Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moral Instruction and Story Telling

Stories are an excellent way to convey moral lessons. Movies are a good way to tell stories. I have shown The Keys of the Kingdom with Gregory Peck and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingrid Bergman in my home for moral instruction.

Upon a friend's recommendation I bought The Emperors Club in DVD. Because I was not personally familiar with it, I was watching it without requesting my son to join me. He wandered into the room, found the story interesting and stayed to watch it. I'm glad he did because it was a movie that conveyed moral instruction while entertaining us.

A good show or story is captivating and has full bodied, complex characters in challenging circumstances. They make an impression.

When I ran for the local school board I recommended Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans be incorporated into the curriculum, particularly in history. Plutarch's biographies are like stories, bringing to life famous and important people and giving insight into their characters. My 4th grade boy and I are presently going through the life of Alexander the Great. I ran for the school board because I wanted all the children of Plano, Texas, to have the same quality education as the Plano children whose parents provide tutoring.

The philosopher Richard Rorty has said that moral education is best taught by works of fiction that help us understand and sympathize with other people. The philosopher David Hume, in his work, Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, has also said that stories are a good way to provide moral instruction. But if we use stories for moral instruction in the schools we must be very careful.

A friend brought to my attention an article, Little Manchurian Candidates by Matt James, that describes a badly botched attempt by a school to provide moral instruction for the students through stories.

I have for a long time felt that moral education is the purview of the parents and the schools should stay away from that topic. Yet, the staggering amount of corruption in contemporary society indicates a lack of moral instruction in many households.

Education is an important ingredient in the glue that holds society together, so moral instruction should be included in education. Yet, we cannot depend on professional educators to assemble that part of the curriculum. Only the involvement of the parents will provide a system of moral instruction with community support and representative of community standards.

We parents must be more involved in the school curriculum.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

TBAR, Virtual Reality, the Arts, and the Public Schools

TBAR, the Texas Business and Arts Renaissance, is very much related to the public schools. We have forgotten that education is not all about standardized testing. We forget there are real benefits to education. I believe education can ignite a renaissance in business and in the arts.

Here is a proposal for a project that can tie together education, business, and the arts: multi-media / virtual reality projects for students that are based on the classics of literature.

The epic poems of Homer: the Iliad and the Odyssey are fabulous when you hear them spoken. These are crying to be turned into animated films. This is something high school students can do. There are translations old enough to be in the public domain, so students have a script. It is also good for students to learn about copyrights and the public domain. Intellectual property is an important part of business in a knowledge based economy.

Students can plan and manage the production of animated films of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Theater students can do the voices. Orchestra students can write and perform the sound track. The techies and the artists can both work on the animation.

There is a 3D programming tool, free from Carnegie Mellon University, called Alice. It is intended for high school students. They have a program for middle school students called Storytelling Alice. Money for software is not a problem.

Plano (my home town) can teach high quality animation in its public schools. Lack of will power and vision are the only obstacles.

Animation is an important part of the new economy. Texas can have an important part in the business of animated movies, and we can start with our public schools.

The works of Shakespeare are in the public domain. Besides learning animation, our theater students would have more opportunities to perform. The orchestra students would understand soundtracks and see how they can be opportunities for creativity. When the projects are finished, the animated versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey can be used for instruction, along with works by Shakespeare.

Students can learn the classics.

Students can learn hi-tech skills.

Students can learn important business skills.

Our children have great opportunities. Texas needs visionary leadership to enable our children to excel. This is a great opportunity for all the children of Texas, not just Plano.

Robert Canright

Monday, June 02, 2008

TBAR and Summer Festivals

I mentioned earlier the goal of a Texas Business and Arts Renaissance, TBAR. The New York Times, Sunday May 11, 2008, had a series of articles on arts festivals. Texas was mentioned in "Summer Stages Pop/Jazz" by Ben Sasario. This article mentioned the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

A related article, "Summer Stages" by Vivien Schweitzer, looking at classical music, mentioned the International Festival at Round Top. This is great.

It's great to see the arts in Texas being mentioned in a national newspaper. That series of articles did not mention any dance or theater festivals in Texas, so there is room for improvement, or maybe there are dance and theater festivals this Summer in Texas and the NY Times did not mention them.

We need to support the arts in Texas, so one day the arts in Texas can help support our children!

The arts are ennobling and uplifting, but if done right they can increase prosperity in Texas.