Room for hope

Here’s a story about a young girl living a hard life, who finds hope in books:

The best line:

“The more you know about something the less you will fear it.”

This isn’t a new story, but it’s a good one. Here’s more to read and listen to: “Once Forbidden, Books Become A Lifeline For A Young Migrant Worker” from NPR.

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Investing in students’ futures

This is a short video about a new program at a university in the U.S. (Purdue, in Indiana) that aims to shift the risk of student loan debt from the student to the university. Basically, the students promise to pay the university a small percentage of their future income after graduation instead of having student loans — with interest rates — that burden them regardless of what happens after graduation.

On the PBS site, the video has a written transcript below it, and the subtitles are correct if you need them to help your listening comprehension.

Some related statistics (from this site):

  • There’s $1.45 trillion in student debt in the US right now.
  • The average amount a student has to repay in total is $37,000 (which is 6% more than it was last year).
  • The average amount a student has to repay per month is $351.
  • Interest rates on paying back student loans range from about 2.7% to 8.2%.

There are many issues to debate with a program like Purdue’s, but as someone who finally paid off her student loans — with interest rates at about 4 or 5% —  for undergraduate and graduate school in her 30s, I wish I’d at least had this option.

Why would anyone want to ban that?

This short video is about a temporary display in Germany of books that have been banned in the past. The goal is to get people thinking and talking about censorship.

More information about this exhibit here

I’m reminded of the controversy about the Harry Potter books. Some religious zealots wanted to (and continue to want to, according to this more recent article) ban these books in classrooms and libraries because they claim the stories contain “occult/Satanic and anti-family themes, and violence”.

Here’s another list of “20 banned books that may surprise you”. Included in the list:

  • “Little Red Riding Hood” — because she has wine in her basket (!)
  • “Where’s Waldo” — because of some of the people depicted in the crowds surrounding Waldo
  • “The Wizard of Oz” — because Oz was too socialist and because it depicts one witch as good
  • “The Diary of Anne Frank” — for two reasons (read them here)

And …

  • The dictionary. Can you guess why? (It’s #13 on the list if you want to check.)

Interland “sweetener”

Google has created a series of games for kids to learn how to “be internet awesome”. It’s called Interland, which one translation dictionary tells me means “international contest” in Dutch.

Here’s a look at the game and the thinking behind it:

Here are a couple of articles about it from the past week’s news:

I played it for a little while yesterday and got to the 3rd level, feeling all the while how bad I am at games like this. I didn’t grow up playing computer games — not because they weren’t available (at least later in my formative years) but just a lack of interest. I do remember having a very good friend who spent entirely too much time playing something called Dark Castle. I got pretty good at that one.

Anyway, I don’t know how successful this game is at teaching people about online safety or digital citizenship, but for people who like games like this, at least it’s not violent. As the Verge article says, it

“seems less like a training tool and more like a sweetener that could get students interested in the material.”