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Mindless Pursuits

The ‘Unknown War’ in Education and Why We Need to Stop Fighting It 1

Posted on August 16, 2015 by Keith

There’s a war in the realm of education, and it’s a war we see waged constantly in commentary on blogs, news articles, and almost anyplace where education becomes a topic. I’m not talking about those who fight about public vs charter vs private vs home schooling. I’m not talking about specific curriculum approaches, be they Common Core, AP History, or anything in a similar vein. I’m not even talking tuition costs and student loans, though the cost of access to education does have an impact in this war. No – I’m referring to the ‘unknown war’ between those who have pursued a college degree and those who are self-taught. It’s a ‘war’ that does not good and only serves to create division and to belittle those that fall on either side.

There are a couple of logical fallacies at play on both sides. Let’s start with the college degree. I see a great number of individuals with degrees argue that, as a result of that degree, they have greater knowledge and / or more discipline in their fields (and sometimes outside of their fields) than those who do not have degrees. They feel superior to those that don’t have degrees or who didn’t pursue college (for whatever reason) and seem to equate spending money on college credits to be a sign that they worked harder.

Conversely, I have been witness to more than one discussion where a ‘self taught’ individual feels superior to someone who obtained a college degree because they were able to ‘do it on their own’ and not ‘waste’ the time or money. Often, I see these individuals belittling college graduates for spending the money, especially if those college grads are either not working in the fields of their degrees or are having to work a job that society calls ‘unskilled.’ (That’s another completely different discussion, and I’m going to try to avoid politics!)

Let me clue both sides in to the most important factor at play whether you possess a degree or are ‘self-taught’: your willingness to work hard, apply yourself, and to try to do something with the knowledge you gain. Paying for college is no guarantee of hard work. Even getting that degree doesn’t mean you worked hard. All the degree demonstrates is that you were both willing to pay, and to put in at least the minimum effort required to graduate — and that could be as little as showing up occasionally and barely passing tests or papers. On the other side of the coin, being ‘self taught’ doesn’t mean you’ve mastered your topic or field either. Maybe all you’ve done is read one paper and think you now know all you need to claim mastery. There’s no objective criteria at play.

Here’s the reality for both sides: given access to resources of similar scope, breadth and relative understanding, anyone willing to apply themselves can learn and master almost any topic given time. Education and learning come from two sources: your own experiences and what knowledge others have been willing to share. Here’s where the financial aspect DOES come into play: it is easier to access shared knowledge and build experiences when one has the finances to do so. That said, it isn’t necessarily impossible to do so without financial means. It just means more time and effort. I am a big fan of libraries and the Internet for opening up more information to everyone who seeks it. It’s become a good leveling influence, though it still suffers from growing pains and financial access limitations as well.

So here’s my thought: stop waging war over which way is better, or more valid, or more appropriate for your job setting. Start focusing on what makes education the important factor that it is. Those pursuing, or who have degrees: stop belittling those who are ‘self-taught’ for following that path – financial access isn’t available for everyone, and not everyone who could get loans wants to take on the burden of debt purely on the hope of meeting some arbitrary external expectation. While you may have worked hard, studied a lot, and come in at the top or near the top of your class, many who have degrees didn’t work so hard, so don’t look at the degree as the measure of your ability: look at what you actually did yourself to achieve it, and what you are doing now with it what you learned, even if it’s not in your career field.

Those who are ‘self-taught’: stop attempting to use being ‘self taught’ as some sort of superiority measure. Unless you have learned everything solely through experience with no assistance from others, you are not ‘self taught’. I say this as someone who falls under the category of ‘self taught,’ and it’s the reason I put it in quotes. I had the financial access and the opportunity to pursue a degree. I determined after a year that it didn’t suit my learning style, and I wasn’t getting as much from it as I did from self-study, but that was a personal choice. Even if I hadn’t had a choice due to access issues, financial or otherwise, I still wouldn’t be ‘self-taught’ because I took advantage of the knowledge others shared with me – be it through public education, books from the library, television shows, documentaries, and eventually, the Internet. I prefer the term ‘self-directed education’ to ‘self-taught’ for just that reason. My knowledge wasn’t formed in a vacuum where nothing existed but my experiences. I didn’t learn to read by finding books and puzzling them out entirely on my own. I didn’t learn to paint by first discovering how to create pigment and brushes and supports — I learned about them from others, and sought out as many different ways to keep learning and expanding my knowledge as I could. Those who took the college path directed that path for themselves. They still learned through a fundamentally similar process.

