Tag Archives: opinion

Documentaries: A Chance to Explore the World, an Opportunity to Join a Community

This post was originally written for and posted on http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

“ There is nothing better for the soul than going to Full Frame” –Doug Block, Director of 112 Weddings, The Kids Grow Up, 51 Birch Street, and Home Page.

Nothing makes me feel more comfortable than the smell of cinema popcorn, the slightly squeaky seats and the gradual dimming of the lights before darkness cocoons you. Then you are transported.

In the beginning of April, I was lucky enough to represent Students of the World at the Full Frame Documentary Festival in my home state of North Carolina. I’ve lived in the Triangle area for the majority of my life and the transformation of Durham from a factory town into a metropolitan city has been awe inspiring. When I think about what makes Durham a cultural city Full Frame is one of the first things that pop into my mind.

I’d like to congratulate and thank the organizers and programmers of Full Frame on the excellent job they did this year (and every year.) I was transported to so many different places and lived the lives of so many amazing human beings, that at the end of each day I felt like I had spent hours traveling because that was how emotionally drained I was.

I watched twelve films over the course of about four days; each film opened a door, led me on a journey and introduced me to people that I may never have the chance to meet personally. From the amazing work done by Kit Gruelle as detailed in Cynthia Hill’s powerful Private Violence to the transformation of Mahoma Lopez from disgruntled worker to powerful activist in Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick’s inspirational The Hand That Feeds. Each film allowed me to explore and understand a perspective that I would never have been able to experience due to time, money and, most importantly, access.

That is what makes documentaries and Full Frame so amazing; they grant us access-into the lives of others and to the filmmakers’ processes and opinions. And that is brave. At almost every one of the screenings where filmmakers were present to introduce the films, each filmmaker took the time to thank and praise their subjects for their courage and strength to allow these cameras and people into their lives. To trust the filmmakers to craft a story that would be an effective reflection of something much larger.

It is brave of the filmmakers to be so transparent and open about their films and the process of making their films. By breaking the fourth wall that is normally set up in a cinema experience through Q&A sessions and simply being available to chat and discuss on site relationships are created that transcend the normal creator and consumer connection. I have never felt more comfortable among strangers because this medium, by necessity and the nature of it, is collaborative and community-driven.

All of these elements gel together to represent what makes documentaries and Full Frame experiences that should be enjoyed by everyone-community, collaboration and conversation. So I implore you, the millennial that aspires to travel around the world, to affect the lives of others, to tell the stories that are seldom told, my peer, to watch more documentaries, to connect with creators, and to head down to sunny Durham, North Carolina next April. I know I’ll be there with open arms and a smile on my face.

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7 Films from the Full Frame Film Festival that Students of the World students should watch and why.

This post was originally written for and posted on the Students of the World national site at http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

Full Frame as a film festival is amazing and I would highly recommend that everyone try to make the trip down to Durham every year. But I understand that many times life creates some obstacles that make that a difficult venture. However, you can get a taste of the festival experience by watching some of the films that premiered/screened there. Plus nothing makes you a better filmmaker than watching films. Here are my recommendations (in no particular order) for other SOW students.

Private Violence dir. Cynthia Hill
Awarded The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at Full Frame this year, this intimate and powerful piece about domestic violence is a film that everyone should watch. Hill and her partner Rex Miller spent many months with some women as they deal with an issue that impacts millions of women both in the United States and around the world. Beginning by attempting to answer the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” the film explores the many layers that complicate the issue of domestic violence and abuse in general. Private Violence is a fantastic example of the power of individual stories, the importance of trust and courage especially when telling difficult stories.

Captivated-The Trials of Pamela Smart dir. Jeremiah Zagar
Beautifully directed, Captivated, is a twisting and turning exploration of media and the power that it wields. A great conversation starter about media, it asks both content creators and consumers to question the things we make and see, even while we are watching the film. This film is the documentary companion to Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet’s fantastic Network. Zagar is masterful in the mixing of archival and shot footage, and his method of framing and presenting archival footage is beautiful and poignant.

