Apr 6 2017

Comparing Wine to Education

Comparing Wine to Education

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD):

I bring no charge against the words which are like exquisite and precious vessels, but the wine of error is poured into them for us by drunken teachers….[1]

Johann von Goethe  of Weimar (1749-1832):

The man spoke with dignity and with a certain radiance on his face. This is what he said: “the duty of a teacher is not to preserve man from error, but to guide him in error, in fact to let him drink it in, in full draughts. That is the wisdom of teachers. For the man who only sips at error, can make do with it for quite a time, delighting in it as a rare pleasure. But a man who drinks it to the dregs, must recognize the error of his ways, unless he is mad.” [2]

Karl Kraus of Vienna (1874-1936):

A school without grades must have been concocted by someone who was drunk on non-alcoholic wine.[3]

NOTES

[1] Augustine, Aurelius. Saint Augustine – Confessions. Translated by Henry Chadwick. NY: Oxford UP. 1991. I, xvi (26), p. 19.

[2] Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.) 1795–96. Edited and Translated by Eric A. Blackall. NY: Suhrkamp Publishers. 1983. VII, ix, 302.

[3] Kraus, Karl. Halftruths & oneandahalf truths: selected aphorisms. Edited and Translated by Harry Zohn. Engendra Press: Montreal. Reprint Chicago UP. 1976. p. 75.


Aug 24 2016

On Cake (and Eating It Too)

IMAG0224-sm

Rod Dreher is appalled that an institution (this time public school) has the audacity to institutionalize its participants the way it sees fit:

Parents started wearing bright purple buttons to school every day indicating their support of gender ideology. They were impossible to miss and prompted questions from many of the students.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t accept the money/milk of the government cow then complain about how it tastes. The only way to not pay for electricity is to get off the grid. The only way to educate your kids the way you want is to pull them out of public school. If California won’t let you do that, do as Kevin D. Williamson advises: move.


Nov 10 2015

Eat, Drink & Be Merry versus God and Man at Yale and Missouri

bookbread athens

Rod Dreher writes:

This academic is starting to consider leaving the academy entirely, rather than face an entire career in fear of saying the wrong thing. This is a serious thing. If I were a young journalist just starting out, I would be thinking the same thing.

Oh, the problems of the rich! Oh, the humanity (of the 1%)! Oh the problems of journalists and academics! Thank God poor white Americans have much better things to worry about (like drinking themselves to death) than the quibbles of the over-privileged. America is lot bigger than the confines of college campuses, but too many journalists (being human-all-too-human) continue to equate their educational experiences as a utopian universalism that bleeds over into their writing and inevitably stirs the resentment of their poorer, less-privileged readers.

Why are today’s journalists shilling the Domino Theory of yesterday’s General Westmoreland? I.e., as Yale goes, so goes the whole country….

 

UPDATE:

I don’t think Mr. Dreher reads this blog, but he has definitely responded to what’s going on at Yale and Missouri with a similar perspective. I particularly liked this paragraph:

The report got some notice in the media, but not a lot, certainly not commensurate to the scale of the problem. Now, it could be that major media organizations are preparing follow-up reports, which can’t be done well overnight. But I doubt it. Major-media reporters don’t know people like these. And they think of them as the Wrong Sort of Person.

And as the Divine Oscar reminds us:

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. (Wilde, Oscar. “The Critic as Artist: Parts I.” Intentions. London:Osgood, McIlvaine. 1891.)


Sep 3 2010

The Suicide of English (Mark Bauerlein)

Thirty years ago, no university could claim top status without a top English department. That is no longer true.

—via The Suicide of English.

But perhaps this is not necessarily a bad thing. Every once in a while a rider-writer for the high church of American Academe needs to be knocked off his or her hobbyhorse.


Jul 8 2010

Talking to Clerks instead of Reading Books?

Bookbread doesn’t usually come across anything sans sensible by Chad W. Post at Three Percent, but this line leaves me slack-jawed:

[Here] in Rochester, we don’t have a single indie—just a few B&Ns and Borders. Which is fine, fine, they carry a lot of books, host readings, etc., etc., but these stores aren’t necessarily set-up to foster discussions between clerk and customer.

