Category Archives: Articles of Note

Essay for next year

I loved this essay in the Design Magazine from the NYT last Sunday. (The fury I feel when looking at these ads — oh great, another beautiful home overlooking a gorgeous fjord that I’ll never live in; oh great, another set of consumer goods I can’t begin to afford — is offset by the quality of the essays that the the ads pay for.)

Anyway, these paragraphs will come back next year when we do the Lives essays:

Now that self-authorship is a form of digital hobby, we’re savvy to the fact that our versions of events tend to be freighted with self-interest (“my truth,” “my journey”), that there’s a power dynamic at play in who owns the narrative and that our experiences don’t generally have a clear takeaway unless we frame them just so. “Memory itself is a form of architecture,” said the artist Louise Bourgeois, whose autobiographical sculpture emerged late last century in all kinds of shapes, most iconically that of a 30-foot-tall cast-bronze spider. There’s an art to memory, and our personal stories become symbolic over time, the juicy onions and ghostly, maternal arachnids emblematic of a more complex whole.


For many of us, writing is a solace, a method of self-sorting, and the ability to share a point of view without being shut down or condescended to has even more weight for those who haven’t always been let into the conversation. This is why memoirs by women, immigrants and minorities of all kinds are often about the effort of becoming a coherent self within larger forces — forces that are inevitably classed, gendered and raced. For those whose perspectives are missing in the canons and histories we learned in school — who have been long ensnared in the cultural narratives of those more powerful — the memoir has served as a site of redress, a space in which to turn the tables, to make their experiences visible and their stories heard: a passage not only into literature but into a larger acceptance.

O’Grady, Megan. “These Literary Memoirs Take a Different Tack.” The New York Times, September 29, 2021, sec. T Magazine.

Bye to Instagram

I know, I know. But every time I read these articles I feel crappy about Instagram and the immense profit streams it generates and just how manipulated I feel…how did they know I wanted a new watchband? How did they know I’d go deep down the rabbit hole of “tactical staffs”? And why did I need to know about the genre of attractive young folks playing heavy metal songs note by note?

This sentence:

We may be concerned about Facebook, we may even be fatigued by the amount of anger-inducing information we’ve learned about Facebook, but we still use its products.

got me here. Again.

You should teach…

About Juneteenth (Jelani Cobb)

About Tulsa (by Tom Hanks). (Responses here.)

About Dred Scott (Jeannie Suk Gerson)

Lots of great articles lately. Anyone who teaches history wants to do two things that can feel contradictory:

  • help kids to foster their own narrative of American history
  • help kids to use evidence to shape that narrative.

Playing gotcha doesn’t help– aha! You looked at X but failed to study Y — but a teacher should have a sharp and ready explanation for the choices they did make over the course of the year. If they’ve done their job, then students, when presented with a new event or something they weren’t “taught”, would be able to contextualize it within the narrative they’ve started to build. More importantly, they’d know which questions to ask in order to do this well.

Food and Mood

Liked this article, particularly the ending:

Dr. Ramsey said he does not want people to think that the only factor involved in brain health is food. “Lots of people get their food exactly right, live very active lives, and still have significant troubles with their mental health,” he said.

But he also teaches people that food can be empowering. “We can’t control our genes, who our parents were, or if random acts of trauma or violence happen to us,” he said. “But we can control how we eat, and that gives people actionable things that they can do to take care of their brain health on a daily basis.”

R Lieber

Two quotes from yesterday’s column, which described why the publication of lists of schools where children were admitted might not be the best window into a high school. (He has two notable disclaimers — celebrations with names and schools where admission isn’t a “given.” )

“Now consider the money. We are mostly ignorant about the household incomes and family assets of the students who are able to attend (or not) any particular college. We remain clueless if, in fact, a more “respectable” (to again use the term that the financiers once did) school did not give a family enough need-based financial aid. And we have no awareness of which slightly less respectable colleges offered so-called merit aid to affluent families to persuade them to say no to other institutions.”