The Hand that Feeds dir. Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick
Scrappy, funny, and moving this film takes a look at something that most people don’t pay attention to-the rights of low-wage workers. Following the journey of a group of workers in a “Hot and Crusty” shop in New York City, The Hand that Feeds is an amazing example of clarity and editing as you follow the works over quite a long period of time but still fully understand the narrative. It does an amazing job juggling a color ensemble. The film deals with an issue that impacts millions of people but is hidden to many, there are moments of heart-wrenching disappointing, bu the film is wonderfully fun and inspiring, an important reason that made it the winner of the Full Frame Audience Award.

Ivory Tower dir. Andrew Rossi
A film that has some structural issues, Ivory Tower, is still a piece that I would recommend to everyone, especially if you are a student. Well-researched and full of differing perspectives, Ivory Tower, explores the higher education system and some of the issues that have arisen as the system and expectations have changed. A great conversation starter about education and our American system in particular, it will may make you think differently about the years (and money) you are spending in college.

The Case Against 8 dir. Ben Cotner and Ryan White
Following the appeal case of two California couples against Proposition 8, The Case Against 8, looks beyond the legalese and explores the people behind the case. A wonderful example of how to compress years into a well-structured and organized, as well as deal with a diverse cast. The Case Against 8 is a beautiful and moving film that inspires as much as it reveals.

Evolution of a Criminal dir. Darius Clark Monroe
First person documentaries are not normally what people imagine documentaries to be but Darius Clark Monroe’s Evolution of a Criminal, is an intimate, powerful story about the filmmaker and those around him. Winner of both the Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award and the Center of Documentary Studies Award at Full Frame, Evolution of a Criminal, mixes interviews with recreations beautifully and powerfully. Monroe’s thesis film out of NYU, he expertly plays with expectations and rhythm as he explores criminals and criminality. Darius Clarke Monroe is a filmmaker to keep an eye out for.

Hacked Circuit dir. Deborah Stratman
A beautifully shot short film that explores foley artists, I admit that this pick is a bit self-indulgent. As a filmmaker I’ve always love getting a chance to explore some of the lesser known steps of filmmaking. Beyond the seeing the amazing amount of detail that the artists take, the entire film is shot in one floating take, and contains some clips from one of my favorite movies. Go check out Hacked Circuit and appreciate one more aspect of filmmaking.

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When I Cry

Never judge from a single moment

Never judge from a single moment

Know that when I cry I am not ashamed. Not ashamed of the tears running down my face, the growing redness of my eyes, and my inability to breathe consistently. That as you judge me I’m still working and thinking.

Know that when I cry, it is not negative. It is not bad or sad or weak that I cry. That tears are natural and beautiful just like a smile or that twinkle in my eye.
Know that when I cry it is not about you. It is not about the words you’ve said or the things you did. That whatever you think you did to target me, to make me cry, is not true.
Know that when I cry it is always for me, by me, in me. You did not break my heart, I did for believing and trusting you. You did not defeat me, I did. You did not hurt me, I did. You can say that I don’t have that control. And I don’t, but neither do you.
Know that when I cry I am strong. I am as strong as when I laugh or when I shout. I am always fighting, whether it is through tears and gritted teeth or with a smirk on my face.
Know that when I cry I appreciate everything that you do. Whether it is a hug or a gentle words, know that every bit helps but also know that whatever it is I will fight, I will work through it, and I will ask for help.
I will change, for better or worse, and I will cry. Just like I will smile, shout and laugh. I will cry and I am proud of it.
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Resolutions for 2014

I’m writing this clichéd post with my first (and only?) tattoo healing and Carolina Basketball on the TV-getting ready to leave to work as a bar back on New Year’s Eve. A lot has happened in 2013 and to say that I have changed because of it is a gross understatement. From traveling the world and meeting new people to taking small steps towards being more comfortable with myself-2013 has been revelation filled. I fully realize how hyperbolic that is, but I’m okay with it (also I just don’t know how else to describe it.) Enough of the past (for now) on to the future and 2014-here are some goals (or resolutions cause that is such an “it” word this time of year.)

