Education vs. Vocational Training

In my two years of college, I have experienced firsthand the modern higher education system. One of the most common complaints about a college education can be summed up as, “why do I need to take Biology and American Literature? They don’t have anything to do with my major!” This complaint can be generalized to apply to any major. There always seems to be a class that is irrelevant.

C.S. Lewis spoke on the topic of education in an essay entitled “An English Syllabus.” In this essay, Lewis compares receiving an education to training for a vocation and comments on the differences between the two. The main goal of an education, Lewis says, is to create a good man–to teach a person not only how to work but also how to spend leisure time–how to enjoy reading literature or make informed voting decisions. Lewis continues by saying:

Vocational training, on the other hand, prepares the pupil not for leisure, but for work; it aims at making not a good man but a good banker, a good electrician, a good scavenger, or a good surgeon. You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves. That is how they were distributed in the old unequal societies; the poor man’s son was apprenticed to a trade, the rich man’s son went to Eton and Oxford and then made the grand tour. When societies became, in effort if not in achievement, egalitarian, we are presented with a difficulty. To give everyone education and to give no one vocational training is impossible, for electricians and surgeons we must have and they must be trained. Our ideal must be to find time for both education and training: our danger is that equality may mean training for all and education for none-that everyone will learn commercial French instead of Latin, book-keeping instead of geometry, and ‘knowledge of the world we live in’ instead of great literature.

The entire essay is not long and is worth reading in full here. What I find interesting is that Lewis’s attitude is at odds with the outlooks of many today–vocational training is all most students want anymore. This attitude is prevalent among engineering types especially, but I have encountered these ideas even in casual conversation with barbers, old friends, and hard working acquaintances. Can’t we just skip the social sciences and dive straight into our core classes? Maybe this is because social sciences aren’t taught well anymore. Maybe students don’t care. Maybe both. Regardless of the cause, our modern idea of education has become greatly diminished.

Daredevil

After last weeks review of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I closed by remarking that it would not hold a place on my shelf like, among other things, the Netflix series Daredevil. Daredevil is far different from any superhero genre story that the silver screen has ever had (at least as far as my experience goes), and in the following paragraphs I will try and do it justice.

Characters:
Daredevil_CharacterRoster
Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, Matt Murdoch, Claire Temple, and Wilson Fisk

The characters in the show Daredevil are what drive the series and make it great. Matt Murdoch is the main protagonist, and whenever he is not fighting corruption through the legal system as a lawyer, he is traveling the dark streets of Hell’s Kitchen by moonlight. Matt’s character is interesting to watch as the show progresses -revealing his backstory, as well as the struggles he has within himself. Matt is portrayed as a Roman Catholic in the show, and his conversations with his priest are interesting, never corny, and portrayed in a serious manner. Foggy Nelson is Matt Murdoch’s friend, college roommate, and law partner. Both men have a strong bond, and want to see justice prevail -especially in the case of the poor and unfortunate. Karen Page, after being helped out of trouble by Matt and Foggy, becomes their secretary and plays a pivotal role in what is happening in Hell’s Kitchen. These three characters’ lives and actions interrelate and provide an incredible and meaningful story as the show progresses. All of these characters, along with many others (including Wilson Fisk), are well developed by the show, and no one comes across as shallow or weak. In fact, after watching the entire first season, I didn’t find myself hating one character and loving others, but was simply left with a desire to see how the different players’ lives continued to unfold -how the good guys get past their differences to help those in need, and how the villains change their tactics and grow as well. From the perspective of well developed, relate-able, and empathetic characters, Daredevil is a true masterpiece.

Visuals:

Marvel-DaredevilUnlike most Marvel superhero productions, Daredevil is completely lacking when it comes to insane stunts, massive explosions, bigger than life villains, and lots of cool technology. Instead, the show gives a dirty street level view of Hell’s Kitchen. While the character Daredevil is technically a superhero, I would prefer to use the word “vigilante,” because while all superheroes are vigilantes, not all vigilantes are superheroes. The reason I would make this distinction is primarily because the show does not make a big deal about his powers, and does not play them up as “super”. Rather, they are portrayed as heightened senses than enable him to deal with his lack of sight. Rather than being a negative, I think this lends the show a sense of realism that the other Marvel productions have never had. In fact, the only other superhero film I’ve seen get close to this level of realism was the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy. However, this realism does mean that the show is very dark and violent. The series is rated TV “MA” (mature), and with good reason. Fighting in the show tends to be extremely brutal, and torture, blood, broken bones sticking out of limbs, and other mangling are presented fully without censure. Once again however, this adds to the “grittiness” and realism of the show: Daredevil doesn’t take out enemies in a blaze of glory, but rather manages to take a beating and remain standing longer than his opponents -much like a real fight would be like.

Should You Watch?

