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Education

Create Your Own Language, for Credit

February 6, 2016

Photo credit: Ron Barrett By Ashley Winchester 1. What do you say to embarrass a polar bear? 2. How might an underwater society write? 3. Can a creature without teeth say “tooth”? 4. How many verbs for “to pray” does an angel need? These are some of the questions students have pondered in “Invented Languages” at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Tex., as they create languages of their own. The tongue spoken by the nomadic Dothraki warriors of HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” has entered the pop-culture lexicon, and so sparked new interest in constructed languages, or conlangs. “Thanks to the popularity of ‘G.O.T.,’ ‘Avatar,’ etc., more people the world over know what language creation is,” says David J. Peterson, the linguist behind spoken Dothraki and alien-speak on the Syfy network’s “Defiance.” At schools like S.F.A., Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Truman State in Missouri, students take apart the words, sounds, writing and patterns of such conlangs as Dothraki, Na’vi (“Avatar”), Elvish (“Lord of the Rings”) and Klingon (“Star Trek”) to get a sense of how languages evolve to meet the needs of their speakers. Coursework marries the principles of linguistics with the creativity of speculative fiction genres and pop culture. So how do you create a language? Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

The Sheltering Campus: Why College Is Not Home

February 6, 2016

Photo credit: Ivanastar/iStock By A. Douglas Stone and Mary Schwab-Stone Erika Christakis used to teach a course at Yale titled “The Concept of the Problem Child,” a discussion of child development and socialization in a historical and modern context. The course was a seminar of 20 participants, and it was popular; she had planned extra sessions this semester to accommodate the hundreds of interested students. Then came the notorious email — subject: “Dressing Yourselves” — that she sent to students in the residence hall where she and her husband serve as masters. In it, she criticized a detailed memo from administrators advising sensitivity in choice of Halloween costumes and activities. The essential point in the email: The university’s memo infantilized the students. The term, in developmental psychology, refers to a parenting approach that uses a level of assistance and control more appropriate for much younger children; ultimately, such behavior can hinder capacities to develop independence and resilience. Despite Ms. Christakis’s nuanced argument, an open letter denounced her views as degrading to marginalized people and garnered nearly a thousand signatures, and a video of students confronting and verbally assaulting her husband went viral. We helped organize an open letter of our own, defending Ms. Christakis’s contribution to campus discourse; it was signed by 88 current or retired Yale faculty members. But as a result of the harsh reaction she experienced, she announced in December that she would no longer teach at Yale, eliminating an important educational option for undergraduates. While this dramatic incident raised concerns about free speech and civil debate on campus, it is also worth analyzing it from a developmental perspective. After all, universities are the settings for the transition to adulthood for a large segment of American youth. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

UN calls on Ireland to recognise needs of non-Christian children in the education system

February 5, 2016

Photo credit: Philip Hollis By National Secular Society The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has criticised Ireland in its periodic review, urging the country to protect the rights of non-religious and non-Christian children and families. Strong criticism was made of the overwhelming religious control of Ireland’s schools, and the Committee said that Ireland must improve access to non-religious schools. 97% of Irish primary schools are denominational schools. It said Ireland must “Expeditiously undertake concrete measures to significantly increase the availability of non-denominational or multidenominational schools and to amend the existing legislative framework to eliminate discrimination in school admissions, including the Equal Status Act”. The report concluded that “Schools continuing to practise discriminatory admissions policies on the basis of the child’s religion” and the Committee said it remained “concerned at the very small number of non-denominational schools.” Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below. [MORE]

Colorado School Says No to Personalized Messages on Nameplates After Donor Requests Bible Verses

February 5, 2016

When people make a large donation to a university, they sometimes receive the opportunity to put their name on a building. On a smaller scale, too, schools will tell donors that if they make a certain-size donation, they'll get to choose the inscription that goes on a brick (or something similar). This is all perfectly fine... until the school forgets there are limits to what can be inscribed.Last year, at the University of Florida in Gainesville, a donor requested that a particular archway include a Bible verse. Because that promoted Christianity, the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked that it be taken down. The school ultimately decided to include an atheist inscription (and two other neutral ones), putting an end to the problem.We're now seeing a similar story play out at the Colorado School of Mines.shutterstock_116726731
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Christian Kid Says That Criticizing Him for Bullying Gay Students is Itself a Form of Bullying

February 5, 2016

It's one of those popular but illogical "gotchas" of the conservative repertoire: You must "tolerate" intolerance or you're not truly tolerant.This is illogical because it suggests an unattainable, self-defeating view of tolerance that does not at all resemble actual tolerance (or how the real world operates). Like a society that abhors violence, but allows that violence in self-defense as a valid means of maximizing non-violence, a society that values tolerance must refuse to support intolerance if it wishes to remain tolerant. Accepting intolerance isn't a form of tolerance; it's the downfall of tolerance.Anti-abortion website LifeSiteNews has a piece, purportedly written by "a Christian kid" who prefers to remain anonymous for "fear of retaliation," devoting a good deal of time to pushing this line of thought. He says that efforts to protect gay students from intolerant Christians are themselves intolerant of people like him.shutterstock_266832950
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