 
Take better care of my body
     Health and fitness have always been important to me but I’ve definitely lost somethings as I’ve grown more busy, so this year I resolve to make taking care of myself a solidified routine. Specifically floss everyday, stretch everyday, and run/swim/walk everyday
Read 50 books.
     I need to read more and I think 50 is a pretty solid number to aim for. This includes fiction and nonfiction, novellas and graphic novels, pretty much everything that is a lengthy text but not a longread. 
Watch 200 movies.
     I’m planning on starting with the Sight and Sounds list mixed in with the Oscar and indie favorites of 2013.
Take notes more. 
     I’ve made the realization that my memory is terrible so to combat this I’m going to try to write/type down as much as I can on as much as I can. I’m considering a Ryan Holiday esque type of system-perhaps more digital. Right now I’m starting with my trusty notebook and Evernote. 
Write everyday. 
     I know that I had this as a goal last year but I kinda fell off the wagon-so here we go again, same details apply.
Spend an hour everyday learning a new language.
     I’ve traveled and met a lot of amazing new people in 2013, through it all it made me realize how important communication is so here’s to making it a little bit easier for everyone. I’m planning on working with my mum to clean up my Cantonese (perhaps learn to read/write.) I’ll be doing at least one Duolingo set of Spanish and German everyday, and I’m hoping to get started on Mandarin some time soon. 
Spend an hour everyday learning a new skill.
     Through some digging I’ve learned that as a Carolina student I have access to Lynda courses for free so first on the list is coding so that I can get a nice website up. Once I’m through with that I’m sure things like After Effects will be what I spend my hour on.
Make more.
     This is a bit more general but one thing that has hit me the most going through 2013 is how much I love making things-so here is to more posts, videos, pictures, whatever in 2014.
 
This is a lot and I’m sure I’m going to fail at achieving some of these but failure is okay (learned that in 2012, reinforced in 2013.) Here’s to another year of adventure and change. Bring it on 2014.
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In Limbo

I wrote my first YouTube comment today.

Not a quick blurb to get a chance to enter something, not some garbage that just so happen to accidentally get in there. I looked over the comments already placed to see if anyone had posted a similar thought to me, found none, and posted a comment.

To be honest, I didn’t post commentary on the video I had watched, I didn’t respond to another comment, I didn’t post a random thought I had that is vaguely related to the video-I posted a question. Be it a question that I genuinely have to someone I absolutely admire. So I’m not quite diving head first into Internet participation.
 
 

I know this is weird and you are probably thinking to yourself, “What do you mean Internet participation? Aren’t you participating right now? You’ve blogged before (and some pretty personal stuff too), you have Twitter, Facebook, etc.

 

My personal history of Internet use also paints me as an avid user of the Internet. I had dial-up, my first email was an AOL account, I had a pretty busy Xanga site (and by busy I mean a lot of colors and glitter,) I even was an avid user of Habbo hotel for about 8 months. But beyond basic communication with close friends and family I’ve been tentative with my Internet use. Tentative in the sense that sometimes it’s not really me on the Internet (not tentative in the sense of the amount of time I’ve spent on the Internet…so many hours.) At least, it’s not 100% of me-I never really immersed myself into the Internet, unlike, many of my peers.

 

I didn’t Instagram myself, Facebook my every thought, even my obsession with Twitter is mostly voyeuristic-in fact most of my Internet usage is observational.

 

Why? Self-consciousness, confidence issues, over-saturation, and paranoia.

 
There are a multitude of security issues, the reliance of the information as well as the perception of that information worries me constantly. There are a lot of artists, writers, filmmakers, etc., on the Internet-how much more different could my contribution be-why add to the overflowing pot. I don’t think any of the things I’ve produced and created is worthy of “publication.”
 

All of these thoughts have (and will continue to) go through my head. Which is why I’ve been in this strange participatory but not, not quite entirely observational space.

