Archive for computer games

Tales of Warcraft – Chapter 4

Meghan Here is the fourth installment in Meghan's original story set in the Warcraft world. If you haven't read or don't remember the story so far, be sure to check out Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. The story is told from the point of view of Salith, a female half-elf, half-troll rogue.  Chapter 4 Traveling They were back on the road. Varawien had decided to join them on

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Tales of Warcraft – Chapter 3

Those of you who have been following Meghan's original story set in the Warcraft world are long overdue for the third installment. If you haven't read or don't remember the story so far, be sure to check out Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.  If you'd like to re-read the first chapter, click on the link above, then enjoy Chapter 3, below. The story is told from the point of view of Salith, a female

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Aidan’s New Blog

Aidan, who is 12 and has attended Clearwater for 6 years, recently started a blog called The Rest of the Iceberg. He describes the focus of the blog this way: "Whatever happened to the rest of the iceberg? Underneath the tip of it you'll find bite-sized short stories, rambling rants, inner thoughts and strange musings." He'd thought about starting a blog for a little while. One night

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Tales of Warcraft, Chapter 2

Last month the first chapter of Meghan's original story set in the Warcraft world appeared on this blog. She has written five chapters so far. If you'd like to re-read the first chapter, click on the link above, then enjoy Chapter 2, below. The story is told from the point of view of Salith, a female half-elf, half-troll rogue.

Tales of Warcraft
Chapter 2
A Terrible Reunion

Salith’s consciousness returned only when she was shoved roughly up against a stone wall and was surprised to find her hood intact and upon her head. “And so we meet again, my slippery little friend!” said a cold voice from above her. Salith opened her eyes. Before her were the shin-high boots of a human she had met only once before and she did not plan on repeating the encounter, though she felt this would be entirely different.

Salith discovered there were at least two more armored humans behind her; one of them took hold of her tattered hood and ripped it off her cloak entirely, revealing red-orange dreadlocks that fell just past her shoulders and a face much less like what the human’s thought she was. Her face was bluish with a tint of lavender and her eyes were glowing orbs, a ghostly ivory.


The human before her reached out a gloved hand and took hold of her dreadlocks. Not wishing to have her hair pulled out, Salith was forced to look up into the face of the human she had dreaded ever meeting again.
“Where be dah true king!?” she demanded, and the man tightened his grip on her dreadlocks.
“I am the king, Half-breed!”
Salith bared her yellowish teeth. “You are no king!”

Before she knew what was happening, the man had let go of her dreadlocks and waved his hand to the man to her left, who took hold of her arm and wrenched. Salith screamed and fell to the floor; she lay face down, her arm sticking out at a weird angle. She bit her lip so hard to keep from whimpering it bled.

The man who claimed to be king knelt down and took hold of her dreadlocks once more, pulling her head up so that she had to look him in the face. “I am the rightful king. Question my rule again and the pain will be much, much worse” he whispered. His voice was cold as ice and his eyes burned with blue flame. Salith bared her teeth, but didn’t have the strength to retaliate, nor did she want more pain; she was almost overwhelmed by it already. “Remember Cerader*,” was the last thing Salith heard.

Thump thump thump. What was that sound? She didn’t care. Why was the ground swaying? She didn’t know. Salith opened her eyes to find a metal roof above her head and bars all around and discovered the sound was her heartbeat. Sitting up slowly she looked around. She was in a hanging cage attached to the side of the main castle of the city of Dunatar. Below was a large courtyard filled with bustling villagers. A fountain sat in the middle of the busy courtyard, the water sparkling with coins that had been tossed in.

A group of young villagers stood beneath her cage, glaring up at her and occasionally throwing small rocks up at her.
“Demonspawn!” one of them called, a tall man clad in leather garments.
“Half-breed!” called another, a shorter man in violet robes.
“Lay off guys!” cried a young women wearing a dress with a white top and blue bottom. reaching out to put a hand on the leather-clad man’s shoulder.
He turned and pushed her roughly aside. “C’mon, let’s leave it to rot.”

