Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Aesop HackEd: Nasruddin's Three Lectures

When I was thinking about stories to do for #AesopHackEd, I started thinking of all the Nasruddin stories that are relevant to education. And then... I started obsessing about Nasruddin in general. Since that all happened on November 2, I decided to take it as a sign: I am doing a #NaNoWriMo "novel" about Nasruddin, Birbal, and other wise guys of the Middle East and India. You can see how that is going here: A Book of Nasruddin and Birbal Stories.

Meanwhile, here is one of the stories that is relevant to education. Nasruddin discovers peeragogy!  I was inspired by a version of the story as told by Idries Shah in The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin, which is one of four Nasruddin books that he wrote. You can find all of Shah's books free to read online at the Idries Shah Foundation website. I first read Shah's book The Sufis 30 years ago, and I have been learning from Nasruddin ever since. 

Be warned: Nasruddin stories can be highly addictive.

And for more Aesop Hacked, visit Twitter or our planning document, plus you can browse this blog: my stories so far.


When Mullah Nasruddin moved to a new town, the people of the town were eager to learn from him. "O Wise One," they said to him, "please speak to us of your wisdom and experience."

"I will present a lecture exactly one week from today at noon," agreed Nasruddin.

The next week at noon, the town square was packed with people who wanted to hear what Nasruddin would say.

"Good people," Nasruddin began. "I must ask if you know anything about the topic I will speak about today."

"No, we do not!" shouted the people.

"Well then," said Nasruddin, "there is no point in addressing people who are so ignorant." And the Mullah went home without so much as another word.

The next day, a delegation came to Nasruddin's house. "Please, O Learned One, we ask that you give us another chance. Will you not give a talk to the people of the town so that we may learn from your wisdom and experience?"

"Well," said Nasruddin reluctantly. "I suppose so. I will present a lecture exactly one week from today at noon."

This time the people were ready. Just as before, Nasruddin asked, "Good people, I must ask if you know anything about the topic I will speak about today."

The people shouted back, "Yes, we do!"

"Well then," said Nasruddin, "if you are already informed, there is no need for my lecture." And once again the Mullah went home without so much as another word.

The people were now even more eager to hear what he had to say, so they pleaded with him to give one more lecture, and Nasruddin agreed. "I will give one last lecture a week from today at noon."

This time the people arrived, even more eager than before but uncertain what would happen. Once again, Nasruddin asked, "Good people, I must ask if you know anything about the topic I will speak about today."

Some people shouted, "Yes!"

Some people shouted, "No!"

"Well then," said Nasruddin, "those who know should instruct those who do not. You have no need of me!"

That was the last of Nasruddin's lectures.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Be Careful How You Count: A Tortoise Tale from Cameroon

This is for a new storytelling project by modern-day Aesops in the field of education; more information about that here. Maybe you will want to contribute a story! Find us at Twitter, #AesopHackEd, and I will be using the label AesopHackEd here at this blog when I add more stories. And yes, there will be more stories! I think this sounds like a very fun and useful project. :-)

My story is a parable about the dangers of number-crunching out of context.

Be Careful How You Count:
A Tortoise Tale from Cameroon

Tortoise was hungry. He was always hungry. He lived with his mother. Tortoise would bring food to their house. His mother would cook the food, and Tortoise would eat the food, and then his mother would eat the food that was left. Tortoise was always hungry, and his mother was always hungry too. 

African Spurred Tortoise

One day Tortoise went and fetched home seven baskets of greens. "Cook the greens, Mother!" said Tortoise. "And hurry up please! I am hungry. I am VERY hungry."

liponda greens in bowl

Mother Tortoise hustled and bustled and soon she brought the cooked greens out from the kitchen. There were now three baskets of greens, and she put them on the table where Tortoise was waiting. 

Tortoise shouted, "Where are the rest of them?" Tortoise then pounded his fist on the table. "I brought home seven baskets of greens. And I told you I was hungry! Bring me the other greens. NOW!"

"What other greens are you talking about, silly boy?" said Mother Tortoise.

