to talk to her opponents. In her mind, her position is perfect and flawless, with no need for improvement or refinement. The arrogance of this stance is staggering. When someone refuses to listen to someone else, that person is adopting an air of superiority, as if their opponents cannot possibly be intelligent enough to add anything to the discussion. Now, I can almost justify this stance if the challenge had been to converse with an executive from the NRA, someone with a profit-driven agenda to promote, but this challenge was specifically to talk to ordinary people, to listen to their stories, to hear their perspectives. In her own way, she dehumanizes conservatives, and her arrogance is what makes people view liberals as out-of-touch elitists.
For the second example, we have the opposite side of the same coin. Both of the religious people are operating from the mindset that their beliefs are the only ones with validity. Anyone who doesn’t believe their version of the scripture is simply wrong. Much like their liberal counterpart, they refuse to accept that their view might be flawed. Never mind that there are many, many examples of laws proclaimed by their bible that are now considered archaic and absurd. We no longer force rapists to marry their victims for one example. These people cannot see the holes in their own logic that as humanity’s understanding of science and biology and psychology has improved, we’ve let go of the obviously ridiculous “rules” proscribed in the Bronze Age. Even though they more than likely enjoy delicious, tasty bacon, to them the Holy Bible is the immutable law of God, except the passages they conveniently choose to ignore. Just like their liberal counterpart, they dehumanize homosexuals with inflammatory analogies to bestiality, and as long as they hold this stance, there can be no discussion with them.
Until we can get both of these extremes to budge off of their arrogance, we cannot find peaceful resolution to our differences. Until we can get these extremes to stop dehumanizing their counterparts, we cannot find common ground. The only way we can ever hope to heal this widening chasm is by listening to each other, but as illustrated, the extremes have no interest in listening. In their minds, their stance is perfect and beyond reproach, and I for one have no idea how to breach this irrational gulf.
I know I’ll catch a lot of grief for this post, but here’s one potential solution to virtually all of our political divisiveness. Let’s turn the decision making on most, if not all, of these issues back to the states. If each state has the opportunity to decide for itself, based on the will of the majority, how to settle these issues, then we can find out in real-time and through real experimentation which paths work best. Through the free market, the states that enact the laws which best serve the will of the people will thrive, and the others will struggle. If people don’t agree with the path of their state, they have the freedom to move to one that best suits their world view.
For example, if New York wants tougher gun control laws, let them pass those statutes. If Texas wants every single citizen armed, so be it. Within a few years, we’ll know which one works best. Crime in each state will reflect the wisdom of their laws. If gun control advocates are correct, New York will become a safer place, while Texas will resemble a Mad Max movie. If gun rights advocates are correct, Texas will in fact have less gun violence. Either way, we’ll know definitively.
If the citizens of Tennessee oppose gay marriage but the people of Massachusetts want it, then each state, by the majority of its citizens, can make that choice. Homosexual couples have the freedom and the right to leave Tennessee for a state that accepts their lifestyle. Likewise, people who oppose homosexuality for religious reasons can move to states that support their religious doctrines. Sure, people in Massachusetts may view people in Tennessee as backwards barbarians, and people in Tennessee may view Massachusetts as a godless land of heathens, but that wouldn’t be much different from how each views the other already. The difference is that citizens of neither state will feel as if the other is imposing its will on them.
If Kansas and Arkansas want to ban the teaching of science and evolution from their schools, let them. Let’s see how long their economies can survive without scientific thought. We will learn rather quickly, based on the free market, which world view has more validity. Companies and businesses can locate to each state based on the quality of education within its borders, and if Chik-Fil-A wants to leave states that ban religious doctrine from schools, and Starbucks wants to leave states that teach creationism, so be it. The people within each individual state can thrive according to their own beliefs.
Healthcare can become a state by state issue. Instead of sending money to the federal government, states can either create universal healthcare for its citizens or continue with our current system, based on the will of its people. We will learn very quickly which model works best. We can test in real time whether or not freeing individuals and businesses from profit driven insurance pushes up or down healthcare costs. We can test in real time whether or not universal healthcare can be sustainable. The states that thrive can become models for those that struggle.
We can apply this principle to virtually any issue, and by observing in practice which paths work and which don’t, develop long-term courses of action that best serve the country as a whole. We can simplify the tax code by returning the vast majority of tax revenue to each state. We can appease all members of the political spectrum by creating real-life laboratories for their political beliefs, and if they prosper, they can crow about it. If they struggle, they can adapt or perish. Whatever the case, individuals will no longer feel as if the beliefs of others are being forced upon them. If they don’t like the direction of their individual state, they can move somewhere else. I don’t expect this solution to ever be taken seriously or enacted, for starters because it would dismantle the federal juggernaut, but also because it makes rational sense. However, I believe it could solve a lot of our problems within a generation or two.
I feel a cultural movement brewing. For a few decades now, all of our music, books, and movies have been controlled by corporations more concerned with marketing and bottom-line profits than quality. Much of my generation was locked out, not because we didn’t have the talent but because we didn’t fit into tidy marketing pigeonholes, and we languished for years, wondering if we’d ever get our shot. Meanwhile, a new generation moved onto the scene, and many of us felt as if our moment had passed. All our study, all our hours of practice, all of our passion, all of our dreams seemed wasted. Some grew bitter and drifted away. Some became consumed by demons and succumbed to addictions. Some trudged onward. Some of us did all of the above.
But something amazing happened with the burgeoning of the internet and computers. Suddenly, we no longer needed New York and LA to pursue our dreams. Suddenly, the corporations could no longer lock us out because as long as we had internet access we had a potential audience of millions, so many of us started our own labels, presses, and production companies. Sure, at first we struggled. As we wobbled on unsure legs, our early efforts might have seemed like bad parodies, but we learned from our mistakes and pressed onward. We polished our chops, grew our networks, and expanded our base. We survived our early stumbles and the Great Recession. We banded together. On our own, we created new channels to reach more people and studied online marketing trends. We learned and grew and shared information and encouraged each other. Most of all, we survived.
Today, the movement of independents gathers momentum every day. We’ve gained market share and established our reputations as serious artists in our given fields. Through efforts of arduous determination, we’ve moved the mountain enough to be noticed by major media outlets as a legitimate force. The amazing thing about this movement is that most of us are over the age of 35, and we’ve done this while juggling jobs and families and lives. We’ve endured sacrifices corporate executives can never fathom, just to pursue our passion, just to chase our dream, and while we may not be there yet, we’re making great strides to that destination.
The cultural movement of the independents is upon us, and we’re here for the long-haul.