Generally, every night before bed, Bookbread prays to Satan Almighty asking for protection from random book discussions with clerks who work in bookstores. After all, what could a clerk possibly tell me about a book, or subject, that I couldn’t already have looked up on the online Dictionary of Literary Biography, JSTOR, Google Books, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Amazon reviews, dozens of RSS feeds (including Three Percents), or the recommendations from the books I’ve already read, recommendations that probably germinated my interest for the book-at-hand that I’m about to purchase?

Does Bookbread really need to intellectually interact with some jerk-off just because he/she works in a bookstore? Some folks may go to church just for mass—and that’s fine—but don’t expect Bookbread to stroll through stacks and shelves for the sole purpose of seeking out communion with other bibliophiles. If I really wanted to talk to others about books, Bookbread would just blog.


Jun 7 2010

Reading about European Exceptionalism in the Middle Ages (A brief comment)

At the Catholic literary journal Dappled Things, Hugo-nominated sci-fi writer Michael Flynn puts to rest the myth that Christianity held back science during medieval times, and shows how it was rather the opposite that was true:

The philosophers of the “Age of Reason” called the Middle Ages the “Age of Faith,” and claimed that because “God did it!” was the answer to everything, no one searched for natural laws. Some have since imagined a “war” between science and religion, and accused the medievals of suppressing science, forbidding medical autopsies, and burning scientists. Bad times for science and reason!

Or was it? In fact, the Middle Ages were steeped in reason, logic, and natural philosophy. These subjects comprised virtually the entire curriculum of the universities.

Come on: “Steeped in reason, logic, and natural philosophy?” While I have no doubt “these subjects comprised virtually the entire curriculum of the universities” such a suggestion of steepness seems to imply that the majority of Europeans attended universities in the Middle Ages—a steep slope of argument much too slippery for my meager, Middle American footing.

The Age of Faith and Reason » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.


Jun 7 2010

School Bullies: Texas State Board of Education (Burnt Orange Report)

At this point, it is useless to get mired in the specifics of the damaged curriculum, after the board’s “death by a thousand cuts.”

Sorry, Rebecca Bell Metereau, but this is exactly wrong. Call me crazy, but it’s impossible to have an intellectual conversation concerning the fate of future intellectuals if you refuse to address “the specifics of the damanged curriculum.” And if you’re not going to have an intellectual conversation, you might as well nominate yourself for a place on the SBOE.

via Burnt Orange Report: School Bullies: Texas State Board of Education.


Jun 7 2010

The Twilight of Textbooks in Texas (Final Thoughts on the State Board of Education)

I should confess that, being a product of the public education systems of Texas, Bookbread is prone to assume a topic in haste followed by a knee-jerk response. Despite this disclosure, I, Bookbread, stand correct in my assertion that the recent revision to the social studies curriculum by the Texas State Board of Education [SBOE] will implant Things-that-are-Not into these textbooks, particularly when the SBOE replaces the term “capitalism” for “free enterprise system” and obscures, and thereby devalues, the concept of a separation of church from state [01].

After accepting Ann Althouse’s dare [02], and having read the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills [TEKS] documents from the links she provided, Bookbread believes this data only confirms my earlier accusation of the elaborated couching of terminology concerning a “free enterprise system” and the dithering of teaching concepts involving the separation of many churches and religions from a single nation-state. While TEKS does acknowledge “capitalism” as a legitimate synonym for “free enterprise system” [03] such a system, as taught according to TEKS, focuses only the positive aspects and consequences of free enterprise, implying that such a system is infallible [04].

Bookbread concedes that the TEKS display multiple moments of teaching diversification and multiculturalism where the concept of a separation of church and state (the unique segregation of many religions from a single government under one constitution) might indeed be a relevant, overlapping topic of discussion [05]. But other than one mention in one high school class of the Supreme Court case of Engel v. Vitale concerning school prayer, throughout TEKS, there is no specific focus on the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom via said separation even when other First Amendment rights are specified and elaborated upon [06].

Yet at the end of the day, one can be thankful upon realizing that, in its policies, SBOE has provided an avenue towards a kind of self-criticism within its TEKS texts—a path towards criticizing the way this bureaucracy has institutionalized conformity regarding two concepts: one, of a free enterprise system as infallible, and two, the separation of church and state as obscure. Such a path is to be found in the SBOE’s high school psychology requirements: “The student will understand the influence of society and culture on behavior and cognition. The student is expected to: explore the nature and effects of bias and discrimination [and] describe circumstances in which conformity and obedience are likely to occur,” [07].