Salith wasn’t stung at all by any of the insults, for all of them she had heard many a time before. Instead she turned her attention to the rising sun which turned the clouds pink and showered the surrounding forest with golden rays of light. Salith sighed, rubbing her broken arm gingerly. "What does Cerader want with me?" she wondered, shuddering at his name. It seemed as if it had been burned into her memory. Her mind whirled and her arm throbbed. "If I survive this, it’ll be a miracle," Salith thought miserably. She lay on her back and stared up at the roof of her prison and soon blackness consumed her.

*Pronunciation guide: Cerader (Seer-a-dar)

End of post.

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Tales of Warcraft


Meghan, who is 12 years old, started attending Clearwater seven years ago. In a recent interview, Meghan said, “My favorite, favorite thing about Clearwater is doing whatever you want, whenever you want.” This year, she is learning to play the guitar with the expert assitance of staff member and musician, Matt Garrity. She loves the grounds and the creek, because there are places to mull things over. She is also in love with fantasy and made-up worlds and at Clearwater is able to explore the never-ending facets of that passion, including creating unique experiences and stories based on it. In recent years she has read Warriors, a children's book series that focuses on four clans of wild cats in their forest homes and the Harry Potter book series, among others.

She and her friends have spent a lot of time at school role playing in worlds they create based on fantasy books and World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). (Commonly referred to as WoW, the game has over 12 million subscribers around the globe making it the world's most-subscribed online game. The fantasy world of WoW is vast and owes much of its inspiration to the fantasy worlds of J.R.R. Tolkein.)

Another of Meghan's favorite activities is writing. She keeps a running file of ideas to develop into stories, and has written five chapters of a story based on WoW. The idea came to her when she was between waking and sleeping. She made up an area in the Warcraft world called Emerald Forest.


Her story starts with a character that is half elf, half troll--a rogue.

She is excited to publish her story, as it exists so far, in installments on this blog. The first chapter and installment begins below.

[One of the challenges for a new writer is learning how to use punctuation to make a story more clear to the reader. Meghan and I worked on punctuation edits to the story. She wrote the entire text with no editing from anyone but herself. Meghan requested that the version of her story with her original punctuation be included for those who want to experience it as she did, flowing out unedited. You will find that version below the punctuation-edited version.]

Tales of Warcraft
Chapter 1
Assassination and Capture


It was dusk. Clouds floated lazily across the red-orange sky and the Horde encampment Ren'kal stood menacing, framed by the flaming sunset. A hunched figure, draped in a dusty brown cloak, stood at the entrance to the encampment and watched as a guard paced up and down in front of the gates. Long bluish-green ears poked out of the top of the creature's hood and tusks the color of sand protruded from under it. It took a moment, but the guard paused in his pacing and looked up, noticing the strange figure watching him. The guard tramped up to the strange figure. The guard was a large, slightly hunch-backed creature with emerald skin and glaring hazel eyes. His ears were pointed; he also had tusks, though not even half the size of the ones of the strange trespasser.


"What is your business here?" the guard demanded, pointing his spear at the throat of the stranger.
"I be here tah speak tah Kesh," said the stranger.
The guard grunted. "And what makes you think you can just waltz right into Ren'kal and talk to Kesh, eh?"

Swift as the wind, the stranger had straightened up and put a dagger to the guard's throat.
"Take me tah Kesh, now," the stranger growled.
The guard froze. "You wouldn't!"
The trespasser laughed. "Oh, trust meh, I would."
The guard's breathing quickened. "O-okay....this way."


The stranger withdrew the dagger from the guard's throat and melted back into the shadows. The guard ventured forward into the camp, made his way towards the largest building in the encampment and went inside. He climbed a flight of stairs before coming to a door.

"Open it," hissed the trespasser from the shadows, surprising the guard, who knocked. Hearing a voice call, "Come," the trespasser entered. It was a high-ceilinged room with a large tapestry along one wall showing The Sundering of the World. As the door shut with a thud, a voice greeted the stranger.

"Lok'tar, Salith*."
Salith let her cloak fall from her shoulders as she drew out her daggers. She walked up to the chair where Kesh sat with his back to her.
"Goodbye, Kesh."