 

However, it is a time for change (honestly, when is there not a time for change?) and in an effort to step out of my head and (a bit) more into the “real” world I’ve decide to “publish” a bit more blindly. Take more security measures but not let the fear of thievery stall me. Not care what other people think of me (though this bit is a little terrifying, because I’d like to have a job). More importantly, not view “publishing” as sending out a finished product for the Internet to gnaw on, but instead take it as one more step towards finalizing projects. Furthermore, I may be one more repetitive post/video/graphic/etc. on the Internet, but I did it, and I like to think I’m a little bit different than everyone else.

 

So here I go…Hope some of you join this ride, no matter how far or how long it goes.

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Some Thoughts After the Zimmerman Verdict

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m grateful. Grateful for the life that I have lived, my family, my friends, the opportunities that I’ve had and will (hopefully) continue to have.

However, currently the world sucks.

Hopefully, if you are reading this you’ve heard about George Zimmerman being found not guilty of a multitude of charges stemming from the February 26th killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin (and if you have not, or are not up-to-date on the details there are a multitude of sites that contain more information, please read up on it). My thoughts echo a lot of those being sent through social media, and my thoughts go out to the Martin family.

The handling of this trial along with all of the news of the past couple months has only made me firmer in my belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with the American justice, political and media systems. If the news of PRISM, of the Moral Monday riots in NC,  the anti-abortion bills throughout the country, and the media handling of all of this (don’t even get me started on the false, racist names that were broadcasted on national television after the Asiana flight accident) hasn’t made you question our systems of government and beyond-I’m not sure that you are living in the same world that I am.

The lack of transparency and communication is alarming to me and it scares me beyond belief-so what do I, do we do next?

I’m not sure, and there are much better and smarter people who may have some of these answers. I hope that they begin to speak up.

Because that is what I plan to do.

It can be so easy to hide, to hold your tongue, and I’ve done that. When I first heard about PRISM I was angry but more strongly, I was scared. I immediately dove into movies, television, books, any where I could live somewhere else and some other time. However, each film, each episode, each book only gave me more thoughts on what is exactly wrong and what could be done, every piece of media gave me another perspective, another view, and more importantly, hope.

It is now that I realize this is why I want to work in media. To make a difference, to make things more transparent, so that we can communicate better. Media that will help us understand perspectives and ideas, give us hope or slap us to attention, inform us towards action, teach us so we can to the best of our ability-this is what I strive for.

I hope today’s decision, as well as everything that has happened so far, can help you find something you can do to make this world a little less awful.

Learn more, listen more, see more, do more.

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An Update…

I am currently sitting in bed. Having done nothing the entire day except avoid all of my responsibilities. My brain desperately worries about the script I have to rewrite, the footage I have to edit, the material that I need to study for, my future in general.

 

Before I go any further, I also want to apologize for the lack of posts on this site (I am fully aware that I do this all the time.) The past couple of weeks have been insane (both in a good way, and in a more “I just realized that the Insane Clown Posse is an actual, popular thing.) But throughout it all I kept thinking-this would be something cool to write about, oh I’d like to think this through with some typing, could this make me internet famous?

 

So instead of rewriting my script, I’m going to write a quick Cliffnotes/Sparknotes (both are very useful-love, awful stupid student) of some of the thoughts that have gone through my head since my last post. Both for you (imaginary readers, that according to analytics are not that imaginary) and me so that I can remember to write more about these things.

 

GERONIMO (Just watched Doctor Who, they are definitely trying to get Matt Smith to use the 11th Doctor’s catchphrase more-we may reach Tennant levels if the current trend keeps up.)

 

1. I was lucky enough to be chosen as the student playwright for Activated Art at the Ackland this year. I got to work with some amazing professionals, go through a very similar process that many working playwrights go through (8 drafts and counting,) meet inspiring people, and get to see my play performed in front of me. The entire process was amazing, unimaginable and strange. I will definitely go into much more detail as to how everything went but the biggest thing that I got out of this experience is this. Creativity is scary.

