Category Archives: Articles of Note

How cross country skiing explains it all

Great, short piece in the NYT Magazine.

My favorite paragraph here:

Instead of offering us distraction — the glittery melodrama of figure skating or the quirky novelty of curling — cross-country skiers lean right into a bleak truth: We are stranded on a planet that is largely indifferent to us, a world that sets mountains in our path and drops iceballs from 50,000 feet and tortures our skin with hostile air. There is no escaping it; the only noble choice is to strap on a helmet and slog right in. Cross-country skiing expresses something deep about the human condition: the absolute, nonnegotiable necessity of the grind. The purity and sanctity of the goddamn slog.

Different levels

I liked this video. It goes directly to many of the conversations we have about levels of understanding.

It also goes to the question of how a kid can enter concepts that an expert does but in a different way. Possibly less sophisticated but definitely grappling with the same stuff.

Article on soil quality


This is money:

On the other hand, carbon sequestration in soil and vegetation is an effective way to pull carbon from the atmosphere that in some ways is the opposite of geoengineering. Instead of overcoming nature, it reinforces it, promoting the propagation of plant life to return carbon to the soil that was there in the first place — until destructive agricultural practices prompted its release into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. That process started with the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago and accelerated over the last century as industrial farming and ranching rapidly expanded.

The exact opposite of how school funding works

This is a description from a great article from Pete Wells about new restaurants in NYC and the ways in which they are created. His larger point about how many groups are excluded is set up by this description:

Most restaurants, though, are funded by loans and private backers. Aby Rosen, one of the owners of the Seagram Building, recently told a reporter for Town & Country how he had raised $32 million for the Pool, the Grilland another restaurant the Major Food Group is building there. He and the restaurateurs solicited investments from “a nice mix of hedge fund guys, fashionistas, rich guys — an interesting group of 100 people who then bring 20 or 30 of their friends, and suddenly you have 2,000 people.”

Sadly, this approach doesn’t work for new schools.

Humility; being humbled

There’s a cool piece in the paper today about the original meaning of humility, of “being humbled.”

Yesterday, while participating in a panel at Educon, I had talked about the necessity of humility in a teaching practice, particularly in terms of the mentoring relationship. In some ways, humility is a necessity for a mentor teacher, because if you’re at all self-aware you’re going to be humbled by your students, usually in an embarrassing way and usually after you’ve just explained how you might approach curriculum (the kids hate it), management (the kids ignite something), community (a fight breaks out), deliberation (they start screaming), documentation (they submit blank papers). You get the idea.

There’s nothing wrong with this as any teacher has good days and bad. But what I hope I’m trying to teach my students (and any poor soul unlucky enough to be student teaching with me) is how you keep moving right through these moments, that you can expect them even if you can’t predict them.

Why you read

I try and read something every night. Not always successful. Really liked this review but liked being able to give this paragraph to a student trying to make an argument about climate change:

More recent—and possibly more powerful—is the “ecosystems services model,” which is an attempt to cost out all the various services that nature provides, as if nature were a giant utility in charge of cleaning the water and freshening the air and sheltering coastlines from damaging storms but incapable of presenting us with a bill we can understand. The point of commodifying nature in this way is to give us a means of putting our actions—destroying mangroves, for instance—in perspective, showing us the hidden costs of what would otherwise look like rational economic behavior. The flaw here is that we can only value the ecosystems services that bear some resemblance to the things we’re used to assessing. Or as McCarthy puts it, “Worth is attributed only to services whose usefulness to us can be directly measured.” But what value, he asks, “do we give to butterflies which, when I was seven, captured my soul? What value do we give, for that matter, to birdsong?”