Crash! The walls of the building shook as another Alliance catapult launched a boulder into Ren'kal. . As soon as word of Kesh's death had reached the Alliance--how it had, no one knew--it had immediately ordered an attack on the now leaderless encampment. "Gryphons!" someone screeched as Kesh's assassin fled the now-collapsing building. "Stop right there, Assassin!" It was the guard who had escorted her. Salith laughed, grinning beneath her hood. "What are yeh goin' ter do, orc? Sit on meh?"

The guard charged, spear outstretched. Just as she had done before, Salith swiftly pulled out her daggers, but this time she didn't hesitate. The blades cut into the guard's neck and he fell to the ground. Salith whipped around and raced towards the ruined gates as flaming arrows rained down. She held on tightly to her hood as she raced away from the burning ruins of what once was Ren’kal.

Deep in the Emerald Forest, Salith ran. She ran as fast as her long legs would allow. She could hear the thundering of hooves and knew she was being followed--by who, she didn’t know, nor did she care at the moment. All she wanted to do was get as far away from Ren’kal as possible. The hoof beats got louder and Salith’s heart quickened.


“HALT!”
Salith fell back onto the ground as a great black steed pulled up and reared. Its hooves landed at her feet and the human astride the steed looked down at her, almost mockingly.

“Well well well, what do we have here?”
Another human rode up beside the first, astride a beautiful white mare.
“I believe it’s a Troll, sir,” said the rider, who appeared to be female.
“I know that!” spat the first rider, who Salith guessed was the leader.
More troops surrounded her, this time on foot, and the leader jumped off his horse.
“Wh-“ Salith began, but the human silenced her with a sharp kick in the side.
“Quiet, Troll!” the man spat.

Salith looked up at the human; blood dripped from the corner of her mouth as she grinned up at the human.
“What are you grinning about, beast!?”
Salith spat blood into his face.“I be wonderin’ where yeh got such an ugly face.”
One of the footman spoke. “Umm, Ronik, Sir, the King asked we bring the Half-breed back… alive, Sir.”
The man called Ronik straightened up and glared at the footman.
“I am aware of the King's orders, Skinth! Now you are going to shut your trap and lis-“
Ronik whipped around and stared down at Salith.
“It's laughing!” Skinth cried.

Ronik leapt down and bound the cackling Salith’s hands and legs. Finally he stuffed a cloth into her mouth and tied her to his saddle. Mounting his steed he called three sharp commands to his men and began to ride off. Salith’s head hit the ground and she blacked out.

*Pronunciation note: Sal'-ith


[Meghan's original version without editing]

Chapter 1
Assassination and Capture:

It was dusk. Clouds floated lazily across the red-orange sky and the Horde encampment Ren'kal stood menacing, framed by the flaming sunset. A hunched figure stood at the entrance to the encampment, Draped in a dusty brown cloak, Watching as a guard paced up and down in front of the gates, long bluish-green ears poked out of the top of the creature's hood and tusks the color of sand protruded from under it, it took a moment but the guard paused in his pacing and looked up, noticing the strange figure watching him, the guard tramped up to the strange figure. He was a large, slightly hunch-backed creature with emerald skin and glaring hazel eyes, his ears were pointed, he also had tusks, though not even half the size of the one's of the strange trespasser "What is your business here?" The guard demanded, pointing his spear at the throat of the stranger "I be here tah speak tah Kesh" Said the stranger, the guard grunted "And what makes you think you can just waltz right into Ren'kal and talk to Kesh, Eh?" swift as the wind, the stranger had straightened up and put a dagger to the guards throat "Take me tah Kesh, Now" the stranger growled, The guard froze "You wouldn't!" the trespasser laughed "oh, trust meh, I would" the guard's breathing quickened "o-okay....this way" The stranger withdrew the dagger from the guards throat and melted back into the shadows, the guard ventured forward into the camp, he made his way towards the largest building in the encampment and went inside, he climbed a flight of stairs before coming to a door "Open it" hissed the trespasser from the shadows, surprising the guard, who knocked, hearing a voice call "Come" the trespasser entered. It was a high-ceilinged room with a large tapestry along one wall, showing The Sundering of the World. As the door shut with a thud, a voice greeted the stranger "Lok'tar, Salith" Salith let her cloak fall from her shoulders as she drew out her daggers, She walked up to the chair where Kesh sat with his back to her "Goodbye, Kesh"