Notes

[01] See BookbreadsThe Lies in Textbooks are Upon You.”

[02] See Ann Althouse’s “If you’re going to criticize the new social studies curriculum adopted by the Texas Board of Education, you’d better quote it.”

[03] Everything below comes from 3 PDF documents: Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits Subchapter A. High School; Social Studies Subchapter B. Middle School; Social Studies Subchapter C. High School.)

See [§113.46. Sociology (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012, (b) Introduction, (3)]: “Students identify the role of the free enterprise system within the parameters of this course and understand that this system may also be referenced as capitalism or the free market system.” However, this is an elective half-credit for high school. It is only after passing the middle school and [§113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877 (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012] are students first exposed to, according to the TEKS, of the legitimacy of this synonym.

[04] An example of attaching an aura of infallibility to the concept of a “free enterprise system” can be found in [§113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877 (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012, (c) Knowledge and skills, (16) Economics] where we learn:

“The student understands significant economic developments between World War I and World War II. The student is expected to”:

(A) analyze causes of economic growth and prosperity in the 1920s, including Warren Harding’s Return to Normalcy, reduced taxes, and increased production efficiencies;

(B) identify the causes of the Great Depression, including the impact of tariffs on world trade, stock market speculation, bank failures, and the flawed monetary policy of the Federal Reserve System;

(C) analyze the effects of the Great Depression on the U.S. economy and society such as widespread unemployment and deportation and repatriation of people of European and Mexican heritage and others;

(D) compare the New Deal policies and its opponents’ approaches to resolving the economic effects of the Great Depression; and

(E) describe how various New Deal agencies and programs, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Social Security Administration, continue to affect the lives of U.S. citizens.

(17) Economics. The student understands the economic effects of World War II & the Cold War. The student is expected to:

(E) describe the dynamic relationship between U.S. international trade policies and the U.S. free enterprise system such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo, the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

So that when talking about failures of free enterprise such as Great Depression, the SBOE couches the language of TEKS by not specifying what failed within (or because of) the current free enterprise system and why the country felt the need to amend the system after these failures occurred. Or does TEKS assume students will intuit “the flawed monetary policy of the Federal Reserve System” as an example of a kind of failure of (or in) our free enterprise system?—as when it suggests in [§118.1. Implementation of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits, High School, (c) Knowledge and skills, (6) Economics]:

“The student understands the basic characteristics and benefits of a free enterprise system. The student is expected to”:

(A) explain the basic characteristics of the U.S. free enterprise system, including private property, incentives, economic freedom, competition, and the limited role of government;

(B) explain the benefits of the U.S. free enterprise system, including individual freedom of consumers and producers, variety of goods, responsive prices, investment opportunities, and the creation of wealth;

(12) Economics. The student understands the role of money in an economy. The student is expected to:

(A) describe the functions of money;

(B) describe the characteristics of money;

(C) analyze the costs and benefits of commodity money, fiat money, and representative money; and

(D) examine the positive and negative aspects of barter, currency, credit cards, and debit cards.

One would think SBOE would have sorted all this out—particularly when they bothered to add to ibid.:

(22) Social studies skills. The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms. The student is expected to:

(A) use economic-related terminology correctly;

[05] Despite the lambasts of other bloggers (see note 4 of BookbreadsThe Lies in Textbooks are Upon You”), Bookbread is in no way accusing SBOE of xenophobia, when all evidence in TEKS suggests otherwise:

§113.18. Social Studies, Grade 6, Beginning with School Year 20112012.

(b) Knowledge and skills.

(15) Culture. The student understands the similarities and differences within and among cultures in various societies. The student is expected to:

(C) define a multicultural society and consider both the positive and negative qualities of multiculturalism;

(D) analyze the experiences and evaluate the contributions of diverse groups to multicultural societies;

(16) Culture. The student understands that all societies have basic institutions in common even though the characteristics of these institutions may differ. The student is expected to:

(A) identify institutions basic to all societies, including government, economic, educational, and religious institutions;

(B) compare characteristics of institutions in various contemporary societies; and

(C) analyze the efforts and activities institutions use to sustain themselves over time such as the development of an informed citizenry through education and the use of monumental architecture by religious institutions.