When your ideas are still in your head there is a certain amount of control. You can still manipulate the ether, shine your light into the unknown darkness, hide from the scary bits, and keep mulling it over.

But the moment you say it aloud, the moment that other people can hear, can see, can feel what you are thinking-any semblance of control is gone. And that is scary. Just as terrifying as those moments when you question personal loneliness, as exhilarating as when your fingers brush against your crushes, as encompassing as when you dive straight into the deep end. It was overpowering and there were days where I left rehearsal seriously considering my current path towards a creative career. Yet I am still here.

 

2. During those hazier moments I realized how powerful just simple gestures and emotions are. Because it boiled down to just seeing someone genuinely smile at me. It was a beacon in the darkness that I am ever grateful for. And it is addicting-I never really understood the strength of another person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my crushes, my loves, my unrequited loves that create collapsing black holes in my heart. I just thought it was me, that my silly head created these feelings in the absence of anything really tangible (essentially angsty teen.)

But the emotions that washed over me when I saw that smile, when it was directed at me-because of me. I want that feeling, and I want it forever.

 

3. Forever is such a silly concept, especially when you connect all of the wibbly-wobbly timey wimey stuff to it. Time is such a strange concept-something that I want to keep exploring especially in context with the human lifespan, “milestone” moments, biological development, culture-essential “what are we meant to do, and when.”

 

4. This would be even more interesting when you add human relationships to it. Thing I also learned-human relationships-I know nothing, so I need to discover, explore, and investigate.

 

5. Discover, Explore, and Investigate.

Those three verbs are what I need to constantly keep doing. Learning is important and it is very hard to keep that in context when culture keeps pushing as to just do. How do we make learning a lifelong priority? How do we make it as flexible and adaptable as the human brain/evolution? Why does my current university learning experience make me question everything (and not in the good, whoa the world way.)

 

6. I suck.

The world is an amazing, glorious place. Filled with inspiration, joy and mysteries. I love that it exists, but I question my place in it. There is a part of me that just wants to blend in-become part of the ecosystem so well that people forget that I’m there. Another part of me wants to be extraordinary-be fascinating, be wanted. I’ve thought about this dichotomy a lot-how culture creates these ideas and expectations for me, but the most that I’ve concluded is-I suck.

 

I’m going to end on that cheery note because that has been my lingering thought lately, so may it linger in your thoughts a bit.

Perhaps I will elaborate on all these points in the near future, I’d like to. But remember I suck, so I might not.


Talk to you soon blank word document, you devil you.

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Success…Yay?

I’ve been busy (really, I’m not trying to garner attention or sympathy.)
(Perhaps, a little) School, fencing, projects, personal relationships-everything that composes normal life for a student-athlete. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Knowing that I am doing things that I love to do, and I am (was) good at it.
Even as close as two weeks ago, I was ahead on work-emails were replied to in seconds, things were done and I had some free time. However, now…Well now I’m not so ahead (not that I’m particularly behind.)
What has changed? I’m not entirely sure but I have a hunch.
I don’t really have time for hunches-I have a biology exam tomorrow, another draft of a play to write, sequence 5 of my feature, scheduling to do for my documentary project, scheduling to do for CAN, readings to do for my COMM class, and probably more (nevermind, my collegiate fencing duties, my relationships with people, my personal goals and my vanity.)
Perhaps I’ll talk more about my specific projects and duties. But I don’t really have time for that. I could be writing about a dystopian future right now, instead I am writing about how I am feeling (why I am feeling) in an attempt to right myself for the amount of work I need to do.
The thing is, my hunch at least, that I’m afraid (terrified, paralyzed by) success. Silly, ridiculous, and unfortunate, really.
It’s not that I’m satiated by it-the opposite. The mere taste, the slightest whiff of success makes my brain crave it, my mouth waters and want to grab it (whatever it is) and hold it close to me, squeezing (protecting) it.
Failure has always been my companion (muse?) and when it side steps behind me, behind success, I feel different (anxious.) The drive is still there (stronger than ever.) But the focus disappears, it is as if victory (as fleeting as it is) taints me. Poisons me and I don’t want anymore doses…so I stop.
Success is a strange beast, it fills me with pleasure but it terrifies me. It is never alone, it has friends that torment me. But most importantly (potently,) it makes failure a stranger again. Who was once a friend becomes a stranger, who in the dark becomes an enemy. It is the fear of someone that I knew so well that tinges success, because I know that if I let success through the door failure would follow close behind and stab my in the back. So I open the door for success, linger on the glorious view and just stare.
It doesn’t make sense, it isn’t productive, it is extremely frustrating, and I want it to stop. The issue is how.
Perhaps this post is an attempt to fix my problem. By writing it out, trying to understand it, that I will find the solution. Maybe I will, hopefully I do.

