Other Things to Know I Learned from Kindergarten

Perhaps you’re familiar with the poem All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. It’s a classic of American infantilism, that “values” and “innocence” are more important than thinking. I’m all for the sharing and wonder celebrated in the original, but it’s notable the teachers are conspicuously absent. They are an invisible benevolent force, a manifestation of good-natured fairness guiding the core values of the room — not inappropriate for poem written by a minister. When power and authority are invisible, it makes sense that it all seems normal and natural.

I found this not to be the case. Having just put my daughter through Kindergarten, her first engagements with teachers and classroom discipline were hardly invisible. In fact, navigating power and order was a hallmark of the year. As such, it was interesting to draw out other lessons from the experiences of these little people engaged with a bureaucracy for the very first time. So here are other things to know I learned from Kindergarten:

  • You can only speak when called on. But no one really hears you unless you speak out of turn.

  • The ones who get the most attention are those who demand it.

  • The authorities like best when you stay within the lines. It’s more fun when you don’t.

  • Authorities will ruthlessly deny, redirect, defend, and cover up their mistakes.

  • Rules are other people telling you what to do. The rules are arbitrary and subject to change without notice.

  • Some people are not nice to play with. But your best friend may be the person you just happen to be sitting next to. You just don’t know it yet.

  • Everyone is an artist.
>  9 July 2014 | LINK | Filed in ,
Twitter  2 July 2014 | LINK | Filed in ,
Russians use street art, humor, & social media to embarrass city officials into fixing potholes:

Twitter  2 July 2014 | LINK | Filed in , , ,
As the Detroit water crisis escalates, the United Nations declares a violation of human rights.
Twitter  26 June 2014 | LINK | Filed in , ,
Twitter  25 June 2014 | LINK | Filed in
Promising exploration of design patterns for interactive data visualization on mobile devices.
Twitter  19 June 2014 | LINK | Filed in
“For LGBT, political dissidents, activists and at-risk people everywhere, Google's little Google+ project became a loaded gun pointed right at anyone whose privacy is what keeps them alive.”
Twitter  11 June 2014 | LINK | Filed in
This frank look at New York Times digital strategy is brimming with insights for NGOs. Required read for all Executive Directors.
Twitter  16 May 2014 | LINK | Filed in ,
Painting propaganda on the streets of China with dot matrix water calligraphy and a trike:

Twitter  28 March 2014 | LINK | Filed in , ,

First Things First 2014

On the 50th anniversary of the 1964 design manifesto, and in the spirit of its 2000 refresh, here is a 2014 update addressing the social impact of design in the digital age.

Added to my growing list of design manifestos.

>  5 March 2014 | LINK | Filed in

On Culture its Consequences

From an interview with Molly Crabapple:

“Art can change the world, but seldom in the way it intends, and seldom the art that people think would have that effect.

I keep thinking of the Guy Fawkes mask Dave Gibbons drew. In discussions of what art is radical, mainstream comics are seldom brought up. And yet… I also think of an interview I read with Greenwald where he said that what convinced him of Snowden’s sincerity about bringing forward his revelations was when Snowden told him he was inspired by video games and comic books.

There is radical, explicit art, but there’s also art that worms into the culture and decades or centuries later bursts forward in unimagined effects.”

>  2 March 2014 | LINK | Filed in ,
Mr. Seeger offered to sing the songs mentioned by the congressmen who questioned him. The committee declined.
Twitter  28 January 2014 | LINK
How The Sex Pistols saved Christmas:
For the families of the striking fire fighters, Christmas 1977 was going to be a difficult one. With little or no money coming in, celebrations, presents, and even food were on ration. But something quite wonderful happened on that Christmas Day in Merrie England, when four of the country’s allegedly most reviled people brought happiness and festive gifts to the firefighters and their families.

This was Christmas Day 1977, when The Sex Pistols played a benefit gig for the families of striking fire fighters at the Ivanhoe’s club, Huddersfield, in the north of England.…
Twitter  26 December 2013 | LINK

The Success of Non-Violent Civil Resistance

In 2008, Erica Chenoweth published a study comparing 323 violent and non-violent civil resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2006. Among her findings:

  • Non-violent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed as violent insurgencies.
  • This trend is increasing — in the last 50 years civil resistance has become increasingly frequent and effective, while violent insurgencies have become increasingly rare and unsuccessful.
  • Campaigns were successful once they'd achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5% of the population — and many succeeded with far less than that.
  • Every single campaign that surpassed the 3.5% threshold was a nonviolent one.
  • Campaigns that relied solely on non-violent methods were on average four times larger than the average violent campaign — and much more diverse and inclusive.

Erica presented her research at TEDxBoulder last month:


She's also posted an FAQ and a transcript of her talk along with links and footnotes.

>  8 November 2013 | LINK | Filed in ,
19 videos of designers changing the world: Curry Stone Design Prize
Twitter  7 November 2013 | LINK | Filed in
The arts community is missing a great chance to push ballet initiatives today in NYC. #NYC2013
Twitter  5 November 2013 | LINK | Filed in ,
Heard about that big corporate settlement for defrauding the public? It’s tax deductible — paid for by the public.
Twitter  5 November 2013 | LINK | Filed in

Anti-Hero

Fantastic post on Demos on the importance of building power vs charity. I hate to give away the punchline (it's a short post—go read it now) but this really nails it:

“Certain kinds of everyday heroism will always be important and unavoidable, but the goal of a set of social institutions should be to destroy as many opportunities for heroism as possible. Heroism is only possible where some kind of tragedy is imminent. But a good social system snuffs out avoidable tragedies before they even have a chance of approaching imminence. In many cases therefore, the existence of heroism is actually a deeply troubling symptom of overall political dysfunction. It should not be met with adoration, but with horror and concern.”

I see this in design activism all the time. For instance, everyone loves when designers step up with charity. But there's important work for designers also in helping to build infrastructures (social, political, physical) to mitigate the impact of disasters in the first place.

>  10 October 2013 | LINK | Filed in
Eradicating poverty in the US is not deeply complicated or intractable. We have poverty because we choose to have it.
Twitter  24 September 2013 | LINK | Filed in
Board games that teach cooperation, not competition.
Twitter  20 September 2013 | LINK | Filed in


More? See September’s archives.
Or August’s.