Rose Hill's Writing Grove

A Fantasy author in the Twin Cities

Education Systems – Adult Education

People generally conceive of education as being directed towards children, but that has never been true.  Adults have had cause to learn new things throughout history.  In many cases, one might be required to be of legal age (whatever that age may be) before they are allowed to learn something.

 

What are some reasons an adult might seek education?

  • Continuing their education from childhood
  • Adding additional degrees
  • A change in profession
  • Immigration/emigration

 

Some of the same questions that apply to children apply to adults as well.

 

Who teaches adults?

Do people who teach adults need to have the same credentials as those who teach children?  In the US, those who want to teach children need to have a teaching license.  Depending on the educational institution, all that is needed to teach adults is some form of higher degree.

 

The qualifications of who teaches adults will change depending on the reason an individual seeks the education.  Someone who has moved to a brand-new country and needs to learn the language needs someone fluent in the new language more than they need a teacher with fancy degrees.  Someone changing their profession wants a teacher skilled in their new profession; higher education is only relevant as long as it pertains to the job in question.

 

What discipline methods are allowed?

Typically, corporal punishment is out of the question because adults will fight back.  But this may change depending on the circumstances of the education.  So, how are the adult students kept in line if they get unruly?  Are they sent out of class?  Given lower grades?  Refused permission to return?

 

There are also some questions specific to adults.

 

Who chooses an adult’s profession?

Is it self-chosen?  Do they follow their parents’ profession(s)?  Do their parents/guardians pick their profession for them?  Does a local leader make that choice?  Who gets to make this decision will tell you a lot about the level of autonomy vs social control in your particular culture.

 

Also consider what sort of professions are available.  Hunting isn’t generally an available option in an extremely high-tech society.  Nor would it be viable in a vegetarian society.  Similarly, a computer programmer would be out of the question for a low-tech world.  Consider what sort of jobs your culture would have available and what value they hold in society.

 

Don’t forget to add social class into the mix.  The higher up the social ladder one goes, the less likely you are to find them cleaning waste from the streets.  The lower on the social ladder one is, the less likely they’ll be working in places they might contact the ruling class.  This will impact what jobs are available for your characters.

 

Can a person learn more than their particular trade?

Are people allowed to switch professions?  This will tie into who gets to choose a person’s profession.  If an individual can choose whatever they like, they might be able to change their mind later down the road (assuming that finances and other concerns allow).  But if someone in power chose a person’s profession for them, there is less of a chance that the profession is changeable.

 

What if a person doesn’t want to change their profession, they just want to pick up a new skill or hobby on the side?  Where can this person go for teachers?  Who controls that knowledge?  Are certain trades open to anyone to learn?  Are certain trades restricted to certain individuals?  Are there adult education classes that teach hobbies like these?

 

Can a person be a jack of all trades, and dabble in a bit of everything?  Are they, perhaps, expected to, like a Renaissance Man of old?

Education Systems – Children

Now we have finally reached the topic that most people think about when they think education–how are the children taught?  This can take as many different forms as there are culture, so make sure what you develop for your world fits the culture you’ve created.

 

Keep in mind that children learn things naturally.  Spoken language comes automatically to humans until roughly puberty age, unless hearing problems or a complete and utter lack of being spoken to interfere.  Children watch the people around them, both adults and peers, to learn how to behave.  Children also try to accomplish things they want to do, and learn from their mistakes.  Not all education is explicitly taught by others.  This essay will focus primarily on explicit teaching, though consider what children pick up by example as well.

 

Who teaches children?

 

At the earliest ages, children learn from whoever is taking care of them.  This could be parents, nurses, governesses, siblings, relatives, or AIs programmed to tend children.

 

If your species has a life cycle that doesn’t follow the typical human path, consider how those differences might influence education as well.  If your frog people are all amphibious, who teaches the tadpoles in the water?  If your tree-people start out as seeds, how does the mother tree teach them?

