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review 2014-07-14 09:48
Always watching you...
Little Brother - Cory Doctorow

We don't have to vote for a surveillance state, we're entering into one voluntarily.


My hands down favourite thing about Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, is that it was going to be part of a massive national US summer reading program. And then they banned it. It's almost like the principal read the book, recognised himself, and then... whoops. The very fact schools are picking up on this, is intriguing to me. They should get V for Vendetta whilst they are at it. And a few more besides...

 

You can read more about all that here: http://www.writerswrite.com/cory-doctorows-ya-book-little-brother-banned-in-florida-61220141 - and watch a fantastic response from the author himself. This is the reason I picked up this book, and the reason I will be recommending it so thoroughly. Even if this does put me on some sort of 'list'. You're probably on that same list just for reading this review.

 

Welcome to the club.

 

You can download a FREE copy for yourself here: http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/ Yep, gratis. And you know what, Doctorow himself has licensed that to happen, which he explains in great detail in his forward. Once data is out there, its public. I thoroughly appreciate his reminder of this, and progressive attitude working with the market rather than trying to dominate it. If only major publishers would follow suit (and the reason www.onetreefamily.com has gone indie.. check them out).

 

In essence, his story is about data control, and how this can be (is) used to control, predict and manipulate population behaviour. The trouble is, these days we give all this data voluntarily - every purchase, every swipe, every check-in, every FB share. 

In the wake of terrorism (cough), who are we really left feeling most vulnerable to? 

 

LB works on many levels - It will appeal to teens, written in an accessible first person narrative and technology heavy. And then there's the obligatory love interest (but hey, the guy's 17, it's a miracle he keeps on topic as much as he does). But it also works for adults, even those of us over 25 (and Marcus Yarrow, you can definitely trust ME)...

 

This perhaps should be *compulsory* school reading (much as I unschool my children and don't believe in any compulsory/prohibitive curriculum, many of the reasons are outlined well in LB's pages in fact).

 

There's certainly enough nods and references in there to get you googling.. And THINKING. And that's the mark of a good piece of social fiction or commentary - which the author well achieves. 

 

Download it, then buy it and read it again. Then give it to a young person you know, and get them to give it to an old person. The more people critically evaluate the circumstances we find ourselves in, the better chance we have of keeping our eyes open.

 

And if they're watching you, watch them right back... ;-)

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review 2013-03-29 00:00
Born to Learn: Unschooling in the New Paradigm - Kytka Hilmar-Jezek Since we are probably going to be an eclectic homeschooling family, I love reading about unschooling and thinking about how I can incorporate as much of it as possible. I have thoroughly enjoyed titles such as Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith, and Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon.

So, when I received an email to let me know the Kindle edition of Born To Learn: Unschooling in the New Paradigm by Kytka Hilmar-Jezek was available free for one day only, I was excited and replied enthusiastically. I immediately downloaded it and read the entire book the same day (it's very short).

I was disappointed.

The book is not a galley proof; it was published about 7 months ago. Yet it was riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Punctuation issues, incorrect use of its and it's, words missing letters - the sheer number of errors was distracting. The book needs some major editing.

I hope this was unintentional, but there was an underlying tone throughout the book that felt condescending and judgmental. Several times she used phrases such as "I guess you missed that memo" and "newsflash." The book felt more like a diatribe against those who do not adhere to her philosophies. A few examples:
- "When mothers left the home and placed the care of their children into impersonal holding cells such as day-care, the unraveling of family began..."
- "I believe that the inner life of a child in school is one of a wounded and confused being who cannot comprehend why he cries for the fulfillment of his innate expectations go unanswered."
- "The parents are as sick as the schools they force their children to serve their sentences in..."
- "If you put your personal beliefs and values aside and you look at it from a logical standpoint - we could say that school is a form of segregation, against a child's civil rights. Rosa Parks does not have to sit on the back of the bus anymore - but so why should our children have to sit in school?"

I have to admit, I find some of those statements downright offensive. There is no mercy toward those who may have special circumstances which guide their decisions. There is no acknowledgment that some families may make different choices because either 1) their child actually does thrive in a school setting, or 2) their local school is fantastic and does encourage its students to think for themselves, question, and be creative. These possibilities are not mentioned at all, even in passing. It was as if all families are viewed as having the same choices available to them, and all schools viewed as being the same oppressive, evil entity; therefore school is never a valid choice.

There were moments when I agreed with Hilmar-Jezek wholeheartedly. The natural inquisitiveness of children should be encouraged, they do have a powerful, innate desire to learn. Children need to be given opportunities to seek out deeper knowledge when a topic interests them, as well as the space to actually experience it. I loved when she wrote: "We have to understand and accept that learning is so much more than the acquisition of mass quantities of information. Education should strive to awaken the child's natural capabilities, and not educate."

But I wish she had allowed statements like that to stand on their own. It would have been inspiring had she focused on encouraging parents to listen to their instincts and the great aspects of unschooling! Superior attitudes and assumptions about those who make different choices just ruin it. For me, the acrid tone of the book was so strong it tainted all of its good points. I just couldn't get past that, especially since I've read a number of fantastic unschooling books whose authors did not feel the need to resort to gross generalizations about, and negativity toward, others.

If they are able to overlook its editing problems, readers who consider themselves radical unschoolers, extreme adherents of attachment parenting, or who have an intense distrust of the U.S. public school system may enjoy reading Born To Learn: Unschooling in the New Paradigm. Unfortunately, it wasn't for me.
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review 2013-02-21 00:00
Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover Education
Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover Education - Clark Aldrich Some interesting ideas, but really an essay not a book.
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review 2010-11-20 00:00
Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves - Alison McKee I've known I wanted to homeschool since way before my son was born and unschooling seemed like a natural path for me. But I have my days when I worry that I'm making a mistake. He's not "gifted" like most his homeschool friends and he doesn't show a wild thirst for knowledge. In fact, he's deeply suspicious about anyone or anything trying to "teach" him anything! But I'm still plugging away and people like McKee keep me going. While my friends and I can talk about how it's going right now, McKee has come out on the other end, able to talk about what worked, what didn't, and what her kids are doing now. She was a teacher of special needs kids before having her own children and she saw from the inside the ways in which, well-intentioned as it is, the system can fail kids. The book chronicles how she gradually came to her decision to "unschool" and how she went about it. Inspiring and enjoyable read.
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