Against the Structured Generation

The 14th Floor

One of the unfortunate characteristics of our generation is that we have tended to live highly structured lives.  Those of us born in the 1980s, who spent their twenties in the transitional era of the early 2000s, amidst the violent cacophony of the two Bush Wars, have experienced at least some shared sense of structure to our lives.

The typical life of an upper-middle class son or daughter born in Canada during that generation would go something like this: a childhood spent in public schools, with no lack of activities in which to immerse oneself (soccer, piano, theater, etc.). Then high school hits, with its swirl of hormonal desire combined with the looming pressure of standardized tests. It is generally here that the adolescent learns the rhythms of capitalist work-time: school during the day, nights filled with study and ever more structured activities.

If the student is lucky he or…

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“Music was better back then”: When do we stop keeping up with popular music?

Skynet & Ebert

After sixty years of research, it’s conventional wisdom: as people get older, they stop keeping up with popular music. Whether the demands of parenthood and careers mean devoting less time to pop culture, or just because they’ve succumbed to good old-fashioned taste freeze, music fans beyond a certain age seem to reach a point where their tastes have “matured”.

That’s why the organizers of the Super Bowl — with a median viewer age of 44 —  were smart to balance their Katy Perry-headlined halftime show with a showing by Missy Elliott.

Missy don't brag, she mostly boast Missy don’t brag, she mostly boast

Spotify listener data offers a sliced & diced view of each user’s streams. This lets us measure when this effect begins, how quickly the effect develops, and how it’s impacted by demographic factors.

For this study, I started with individual listening data from U.S. Spotify users and combined that…

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Toward a Saner View of Text Complexity

To Make a Prairie

sanity-insanity1

As happened a few years ago, when eighth grade students took to Facebook to share reactions to a nonsensical passage about a talking pineapple from the New York State ELA test, this year’s Common Core-aligned test made it into the news again for another Facebook incident. Somehow a group called Education is a Journey Not a Race got their hands on a copy of the fourth grade test and posted over three dozen images of passages and questions on their Facebook page. Facebook quickly took the page down, but they couldn’t stop the articles that soon appeared, such as “New York State Tests for Fourth-Graders Included Passages Meant for Older Students” from the Wall Street Journal and “Educators alarmed by some questions on N.Y. Common Core test” from The Washington Post. 

PG13_rating_WaiAs their titles suggest, these pieces took a hard look at the kind of questions and concerns teachers…

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A Woman on the Margins

Longreads

Jessica Gross | Longreads | May 2015 | 17 minutes (4,223 words)

I first encountered the work of the memoirist, critic, and journalist Vivian Gornick in graduate school when we were assigned The Situation and the Story, her handbook on personal writing. Gornick explains that the writer must create out of her real self a separate narrative persona. The narrator has wisdom and distance the writer may not, and can craft a meaningful story out of the raw details of life. This slim book cracked open my understanding of what it means to write.

In Fierce Attachments, her 1987 memoir, Gornick wields her narrative persona to construct an incisive, nuanced portrait of her conflicted bond with her mother. She describes the Bronx tenements where she grew up, the early death of her father, the complex relationship with their neighbor Nettie and, at the center of it all, a…

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