 

At what age does the primary teacher of children change?  Depending on your society, there might not be a point when the primary caretaker stops being the primary teacher.  However, that would mean that the child in question is pretty much limited to the caretaker’s profession.  Is this something the child wants?  If yes, probably not a problem then.  Is this something the caretaker wants?  If yes, the child will likely learn their trade whether they want to or not.  If not, what does the caretaker want for the child, and how are they going to make sure the child gets it?

 

If not the primary caretaker, who does the child learn from?  Are they apprenticed to a particular person who will educate them for years at a time?  Do they go to general classes with a bard or priest?

 

If the teachers change, when do they change?  Each year?  Each semester/quarter/trimester?  Each subject?

 

Does your race and/or have any idiosyncrasies when it comes to teaching children?  Are only people in certain relation to the children or certain social status allowed to teach?  Are certain categories of people not allowed access to children (for reasons not related to child abuse)?

 

What discipline methods are allowed? 

Children get unruly sometimes.  That’s just the way it is.  How do their teachers keep them in line?  What punishments are normal?  What are the teachers allowed to do to keep order in the classroom?

 

If teachers go beyond what is normally prescribed for punishment, can they be punished by a higher authority?  What recourse do parents have if they disagree with how the teachers are punishing their children?  What recourse do orphans have who don’t have parents to speak up on their behalf?  What recourse do children have if their parents are simply unsupportive?

 

Keep in mind that disciplining children is a hot-button issue that people feel strongly about.  If this is something you’re going to touch on, you might want to make very clear where the lines of abuse are in your story’s culture.  There is a big difference between what is acceptable behavior in your story and what you might find personally acceptable.  Don’t get those two confused.

 

What do children learn? 

 

What subjects are considered necessary?  Math is pretty standard, whether your culture is oral or not.  Basic counting and arithmetic have been useful since time immemorial.  In a literate culture, reading and writing to be taught as children too.

 

Other skills taught will be highly dependent on culture.  Cooking?  Hunting?  Cleaning?  Basic science?  Fishing? Consider what skills are necessary for your culture to survive, for people to survive in that climate, and what is valued by the culture.  That will tell you what else children are taught.

 

If you need ideas, try looking up elementary school curriculums.  In the US, many states have standards of education that each grade has to meet.  This will give you a rough idea of where children are expected to be at a particular age.

 

What are considered too adult for children to learn?  Is anything?  How sheltered are children in general?  Is there a difference between how much parents shelter their children and how much teachers shelter their students?  How are those conflicts resolved?

Publishing Updates

Hello all!

We are taking a break from our Education In Fantasy series to bring you an update about publishing.  (I will try to make sure this break is not as long as the last one.)

Keep an eye out for “Shiny in the Shallows,” one of my short stories that will be published in the upcoming Sword & Sorceress 31.  I’ll let you know here when it comes out.

Education Systems – Access to Information

Last week we discussed access to education.  On a similar but slightly different note is the average access to information.  People might be trained to their job, but how much are they told outside of that?  How does the information get passed?  There are many possibilities:

  • Internet
    • Blogs
    • Vlogs
    • News articles
    • Social media
  • Books
  • Newspapers
  • Scientific Journals
  • Magazines
  • Libraries
  • Town criers
  • Bards
  • Travelling merchants
  • Gossip

 

How much access does the average person have to information?

 

Does the average person have access to a search engine, that can look up anything?  Are they like a modern or future person with a smartphone in their pocket?  Just because someone lives in the future doesn’t mean they have such access.  Think of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  It is very clear from the questions he asks that he does not have access to Google or Urban Dictionary.

 

People in pre-modern fantasy might have other access to information.  Are there public libraries?  Are there private libraries?  Who, exactly, are the private libraries restricted to?  Are there books?  Are the books printed or handwritten?  Before the invention of the printing press, books were a long, painstaking, and expensive process.  They were not the sort of thing your average person would have access to.  After the invention of the printing press, literacy increased because books were cheaper and more accessible.

 

In places without books, there could still be other options, such as scrolls and tablets.  Information could be painted or carved on walls and other stone objects.

