All serious art is being destroyed by commerce. Most people don’t want art to be disturbing. They want it to be escapist. I don’t think art should be escapist. That’s a waste of time.
—Edward Albee, American playwright http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Albee#section_4
This thought-provoking piece by the eclectic Robert X. Cringely caught my eye today. Here, Cringely quotes a friend who was an engineer but changed careers and became a high school math teacher:
“The problem is that I’ve found that all these things that are purported to improve student learning ignore the number one factor in […]
Years ago I began sending out poems at Christmas time, in lieu of cards. Here’s one of the first I sent.
The View from an Attic Window
BY HOWARD NEMEROV from New Poems (1960) for Francis and Barbara
1 Among the high-branching, leafless boughs Above the roof-peaks of the town, Snowflakes unnumberably come down.
The great literary critic George Steiner writes, somewhere, that just walking through the streets of Paris during his childhood was an education and an inspiration. Nearly every street and square in the city is named after someone who made a difference: scientists, poets, politicians, generals, intellectuals, labour leaders, architects, and on and on. Every intersection […]
A great piece that ought to be printed out and put on the wall next to every writer’s desk. That includes you, students.
On Sunday I went to meet Lu Ping, a wonderful Suzhou artist who works in Beijing but who has just built a country vacation home for himself and his wife in the nearby ‘water town’ of Luzhizhen.
You can see some of his work from the 1990s here:
I bought several of his woodcut […]
The news about entire retail shops being copied by clever Chinese entrepreneurs leads to the obvious question: where do we go from here? Clearly, fake stores are an intermediary step in the development toward a much more ambitious project: fake countries.
Think about it: millions of Chinese people would love to visit France, for example, […]
The death of singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27 connects, I think, with the terrible events in Norway. Both stories concern mental illness of a certain sort, and in both cases the social and cultural context plays a role.
For Amy Winehouse: She was clearly ill, and yet in our culture she could […]
Congratulations to Steve Thorsett, Willamette University’s newly-appointed President, who was a student in my ‘World Literature & Philosophy’ class at South Salem High School in 1982-83. Steve has had an impressive academic career already, including a stint teaching physics and astronomy at UC Santa Cruz, where I studied as an undergraduate.
Administration of anything—much less […]
The clumsy formulations I grew up with—what is the moral of the story? what is the hero’s or heroine’s tragic flaw?—still influence and flatten the questions people often ask about literary works, as if there were one answer, and a right answer, at that. The genius of literary study comes in asking questions, not in […]
Babies cried, or lay lifeless
Mothers sprawled awkwardly
Young men, old men, old women, girls and boys
Body parts and fluids everywhere.
Only whimpers, or dazed silence as the sun shone indifferently.
It struck back.
Babies cried, or […]
I just received a note from one of my “cyber-colleagues” on the English Companion Ning, and part of it was about Independent Reading:
I also want to thank you for some advice you have given me last year regarding Independent Reading – I have taken some of your ideas, changed and implemented them in my […]
I just came across this blog post by Barbara Kerley. Although aimed at people learning to write fiction, it matches exactly the advice I give to students in my literature classes, especially at the IB Diploma level, where they need to analyze how the authors’ choices and techniques produce the effects we see in the […]
Here’s what David Carl, a teacher at St. John’s College, answered in an email message to one of his students:
In general, our encounter with great works should tend to make us hopeful, and therefore optimistic. I have the words of several authors in mind when I assert this, such as Montaigne (“The profit […]
I am usually wary of stories in the U.S. media about education issues—almost always I find distortion and oversimplification.
This piece by the Associated Press is no exception, but it caught my eye, particularly these two findings from the report it cites:
_Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and […]
Reason #1: They show me what students are thinking.
Here’s a recent post from one of my Grade 9 students about ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’:
Response to chapter 12
The main event in chapter 12 is that Jem and Scout follows Calpurnia to the church where Cal goes. They experienced some uniqueness in ‘blacks’ church. […]
Larry Ferlazzo asks that question, and many others reply: a great resource if you are looking for valuable education books to read. Thanks, Larry!
I received this email message today—
I am an ESL Instructor at [redacted] and I came across your blog and website. I enjoyed reading it and want to try some of your ideas. I also believe in independent reading (I call it extensive reading). Each student reads different books to the ones we read as […]
In September Tom Whitby proposed that educational bloggers counterbalance the negative press in the U.S. about schools and school reform by agreeing to post their positive suggestions for improving education. All the posts were to be published on Sunday, October 17, with links added to a Wallwisher page that Tom created. Below are almost all […]
Nearly a month ago Tom Whitby called for educational bloggers to take back the (mostly U.S.) debate over school reform by posting reform ideas simultaneously on October 17th. Here’s my contribution to the cause.