Crash! The walls of the building shook as another Alliance catapult launched a boulder into Ren'kal. The Alliance, As soon as word of Kesh's death had reached them- How it had, no one knew -had immediately ordered an attack on the now leaderless encampment "Gryphons!" Someone screeched as Kesh's assassin fled the now-collapsing building "Stop right there, Assassin!" It was the guard who had escorted her, Salith laughed, grinning beneath her hood "What are yeh goin' ter do, orc? Sit on meh?" The guard charged, Spear outstretched, and just as she had done before, Salith swiftly pulled out her daggers, but this time she didn't hesitate, the blades cut into the guards neck and he fell to the ground, Salith whipped around and raced towards the ruined gates as flaming arrows rained down, She held on tightly to her hood as she raced away from the burning ruins of what once was Ren’kal

Deep in the Emerald Forest, Salith ran, She ran as fast as her long legs would allow, She could hear the thundering of hooves and knew she was being followed- by who, she didn’t know, nor did she care at the moment, all she wanted to do was get as far away from Ren’kal as possible, the hoof beats got louder and Salith’s heart quickened “HALT!” Salith fell back onto the ground as a great black steed pulled up and reared, its hooves landed at her feet and the human astride the steed looked down at her, almost mockingly “Well well well, What do we have here?” another human rode up beside the first, astride a beautiful white mare “I believe it’s a Troll, sir” Said the rider, who appeared to be female “I know that!” Spat the first rider, who Salith guessed was the leader, more troops surrounded her, this time on foot and the leader jumped off his horse “Wh-“ Salith began, but the human silenced her with a sharp kick in the side “Quiet, Troll!” the man spat, Salith looked up at the human, blood dripped from the corner of her mouth as she grinned up at the human “What are you grinning about, beast!?” Salith spat blood into his face “I be wonderin’ Where yeh got such an ugly face” one of the footman spoke “umm, Ronik, Sir, The King asked we bring the Half-breed back… alive, Sir” The man called Ronik straightened up and glared at the footman “I am aware of the kings orders, Skinth! Now you are going to shut your trap and lis-“ Ronik whipped around and stared down at Salith “its laughing!” Skinth cried. Ronik leapt down and bound the cackling Salith’s hands and legs, Finally he stuffed a cloth into her mouth and tied her to his saddle. Mounting his steed he called three sharp commands to his men and began to ride off, Salith’s head hit the ground and she blacked out.


End of post.

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Corrupting the Youth

[Note: Bryan volunteers at Clearwater one day a week, and he is the parent of a Clearwater student. I've interspersed photos of Clearwater students and scenes into his post. --Shawna]

(This is cross-posted from my blog Speculum Criticum Traditionis, where I address a lot of philosophical issues. This explains the name-dropping of philosophers here, and why I explain Sudbury education a little more in depth—my original audience did not necessarily have the familiarity.)

So in my day job, I'm a teacher. I work with students, grades k-5, at an after-school program. Sometimes this is more or less glorified daycare. Sometimes it is homework club, or basketball coaching, or any of a dozen or so improvised activities, mainly initiated by the kids I work with. I've worked in the schools, first as an AmeriCorps volunteer, then as a district employee, then at the after-school program, for ten years, and I have a fair idea, not especially nuanced but I think realistic and informed, of some of the realities in an elementary or middle school in my city. I've broken up fights between students as big as or bigger than me, administered tests, tried to help struggling kids catch up, and seen more than one go from non-reader to reader. I've seen things that would make you cringe, and "successes" by some standards that could bring a tear to your eye. Most of the time I find the work exciting, sometimes exhausting, always deeply rewarding. It is certainly the happiest I've ever been at a job.


