#DadLife: I wonder…

I love a good rhetorical question (“Why can’t every day be my birthday?” or “Is there no one who can save us from Super Villain X’s evil machinations?”). The whole point of a rhetorical question however is that the question is either unanswerable or the answer is self-evident (“Uh, it’s just not physically possible to have endless birthdays.” or “Obviously Super Hero Y will come and save the day!”).

It really bothers me when rhetorical questions are misused to incorrectly imply that something is unanswerable or self-evident as is the case in this blog post from #DadLife. He proudly details how his child plays an iPad game for ten whole minutes and then ends his post with a rhetorical question: “[D]id she get to do anything like this level of problem solving in her 7 hours at school today?”

The author is implying one of two things here and I am honestly not sure which one to go with:

  • He has no means of knowing what his daughter might have learned in school today.
  • It is obvious to everyone that his daughter did not learn anything of value in school today.
I reject both of these implications. Clearly he could have spent those ten whole minutes of iPad time engaging with his child directly to find our what she was learning in her time at school. He could also have spent ten whole minutes speaking with his child’s teacher about his child’s engagement and learning.
Both of these easy solutions make his rhetorical question seem like a lazy cop-out…which leads me to my own rhetorical question: “Does this parent seriously think that ten minutes on an iPad is better than talking to his child about her day at school or engaging in a meaningful way with her teacher?” The answer is, in this case, self-evident: This parent believes that ten whole minutes of iPad time are more insightful to him than engaging his child or her teacher directly.

#DadLife: I wonder….

"Seriously, FirstClass?" (A short tragicomedy)

  • FirstClass: Did you mean “bog?”
  • Me: Seriously? “Blog” is a word that was coined in 1997 to describe a web-log, a sort of online journal. This site is a blog, for example.
  • FirstClass: Hmm…FirstClass was created in the early 1990s. Maybe I am too old to know this word.
  • Me: But surely your built-in dictionary is has been updated in the last two decades! How about the word “Google?”
  • FirstClass: What?
  • Me: *sigh*

25 Cents For My Thoughts: An online reading incentive program

This URL was forwarded to us all recently by a fellow teacher with the enigmatic comment “Food for thought…” 
My first thought was that this might be a snarky parody of Alfie Kohn by someone having a laugh. To find out more I visited the website and it appears to be legit. (There is no “Ha ha, just kidding!” text at the bottom of the page.)
My second thought was that maybe this example was somehow the exception that proves the rule. Many teachers here at our school have read and discussed Kohn’s ideas about learning in general and reward systems in particular. Does this blog contradict or support Kohn’s assertion that reading incentive programs ultimately discourage independent pleasure reading (which is the goal, right?) and push children towards thinner, easier-to-finish books that they skim and forget rather than truly reading, understanding, and enjoying.?
This child, who is paid to read and blog, has thus far produced entries that vary in length from several sentences to short utterances. For example “this iz a Good book abot money (sic)” is the entire entry for a book with the title Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. Does this demonstrate enjoyment of reading or comprehension of the story beyond what is already apparent in the title? Thus far the Skinnerian behavior-reward scheme seems to have produced some cute photos and some amusing blurbs, but the jury is still out on the long-term effects for this little boy.
A Closer Look at Reading Incentive Programs (Excerpts from Punished by RewardsBoston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993/1999, by Alfie Kohn)

25 Cents For My Thoughts – I get a quarter for each book I read and blog about. (this child’s online reading incentive program)