(20) Science, technology, and society. The student understands the influences of science and technology on contemporary societies. The student is expected to:

(B) explain how resources, belief systems, economic factors, and political decisions have affected the use of technology;

§113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877 (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.

(c) Knowledge and skills.

(7) History. The student understands the domestic and international impact of U.S. participation in World War II. The student is expected to:

(D) analyze major issues of World War II, including the Holocaust; the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans; and the development of conventional and atomic weapons;

(26) Culture. The student understands how people from various groups contribute to our national identity. The student is expected to:

(A) explain actions taken by people to expand economic opportunities and political rights, including those for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities as well as women, in American society;

(C) explain how the contributions of people of various racial, ethnic, gender, and religious groups shape American culture;

§113.46. Sociology (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.

(c) Knowledge and skills.

(15) Social institutions. The student identifies the basic social institutions of education and religion and explain their influence on society. The student is expected to:

(C) examine religion from the sociological point of view;

(D) analyze the functions of society and the basic societal needs that religion serves; and

(E) compare and contrast distinctive features of religion in the United States with religion in other societies.

See also [§113.42. World History Studies (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012, (c) Knowledge and skills] and [§113.43. World Geography Studies (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012, (c) Knowledge and skills].

[06] In [§113.18. Social Studies, Grade 6, Beginning with School Year 20112012, (b) Knowledge and skills, (19) Culture] We learn that “The student understands the relationships among religion, philosophy, and culture” but for some reason the SBOE omitted the relationship of government to “religion, philosophy and culture.” In other instances, the curriculum appear well-balanced and thorough, except for the de-emphasis and sometimes omission of specifying the separation of religion from government when teaching on the First Amendment. This is most particularly evident in [§113.44. United States Government (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012, (c) Knowledge and skills. (16) Citizenship, (B)] where we read: “The student understands the importance of the expression of different points of view in a constitutional republic. The student is expected to: analyze the importance of the First Amendment rights of petition, assembly, speech, and press and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms” but the specific mention of freedom of religion is omitted. This is the attitudinal pattern of the SBOE repeated throughout TEKS (with the single exception of Engle v. Vitale):

§113.20. Social Studies, Grade 8, Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.

(b) Knowledge and skills.

(15) Government. The student understands the American beliefs and principles reflected in the U.S. Constitution and other important historic documents. The student is expected to:

(A) identify the influence of ideas from historic documents, including Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, The Wealth of Nations, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and selected anti-federalist writings, on the U.S. system of government;

(B) summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation;

(C) identify colonial grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence and explain how those grievances were addressed in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights; and

(D) analyze how the U.S. Constitution reflects the principles of limited government, republicanism, checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, popular sovereignty, and individual rights.

(16) Government. The student understands the process of changing the U.S. Constitution and the impact of amendments on American society. The student is expected to:

(A) summarize the purposes for and process of amending the U.S. Constitution;

(19) Citizenship. The student understands the rights and responsibilities of citizens of the United States. The student is expected to:

(B) summarize rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights;

(25) Culture. The student understands the impact of religion on the American way of life. The student is expected to:

(A) trace the development of religious freedom in the United States;

(B) describe religious motivation for immigration and influence on social movements, including the impact of the first and second Great Awakenings; and

(C) analyze the impact of the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom on the American way of life.

§113.44. United States Government (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.

(c) Knowledge and skills.

(1) History. The student understands how constitutional government, as developed in America and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution, has been influenced by ideas, people, and historical documents. The student is expected to:

(A) explain major political ideas in history, including the laws of nature and nature’s God, unalienable rights, divine right of kings, social contract theory, and the rights of resistance to illegitimate government;

(7) Government. The student understands the American beliefs and principles reflected in the U.S. Constitution and why these are significant. The student is expected to:

(D) evaluate constitutional provisions for limiting the role of government, including republicanism, checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, popular sovereignty, and individual rights;

(8) Government. The student understands the structure and functions of the government created by the U.S. Constitution. The student is expected to:

(H) compare the structures, functions, and processes of the national, state, and local governments in the U.S. federal system.

