31 March 2006

C-SPAN - a win!

So C-SPAN called last evening to ask me if I wanted to come down for the summer to be one of the Teaching Fellows.

I couldn't be more excited. As a politics junkie, and a C-SPAN junkie, there isn't much more exciting to me than working in the heart of darkness itself. But what is better, is that I get to be in a position where I can watch C-SPAN all day, see the speeches and press conferences, and Prime Minster's Question Hour, and the forums and intellectual gatherings as they are broadcast, as they are happening. Basically watch politics all day and listen to C-SPAN radio in the evening. It sounds ideal.

There were five finalists and three were chosen. I have no idea about who the other two Fellows are.

As for the job itself, as far as what I will actually be doing, well, I'm not entirely sure. Last time I signed up for a job with such a vague description I found myself going 4 kts to nowhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a submarine. I doubt that the C-SPAN gig is going to be as dull as that! I will be creating lesson plans out of the content that C-SPAN has in its archives, that it is collecting and broadcasting, and is planning. So there is a whole section on the C-SPAN website for teachers (look on the top right hand corner of the front page) called C-SPAN Classroom. Once you get in there you can look at video clips of all sorts of American History stuff, scholars, politicians etc discussing events and people. But the enterprising teacher can find a lot more within a few clicks of the homepage. The Fellows created a bunch of the content in there, along with C-SPAN's education department.

Better yet, C-SPAN puts me up for the summer, gives me some stuff before I leave (CDs, DVDs, books, hopefully a long-sleeved T-shirt) and provides transportation to and fro. And, if you can believe it, a stipend for $3500. A lucrative July, for old Jar.

Of course, I hope to reconnect with my old pal, Ralph Nader.

You guys should come visit!

24 March 2006

C-SPAN, round 2 success

Hello C-SPAN Teacher Fellow Finalist:

Thank you for forwarding your videos of teaching with C-SPAN. We are in the process of reviewing the videos, together with your essays and applications. This year we have five (5) finalists. That's great for us! But it's also going to be very difficult as it's obvious already that we would benefit from having every one of you here.

However, we only have three (3) C-SPAN Fellow opportunities to fill. The next step in the process is for a 20-30 minute interview by telephone. You will soon be hearing from us about setting up a time convenient for you.

You will be notified no later than next Friday, March 31st, as to the selection of our 2006 Teacher Fellows. We appreciate more than we can tell you your interest in C-SPAN and the Fellowship program.

With best regards,

23 March 2006

C-SPAN video

Here's me teaching with with C-SPAN.

The 7th grade is doing a short unit on the expansion of slavery, starting with the Missouri Compromise. To help us better understand slavery, we are reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - an American Slave, Written by Himself.

In the video of me teaching you will see me explain the crisis that is created when Missouri wants to join the Union, threatening to upset the perfect balance of 11 Free states and 11 Slave states. The kids come up with some possible solutions (including the real one - to add one of each to maintain balance) and we talk about the 36-30 line. Then we discuss what should/would happen if a slave is brought above the 36-30 line, into free states/territories.

This actually happened quite often obviously, but in the 1850s one slave, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom, saying that once he was brought north he was free. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In the C-SPAN video, we see Harold Holzer (who was in the NYT this week, I think, discussing how black men get a raw deal in America even while the programs that exist to help other minority groups are actually working) discussing the importance of the Dred Scott case and the results of the Supreme Court decision.

19 March 2006

4. When Androids Dream by Paul Nowell

Androids have taken over the earth, and have largely beaten down any human opposition. In between the lowly humans and the androids are the Cybers, a combination that has humans enhanced with android gear.

In the beginning, human resistance was fierce, and George's parents were among the leaders of the Humans. They were captured and killed, and eventually the resistance movement was marginalized and beaten. Now the humans live on the edges of the Android and Cyber society, seen as weaker because they rely on their natural selves to survive rather than enhancements.

The as-yet-unfinished story, set in a future California, begins with George and Xian discussing Xian's plans concerning a new drug that makes androids dream. Because they are all linked telepathically, sharing a hive mind, of sorts, making/controlling one android dream affects them all. And if Xian can give the androids (who seem to be big drug abusers) a drug that she can control their dreams with she might be able to cause of disruption in the android power structure. The drug allows the resistance (or an anti-andie group), to get behind the hive mind's barriers.

George just lost his job at the city's biggest newspaper, and is down on his luck. He meets with Xian to discuss her plans, and then has a vision that spurs him to rejoin the human resistance. After the resistance group figures out who he is, and believe that he really is who he says he is, they share that the resistance movement has changed since his parents were involved. Instead of aiming to destroy the androids, the humans have made deals with them in order to survive.

Also involved is Solis, the sun's representative on earth. The sun is a sentient being, monitoring all that happens on the nearby planets, and is in communication with other stars. Pretty cool.

And Solis's friend, Arloff, a dog is involved with George as well. Seems dogs have been enhanced to have thinking, wondering, feeling powers on the scale of humans. And they, or at least Arloff, seem to look down on humans. Arloff follows George around at the request of Solis, who hears about George from the sun.

On the other side of the story is a new android Richard Powers, who has a new brain that is split into two sections, mimicking a human model. Powers is supposed to be able to create art, but so far has been considered a failure, with too much of his work being derivative of what he had in his memory.

Richard hangs with a powerful android crowd – a Hollywood power crowd, complete with drugs, drinking, and sex, but populated entirely by android machines.

So far Paul has written 35 pages and I am very into the story. Richard riffs about art, George riffs about how the resistance has sold out (but because George worked for The Man (The Andie?) as a reporter, he doesn't have much cred), and Alex Crowley, one of the powerful Hollywood androids allows us to see the world of android excess and power. More to come as I read more of what is written.