I heard Jonathan Haidt on Start the Week and liked what he had to say.
Here’s a review of his most recent book, which I gather is based on a story in the Atlantic.
Here are the three points:
The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
The Untruth of Us vs. Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.
I tend to feel the first two while teaching university. The second is something I’ve spent my entire high-school teaching career railing against; kids and peers are undoubtedly sick of me saying “emotions aren’t evidence” alongside of “what’s your evidence for that claim.”
There’s a great article by Tom Verducci in SI. Two quotes stuck out for me:
“I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing to do is do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.”
Verducci also quotes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“But who shall dare to measure loss and gain in this wise? Defeat may be victory in disguise; The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”
What happens in any organization — a team, a school or classroom, a business — that allows them to work through a difficult time?
To read a story, share a song, work through a novel that you love with kids. They’re not going to love it the same way.
I re-read the story we’re taking on today on the trolley this morning. This line left me with tears in my eyes:
No more maybe, in other words. Because that is just what happens. One day it is maybe, and then you just know.
Reminded me of a song I heard for the first time in junior high:
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?
Live version here, 1980, 00:04:26-00:04:34.
Note to self: Get it together, man.
I’m still thinking about both of these works but they’d go well together.
I’d like to read Kwame Anthony Appiah’s piece, Go Ahead Speak for Yourself, with a group of students.
Then I’d like to watch Hannah Gatsby’s special, Nanette. I watched the first half of this last night and was blown away by the performance. Utterly compelling.
Got to start the day though. More later.
One of the great parts of getting ready to open a year is getting read lots of Annette Gordon-Reed’s work. Along with the books, there’s this piece about Charottesville that concludes with this paragraph:
American ideals have always clashed with harsh American realities. We saw that clash on the grounds of UVA. But how do we continue in the face of depressing realities to allow ourselves to hold fast to the importance of having aspirations, and recognize that the pursuit of high ideals—even if carried out imperfectly—offers the only real chance of bringing forth good in the world? In many ways, grappling with that question is what being a scholar of Jefferson is all about. Perhaps coming fully to grips with the paradoxes that Jefferson’s life presents is what being an American is about.
Short, thoughtful article on what it means for a teenager to be college ready.
This is a great paragraph:
If your college-bound junior or senior still requires external accountability for school work, your child may be telling you he’s not ready for academic independence. Many parents focus too intently on grades themselves, rather than the process by which those grades are attained. If you still feel like the homework police at the end of 11th grade, it’s time to retire. A C-student who can manage his own academic life has a better chance of succeeding in college than an A- or B-student who depends on parental oversight.
It made me think about how I want to communicate with parents this year. Would a regular newsletter be in range? Some sort of document that outlines the work and offers ways to help, i.e., here are the helpful questions you might ask your kid this month.
Read this yesterday. Thought I might use it later in the year as a way of helping kids think about how a writer identifies a key question — are things getting better — and then brings a series of close readings to bear upon it. Different disciplinary lenses — psychological, historical, sociological — provide the author with the glue to hold his essay together, although its his skillful writing that provides the connections.
Several quotes to consider:
Was the past good or bad? Are we on the right track or the wrong one? Is life getting better or worse? These questions are easy to ask—pollsters and politicians love asking them—but surprisingly hard to answer. Most historical and statistical evidence shows that life used to be shorter, sicker, poorer, more dangerous, and less free. Yet many people, like Milanovi?, have fond memories of bygone years, and wonder if reports of their awfulness have been exaggerated. Others concede that life used to be worse in some ways, but wonder if it wasn’t also better in others—simpler, more predictable, more spiritual.
The power of bad news is magnified, Pinker writes, by a mental habit that psychologists call the “availability heuristic”: because people tend to estimate the probability of an event by means of “the ease with which instances come to mind,” they get the impression that mass shootings are more common than medical breakthroughs. We’re also guilty of “the sin of ingratitude.” We like to complain, and we don’t know much about the heroic problem-solvers of the past. “How much thought have you given lately to Karl Landsteiner?” Pinker asks. “Karl who? He only saved a billion lives by his discovery of blood groups.”
Later in the year, when we get to writing/reviewing books, I hope I can use this piece as a model.
Rothman, Joshua. “Are Things Getting Better or Worse?” The New Yorker, July 16, 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/are-things-getting-better-or-worse.
I should see if I can read a portion of these this summer.
The Great Work Continues
This is a terrific Sunday morning read. There are some terrific lines and I’ll track down the podcast to use in the classroom.
It’s not unknown for people of no remarkable genius to come away from reading, say, Anna Karenina, fancying that if only Tolstoy hadn’t done it, they could. I’d go so far as to say that it’s peculiar to the novel to empower readers in this way, stirring in them intimations of creative energy. The better a novel is, the more we feel it’s been found among the ruins of the language we share. Whatever is made of words belongs to us too.
Novels cannot by nature fail to be dialogic.
But I think something of value happens when we read, say The Ambassadors – of value as an affective stimulus, I mean – that doesn’t when we watch, say, The Sopranos. Don’t tell me The Sopranos is more fun. That might only mean that Tony Soprano is more engaging than Lambert Strether. He’s certainly got a more engaging name. There is, though, more than one kind of fun. And to say that reading more closely resembles study is not to be a killjoy: concentration and enjoyment are not opposites. Strange that when everyone’s running marathons and otherwise raising sweat for the hell of it, working hard at a novel is thought to take the fun away.
Maybe, just maybe, I could use this at the beginning of the year to set up the “why we read” conversation.