Education as a Commodity, by Jen W.

 

“Enlighten people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” -Thomas Jefferson

The United States of America is a country in which we purport to hold education of the young as a most treasured value. We work to hard to educate our own population. During the 2009-2010 school year, federal, state and local governments in the US spent over $638 billion dollars on elementary and secondary schools [1]. We have risked the lives of our soldiers to build schools in Afghanistan. Prior to the fall of the Taliban, only 32 percent of Afghanistan’s school aged children were enrolled in school–only three percent of girls. The US worked to build and refurbish hundreds of schools, resulting in millions of children (including a large percentage of girls and young women) being allowed to enroll in school [2].

Another important principle dearly held is the lack of government censorship in the US. In fact, we sanction other governments when they impose censorship upon their people. Recently, the US imposed sanctions upon Iran for engaging in satellite jamming and limiting access to the internet by their populace. Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in her press release dated 8 November, “Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students, and artists have been detained, censured, tortured, or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights. With the measures we are taking today, we draw the world’s attention to the scope of the regime’s insidious actions, which oppress its own people and violate Iran’s own laws and international obligations. We will continue to stand with the Iranian people in their quest to protect their dignity and freedoms and prevent the Iranian Government from creating an “electronic curtain” to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world.” [3]

Americans generally hold the view that education is always a positive. Therefore, one would think that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) would be viewed as a boon to our civilization and a great benefit of technology to the modern age. Coursera is one such provider of MOOCs to students around the globe. It came as a surprise to many when the US sanctions intended to punish the government of Iran included the blocking of Coursera [4] and other MOOCs to Iran. We are going to punish the government of Iran for blocking access to internet information from its people by blocking internet educational information from its people? On what planet does this make sense?

If you are an American, please urge your government officials to exempt MOOCs from government sanctions upon Syria, Iran, Cuba and other countries in which a free, expansive alternative educational system is advantageous to a populace that otherwise hears only government ideology in the vacuum that exists when the free exchange of ideas is taken away. Education in this case should not be considered a commodity to be blocked from the people of Iran or any other sanctioned government, but be considered valued knowledge and information which will benefit the global community.

Contact the US State Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control here:

http://www.treasury.gov/connect/Pages/contact-us.aspx

Contact your US Senator here:

http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

Contact your US Congressman here:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

1. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=66

2. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/afghanistan/us-commitment.html

3. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/11/200338.htm

4. http://help.coursera.org/customer/portal/articles/1425714-why-is-my-country-blocked-

Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school. Jen has two more children who are equally smart, but learned to read on a more average schedule.

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Summer Self-Education with Professor Freeman

by Amy Rose

What do you do when your Homeschool Moms’ Online Book Club drags a little during the long, hot summer? Our group decided to stop reading books. Instead, we’ve been listening together online to Professor Joanne Freeman of Yale University as she teaches us (and many others) about the American Revolution. We have a Facebook group in which to chat as we listen, and we are having so much fun with it! Some of us have already taught this subject to our children  and are pleased to find we know the people, places, and events of which Professor Freeman speaks. Others in our group have younger children and are fortifying their knowledge before teaching this era of our nation’s history in their own home schools. Certainly, we are all learning.

This is an excellent foundation for an American History course for your homeschooled teens, or if you are really hardcore you could use it for Family Movie Night for 25 weeks. Or simply enjoy it yourself, to add another layer of depth to your own understanding of the era. Professor Freeman obviously loves her work and speaks very animatedly (and often humorously) about the founding of our country. She brings each hero, villain, and episode to life, while skillfully posing the big questions and providing perceptive and satisfying answers conversationally and memorably.

As Professor Freeman explains in the first lecture, the point of the course is to understand why the Revolutionary War was only part of the revolution. She quotes John Adams who said, “The war was not the revolution. It was on the effect and consequence of the revolution. The revolution was in the minds of the people.” We learn more about how the people of the era actually thought through the excellent teaching by Professor Freeman.

What exactly is the course about? From the introduction:

“The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations–converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause–but it was far more complex and enduring than the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, “The Revolution was in the Minds of the people… before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington”–and it continued long past America’s victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants’ shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.”

The home page for the course is here: History 116: The American Revolution

The home page includes links to the syllabus, sessions, and recommended reading. (My friends and I did not purchase the books. You might want them for your students, or you might want to just use the lectures as “gravy” for an American History course that you’ve already chosen.)

And here is the first lecture, “Freeman’s Top Five Tips for Studying the American Revolution.”

amy_roseAmy Rose was a middle child growing up in a trailer park in the Midwest with talented parents who struggled financially. Her future life was easy to imagine until one magical day when she was thirteen, her fairy godmother gave her a box of oil pastels and a vintage textbook titled, “England in Literature.” Suddenly the entire wealth of riches found in the history of the West became to her a Holy Grail.  So she grew up and learned how to classically educate her own children who all turned out to be geniuses or at least mostly teachable.