 

In a non-literate culture, looking up information pretty much becomes impossible, but sharing information becomes a social activity.  The problem arises when the person seeking knowledge doesn’t know who to go to in order to ask the question.  If you need obscure information, there’s no real way to look it up if you don’t know who to go to.

 

Is information limited by any other factors?  The larger a government is, the more control they can have over the amount of information available.

 

What, if any, information is restricted? 

 

Information about the royal family?  Sacred Mysteries of a religious cult?  Prior heresies?  Prior revolutions?

 

Generally, information is restricted if it is considered dangerous.  Why might the restricted information be dangerous?  How might the information be used that people would consider it dangerous?

 

Battle plans are often kept secret so the enemy cannot effectively plan a counterattack, or even launch a pre-emptive strike.  Similarly, the location of important individuals might be kept secret for similar reasons.  Matters of national importance are often restricted, but try to think of minor things too.  What do people want to keep secret?  What lengths will they go to in order to keep that information secret?

 

And just as importantly–who is doing the restricting?  Is it government officials?  Does the restriction have government sanction or not?  Is it a religious organization?  Are there competing religious (or other) organizations that want to keep the information available?  If so, which organization has more power socially and politically?  Is it one lone person systematically going through and destroying and/or hiding information?  Do they have any special powers or technology that helps them accomplish their task?  (Mind-wiping powers, time travel, locator powers, etc..)

 

Is anyone countering the restricted information?  How sanctioned are these groups?  What sort of punishment exists for those who spread restricted information?  How is that information spread?

  • Code?
  • Deep web?
  • Subversive art?
  • Telepathic link?
  • Bound familiar servants?
  • Dream messages?

 

What, if any, information are people allowed to keep private?

 

This ties in directly to the question above.  If information is kept private it is, pretty much by definition, restricted from general access.  But levels of restriction could still vary depending on one’s need to know.  Criminal information is usually kept private, but jobs still request it to see if the applicant will be a risk to the company.  Medical information is generally private, but is still sent to doctors, pharmacies, and insurance companies.
In places where information is not recorded and tracked as much as it is in the modern era, more information can be kept private.  In more futuristic times, it might be harder to keep information private if people are tapped into the Internet at all times.  Similarly, there might be little privacy available in a telepathic culture.

Education Systems – Access to Education

Unless you have some sort of hivemind or telepathically dropped link (and sometimes even then), you will have variations in the ability of people in your culture to access education.  People might theoretically have equal access to all information, but someone with a drive to learn is going to access a whole lot more simply by their choice alone.  When thinking about access to education in fantasy worlds, consider not just what is societally available, but also the motivation of the characters in question.  How much education do they want to access?

Who can access education?

Are all people allowed to access education?  Typically, all people will have access to some level of education, even if it is no more than what is needed to follow orders and recognize their superiors.  But you may have classes of people who are viewed as sub-human or animal in nature, and are barred from the education given to your average member of society.  In such cases, what education are they openly given, and what do they trade within themselves?

That said, even for an average member of society, there may be barriers to accessing any more than the very minimum level of education.  If everything above the basics is taught in distant schools, then people without the means to travel there won’t have access to it.  If the student must pay for education, then poor students won’t have access to it.

Education might be intentionally restricted by guilds or other such societies.  Traditionally, guilds kept the knowledge of their professional skills secret to prevent competition.  Or, you might have religious secrets that are only accessible to those who move up the ranks of the priesthood.  Education could be intentionally limited by things like gender, sex, age, intelligence, genetic makeup, etc…

If magic is believed to be something innate (whether it is or not), magical education might be restricted to those who show the appropriate aptitude.  Conversely, a society might make a show of magical education being “available for everyone,” while in actuality it’s only available for an elite few, or those who do have an innate talent.

When considering access to higher levels or specialties in education, consider prerequisites.  If someone wants to study to be a teacher/priest/mage/bard/hunter/etc, what skills/knowledge do they need to have ahead of time?  How does one obtain those prerequisites?  Can they be waived for certain people?  (Think of the privileges “Chosen Ones” and people with family connections tend to get.)  Are extra requirements added for certain people?  (Consider the extra requirements added for Kel in the Protector of the Small quartet.)  Extra requirements are ways of weeding out people who are technically acceptable but socially unwelcome.

