The S4 Diary: “Testing, 1, 2, 3”

Text version and links:

Check out the RSA Animate on changing education paradigms:

My OC is designed by Hanna:
The original design was by Mizuki Takashima:
Opening and ending cards by Munchy:

Background music:
1. Some shitty rap
2. aruarian dance – Nujabes
3. the space between worlds – Nujabes
4. TRAP TRAP – Sky Watcher and Digibro

Watch the Elements of Brony episode 3:

You may have gathered this from some of my comments in the last few videos, but I’ve got a lot of problems with the American school system. And I imagine that these problems apply to a lot of other school systems as well, though I can’t speak from experience.

The current American school system is built around 20th-century industrialism. Kids are largely put through the same processing and routine, completely ignoring the fact that every individual learns differently and develops at their own pace. There’s a somewhat famous video about this that I linked a few weeks ago and will link now again in the description, and it does a much more thorough job of explaining this, so I highly recommend checking out, but for the purpose of this video I’ll be addressing educational concerns on a more personal level.

Rainbow Dash is the kind of student who would be failed by our school system because it doesn’t understand how to educate her. Twilight represents a teacher, like too many that I’ve met, who becomes frustrated with her student’s apparent inability to care about what she’s teaching, and the fact that her potential is going to be squandered over one subject that she doesn’t excel in.

Rainbow is fortunate however that her teacher is both a friend, and a dedicated one at that, and that she has so many friends caring for and observing her to figure things out. In one of our schools, her teachers would never have time to get to know her and examine her learning habits until they could find a method that works for her, because they would be worried about too many other students. One who falls out of the system is left to fend for themselves and loses out on the opportunities that they could’ve had if someone had taken the time to get them on their feet.

It’s hard to blame teachers for not having time to take care of every student in a unique way when the system they work in is so broken, but the problem is exacerbated because many teachers don’t even seem to understand or be aware of how different a school experience is for the individual student.

When I was in twelfth grade, I had a government teacher who was new to our school, and had been teaching for only a few years. She taught all of her lessons extremely by-the-book, and even though she really seemed to care about the kids in class learning her lessons, she had no skills at improvising or changing the lesson to suit the needs of the students. There were several times in class when she’d fruitlessly try to explain something the same way again and again, until eventually, I would raise my hand and ask her to let ME explain it differently. I would strip out the more complicated language and her incessant attempts at political correctness to explain the concept in the most basic way possible, so that everyone would understand the subject at a core level before moving along.

What my teacher didn’t seem to understand is that the students, for the most part, do not think the way that she does. They don’t bring the same knowledge or habits to the table that she does. That’s because teachers, by and large, are nerds, by necessity. Most teachers are bound to have great study habits and broad general knowledge, because they have to make it through six years of college in order to actually teach. Someone like Twilight, who takes a lot of their knowledge for granted, doesn’t realize when she tells Rainbow Dash that highlighting separates the ‘wheat’ from the ‘chaff,’ that Rainbow might not even know what that expression means, much less how to identify what stuff is wheat. Hell, to this day I have no fucking idea what the point is of highlighting shit when studying.

People have been asking me for years why I haven’t become a teacher, and the answer is simply that, much like Rainbow Dash, I don’t have the study skills to be successful in school. I’ve never been particularly good at learning something just by having it explained to me in exact detail. I will get bored, or be unable to see why I’m supposed to care about the subject or how it applies to my life.

I learn better by experiencing things and then analyzing my experience. I didn’t learn how to write well by taking writing classes, with the exception of one piece of advice a college professor gave me to focus on simplifying my writing, which became a huge part of my editing process soon thereafter. Mostly, I learned by reading other things and analyzing what I liked about those things. As an anime blogger, I found that it was much more interesting when bloggers talked about broad concepts relating to a show rather than reviewing the show’s quality or talking about their opinions of each episode. I liked it when bloggers took a personal approach to their work, and I got to see how their appreciation of anime related to who they were as a person. And I loved learning the background details of the shows that I was watching and tracing the careers of the people behind them.

I never took a class on video editing either, which in fairness might be kind of obvious, but again, I learned via analysis. I watched a shitload of youtube videos and figured out what I liked about them. I knew that high audio quality was an absolute must for me to finish a video. I knew I hated to see black backgrounds and static images for more than a few seconds at a time. And I knew that I liked speakers who talk very fast and get to the point quickly.

That is my version of Rainbow Dash’s learning by flight. Just as she pays attention to every detail around her when she’s flying, I pay attention to every detail of a video. When I consume media, I analyze every aspect of it relative to myself and my own experience so that I can understand it on a deeper level.

Now I know I’ve said that with this series I’m trying to focus just on the central themes of the episodes, but in this case, I couldn’t be satisfied failing to mention how much I enjoyed this one. Besides the fact that the first ten minutes or so felt eerily like every TwiDash fanfic I’ve ever read, the episode had this great sense of pacing and to-the-point storytelling that made it feel more complete than a lot of episodes do. The scene where Twilight and Dash fly together is almost weirdly silent and that makes it feel more poignant than it would have otherwise. And Pinkie Pie’s rap–my god. It was perfect. The fact that it’s in 4:3 aspect ratio and even has a degraded sound quality was incredible, and a ton of effort seemed to be put into her movements throughout the scene. Very cool.

I’m also glad that this episode tackled the subject matter that it did, not only because I’m obviously pretty interested in it already to begin with, but also because it has been bothering me FOREVER how Twilight doesn’t seem to understand alternative teaching strategies. I’ve always considered it a huge mark of Twilight’s youth and lack of understanding that she doesn’t realize her learning methods don’t work for others, so seeing it broken down finally was super-gratifying.

Anyways that about wraps up my thoughts on Testing 1, 2, 3. I’ll see you on the next one!

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