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Honest Abe: I’d Rather Play Video Games

September 18, 2018


Did you know that Abraham Lincoln would rather be playing video games? It must be true because he said so — right there on a t-shirt I bought at  department store. Why would they lie?

So I actually got this t-shirt for my son but I knew I’d want to borrow it. So far, he has no interest in wearing it — but I’m wearing it today to class to talk about RESEARCH and SOURCES. Whether in a research paper, a blog post or a presidential tweet, it is critical that credible sources are used and cited as possible and where necessary. 

We currently live in a bizarre time where the President of the United States thinks it’s okay to play fast and loose with the truth– and journalists are working overtime to keep track and help us know what’s what because his lies endanger people and planet. Some publications even have running tallies of the lies along with documentation to show what the truth is.

In this article, The National Resouces Defense Council focuses on 45’s lies that endanger the planet.  Reading through them is astounding and nauseating; it also helps me to be more compassionate to people who continue to believe certain news srouces as well as our President. It is hard to hold onto the truth when surrounded and impaled with so many lies.

It’s one thing to plagiarize — to use another’s work as your own without giving credit where it is due– but it is something else entirely to fabricate the truth to fit your argument. Neither one is acceptable in a research paper. Claims MUST be supported with cited evidence.

As writers, as we do our research for a piece of writing, we must keep track of our sources ALONG THE WAY. It can get messy, but it is critical to do so because otherwise when it is time to cite those sources — often too close to deadline for comfort — we may not be as accurate as we should be. I will sometimes do a blog post about what I’m researching and link to the sources I’m finding. Or I might use a blog to keep track of research but I may not ever publish it.

Here’s how grad students in library science suggest we go about conducting research.

As a writer and teacher, I follow Paulo Freire’s advice from chapter two of Pedagogy of the Oppressed that teachers bring “problem posing” into the classroom. Freire argues that students have real questions for which they want answers, real problems they want to solve, real ideas they want to explore about their world. He encourages teachers to move from a transmission style of teaching to a transformative one, one that provides students with opportunities to transform their world. To do so, he suggests a process of naming, reflecting, and acting on the real world problems we face today. In Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin also encourages students to get out and work on real world problems.

For their research paper, I tell students there are three steps in solving a problem–and they all require research and evaluation. Use this question to guide you: What action can I take to solve this problem?

  1. Name the problem. Conduct primary and secondary research to learn more about the problem; evaluate the information so that you can name the problem and describe it in detail.
  2. Reflect on possible solutions. Now that you understand the nature of the problem, conduct primary and secondary research into possible solutions, and then evaluate the solutions for which one/s you want to try for your action.
  3. Act. Use the primary and secondary research you’ve found about the problem and the solution to determine your course of action. What action will you take to solve the problem? Once you do take action, evaluate how the process and what you should do differently next time

“You could say that river cleanup was child’s play compared with the melting of the ice caps—and I would thank you for sharing and get back to doing what is possible. Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it,” writes Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, in an essay published this month in National Geographic.

This kind of work can be overwhelming. Depressing. In the past, I would have students do research into a problem — and we all got bummed. Then I focused on Problem-Solution papers — and it was always someone else who did the solving. That’s when I started really emphasizing the ACTION part — what is SOMETHING they can do to help solve the problem?


Elementary school art teacher Nancy Retinaky made this poster for her students from one of John Halcyon Styn’s Burning Man videos.


Among other accomplishments, John Halcyon Styn started a camp at Burning Man called Pink Heart. From that, he and his campmates created First Saturdays in San Diego where they help out the hungry and the houseless. This has been going on for eight years now and with over 100 successful events.

Changing the world isn’t easy. And when it comes to writing about research, just like any writing about anything, it is often hard. Researching how to solve the world’s problems can seem hopeless. Anne Lamott writes in the recent issue of National Geographic that:

You would almost have to be nuts to be filled with hope in a world so rife with hunger, hatred, climate change, pollution, and pestilence, let alone the self-destructive or severely annoying behavior of certain people, both famous and just down the hall, none of whom we will name by name.

“Yet I have boundless hope, most of the time,” Lamott says. “Hope is a sometimes cranky optimism, trust, and confidence that those I love will be OK—that they will come through, whatever life holds in store. Hope is the belief that no matter how dire things look or how long rescue or healing takes, modern science in tandem with people’s goodness and caring will boggle our minds, in the best way.”

Lamott continues that “By showing up with hope to help others, I’m guaranteed that hope is present. Then my own hope increases. By creating hope for others, I end up awash in the stuff.”

Lamott points out that students “pour out of school labs equipped with the science and passion to help restore estuaries and watersheds.”  While they may or may not utilize any “book learning,” I hope they will take Halcyon’s advice to heart and be artists — magical beings activity participating in the world around them.

We’ve got this. Let’s do it.




One Comment leave one →
  1. September 18, 2018 1:03 pm

    beautiful! (And super helpful concepts.)

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