Are there literal barriers that appear when one tries to access education?  Think of a school that is hidden in a labyrinth, underwater, behind a magic veil, or up a mountain.  Think of the mundane accessibility problems from those who have to use crutches or wheelchairs to get around.  Could you imagine trying to use a wheelchair on the moving staircases at Hogwarts?  Do the managers of such school try to help those with limited mobility to access to the education they offer, or are the restrictions intentional?

Do different levels of education correspond to different social classes?

The answer to this question is dependent on how the social classes are divided in your world.  Money is the most basic division and will affect just about every culture that has a moneyed economy.  But people could also be divided based on citizenship, gender, magical ability, species, ethnic group, religion, etc…  People who conform to what the society-at-large values (the correct religion/appearance/gender expression/etc) are more likely to have more access to education (and other forms of power) than those who miss the mark in some way.

Education that has to be paid for will vary greatly depending on wealth.  The wealthy will have far more access to education than the poor.

To take a look at something most people tend to gloss over–how are the outcasts of society educated?  Outcast is a broad term that can cover anything from the untouchables to the homeless to social pariahs, depending on how your society is structured.  If a child is born among the outcasts, what sort of education do they have access to?  If someone becomes an outcast later, are they allowed to continue their education?  Is it even safe for them to do so?  Depending on the complications that made them an outcast, is it even possible?

What education do the outcasts share amongst themselves?  Do they teach each other to read, to do math, do practice magic?  Do they tell the new outcasts the best place to find a free meal, or an overhang to shelter from the rain?

Is there any knowledge that is zealously guarded within any particular social class?

How is access to education related to gender norms and family responsibility?

Who is expected to go to school to get a better job?  Who is expected to stay home and take care of the family members who need it?

Are children expected to get a good education so they can get a good profession and take care of their parents?  Is the oldest child expected to get a job immediately after basic education so that the younger ones can continue on?  How do responsibilities in families shift between the size of family, the profession(s) of the family, and the health of the family members?

One of my close friends was expected to (and did) get a job immediately after graduation and start working to help put her siblings through school.  I knew many women in both high school and college who dropped out of school upon getting married.

If food/meals are something that takes many hours to prepare, who is taking the time to prepare the food instead of being educated or otherwise working to support the family financially?  How many people are needed to support a family financially?  Does that number change depending on how educated the individual workers are?

Are the genders divided in their lessons?  How does this affect those who don’t fall neatly into the gender binary?  Are particular genders expected to be better at a certain subject?  What happens when someone from gender A is good at the subject expected out of gender B?  How do the expected subjects of excellence relate to later professions and gender expectations/roles?

Anthology Submissions

This is a periodic feature that I do, listing random anthologies that I find interesting.

SUNVAULT

Theme: Solarpunk and eco-speculation

Deadline: June 2, 2016

Payment: $0.06 per word

Word Count: 500-7500 words

 

THE BINGE-WATCHING CURE

Theme: Anything good, of a particular length

Deadline: December 31, 2016

Payment: $200 under 5K, $500 over 5K

Word Count: Varies, please see link for details

 

LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE

Lightspeed is a sci-fi/fantasy magazine that pays SFWA professional rates.  They only occasionally open up their submission period, so if you have something you want to submit, don’t miss your chance.  Additionally, their special issue PEOPLE OF COLO(U)R DESTROY FANTASY! is also accepting submissions until June 15.

Theme: Sci-fi/fantasy

Deadline: June 16 – June 30, 2016

Payment: $0.08 per word

Word Count: 1.5K to 10K.  5K or less preferred

Book Review – Best Served Cold

Hey all, sorry for the posting hiatus.  Things got crazy and something had to give.  I have not forgotten about my blog and I’m hoping to return to my once a week schedule–including continuing my Education in Fantasy series.