So again – let’s stop the ‘unknown war’ that only creates further division, and focus on what makes for similarities: that desire to learn, to expand our limits, and to make use of what we learn. That’s how we move forward and create a better society for all of us. That’s how we begin to tear down some of the walls that separate us from understanding one another. That’s how we take the next step in building a world that supports the needs of our children and their children. That’s why I am a teacher – to pass along what I learned to try to enable others to continue their educations and pursue their dreams. I’ll never judge anyone on their approach to learning, as long as they have one and actively pursue it. If you are reading this blog, or following my YouTube channel, I hope you can look at things the same way, but if not, I ask that you at least give it some thought before belittling another for their education path.

Thank you for reading.

‘The Embrace’ – Creating My First Horror Game 0

Posted on June 09, 2015 by Keith
Screenshot from a test level for 'The Embrace'

Screenshot from a test level for ‘The Embrace’

It’s time to finally create my first horror game. After months of playing with game engines, and one could say a lifetime of story plotting, it’s time to produce something. That something is ‘The Embrace,’ a first person psychological horror exploration. In order not to give too much away, I’ll use this generic and cliched description: You are an individual whose significant other has had something happen to them, and as you try to help them, you find that reality isn’t all you might have thought it was… or is it? The Embrace is based off of a story concept that is part of the larger story universe I’ve been developing since I was a younger teenager. For me, it represents a big step forward in many ways: in getting the story told at last, in exploring some themes that have always been of interest to me, in mastering a game engine, in creating art, and much more. Because of this, I am going to be documenting the process from beginning to end.

To be fair to myself and to anyone following this, I will say that I will not cover every step in fine detail. I want to be very careful not to give away spoilers for the game itself. Having said that, I’ll document as best as I can, knowing that production of the game (and other life stuff) comes before the posting about it! I’m also going to look at creating videos where it makes sense.

While I will be creating a fair amount of game assets, I am also leveraging content created and sold by the larger gaming community for royalty-free usage. Without doing so, I’d have no hope of pulling all of the art together in a timely fashion and it would be too overwhelming! An additional note is that I am working on a couple of other projects as well, one for my teaching curriculum, and another for smaller game development. The Embrace will receive the bulk of creative time, but those other projects are very important to me as well, especially the teaching curriculum, and so I may take a week here and there just to ensure I keep to my schedule for those as well.

Finally, feel free to ask me any questions as we go. I’m still a newcomer to all of this, so I may not be able to answer, but I’ll do my best! See you int he next post! 😉

Goals for the Next 3 Months 0

Posted on May 31, 2015 by Keith

With the change in careers, I’ve also been shifting about my way of setting goals. I have weekly, monthly, 3-month, 6-month and yearly goals now. I’m finding it easier to break down my goals in that way, with sub-goals defined, rather than work on an ever-evolving larger set of goals. It also allows me to better track the use of my time so that I can better estimate the time and ‘spoons‘ I need to be able to accomplish them. For today’s post, I’m going to discuss the goals I have set for myself for the three months between the end of the current school year and the beginning of the next. However, I won’t be discussing my consulting goals as those are confidential to those projects, so if my goals seem short (time wise), that’s because there’s consulting in there that I’m not discussing.

So – with a break after a busy school year, my first goal should be to relax, right? Yes but no. I’ll spend a few days relaxing right after the school year ends while my daughters are finishing their last few days of school, but after that I am going to get to work on my first goal: preparing for the next school year! That’s right – I’m going to get right to work on the items I want prepped for next year.  The reasoning is pretty straightforward: I don’t know how long it will take me and I don’t want to be under the gun once school starts again. A lot of my instruction will be delivered through eLearning modules, gamification, and other non-traditional channels, so I need time to get everything made and tested in advance. Additionally, while I have a set of curriculum maps created, I need to create the above content for 8 different grade levels so it’s a lot to accomplish. I also want to implement a menu of options related to each unit, so I need to map those out and create them as well. The first priority is to create the ‘must do’ pieces of each unit, and then evaluate the menu goals for time.

The second goal is art. I really need to put some time and focus back into my art. I’ve been away from it too long, with only a couple of weeks a couple of months ago spent painting in about the last two years. So my goals for this are two-fold. First, I want to get a couple of paintings completed. Second, I want to get some drawing time in each day. I know I can improve my drawing skills if I put regular effort into it, and I never make myself do it. That’s going to change!

The final goal is to finish developing one small game. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, or with the greatest art, or anything else. I just need to FINISH one. I have been starting game projects for years and have never actually finished any. It’s time to finish one so I can get past that hurdle and prove to myself I can do it! More on this goal as soon as I figure out what small game I’m going to focus on. Odd are that I’m going to combine this goal with my first goal and complete an educational game. Time will tell!

What are your goals over the next three months? How are you planning to tackle them? Are they large goals, or a smaller set of your overall goals? I’d love to hear from you!

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