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George Orwell quote

” A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It become ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” Horizon, 76 (London, 1946).


Superhero Mike Rose has a cool blog entry about this topic here. One quote that struck me as crucial:

And because many of our students, like Kevin, did display in their writing all the grammatical, stylistic, and organizational problems that give rise to remedial writing courses in the first place, we did spend a good deal of time on error – in class, in conference, on comments on their papers – but in the context of their academic writing. This is a huge point and one that is tied to our core assumptions about cognition and language: that writing filled with grammatical error does not preclude engagement with sophisticated intellectual material, and that error can be addressed effectively as one is engaging such material.

He highlights the battle I fight every semester with my student teachers…in my experience, almost all kids will respond to real questions and provocative, relevant texts. They may struggle with their prose, they may grow frustrated at their own progress, they may not be able to write all the wonderful things that they can say — but their ability to “deal” with that material is very much present.

I remember showing a group of kids a picture from the war in Iraq and asking them to describe it. All one kid could say what that is was “bullshit.” I could have stopped there, but I knew he was trying to say something deeper, and by gently pushing, he was able to describe how such a situation (a father crying over a wounded child) was beyond words.

Sadly, I think a lot of teachers hear the curse and simply stop trying.

Class based integration

Extended essay here that lays out how a number of districts, primarily in the south, where administrators have attempted to substitute income status for race.

One paper I haven’t seen by Sean Reardon, John T. Yun and Michal Kurlaender made a claim that’s certainly true for Philadelphia and most rustbelt cities:

“given the extent of residential racial segregation in the United States, it is unlikely that race-neutral income-integration policies will significantly reduce school racial segregation, although there is reason to believe that such policies are likely to have other beneficial effects on schooling.”

citation to track down later:
Implications of Income-Based School Assignment Policies for Racial School Segregation
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Vol. 28, No. 1, 49-75 (2006)

From both sides

Yesterday, John McCain had this to say about teacher education programs:

“We should also offer more choices to those who wish to become teachers,” McCain said. “Many thousands of highly qualified men and women have great knowledge, wisdom, and experience to offer public school students. But a monopoly on teacher certification prevents them from getting that chance. You can be a Nobel Laureate and not qualify to teach in most public schools today. They don’t have all the proper credits in educational ‘theory’ or ‘methodology’ — all they have is learning and the desire and ability to share it. If we’re putting the interests of students first, then those qualifications should be enough.”

Why is that politicians can blast both teacher education programs and teacher unions with no blowback at all? Nearly all teachers begin with teacher education and are represented by unions; yet both seem to bear all the blame for all that is wrong in education. What’s interesting, too, is the way that politicians can profess love for teachers but can disrespect their origins and their current organization.


Others receiving planning grants include the Democracy in Action Charter School. The founding group of this proposed high school includes Simon Andrew Hauger, who oversees the Automotive Academy at West Philadelphia High School.

The founders envision a charter that would be “student-driven and project-based,” said Hauger, whose automotive students have received international acclaim for winning Tour de Sol competitions with biodiesel cars.

He said the founders will use the grant money to develop the curriculum and refine their school model.

“I am excited to see where it leads,” said Hauger, who will remain at the automotive academy in the fall.

The press release — issued at 12:26 yesterday — is here.

Sound familiar?

Randi Weingarten, who will soon be the new head of the AFT, offers the following statement:

“Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?” Ms. Weingarten asked in the speech.

“Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities and homework assistance,” she said. “And suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and counseling clinics.”

I know I’ve heard this before. Somewhere. It was among the rationalizations for large public housing projects — but I bet tomorrow, when I look into Justice, Justice or The Strike that Changed New York — I’ll be able to find a similar quote from community activists.

Such an approach all but ignores the spatial dimensions that continue to fuel inequality: building community schools where the community has minimal social capital (hate that term but it works here) will require long-term political commitment that I don’t see developing.

Philadelphia losses

Story here about the continued dropping population of Philadelphia.

Nearly all of the academics note the lack of real jobs to draw people to the city. Neither tourism nor casinos will bring the kind of employment necessary for a city to prosper. And…there’s no industry that will allow Philadelphia to become the kind of global city that necessitates a service industry.

Three questions:
1. Is shrinking so bad?
2. Where is the population decreasing? I think about the neighborhoods West and North of me, where new housing is being developed; these communities will have a much lower density than what they replace.
3. How is the racial composition changing, i.e., who is leaving and who is staying? This article talks of brain drain, of the inability of Philadelphia to “keep” college students, but are these really the folks who are departing?

Quote from Obama Interview

Is there a marker you would lay down at the end of your first term where you say, “If this has happened or not happened, I would consider it a negative mark on my governance”?

If I haven’t gotten combat troops out of Iraq, passed universal health care and created a new energy policy that speaks to our dependence on foreign oil and deals seriously with global warming, then we’ve missed the boat. Those are three big jobs, so it’s going to require a lot of attention and imagination, and it’s going to require the American people feeling inspired enough that they’re prepared to take on these big challenges.

Full interview here.

Naming rights?

The best academic lecturer I encountered (in a course setting) — Bruce Kuklick — weighs in on a non-controversy at Penn about naming rights:

“This is the University of Pennsylvania — what do you expect?” Bruce Kuklick, a history professor, said of the name change. “This is a school founded by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was the arch modernizing pragmatist of the American founding, a guy who always had his eye on the main chance.”

“It would be surprising,” he said, “if they didn’t rename Logan Hall to a high bidder.”

Talent will out

From Stephen King’s essay from earlier this year:

We could argue all day about the reasons for fiction’s out-migration from the eye-level shelves — people have. We could marvel over the fact that Britney Spears is available at every checkout, while an American talent like William Gay or Randy DeVita or Eileen Pollack or Aryn Kyle (all of whom were among my final picks) labors in relative obscurity. We could, but let’s not. It’s almost beside the point, and besides — it hurts.

Instead, let us consider what the bottom shelf does to writers who still care, sometimes passionately, about the short story. What happens when he or she realizes that his or her audience is shrinking almost daily? Well, if the writer is worth his or her salt, he or she continues on nevertheless, because it’s what God or genetics (possibly they are the same) has decreed, or out of sheer stubbornness, or maybe because it’s such a kick to spin tales. Possibly a combination. And all that’s good.

What’s not so good is that writers write for whatever audience is left. In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course, the holy grail of the young fiction writer) not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there. And this kind of reading isn’t real reading, the kind where you just can’t wait to find out what happens next (think “Youth,” by Joseph Conrad, or “Big Blonde,” by Dorothy Parker). It’s more like copping-a-feel reading. There’s something yucky about it.