Judy Blume: parents shouldn't worry about what their kids are reading


Judy Blume -- whose books have been frequently challenged in schools and libraries -- is skeptical of the idea that parents need to be worry about whether the books their kids read are "appropriate". Bloom says that any book a kid is captivated by is, by definition, "appropriate": "[Kids] are very good, I think, at monitoring what makes them feel uncomfortable. If something makes them feel uncomfortable they will put it down."

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Vancouver school-board adds genderless pronoun

Xe, xem, xyr are the new preferred pronouns for transgendered students in the Vancouver school system. Although the National Post is skeptical that this attempt to add a nongendered pronoun to English is doomed -- based largely on the fact that every other attempt has failed abominably -- the VSB's manager of social responsibility and diversity reminds us that not so long ago, no one said "firefighter" while today, "fireman" fairly clangs on the ear.

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Starbucks employees offered free tuition at Arizona State U


Starbucks is offering to pay some or all tuition at Arizona State University for any 20+ hour/week employees, with no requirement that these employees remain with the company after attaining their degrees (employees who already have two years' credit get the remainder free; others will pay part, but are eligible for grants and aid). ASU has a very large online education offering, and Starbucks employees surveyed by the company often cite a desire to finish their degrees.

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Pensacola newspaper editorial board condemns censorship of Little Brother

An unsigned editorial in the Pensacola News Journal decries the decision of a local high-school teacher to cancel the school's One School/One Book summer reading program to stop students from reading my novel Little Brother. They point out that the principal violated school procedures when he took it upon himself to unilaterally cancel the assignment, and that this is both inappropriate as an educational matter and from the perspective of free speech and free inquiry. It's a great editorial, and it rightly emphasizes the bravery of English department head Mary Kate Griffith, who has fought valiantly over this issue.

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National anti-censorship orgs protest cancellation of Little Brother summer reading program


Last week's news that the principal of Pensacola, FL's Booker T Washington High School had cancelled its One School/One Book summer reading program rather than have his students read my novel Little Brother has alarmed several national anti-censorship organizations, led by the National Coalition Against Censorship. Their open letter to the principal of BTWHS, signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the American Booksellers Federation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center, discusses the legal and moral duty of educators to put challenging material in front of their students.

I'm immensely grateful to these organizations and especially the NCAC for their support, and I really hope that the principal reconsiders his decision and that I can have a chance to discuss the admittedly challenging themes and scenes in Little Brother with his students in the fall.

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Texas school bans sunscreen because a child might drink it


A parent in San Antonio, TX is upset that her ten year old got sunburned on a school trip because the school district forbade bringing sunscreen to school, on the grounds that a child might drink the sunscreen and be poisoned by it. When called on this insanity, the Northeast Independent School District doubled down, calling sunscreen both a medication and a poison (it's neither).

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Handbook to figure out what's in the public domain


Jennifer Urban sez, "I'm happy to say that the Samuelson Clinic at Berkeley has just released a handbook to help folks research whether older items (pre-1978) are still under copyright in the U.S., or are in the public domain." This is probably the most esoteric question that normal people from all walks of life have to answer routinely; the Samuelson Clinic has really done an important public service here.

Interestingly the project originated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project, "a nonprofit organization run by civil rights movement veterans that is creating a digital archive of historical materials."

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Why I'm sending 200 copies of Little Brother to a high-school in Pensacola, FL

The principal of Booker T Washington High in Pensacola FL cancelled the school’s One School/One Book summer reading program rather than letting all the kids go through with the previously approved assignment to read Little Brother, the bestselling young adult novel by Cory Doctorow. With Cory and Tor Books’ help, the teachers are fighting back.

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Student's awesome non-apology for wearing leggings


A student named Chloe Britt was disciplined for violating her school's dress-code by wearing leggings; she was required to fill in a Cultural Revolution-style confessional called a "think sheet" explaining her crime, which she did with a lot of style. "Who was bothered when I broke this rule?" "Mrs Rodgers because she thinks me wearing leggings is more important than me being in class and getting an education." "This is what I could have done instead:" "Nothing. I'm still going to wear leggings." GO CHLOE GO! (via Seanan McGuire)

Kickstarting Kibo: robot-blocks for kids 4-7

Jenise sez, "When I worked for a robotics company, I complained bitterly about the lack of robotic toys for my daughter to my boss, Mitch Rosenberg. Yesterday, he sent me an email with the answer to my problem: KIBO, a robot kit specifically designed for kids age 4-7. Mitch partnered with Marina Umaschi Bers, co-creator of Scratch Jr., to found KinderLab Robotics, Inc., and they're trying to produce the toy I dreamed of for my daughter."

Looks amazing, but it ain't cheap: $219 minimum to get the actual blocks, $349 for the full set.

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Critical thinking vs education: Teaching kids math without "correct" answers


Brooke Powers assigned her middle-school math class a probability exercise with no single correct answer and was monumentally frustrated by her kids' inability to accept the idea of a problem without a canonical solution. After a long and productive wrangle with her kids about how critical thinking works and why divergent problem-solving is much more important than mechanically calculating an answer that you could just get out of a computer, she salvaged the exercise and made something genuinely wonderful out of it.

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Kickstarting an augmented reality, artificial lifeform in a kids' picture-book

Wagner James Au sez, "Created by virtual world/avatar pioneer Jeffrey Ventrella, Wiglets are self-animated, augmented reality creatures for mobile devices powered by an open source AI system, and have genomes that are stored in the cloud along with their geo-locations. 'This means they can exist in specific locations in the real world,' Jeffrey explains. The overall goal with Wiglets is to encourage kids to find/play with their creatures in the natural world."

$65 gets you the book and a virtual Wiglet.

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Openedjam: 3-day event in San Antonio for free/open education activists

Joey writes, "OpenEdJam is a 3-day international event that brings together activists, developers, educators, engineers, librarians, and makers from all fields. We will provide a hands-on environment where participants can collaborate on innovative creations and uses of free and open education resources. Considering the cultural, ethical and technical implications of free and open education resources, we'll come together to discuss, demonstrate and support the future of free and open education. Mariah Villarreal, an undergraduate in San Antonio, TX and AmeriCorps robotics community organizer has put it together. It's amazing to see young hackers out there making noise and keeping the tradition alive!"

OpenEdJam | The Convergent Media Collective (Thanks, Joey!)

What if we admitted to kids that most sex is for pleasure?

Alice Dreger works with intersex kids, and takes an admirably frank approach to talking about sex with her own kid. She's noticed lots of differences between her approach and that of other parents, but the biggest one is that she tells her son that people have sex for pleasure. Her piece about this, precipitated by her kid bringing home a notice that the class would be talking about sex and HIV/AIDS, is a kind of model of rational, sex-positive parenting that made me want to clip it out and stick it on the fridge for future reference.

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Kickstarting Codemancer, a game to teach programming to kids (especially girls)

Codemancer: A Fantasy Game that Teaches the Magic of Code is a fully funded kickstarter to produce an educational game to teach programming to kids, especially girls. Players solve programming challenges to advance through the game, and there's a course for translating your Codemancer skills to coding in python. The developer, Robert Lockhart, has created and shipped games before, which bodes well for this one's eventual release.

$20 gets you the game for Windows, Macos, Ipad and Android.

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