Category Archives: Articles of Note

Pair of readings on influence of kajillionaires

For-profit entities

Knee, Jonathan A. “Why For-Profit Education Fails.” The Atlantic, November 2016.

Barkan, Joanne. “Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools.” Dissent Magazine. Accessed November 29, 2016.

Two food articles I thoroughly enjoyed

Reading The Baffler and Heather Havrilesky here. She quoted this article:

If shopping and cooking really are the most consequential, most political acts in my life, perhaps what that means is that our sense of the political has shrunk too far—shrunk so much that it fits into our recycled-hemp shopping bags. If these tiny acts of consumer choice are the most meaningful actions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t thinking and acting on a sufficiently big scale.

Havrilesky, Heather. “Delusion at the Gastropub.” The Baffler. Accessed November 29, 2016.

Lanchester, John. “A Foodie Repents.” The New Yorker, November 3, 2014.

Another article for the “why read?” conversation

Money all the way through; I would love to have students keep the first and last paragraphs and then rewrite the middle paragraphs based on the novels, stories, and poems they’ve read.

Last paragraph:

So reading is not merely a diversion or distraction from present pain; it is also an enlarging of our universe, our sympathies, wisdom and experience. The act of entering into the consciousness of another being, another sex, or sexual preference, social group, political outlook or religious persuasion, allows a respite from private and parochial preoccupations. That widening of our concerns may entail entering another location, or period in history – or an arena of which we would otherwise be ignorant. Education, as people are never tired of repeating, is a process of leading out, which suggests another benefit: that in being led by reading into previously unknown territory, we learn.

Source: “Move over Freud: Literary Fiction Is the Best Therapy.” The Guardian, November 26, 2016, sec. Books.

Where do we hear each other?

This article describes how one reporter has struggled with the ways in which Americans communicate with each other at this point. There were a number of killer insights but several stuck out:

In recent years, in my reporting, I’ve come to uncool conclusions. For one thing, I’ve begun to think that instilling public purpose into private communities is the hardest thing in the world.

I’ve increasingly found myself a supporter of messy public process: the legislation pushed through government slowly, in curtailed form; the interminable, fruitless-seeming town-hall meeting; many of the government’s lumbering, error-prone efforts at regulation. These processes are cumbersome, often wasteful, and inevitably infuriating. But at their best they have the virtue of occurring in a common arena, the place where all parts of a population meet. They force us, if we hope to get anything done, to translate our values and thoughts into language that communicates broadly. The more I observe, the warier I grow of privatized efficiency: in time, it indulges clannish thought. Let’s drive our language out of private circles, back toward the public sphere.

What I appreciate about this latter idea, particularly as a teacher, is that Heller is trying to move us back to the circles where you have to get something done. For example, if you want safe water, you’re going to have to meet with a lot of different stakeholders. Getting all of those individuals and institutions to agree on something let alone change their behaviors and policies is going to require a lengthy process, one that’s, in Heller’s words, cumbersome, often wasteful, and inevitably infuriating.Or you can retreat to a closed, private space, say an on-line community, where you can develop your own language and vision in essential isolation and then lament why nothing seems to change.

David Brooks: Right and wrong

I don’t always like but once I’ve read his stuff I end up thinking about it.

“…which shows that while some teachers are good at raising their students’ test scores, other teachers are really good at improving their students’ school engagement. Teachers in the first group are amply rewarded these days, but teachers who motivate their students to show up every day and throw themselves into school life may not even realize how good they are, because emotional engagement is not something we measure and stress.

Teachers are now called upon not only to teach biology but to create a culture: a culture of caring criticism, so students feel loved while they improve; a culture of belonging, so fragile students feel their work has value. Suddenly, teachers must teach students how to feel about their own feelings; how not to be swallowed up by moments of failure, anger and sadness, but to slow the moment and step outside the emotional spiral.”

All true and well-said. However, very few teachers of any sort are “amply rewarded” at this point. The best you might say is that raising test scores frees you from a visit from a coach or a misguide principal with a clipboard.

Have to read this article with students…

Dale M. writing on dropouts.

It links to yesterday’s conversation about what it means to be ready for 12th grade. There’s several tensions with our current eleventh graders that we should be able to process in writing. And it’s a minefield for a lot of reasons.

1. The turn it on, turn it off nature of life; too many humans operate on the “when I get to place X, I’ll turn it on and I’ll be fine” model. This is an illusion for all but the most lucky and talented. It runs deep.

2. The deep worry we all have about where kids start college and face the frustration of remedial courses. Even in a project-based model, where passion and interest fuel the work (on good days), there’s still much to be done to “catch up.” College, even done badly, is hard work and I think too many educators create a picture of it as a kind of nirvana. I am guilty of this because having the opportunity to read, write, and argue all day sounds pretty good to me but I loved all those things even when I hated school.

3. Such an article and such a discussion shouldn’t be seen as a personal attack; rather it should be seen as a way of understanding what the students will be up against. Like any teacher (and parent), I have moments where I present information in what I feel is a non-threatening, thoughtful way only to have my children and students ask why I’m coming at them. Why I’m always coming at them. ALWAYS COMING AT THEM.

4. The dawning reality that many kids start to face in eleventh grade…the real world is coming and it’s scary for more than a few of them. Analogy: it’s the start of a long walk on the plains. You can see the mountains in front of you but they’re going to be far, far away. And you can see the other hikers who are days, even weeks ahead of you. You can do it. But it’s going to take a lot of effort of a sort you’ve never put forth before. It might just be easier to stay where you are.

Monday morning…