 

In the meantime, here’s my review of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.

 

This book started so well.  The opening line beautifully set the tone for a dark, violent fantasy.  That was exactly what I was looking for.  I had heard that Abercrombie was one of the best dark fantasy writers, so I was super excited to start this book.

Before I hit 200 pages, I was already getting bored.  When I hit 600 pages, I stopped reading and started skipping ahead.  I didn’t see anything that made me want to finish.

I just couldn’t get behind any of the characters.  Now, this was dark fantasy.  Going into it, I didn’t expect any of the characters to be likable.  That’s not how this genre works.  But characters still need to be engaging, and by and large, these weren’t.

It is generally said that three things make a character engaging, and a good character should have at least two out of the three: sympathy, proactivity, competence.

You might have expected that a woman who was betrayed and left for dead to inspire more sympathy, but Murcatto didn’t.  That’s fine.  As I said, I wasn’t expecting sympathetic characters in dark fantasy.

Proactive she is.  Hunting down the men who betrayed her is the one thing she has going for her.  The repetitiveness of “plan a murder, murder dude, plan a murder, murder dude,” is actually part of the reason I got bored so quickly, but it’s certainly not something you can fault Murcatto on.

So it all comes down to competence.  This is where I’m really disappointed.  We hear people saying great things about Murcatto as a military commander, but you don’t see it (at least, I didn’t see it in the first 600 pages).  As a fighter, she’s outclassed seemingly more often than not, even after she recovers.  As the book goes on, you see that more of her successes were due to her brother’s machinations, not even hers.  It’s unclear, exactly, what she was supposed to be competent at.

In fact, the only character I really liked was Ganmark, because he was exceedingly and demonstratably competent.  (It probably also helps that he is openly gay and gives zero fucks about people trying to use that to insult him.)

Most of the background and side characters were pretty flat.  All of their motivations were purely mercenary, which is not only boring but also strikes me as implausible (or at least stupid on Murcatto’s part).  I mean seriously, the Big Bad has been fighting a civil war for apparently years now, and she can’t bother to find a single person besides herself with a vendetta against him?  Not one?  There’s no one who won’t switch sides for better money?

 

Overall, would I recommend this book?  Probably not.  If you’re a fan of crude (not in a bad way, it totally works with the tone, but be aware of it), repetitive, and exceedingly violent fantasy, this will be right up your alley.  If you’re anyone else, I’d suggest giving it a pass.

That said, your tastes are not mine.  Maybe you’ll like it.  It’s popular enough that obviously a lot of people do.  If you’re curious, give it a shot.

Updates

Hey all,

Sorry I haven’t been posting recently.  I’ve recently quit my job, landed a temp one, and am interviewing for a permanent one.  All while taking on two new volunteer positions and trying to finish a short story for submission.  I’ve been a bit busy, and this has fallen on to the back burner.  I’ll get back to it soon, I promise.  Until then, I’m giving you another filler post.

You have only FIVE DAYS LEFT to pre-order FANTASTICALLY HORNY!  This is your best bet to read a copy of my story with bisexual polyandrous dwarves.  What doesn’t sound fun about that?  Pre-order it today!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/far-horizons-press-three-anthologies#/

 

Pre-Order to Read My Story!

Hello all!

I’m guessing anyone who bothers to read this blog is interested in my writing.  Well, now you can own a copy of your own!  Pre-order FANTASTICALLY HORNY from the link below to get a copy of my story, “The Fourth Husband.”

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/far-horizons-press-three-anthologies#/

Who doesn’t want an adorable, sexy story about bisexual polyandrous dwares?

Buy it today!

Education Systems – Access to Education

 

Unless you have some sort of hivemind or telepathically dropped link (and sometimes even then), you will have variations in the ability of people in your culture to access education.  People might theoretically have equal access to all information, but someone with a drive to learn is going to access a whole lot more simply by their choice alone.  When thinking about access to education in fantasy worlds, consider not just what is societally available, but also the motivation of the characters in question.  How much education do they want to access?

Who can access education?

