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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF "Are you with me now?" 12.3.21

This last weekend, I finished some really well written articles and a book about how 12 Clocks shaped the history of the world. As we struggle in a world that seems to move faster and faster in large part due to entities that are creating a world on screen to capture our time, these authors add some valuable knowledge and wisdom to our daily lives rather than just the avalanche of information coming at us. As Charlie Plant noted on our Wednesday Hour this week, “You achieve the form, you achieve the substance. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ayad Akhtar and David Rooney do just that.

This week, I had lots of meetings in NYC. Here’s a few:

Molly Josephs’ student-driven production of This Teenage Life is going to form a ‘partnership’ with B-Unbound to produce youth programming connecting youth to audiences around their interests. Part of the excitement around this work is that This Teenage Life has a global reach where youth check into their programming from around the world.

Dorothy Dunn is an old friend from the design community. We haven’t seen one another during COVID but once we met the connections started flowing around work that can take off quickly. Presently, Dorothy is working in the Bronx at Lehman College developing design work with students to make The Bronx, a community that doesn’t become gentrified but a community that gets better by staying intact and developing resources from within. The recent non-profit started by former NYC Chancellor Meisha Porter is part of this Bronx development. The foundation Dorothy is directing around this design work is the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation and Diversity by Design (DxD). Unbeknownst to Dorothy was our new role with Here to Here so, when she mentioned that she wanted to connect to Here to Here we were off to a good start. Other potential work includes the possibilities of DesignFellows and B-Unbound. We already started following-up.


Leaving to Learn: Brooklyn Bridge

I had a meeting while walking over the Brooklyn Bridge with Andrea Pizziconi. What a difference from when as a kid and we screwed around on our bridge crossings as working people were using it to get back and forth. The Brooklyn Bridge is now a destination site for tourists. Still there were a few people crossing who use it to get to work. You can spot them a mile away.

Starting twenty-five years ago and through all the years I was principal at The Met with Dennis, we would take the whole school down on a Leaving to Learn to NYC at Christmas time. We all split up with Danique taking The Bronx and Harlem and others taking other parts of NYC. All our students chose where they would go from their interests. My route was Fulton St Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge to Chinatown to the World Trade Center to Rockefeller Center. Included was a short subway ride. It was always a great LtL. Every year when we walked over the bridge, there weren’t many people around us on our crossings but as Charlie noted, once again – “You achieve the form; you achieve the substance.”

“Lead us not needlessly into abstraction and deliver us from alienation.” Frank Wilson

BPL Board member David Gersten and I met at Cooper Union. We are still working on the connection to Cooper and B-Unbound. My relationships with colleges have not been great this week. Things move slowly at all of them and Cooper is no exception. David and I discussed some pretty disturbing topics re: social media and advertising both competing to gain as much of our time as they can using engagement tactics that are highly questionable due to their addictive nature. What follows from this engagement is a version of education, in which the system absorbs our responses and begins to shape them. Are we losing our free will or what little we have of it?

Think about it - “The average person taps, types, swipes, and clicks on his smartphone 2,617 times a day. Ninety-three percent of people sleep with their devices within arm’s reach. Seventy-five percent use them in the bathroom.”

These media folks blatantly state they want more and more of our time and in this engagement process, we are being remade by what we consume. Our bodies are being bombarded with all the constant hits of dopamine we get from the screen. Don’t be fooled the entire education establishment is up against a competition for hours of engagement a day for our time. This is the challenge. At the same time though, adults are not immune. This isn’t just about students/young people. Adults at work and at home are also the targets of “this technology that is no longer just shaping the world around us, but actively remaking us from within.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s notes: “I notice what I find increasingly troubling: a cold-blooded grasping, a hunger to take and take and take, but never give; …an ease with dishonesty and pretension and selfishness that is couched in the language of self-care; an expectation always to be helped and rewarded no matter whether deserving or not; … an astonishing level of self-absorption; an unrealistic expectation of puritanism from others; an over-inflated sense of ability, or of talent where there is any at all; an inability to apologize, truly and fully, without justifications; a passionate performance of virtue that is well executed in the public space of Twitter but not in the intimate space of friendship.”

And from Ayhad Aktar “Something unnatural is afoot. Our affinities are increasingly no longer our own, but rather are selected for us for the purpose of automated economic gain. The automation of our cognition and the predictive power of technology to monetize our behavior, indeed our very thinking, is transforming not only our societies and discourse with one another, but also our very neurochemistry. It is a late chapter of a larger story, about the deepening incursion of mercantile thinking into the groundwater of our philosophical ideals. This technology is no longer just shaping the world around us, but actively remaking us from within.”

All that said, our students produced another great webinar on Big Picture Living with Paul and Isary as adding technical support. Two students did a great demonstration around the exercise regime and two others did what adults thus far could not and this is aligning low vision and eyecare with ACLM’s six measures. This will change our BPLiving website to incorporate eye care into BP Living. All of this work was done in combination with mentors and through experiences in the world outside the screen.


Final note:

This week, Andrea Purcell and I discussed the University of California’s (UC’s) decision not to include the SAT, ACT and Smarter Balance as ways to assess students for admission to the UC’s. At the surface level, you may think this is a big deal but is it? Has the UC system made a big change so many of us have been waiting for? Well, NO! In order to get into a UC, the admissions office is still looking for AP Classes and what are AP classes connected to? You guessed it, AP tests. Developed by the same company as the SAT and at $94 a pop. So what does this do? It creates efficiencies for the admissions officers because they are looking at less data. It also eliminates students where AP classes are not offered because you can’t get higher than a 4.0 GPA. There is an escape clause here for students where AP classes are not given but there is also a trend for every school to offer more and more AP classes. I hope I’m wrong and I hope one day they do offer something like an IBPLC that eliminates bias and increases opportunity.

Be well!


Elliot Washor

Co-Founder of Big Picture Learning

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