I do have occasion to talk philosophy to the kids I work with. I stumped a number of them (and myself) with Heidegger's question "What is a Thing?" (the rule was, they couldn't use the word "thing" in the definition), and walked one or two through Cartesian doubt up to the cogito. One time I had four or five laughing a bit too loud at the back of the bus over the Euthyphro, which at least one thought was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. But for the most part, I don't really try out the canonical stuff on them; it's musty and smells of footnotes, and the last thing most kids want after school is more school.


We do, though, talk a fair amount about education itself, and its relationship with freedom, and power. Because I am constantly taking mental notes on how to be a better teacher, I pay a lot of attention to when I hear kids complain or enthuse about something they are doing in school. I listen to their accounts of what makes a teacher "nice" or "mean," fair or unfair; what makes something interesting or engaging for them, or bores them to tears. I get a lot of practical, hands-on tips from these conversations (I once had a ten-year-old boy confide to me, in real big-brother, lemme-tell-you-'bout-us-kids fashion, that "It's okay to be a little mean"); but what I want to focus on here is the more general impression I get of their impression of school. Not all kids are articulate or reflective enough to intentionally paint a picture of this, but every one of them knows very well that they aren't in school because they choose to be. They regard it the way most adults regard work: a necessary evil, the lesser-of-two perhaps, and often the devil they know. They each sense on some level that they are being made to do things, which they would never, ever decide to do themselves. What is heartbreaking to me is the way they internalize the notion that this is somehow a good thing.



Let me be clear; we aren't talking about the them's-the-breaks of life, or the tough-luck unfairness of circumstance, or rolling with the punches and playing the hand that's dealt you. No one likes to have to adjust their life to the realities imposed upon them by happenstance, but ten-year-old children know very well the difference between happenstance and a decision, and they know the difference between a considered decision and an arbitrary one.


Whenever a new activity is announced in my class, the first question I get is always "Is it mandatory?" This is quite striking considering that the answer is almost always "no." The things kids have to do in my class in the course of a year can probably be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Their reaction thus indicates to me that they are so beset by "things to do" [read: things adults want them to do] that at the first sign of another one, they brace themselves.

And yet. Though they know very well the feeling of being put upon, the kids I work with have all more or less accepted that this is for their own good; or at the very least, that it's Just The Way Things Are.


I also volunteer one day a week at The Clearwater School. Clearwater is a Sudbury school; it's run using an "alternative" model of education, based on (and named for) the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. It's a radically student-centered mode of education in which children never. ever. take. classes. unless. they. want. to. There are no grades, and no age divisions (the five-year-olds and the fifteen-year-olds aren't kept rigorously separated or together); above all there are no rules that haven't actually been agreed upon by those who live by them.


These absences (no classes, no grade levels, no transcripts) are the things that stand out in people's minds when Sudbury education is explained to them, but the actual content of the model tends to pass them by. Sudbury education is radically participatory, radically democratic, and radically organic. Far from being little lord-of-the-flies centers where mere anarchy is loosed, Sudbury schools are communities that are run by the students, for the students. There are plenty of rules, but they are neither arbitrarily imposed from on high, nor artificially "decided on," as I've seen far too often in a traditional classroom, by a sham one-time meeting at the beginning of the school year when kids are manipulated into automatically mouthing and "agreeing to" the same rules they've lived with last year and the year before and the year before that. Above all, every student and teacher can vote on every issue affecting the school. This includes buying a new computer, refurbishing the music room, changing the rules about who can go off campus when, or hiring and firing of staff (teachers are re-elected to their posts every year).


The first day I volunteered there, I played a game of four square. I was never a big sports player in my own school days, and now that I'm at least a little more coordinated (and a little less invested in looking cool), I can finally enjoy this staple of the American playground. On the day in question, it took me a while to register that there was something different about the game. I couldn't put my finger on it. I was getting out with about the same frequency; I was playing no better or worse than usual. What was it?

Finally it dawned on me. It had nothing to do with how I was playing; it was that playing was all I was doing. I wasn't the ref.