Tortoise knew that his mother must have eaten the other four baskets of greens, and that made him angry. They argued back and forth and back and forth until Tortoise finally got so angry that he picked up a stone, hit her on the head, and killed her.


Tortoise then ate the three baskets of greens, and he was still hungry afterwards. "At least she won't be stealing my food any more," he thought to himself. 

The next day Tortoise went and brought home another seven baskets of greens. There was no more mother to cook for him, so Tortoise had to cook the greens himself. He put the seven baskets of greens in the pot, and when they were ready he took them out. 

There were three baskets of greens. 

So Tortoise began to yell at the pot. "You greedy pot!" he shouted. "How dare you eat my greens?"

But then Tortoise thought some more, and he understood what had happened. He had killed his mother for nothing. 

This made Tortoise feel so bad that he picked up the same stone, hit himself on the head, and died. 

The moral of the story: Not all baskets are the same. Be careful how you count.

~ ~ ~

This story is my retelling of a folktale from Cameroon as found in this book: Tortoise the Trickster and Other Folktales from Cameroon by Loreto Todd, published in 1979.

I added the part about Tortoise getting angry at the pot; the rest of the story is the same as the version in Todd's book, retold in my own words. Here is the moral of the story in the book: "That is why Tortoise died, because he had forgotten that a mother cannot steal from her own child." For my moral, I wanted to make the connection to the dangers of number-crunching in education, especially when people take the data out of context.

About Cameroon: Cameroon is located on the west coast of central Africa; it is sometimes classified as a central African nation, and sometimes as west Africa. You can learn more at Wikipedia.

About Tricksters. The name "trickster" emphasizes intelligence, but tricksters are also notable for being greedy, selfish, and cruel, as you can see in this story.

About Tortoise: There are stories about tortoise the trickster in many African cultures, and enslaved African storytellers brought those stories with them to the United States, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. If you would like to read some African American stories about the trickster turtle, you can find a selection here: African American turtle stories.

About Loreto Todd: Loreto Todd (born in 1942) is a linguist specializing in English pidgins and creoles. You can read more about her work here: Loreto Todd. She collected the stories told in Cameroonian Pidgin English, and then presented them in standard English in this book. It is a wonderful collection of folktales; highly recommended! It's out of print, but there are used copies at ABE and at Amazon

book cover of Tortoise the Trickster and Other Folktales from Cameroon by Loreto Todd

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Connect and share with #ungradingnet

I had a few minutes this morning, so I thought I would set up a few more tools to curate and syndicate ungrading ideas and resources by using the #ungradingnet hashtag and RSS to pull content together (see previous post for a Twitter widget tracking #ungradingnet). I hope this can be useful as Ken sets up as a hub for us to share and connect. :-)

As people may know, I am a huge fan of Inoreader as a tool both for reading RSS and also for syndicating that RSS back out. I've set up a tag in my Inoreader to collect ungradingnet content and send that back out via RSS and also via HTML. The HTML is at the bottom of this post (plus the HTML iframe for anyone who is interested), and here's the RSS feed:

BLOGS. I can use Inoreader to follow people's blogs if you are using ungradingnet as a label (tag, category, it's all good), so this blog post, for example, will show up automatically there. If you will be using ungradingnet at your blog, let me know and I will subscribe!

DIIGO. Diigo also offers support for RSS and thanks to a nifty trick I learned from Tom Woodward (or Alan Levine? I can't remember who for sure!), I have now subscribed to all public Diigo items tagged ungradingnet; here's that URL if you are curious how that works:
(This is actually my first test of subscribing to the all-users RSS feed with that tab=153 trick, and if that doesn't work, I'll subscribe to individual Diigo users, just like with blogs; I know those RSS feeds work since I use those all the time for my own Diigo content.)

PINBOARD. Update: With some help again from Tom Woodward, I've added a live RSS feed of Pinboard items tagged ungradingnet also!

I know this will be useful just for me in terms of organizing my ungrading stuff (which is, admittedly, a mess, spread out everywhere)... and I hope it can be useful to others. If you will be blogging about ungrading and using ungradingnet as a label, let me know! :-)

<iframe frameborder="0" height="1300" src=";n=5" tabindex="-1" width="100%"></iframe>