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Some Thoughts on Writing or Why I am Writing Right Now

The notion of writing, placing down symbols to represent a thought, an idea (regardless of its truth,) is a strange one-and one that differentiates humans from the many organisms that inhabit this planet. A key question that arises (at least for me) is who is writing for?

Is it for the author? A record of fleeting thoughts so that we can relive what our degenerating brains can no longer properly remember? An enjoyable moment to dump our brains, perhaps understand ourselves better.

Or is it for our peers? A physical manifestation of our thoughts so that we can share them others-but to what end? Communication is the obvious answer, but to communicate what exactly is less so. Is it to gloat? To show others that, yes indeed I have important and revelatory thoughts in this head of mine. Or perhaps to seem aloof, I do not need to complain nor talk to others, the only confidante I need is my pen.

I always had this fantasy that I would keep a diary with all of my deep inner thoughts and feelings, my cool and fantastical ideas that could revolutionize the world-like Da Vinci’s notes. It would be for my own personal use but more importantly (this is a fantasy) when I die (or something tragic befalls me) someone will find my notebooks and would realize that I was a much better person than they had previously thought. I imagine this is my way of being remembered when I’m gone, that I will be hailed as a genius of some sort posthumously (so I wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of fame apparently.)

This caused my earlier attempts at journalling to be pretentious, pompous and just embarrassing. Looking back at those entries do not remind of things to do, instead it just makes me despise how I write when I’m extremely emotionally charged.

Then the Internet became popular and fame was simply a few keyboard touches and a mouse click away. Theoretically your writing could be seen by more people than a book published in the 1880s would ever see. The conundrum grows more muddled with the Internet. Are you writing to sell yourself to an imaginary audience of thousands, or is it still for you? I ventured into this world tentatively writing under pseudonyms and avatars. I tried to cater to audiences while desperately trying to keep showing the digital realm that I am a diverse human being (a girl even!) that was innocently giving them peeks into my mind. I wrote like I wanted to be hired by Gawker Media (initially Gizmodo, then io9,) so I wrote reviews and topical thoughts in the same vein as what was trendy. But constantly second guessing myself because of the nagging thought that “individuality matters! Be an individual you numskull!” So plans of CES coverage, Apple Keynotes, etc. built up until I just didn’t want to do it because Stephen Totillo already it and Brian Lam already shit on Apple for me, who needs copycat posers in a sea of them?

With so many conflicting thoughts I quickly ended up doing nothing but daydreaming about that moment when I will write and immediately become successful and relevant forever.

So what has changed? Nothing. I still constantly worry about what I am writing and why I am doing it. For me or for them (whoever they are)? Does the judgement of the Internet and those that roam it matter? Does the future judgement of history matter? More importantly, does it matter more than your own personal judgement?

The only thing that has changed is that I’ve become more indifferent (some would say savvy, I really wouldn’t.) I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter, that the world continues turning regardless of what I type and what you read. That’s the beauty of the world-it is based on action and inaction, not from symbols on a page nor sounds emitted from vibrating vocal cords. So if the NCAA reads this (which I doubt, but Hi!) or a future employer does, so be it. What I’m writing is a close approximation of how I am thinking right now in time, it is built from the past and will constantly change in the future.

