STEM to STEAM, Andy Savage, and a manipulative huffpost ad that could have been great

Andy Savage gave a powerful and on-target keynote at the Collaborate Conference (Quest, OAUG, and IOUG #C14LV). There is a nice summary at http://collaborate.ioug.org/p/bl/et/blogid=40&blogaid=289 , which I recommend. My favorite bit was point #7 : Art belongs in the same discussions as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M., not S.T.E.M.).

Andy phrased his entire take, even the bits of irony, on calling for positive action.

This is in contrast to a recent huffpost manipulation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/24/verizon-ad-tells-parents-to-encourage-girls_n_5526236.html

that insinuates compliments on being pretty imply stupid repression. It cobbles together a fictional account that would make anyone who took even the basic youth sports coach seminar cringe. See it yourself. Now the voiceovers of objection to specific acts of the girl in question were about preventing certain imminent disasters, but were phrased in the worst possible way. It is probably worth watching. Then come back here.

Now as I recall the very first introductory NYSCA seminar video, there was a bit about encouraging positive action, especially in kids. Scene one, dad coaching new bike rider on a sidewalk fringed by hedges: “Don’t ride into the hedges.” Of course the kid looks at the hedge on one side and rides right into it. Scene two: “Ride between the hedges down the center of the sidewalk.” The kid looks at the hedges, then looks at the center of the sidewalk, and rides down the center of the sidewalk to success. Hooray. Oversimplified? Perhaps a bit, but the underlying point is to coach the thing you want to have happen as a positive and as the last words in an instruction.

So what does this have to do with the Huffpost ad? Sigh. Well plenty. So consider the girl in the muddy rivulet wearing a party dress. “Don’t get your dress dirty.” could have been: “Let’s get into our adventure clothes before we climb up that muddy stream.” Another bit has the girl struggling with a power drill awkwardly on what looks like expensive equipment that might be ruined or at least damaged by unskillful drilling. “Be careful! Give that to your brother!” (Who in addition to being male, seems older and skilled at using power drills just by the way he takes the handle.) So how about “Let’s practice some drilling on some scrap so we do a better job on the telescope.” The message still prevents the imminent danger and probable damage, but it re-casts the message from “you can’t do that” to “you surely will be able to do that better with a little practice.”

That sums up my objection to the manipulation of this ad. 1) Its very title implies that a compliment about being pretty must come coupled with offensive other remarks, and 2) That there is no way to prevent bad results without causing psychological restriction on the person restrained from getting dirty in party clothes or getting hurt and damaging expensive equipment.

So rise above this manipulation! Voice restraints and prevent accidents WITH your best thoughts about how to accomplish the desired activity safely and to a good result. If you cannot offer a solution in real time, there is always the generic fallback, something like: “Hang on a second. Let’s figure out how you can do that {safely | effectively | without trashing your pretty dress}. ”

And let’s make sure we don’t trash ART while praising Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Praise being well-rounded and note that excellence in Art is synergistic with excellence in STEM: STEAM! (Thanks Adam). And of course also, let’s get geared up for #C15LV. Happy New Year.

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About rsiz

Father and Husband, Oracle Technology Scientist and Consultant, planning to end poverty for citizens and legal US residents Lebanon, NH · http://www.rsiz.com See my wife's puzzles at thingamajigsaw.com
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