If you are tired of the largely eye-candy superhero movies that have been coming out lately, or just want a new take on the genre, Daredevil can be a good choice. At the same time, if you prefer not to view graphically violent TV shows/films, this is probably not something that you should watch. However, with excellent character development, and an engaging story-line, the show offers plenty of punch and will leave you wanting more…something that is refreshing in a genre that has begun pumping out many movies every year.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Going into the sequel Avengers film I had mixed expectations. On the one hand was the consideration that superhero movie sequels, with the exception of the Chris Nolan films, have almost endemically been worse than the original. Also, balancing multiple superheroes in one movie can prove tricky, and although Marvel pulled it off well in the first film, could they do it again? Read on to discover how Marvel did in this continuation of their franchise.avengers__age_of_ultron_by_mrskanda-d7scq92

Story

While enjoyable, the Avengers: Age of Ultron plotline is remarkably similar to the first film’s in many respects. Most of the same characters are present, and the movie follows the same path as the first by showing how the Avengers are broken up by internal strife and then re-unite at the end with a common goal. However, beyond these high-level similarities, there are some interesting twists: Hawkeye, who was largely eye candy in the first film and had no real depth as a character, is fleshed out more in this film (more than anyone else for that matter), and we gain insight into who he is and his relationship with Natasha Romanoff. Also, a romance subplot between two major characters adds some unforseen plot and character situations. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are very interesting, and have some of the most complex motivations of any of the characters.

Overall, while the story bears many similarities to the first film, the plot is different enough to be enjoyable and also fleshes out the character of Hawkeye who takes a more prominent role in this film than in previous, and also introduces two new players to the scene.

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Witty one-liner anyone?

Entertainment Value

From the perspective of the theatre setting the movie was very enjoyable. Much like the first film, the movie offers big screen eye candy and massive battle scenes. If the film could be summed up in one sentence it would probably be: a continuous sequence of battles punctuated by witty one liners. And I’m not kidding about the one-liners, they are everwhere. The one-liners are so copious it is like Marvel took the idea of adding humor and multiplied it times ten. This humor works in the film for the most part. However, Ultron also cracks some one-liners, and this hurt the seriousness of his character. After all, what kind of artificial intelligence villain bent on world destruction would be cracking jokes?

Conclusion

If you can catch it in theatres the latest Avengers film is definitely worth seeing thanks to its cinematic battles and wittiness. However, the lack of original plot or character depth will prevent the film from ever making its way onto my super hero movie shelf with the Nolan Batman trilogy, latest X-men movies, and the Netflix Daredevil series.

Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous

Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be FamousHidden Acres is a pleasant subdivision full of nice houses, young children, and middle-class parents.  Underneath the façade of peace, however, lie old grudges, tragedies, and mysteries.  Who, for example, stole Mr. Pasternak’s wheelchair?  Why is the bus driver Mrs. Teresa Birch (known as Mrs. B) stopping at an empty shed on her bus route this year?  What happened at the high school graduation years ago that sent Mr. Pasternak’s son to the hospital and left him mentally damaged and confined to a nursing home?  With amazing skill, J. B. Cheaney weaves her children’s story Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous into a book full of laughter and tears, mystery and adventure.

Nine children on Mrs. B’s bus form the focal point of this narrative.  Exuberant Shelly Alvarez aspires to be a famous singer.  Very much the drama queen, Shelly is usually either the poster child for optimism or for despair.  Shelly’s friend Miranda is kind, dependable, a good writer, and hard-working, usually performing the brunt of any work that Shelly needs done.  What Miranda wants most of all is to be Shelly’s best friend, not just her “bus friend.”  The brainy kid on the bus is Spencer Haggerty, destined to become a genius (according to his mother), but worried that he’s not.  Spencer’s friend Jay Pasternak plans to become a famous football player and loves spending time with his grandfather – yes, the one whose wheelchair was stolen.  Igor Sanderson wants to be noticed, and perhaps this is why he loves playing pranks and making jokes.  Living in the shadow of his older brother’s fame, Bender Thompson is disgruntled and friendless, but underneath his unwelcoming manner, he hides a talent for mathematics.  Shy Matthew Tupper is also friendless, and almost everyone ignores him.  In fact, no one realizes how smart he is until he wins the school science fair with a project on “Black Holes and White Dwarfs.”  Like Matthew, Alice is rather shy, and, being new to the neighborhood, has no friends.  This changes however when Kaitlynn, the bounciest and most talkative character of the story, befriends Alice, and they begin carrying out Kaitlynn’s harebrained schemes and writing stories together.  Over the course of a school year, the reader learns about these nine children, experiences their successes and disasters, discovers their flaws and talents, and grows to like each and every one of them.

A mystery and an adventure that is both fun and fulfilling, Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous is one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read.  It has an interesting story and compelling characters and explores complex topics like friendship, family, forgiveness, vocations, and tragedy.  To embark on an exciting and entertaining adventure, read Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous by J. B. Cheaney.