Most problems faced by schools are not educational, but cultural. Once a positive culture of learning is in place, needed improvements […]
I’m a big fan of Alfie Kohn. He’s deeply humane, unafraid to disagree with commonly accepted ideas, always on the side of students, tireless in his advocacy on their behalf—and he grounds his opinions in research. I often recommend his books—especially The Homework Myth and Punished by Rewards.
Recently, however, he posted a piece titled […]
High school writers looking for a place to publish their work should have a look at The Blue Pencil Online, a project of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, in Natick, Massachusetts (USA). Their standards appear to be quite high, so for a young writer of real talent and ambition, the Blue Pencil just […]
I lived in The Netherlands for two years before moving to China. Walking down the street in The Netherlands required serious training in modern dance to avoid stepping in ubiquitous piles of dog poop. A video of ordinary pedestrians would resemble a mass outbreak of St. Vitus’ dance. (Indeed, Aachen wasn’t far away.)
In 2004 […]
Students sometimes ask, “Mr. MacKnight, how can I improve my grammar?” Here’s how. 1. Read every day!
There is no substitute for daily reading. Choose books you like: if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t read. Students who are non-readers will never become fluent writers, because only through years of reading do we develop […]
I’ve created a new page on this wiki, here—
SSIS Garden Project
—that gives a bit of history and points to a growing collection of photographs dating from late 2005, when we began creating the Garden Project at the new SSIS campus on Zhong Nan Jie. If you were there, you will recognize some faces […]
The other day my English 9A class blog was named by Mrs. Burton and her class as one of their favourite ten school blogs, and now it’s my turn to pass on the accolades as part of the Edublogs challenge. So here’s my list of 10 great school blogs, in absolutely no order whatsoever:
People want more of the story; they want answers. [But] it’s not a position paper. It’s an “issue” novel, but it’s a story. And so, what I hope to offer people are questions, as opposed to answers.
Interviewed by Leonard Lopate about her novel, The Girl Who Fell From […]
“The personality of a writer does become important after we have read his book and begin to study it. . . . We can ask ourselves questions about it such as ‘What is the author’s name?’ ‘Where did he live?’ ‘Was he married?’ and ‘Which was his favourite flower?’ Then we are no longer reading […]
E.M. Forster on the Van Gogh exhibit at the Paris Exhibition of 1937:
Van Gogh . . . is housed in the corner of another palace between maps of Paris and intellectual hopes for the future, and the space suffices him. Well content with his half-dozen rooms, he displays his oddness and his misery to […]
By constantly encouraging students to explore the questions raised in a text—instead of searching for its ‘messages’—we will help them learn to be sensitive, perceptive readers.
A great work of literature, as evocative as a tree or as the world itself, invites us to respond with our minds and our hearts, but it does not […]
Click on the photo to see it full-sized.
The Class of 2010
America needs a culture that respects education. A culture in which learning is admired. A culture that honors the achievements of educated people and recognizes their importance to the entire society.
Anti-intellectualism has deep roots in American history and culture. Educated people are far too often subjected to suspicion and ridicule. These are the names […]
Just came across this very nice article about an organic farming project in Shandong Province:
I’ve been out of the gardening thing for a while now . . . this makes me want to get out there and “make the grass say beans” again.
Nancie Atwell, author of In the Middle, makes the case for teaching literature in ‘Education Week‘.
Needless to say, I agree with her.
We’re talking about SparkNotes, Cliff’s Notes, York Notes, and all such similar shortcuts used by lazy and/or desperate and/or insecure students.
Inspired partly by an online discussion among IB English teachers and partly by my own students, I’ve added a page to my English A1 class blog that makes things as clear as I can […]
[An open letter to my fellow English teachers near and far.]
Thought flows in terms of stories – stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn in the form of stories.
—Frank Smith, Canadian […]
Pete Kittle, who was a student of mine in the early part of my career, has written a beautiful piece concerning the death of his father which I hope you will take a few moments to read.
Sue Waters has a good post outlining her recent presentation on educational blogging. Teachers—especially those who are new to blogging, or interested—should have a look.
William M. Chace, professor of English and former president of two U.S. universities, tells the sad tale in The American Scholar.
University students who major in business are so misguided: every intelligent and successful businessman or -woman will tell you that a broad knowledge of literature, history, science, people, and the world—in other words, a […]