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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knowledge From Unlikely Sources

We all know - well, at least those of us that have the ability to see the reality of the education system - that Bush's NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND left out a great deal of educational tools that children in elementary schools needed.

Not only that, but the bar was set so low in many instances, that children children were allowed to pass on to the next grade without really "passing".

There are lots of alternative educational avenues that parents can approach. One of these is something that you might not expect - comics.

Stuff of Life is the first in a series dedicated to the hard sciences. The author is Mark Schultz, a DC Comics veteran and creator of the postapocalyptic classic Xenozoic Tales. The 160-page work, illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (improbably, no genetic relation), covers the regenerative processes of DNA, human migratory patterns, cloned apples, and stem cells. In a rapidly changing field, it's as up-to-date and accurate as possible.

Schultz, like Zimmerman, was attracted by the possibilities of using comics as an educational medium. "It's not prose, and it's not documentary film," Schultz says. "It's kind of its own animal." And the graphic novel market is drawing in different readers than he's accustomed to at DC. "The manga phenomenon," he notes as one example, "is attracting new demographics, like younger women, who weren't picking up on traditional comics."

Not that this is the first time comics have been enlisted for educational purposes. The field goes back to the 1940s, when Will Eisner turned Army instruction manuals into graphic guides for soldiers. Also, there's Larry Gonick's Cartoon Guides of the '80s, with his Cartoon Guide to Genetics being the most obvious precursor here. Stuff of Life builds on Gonick, updating his science and employing a silly yet more effective narrative—alien scientist Bloort 183 presents a PowerPoint on human genetics to his slow-learning leader.

More here.

The article concludes with a statement that over 50% of American adults believe that the Earth is roughly 6,000 years old. I'm very interested to see where that statistic came from and who was reponsible for the poll that generated that piece of idiocy.

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