Are all people allowed to access education?  Typically, all people will have access to some level of education, even if it is no more than what is needed to follow orders and recognize their superiors.  But you may have classes of people who are viewed as sub-human or animal in nature, and are barred from the education given to your average member of society.  In such cases, what education are they openly given, and what do they trade within themselves?

That said, even for an average member of society, there may be barriers to accessing any more than the very minimum level of education.  If everything above the basics is taught in distant schools, then people without the means to travel there won’t have access to it.  If the student must pay for education, then poor students won’t have access to it.

Education might be intentionally restricted by guilds or other such societies.  Traditionally, guilds kept the knowledge of their professional skills secret to prevent competition.  Or, you might have religious secrets that are only accessible to those who move up the ranks of the priesthood.

If magic is believed to be something innate (whether it is or not), magical education might be restricted to those who show the appropriate aptitude.  Conversely, a society might make a show of magical education being “available for everyone,” while in actuality it’s only available for an elite few, or those who do have an innate talent.

When considering access to higher levels or specialties in education, consider prerequisites.  If someone wants to study to be a teacher/priest/mage/bard/hunter/etc, what skills/knowledge do they need to have ahead of time?  How does one obtain those prerequisites?  Can they be waived for certain people?  (Think of the privileges “Chosen Ones” and people with family connections tend to get.)  Are extra requirements added for certain people?  (Consider the extra requirements added for Kel in the Protector of the Small quartet.)  Extra requirements are ways of weeding out people who are technically acceptable but socially unwelcome.

Are there literal barriers that appear when one tries to access education?  Think of a school that is hidden in a labyrinth, underwater, behind a magic veil, or up a mountain.  Think of the mundane accessibility problems from those who have to use crutches or wheelchairs to get around.  Could you imagine trying to use a wheelchair on the moving staircases at Hogwarts?

Do different levels of education correspond to different social classes?

The answer to this question is dependent on how the social classes are divided in your world.  Money is the most basic division and will affect just about every culture that has a moneyed economy.  But people could also be divided based on citizenship, gender, magical ability, species, ethnic group, religion, etc…  People who conform to what the society at large values (the correct religion/appearance/gender expression/etc) are more likely to have more access to education (and other forms of power) than those who miss the mark in some way.

Education that has to be paid for will vary greatly depending on wealth.  The wealthy will have far more access to education than the poor.

To take a look at something most people tend to gloss over–how are the outcasts of society educated?  Outcast is a broad term that can cover anything from the untouchables to the homeless to social pariahs, depending on how your society is structured.  If a child is born among the outcasts, what sort of education do they have access to?  If someone becomes an outcast later, are they allowed to continue their education?  Is it even safe for them to do so?  Depending on the complications that made them an outcast, is it even possible?

What education do the outcasts share amongst themselves?  Do they teach each other to read, to do math, do practice magic?  Do they tell the new outcasts the best place to find a free meal, or an overhang to shelter from the rain?

Is there any knowledge that is zealously guarded within any particular social class?

How is access to education related to gender norms and family responsibility?

Who is expected to go to school to get a better job?  Who is expected to stay home and take care of the family members who need it/take care of those going to school?

Are children expected to get a good education so they can get a good profession and take care of their parents?  Are the oldest children expected to get a job immediately after basic education so that the younger ones can continue on?  How does responsibilities in families shift between the size of family, the profession(s) of the family, and the health of the family members?

One of my close friends was expected to (and did) get a job immediately after graduation and start working to help put her siblings through school.  I knew many women in both high school and college who dropped out of school upon getting married.

If food/meals are something that takes many hours to prepare, who is taking the time to prepare the food instead of being educated or otherwise working to support the family financially?  How many people are needed to support a family financially?  Does that number change depending on how educated the individual workers are?

Are the genders divided in their lessons?  How does this affect those who don’t fall neatly into the gender binary?  Are particular genders expected to be better at a certain subject?  What happens when someone from gender A is good at the subject expected out of gender B?  How do the expected subjects of excellence relate to later professions and gender expectations/roles?