At the public school where I work, if a dispute breaks out between kids over who is out, the immediate next step is to call my name. Whether or not I'm playing the game, whether or not I even saw the play, whether or not I know the kids involved, it's my job to make the call, as if by virtue of how tall I am. Have an argument? Where's the grown-up? But at this Sudbury school, though there had been a dozen or so close calls and disputes, not one kid had looked at me to resolve anything. Not even when one kid stormed off in anger did anyone so much as look at me as anything but another player. I should add that I knew all these kids already; they weren't unsure about me as a newcomer; it simply had never occurred to them that the adult in the group was the default decision-maker.

No kid asks if they can go to the bathroom. No kid raises their hand before they get a drink of water. The notion that they ought to "wait till the bell" before eating the lunch they brought would be met with incomprehension. Bell? You mean, like Pavlov's dogs?



When adults hear about Sudbury schools, their initial question is likely to be "how do they learn anything?" In fact, it is not difficult to learn the rudiments of any educational competence. It takes approximately 100 hours for a motivated student to learn how to read, for instance; the real issue is waiting patiently for that motivation. (In fact, Sudbury Valley School maintains that in over 30 years no student there has failed to learn to read). What the question really reveals is a fear that the motivation will never arise; that left to themselves, children won't want to learn anything. It'll be too easy to just float. It doesn't matter that this is a surreally counterfactual fear. We've accustomed ourselves to not trust our kids. And they have met our expectations.


When kids first hear about Sudbury, their first reaction tends to be "Whoah." But it's not an unambiguously enthusiastic "whoah." Almost without exception, the public school kids I have talked to about Sudbury education have said, "that sounds really hard." And they're right.

At the school where I volunteer, there have been (among other things) music classes, French classes, cooking classes; kids pursuing Aikido, computer programming, film-making; writing and producing a play; caring for livestock. And yes, reading. Some learning to read; plenty of just plain reading. There are also lots of games. Computer games, board games, team sports, weird improvised invented mash-ups of basketball and softball and soccer, strung-together make-believe role-playing games that are really just long conversations.



What all these activities have in common is that they were all initiated by some student. At some point a child or a teenager approached a staff member and said, "I want to learn French" or "Will you teach me to play drums?" or "We should put on a play."

When the kids I work with say "That sounds really hard," this is what they are talking about. Every step of their education is up to them. It is hard. It is also, in my experience, indisputably more rewarding. Because everything a student formally learns is something they have decided to learn, what they internalize is far more than a degree of mastery over a "subject." They have learned that they can explore and that their exploration has real meaning and concrete results.



And the teachers? Aside from no-brainers like keeping kids safe (a task made markedly simpler by the Sudbury model's real high expectations of student responsibility), the teachers are there to pay attention to kids, to cultivate real relationships with them, a close real attention attuned to the actual interests of each one; to really be open to every request, and to make it happen when it's asked for. This might seem to multiply beyond control what a teacher needs to attend to--instead of teaching 5th grade math to 30 kids, I'm supposed to notice that he's interested in geology, she's into origami, they're asking about the civil rights movement, and that kid off at the other side of the playground is doing acrobatics? But in fact, working as a Sudbury teacher is far easier than teaching in a mainstream school. Aside from the absence of meaningless paperwork, every teaching encounter is fresh because it arises out of the actual relationship one has with the child. And, I ought also to mention, the lack of age distinctions means that children wind up teaching each other.

In contemporary mainstream American culture this model is so deeply counter to the widespread assumptions of our age, that it is not uncommon for people to refuse to consider a Sudbury school a school at all. I would submit that this critique might be better made of the enormous, and financially teetering, holding pens that our taxes fund primarily to free parents to work (so as to pay taxes), and to accustom children to surveillance and boredom.

Boredom. Ah, yes. Kids go through a lot of boredom at Sudbury schools-- particularly students who have come from a more structured school environment. It is constantly mentioned in the literature. The responsibility for one's own education is really just a subset of being responsible for one's life. There are big stretches of time when kids ask themselves what they feel like doing and come up blank. Of course this happens in a public school too, but there the boredom is rarely given much chance to last very long because the bell is always about to ring or the next subject is about to be taught. In fact, the very thing that cuts off boredom also cuts off interest--because you can't invest enough time to really get involved in anything when you've got to cover seven subjects in one day.

