Open Thread: What would you found?

(posted by chris the cynic)

Assume that you’ve been given a grant (or whatever) that you can only use to found an institution of some kind (and it’s enough to start up whatever you want), what would you found?

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

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10 thoughts on “Open Thread: What would you found?

  1. Firedrake November 18, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I want to promote enquiring minds. Have competitions to come up with really interesting and unconventional ideas. Hand out copies of What If to kids too young to have had thinking beaten out of them by the school system. That sort of thing.

  2. christhecynic November 18, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    One of the things that I like about classics is that it’s inherently interdisciplinary. Religion, history, philosophy, social structures, trade routes, poetry, prose, theater, novels, epics, epigrams, art, architecture, wind chimes, gender studies, warfare, colonialism, dictatorships, democracies, and so forth.

    One of the problems, though, is that it tends to become isolated from the studies, especially applied studies, of those things. Put an art student in a class on classical art and they’ll ask questions a classicist would never even consider.

    There’s a reason that a possible breakthrough on Roman hair styling came not from a scholar of Rome but from a hair stylist.

    I’d set up a university built around breaking down that isolation. Which is not to say that, for example, for someone to teach about sculpture there they’d need to be a sculptor, but they’d at least need to work with one of the sculptors enough to be getting that perspective.

    Ideally the teachers would be a mix of traditional classicists, people who specialize in the areas that intersect with classics, and people who do both.

  3. Lonespark November 19, 2014 at 8:03 am

    My idea is a lot like Chris’s, but with more of a science/engineering focus, and probably lots of folklore. Maybe schools? But could be afterschool programs, and I would want it to be available to anyone who wanted it. Definitely poor kids, and local kids, but kind of “if it’s important to you, we’ll help you make it work.”

  4. Lonespark November 19, 2014 at 8:19 am

    So my program involves STREAMS:
    Science
    Technology
    Reading & Writing
    Art & Music (Which is an art. But sometimes “art” means, 2D or static things…)
    Math (or Movement?)
    Something that starts with S.

    The S was going to be social studies, or society, but then I thought about Stories. Which are related to reading and writing, but also to models, and all kinds of narratives of identity and success and the nature of science/religion/etc. Probably I should just come up with a new acronym.

    STREAM and STREAMS are already in use here and there… I do think it’s been useful to talk about STEM/STE, since that seems like it’s an industry category (math…not so much…) so it’s useful when talking about jobs.

    But for education, I think we need less splitting apart of disciplines, and much more recognizing that making art or music or cars or clothes or apps (or clothes with devices that play music and run apps! or whatever!) involves certain project skills and development processes that may go by different names but are all basic and involve research and collaboration and time management and planning and flexibility etc.

  5. Lonespark November 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Basically there are a bunch of ideas that I want to see FOAD:

    #1: The idea of “good” classes and “good” students. As a sub, I hear this a lot in teacher’s lounges, and I have had teachers say it directly to me, that “F Block is big, but they’re good kids. But G Block is full of boys on IEPs.” I totally get that some classes are easier to manage, especially relative to certain kinds of activities. It sucks that teachers don’t have more flexibility to subdivide and switch around students and get out of classrooms and even the school more.

    But a good student isn’t a quiet student, or one who never misses a homework, or one who’s always on task. I guess you could say those are “well-behaved students?” Except that they behavior we often reward doesn’t reflect curiousity or learning or collaboration or flexibility or understanding etc. to any great degree.

    I have been told that good classes are AP or advanced classes. I hate AP so much. And gosh it is so facetiously surprising that certain kinds of students are in the “good” classes:

    http://qz.com/289843/60-years-late-the-us-is-finally-trying-to-desegregate-its-classrooms/

  6. Lonespark November 19, 2014 at 8:47 am

    #2, Which goes along with the above,
    The idea that teachers “earn” the right to work with “good” classes and that it somehow doesn’t matter if teachers stuck with challenging learners aren’t the more experienced and qualified ones. Way to set the students up for failure and the teachers up for even more stress. I know this isn’t the case everywhere, and I was recently at a state meeting where the Ed. Dept. leader said they intend to focus on improving the situation.
    But anyway I really like informal learning environments like afterschool programs, clubs, camps, teansm fairs and expositions, alternative schools, cross-grade and project-based stuff, since it can engage kids who are stifled and uncomfortable in more common classroom environments.

  7. alexseanchai November 19, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Define ‘institution’.

    Because I would totally go for a thing to encourage and showcase art from queer and trans people. And, and this part is crucial, pay them a fair amount for their time and effort and creativity.

    How to define ‘fair payment’ is a thing I’m struggling with at the moment, because I am actually working out the logistics of that very showcase at the moment (sadly without funding at present–it will be an Internet zine, to be called Translucent), and I want it to be multimedia and AUGH WHAT IS PROFESSIONAL PAY RATE FOR POETRY. Or nonfiction prose. Or video. Or crochet pattern. Or really anything that isn’t prose fiction! (For prose fiction, I can use SFWA’s six-cent-per-word rule as a baseline. I may not end up paying that much, but at least I have the damn baseline!)

  8. Silver Adept November 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Right now, my institution would be an organization that basically does infrastructure makeovers for cities, towns, and unincorporated areas. The place that wins the grant gets a multi-year commitment to getting its entire infrastructure system overhauled, using materials and labor sourced as close to the winning area as possible. When finished, the place has an updated power grid, sanitation systems, is wired for public free internet access, roads fixed and paved, public libraries and museums built and/or renovated, everything in place for the future, and then it’s on to the next city.

  9. DawnM November 19, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Lonespark made me think:

    STEM – branches out into smaller and smaller bits
    STREAM – merges into something bigger than it was

    Useful metaphor or shallow oversimplification? You be the judge.

  10. Lonespark November 21, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Oooooh, I love the metaphor, DawnM!

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