Meanwhile, we have no earthly idea why some of our seniors get into the most rejective colleges, as the education advocate Akil Bello rightly refers to them. These schools take whom they take for their own reasons, and their institutional priorities change from year to year (and sometimes hour to hour in the last frantic days of April as they try to fill their freshman classes) without providing any explanation to us or you.

De-Fund vs. Re-Fund

Heard this great interview yesterday with Professor Phillip Atiba Goff.

It was this paragraph I was thinking about today:

GOFF: Yeah, and that’s a good thing because in this moment when we’re talking about defunding the police, I think we forget that it was a much quieter movement to defund schools in Black and brown communities and to defund mental health and to defund jobs and to defund architecture and parks. We’ve defunded every darn public good where Black and brown people live, so much so that policing is usually the only public good that we find. So part of the movement right now in terms of how municipalities are working is from defund to refund. These are dollars that should have been going to the community in the first place to prevent the sets of things that have people calling 911.

History Docs

Getting harder and harder in class. Tried to use these two pieces today:

How a teenager’s video upended the police department’s initial tale
From the article, we read the report and then discussed what the necessity of recording, of witnessing, or documenting the world.

Then I tried to use the closing paragraphs of this article to talk about the process of doing history. Will order this book soon.

One of the things that makes this slender book stand out is Gordon-Reed’s ability to combine clarity with subtlety, elegantly carving a path between competing positions, instead of doing as too many of us do in this age of hepped-up social-media provocations by simply reacting to them. In “On Juneteenth” she leads by example, revisiting her own experiences, questioning her own assumptions — and showing that historical understanding is a process, not an end point.

“The attempt to recognize and grapple with the humanity and, thus, the fallibility of people in the past — and the present — must be made,” she writes. “That is the stuff of history, too.”

Damn Critics

I know how this works. Hua Hsu is that good at his job. First I read the article. I’ll be fascinated by the poet, by their work, by the way they describe their work. I’ll track down the first couple of books, get them from the library, and sit down to read.

And it will all go right over my head. I won’t understand the poems at all. Just not smart enough.

Still, the closing quote is as good a description of what I’m trying to do as a teacher as I’ve read:

“You go out and you look in the sky. We live in this act of creation that is unfathomable and overwhelming. The intricacy, beauty, fearsomeness,” he said. “We push back by becoming active, becoming producers, and putting our little pieces of creativity down next to it. It’s this idea, I can do something, too.

But every now and then, when the flow’s not coming, you gotta get up from your couch or the desk, you gotta go out on the porch, look up at the sky and enjoy the humility of just taking in this obviously superior and more complex creativity. What we do could never match that. Could I ever write a poem as intricate as a pinecone? Wallace Stevens has got nothin’ on this.”  (Nathaniel Mackey)

Three articles

This opening piece from the magazine on social media contains this perfect description:

Late in January, I logged into Twitter only to see that an account I followed had decided to talk about racism. This is a not-uncommon experience for social media: Check to see what your friends are doing or look at cute dogs, and it’s not long before you’re digesting a near-stranger’s analysis of contemporary social issues.

The twist, of course, is that the account is managed by O.J. Simpson.


I’ll use this article with my photography unit in U.S. History. The essay by Celeste NG is superb.

This book review describes a book that I’ll have to read. These passages:

On average, one child is shot every hour; over the past decade roughly 30,000 children and teenagers have been killed by gunfire — recently eclipsing cancer as their second-leading cause of death. (Unintentional injuries, such as those caused by burns, falls or drowning, are the leading cause.)

These numbers suggest the scale of the physical, mortal toll inflicted, but they cannot account for the psychic price paid by kids who live in the dark, long shadows of the aftermath of such violence: those who lose a friend or relative to gunfire; who witness gun deaths at close quarters at a vulnerable age; whose lives, and life chances, are shaped by a premature brush with mortality. And since such children were not struck by a bullet, they are not counted and, at least in any official sense, do not count.

Cox, John Woodrow. Children Under Fire: An American Crisis, (__: Ecco, 2021).