At an after-school program like mine, though, kids can get bored. The difference here is otherwise. I hear between two and ten complaints of boredom a week, I'd guess. I hear none at a Sudbury school. Kids get bored, to be sure--but not one of them assumes it is anyone's job but theirs to decide what to do about it.



I know that the picture I have painted could be disputed: too romantic, too Rousseauian, too naive. An excuse for lazy adults to do permissive teaching and spare-the-rod. Spare me. I'm a Platonist, but I'm an empiricist too, and I speak from experience. The kids I work with at the after-school program aren't miserable. They haven't had their love of life stamped out of them, or their creativity. This isn't because I've imported as many Sudbury-esque features into my class as I can adapt, but because the kids come from families who love them to go to a school run by teachers who care, and because, well, they're kids. But little by little I see them accommodating themselves to a world whose guiding axiom--despite the loving parents, despite the caring teachers--is that they do not matter. This axiom is not foisted upon parents or teachers by evil men in a smoke-filled room; it's a function of the model of education as mass-production we've come to accept.


This long post on education is not an interloper or guest on my mostly-philosophy blog. I acknowledged an interest in contentious issues, and I know of little more likely to rile people than strong opinions about how to raise kids. But I'm not really trying to bait anyone here. My interest is philosophical. Philosophy has been about pedagogy from the very beginning, ever since Socrates got his famous double charge of not honoring the gods of the city and of corrupting the youth. From Plato's doctrine of anamnesis to Heidegger's remark that real teaching is letting-learn, education is the very essence of what philosophers do. Dewey remarked that "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." The examined life, I would add. And given the contrast between sitting in rows for six hours a day, and roaming around exploring the world however your fancy strikes you, I can't help but reflect further that, as Alphonso Lingis writes, the unlived life is not worth examining.
--Bryan Carr

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Diploma Presentations

This is The Clearwater School's 13th year, which means that those students who started at age five are now graduating. Fittingly, our graduating class this year is the largest ever. So far, four of six aspiring graduates have completed their diploma presentations. Each event has been so different from the one before--and I know that the next two will also be unique.



This past Saturday, I watched Ian Freeman-Lee present his paper and demonstrate his skill at writing, design, art, and production. He showed us a preview of a video game he is creating in collaboration with another student. As I listened to Ian's informative and entertaining talk, I was impressed by so many things--his timing, his humor, his accomplishment, and his confidence.

Code for Ian's computer game. Prototypes & rules for related card game

(Click on "Read entire post" for more.)


With a now familiar sense of awe, I was also impressed with Claire, Betsy and Gabe in their presentations this year, and the graduation presentations of all the students who have gone before. It is always moving to see children grow into themselves, and graduation from high school is a very moving transition.


Clearwater's graduation presentations provide a very public reflection of the process of growing up--as experienced by one individual. I continue to learn from the graduates how being at Clearwater can be a completely different experience for each student.

Samples of Ian's art portfolio


Each Diploma presentation includes a question and answer section. As I listened to the questions asked on Saturday, I was reminded of how grateful I feel for these presentations, for what they give to me and the rest of our community.



Audience at Ian's diploma presentation


The dialogue between the Clearwater community and the graduates is a wonderful exchange of curiosity, admiration, caring and connection. The questions are often specific to the presenting student, but the issues raised speak to larger philosophical issues about what it means to gain an education and take on the responsibilities of being an adult in our culture.

Those of us who attend the presentations this year get to learn about students' passions that range from hula to visual art to jazz guitar, from poi spinning to computer gaming. We get to hear how students master the academic tasks of reading and writing, become better at communicating, push themselves to be more outgoing or more focused, and most centrally, how they get to deeply know and fully be themselves. It is a highlight of my year to celebrate our students' accomplishments, and thank them for what they have given to us personally and as a community.


Some former, current and future Clearwater graduates


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Sudbury Valley School Mini-Documentary

Here's a great mini-documentary video about Sudbury Valley School. It's a good segue from the recent Chat & Chew, comparing other Sudbury schools with Clearwater. It's also a good introduction to the Sudbury philosophy with some lovely footage of lots of different students going about their day. Check it out and pass this post along to friends and family!




And here is the rest of it.

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