So why do I write? Right here, right now on the Internet? Because I want to become a better writer and that requires practice. Because I want to express myself articulately to myself (and perhaps to you, Reader.) Because I want people to read this and understand one aspect of one person living in the same (maybe different, hello aliens!) world. Because maybe I’ll get famous and rich. Because it’s time for me to act and do something, to possibly alleviate some regret and enjoy myself.

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Exams

Well exams are here @ school and I’m starting to break out…Productivity is down, so hoping for some inspiration that will start up the engine again. In English one day, we were assigned to write an essay about exams (coincidently because a friend and I had made a presentation to the faculty about exams…) This is what I submitted sans any real editing. I’ll get to editing and the real juicing up in my free time (which might be in about 5 years…)

Bringing Education and Evaluation to the Future

Education is important. The importance of an education is so high, that they United States government spends 46.7 billion dollars on the Department of Education. Without it, we would not be the world that we are today; we wouldn’t know how to find the derivatives of numbers, or how to properly use the semi-colon. Without it, we wouldn’t know how to build a car, let alone drive one. The absolutely amazing fact is that we wouldn’t even be sent back to the Dark Ages because even in 450 AD they had schools. Education is important-but is testing necessary?

The very first standardized test was used in the Han Dynasty in China in 206 BC, to correctly evaluate the abilities of men attempting to enter the government. These imperial examinations covered music, archery and horsemanship, arithmetic, writing, and knowledge of public and private rituals and ceremonies. Further along, military strategies, civil law, revenue and taxation, agriculture and geography were added to the list of subjects. Participants of these set tests were expected to properly perform and know everything in front of proctors, as well as amid hundreds of their peers. Crowds would anxiously wait for their results, chatting nervously to each other, sweating as they wait to find out if they passed. This type of evaluation began to spread and eventually was adopted in many other countries, including the United Kingdom, big sister to the United States. This type of system has lasted for more than 1300 years.

In 1300 years, we have harnessed electricity, invented ways to fly through the sky, created pathways across the globe, and flown to the moon. Yet we are still testing in the same way as our Asiatic ancestors?

A system that has worked for more than 1300 years demonstrates that it works. Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. And exams are necessary, without them we wouldn’t know what we need to work on, both as students and teachers. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to properly evaluate the entire education. Without them, we wouldn’t be properly preparing students, the future generations, for what is out in the real world; life is just a giant test and an A+ is thriving and surviving. But is life the same as it was 1300 years ago?

With a new world, there are new challenges that must be prepared for. A test based in the 540 BC doesn’t exactly prepare for 2010 (horseback riding and archery really are not that vital in the digital age.) We have adapted to new security threats, new information about the environment, and even the problem of properly sending human beings to space. Why not adapt testing too?

Currently testing often calls for some sort of extreme standardizing that was unheard of in the Han Dynasty. Each subject back in the Han Dynasty would take 24-48 hours to complete, allowing for proper evaluation of the participant. Now, three hours are given to comprehensively show the understanding of weeks of material. This causes undue stress that often results in “superficial” learning aka “cramming.” This does not properly evaluate the education received by the student, which is unfair both to the student as well as the teacher. However, it must be noted that these types of tests do lend to certain subjects, specifically depending on the purpose of the course. If the purpose of a history course is to know who does what and when, then a multiple choice scantron is absolutely acceptable.

What this new digital, globalized world now opens so many new doors of opportunities in not only learning and teaching, but also testing. Studies have shown that there is an increase in scores, when students are allowed some access to computers and computer-based instruction. Furthermore, other studies have shown that student’s attitudes towards learning and their own self-concept improved consistently when technology was involved. It isn’t just about technology but advances in teaching, for example the use of modeling, could be implemented and adapted towards better testing.

This school has always had a tradition of innovation and excellence, why not take the resources that we have and find a new and better way to soar into the future?

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