(13) Citizenship. The student understands rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The student is expected to:

(A) understand the roles of limited government and the rule of law in the protection of individual rights;

(B) identify and define the unalienable rights;

(C) identify the freedoms and rights guaranteed by each amendment in the Bill of Rights;

(D) analyze U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution in selected cases, including Engel v. Vitale, Schenck v. U.S., Texas v. Johnson, Miranda v. Arizona, Gideon v. Wainwright, Mapp v. Ohio, and Roe v. Wade;

(E) explain the importance of due process rights to the protection of individual rights and in limiting the powers of government; and

(F) recall the conditions that produced the 14th Amendment and describe subsequent efforts to selectively extend some of the Bill of Rights to the states, including the Blaine Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court rulings, and analyze the impact on the scope of fundamental rights and federalism.

(16) Citizenship. The student understands the importance of the expression of different points of view in a constitutional republic. The student is expected to:

(B) analyze the importance of the First Amendment rights of petition, assembly, speech, and press and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. [But no religion]

[07] §113.45. Psychology (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012:

(c) Knowledge and skills.

(13) The individual in society. The student will understand the influence of society and culture on behavior and cognition. The student is expected to:

(B) explore the nature and effects of bias and discrimination;

(C) describe circumstances in which conformity and obedience are likely to occur;

One might also examine:

§113.44. United States Government (One-Half Credit), Beginning with School Year 2011-2012.

(c) Knowledge and skills.

(20) Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology. The student is expected to:

(D) analyze and evaluate the validity of information, arguments, and counterarguments from primary and secondary sources for bias, propaganda, point of view, and frame of reference.


Jun 3 2010

European popular imagery collection now accessible online (Harry Ransom Center)

Spanning the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, the Ransom Center’s European popular imagery collection is now fully accessible online via two sources: the Center’s finding aid and ARTstor’s nonprofit digital library.

via European popular imagery collection now accessible online | Cultural Compass.


May 16 2010

Recent Trends in the Treatment of Books by American Readers

Lately when reading, it is not uncommon to come across someone dismissing all books under the category of “dead things.” Three trends that treat books as such occur when folks either: analyze and attend to books, neglect and negate them, or embalm and preserve them. None of these trends relate much to the act of reading.

In the twenty-first century, if fiction happens to be found in a book, it is attended to like a cadaver in anatomy class, analyzed by gangs of pathologists who conduct autopsies in front of students of literature [01]. Yet nobody should expect these pathological non-readers (or their students) to administer any sort of attentive care when their patients, their books in hand, are already assumed dead and subjected to such techniques of dissection as “snippet” and “balanced reading” [02]. True, the dissection of texts was always practiced upon the holy books of a society, but never has a legion of non-reading pathologists institutionalized the reading standards for an entire nation. After their investigations are finished, one wonders whether a mass grave will be provided for these books? Or perhaps cremation is the best option when books bear the burden of neglect [03].

Accompanying the neglect of books is their negation, for readers, grieved by unsatisfactory texts, now demand the negating or “unpublishing” of certain words, phrases, and facts [04]. No longer will unpublishing be limited to kings, judges, and journalists. Moreover, the amount of current, active writers has multiplied as well as diversified [05], and in like manner, books are undergoing their own mutations in their standards, procedures, design, and formats [06]. Book publishers too have resorted to marketing a variety of textual containers (particularly Kindles and iPads). There is a touch of irony in the observation that for well over a millennia books never had any trouble finding their way into the hands of substantially poor readers, writers, and owners—but only in the twenty-first century do we find publishers being shoved into equality with their book-bearing brethren. Today’s writers, publishers, customers, and their books stand united in a democracy of poverty.

Books nowadays are also being embalmed on a new scale—their physical traits are now preserved and standardized by the cramming of books into the backgrounds of consumer catalogues, hotel lobbies, and studios that house television morning shows [07]. Here, in the backgrounds, books are kept preserved (or rather embalmed), but preserved only if one believes the medium of the book to include everything that is a book except its own text.  Today it seems only the container of the text is worth preserving.

In such circumstances is it so strange for a book blogger to ask, “How do I display or otherwise admire all these books I keep buying for the Kindle?” [08] Surely limiting the function of books strictly to decorate a space is a habit of society agreed to by all, but to amputate a text from its medium seems somewhat novel, at least as far as book behavior is concerned. As a result we are no longer driven to idealize the memorization of a text—a thing George Steiner once concluded as an ultimate goal for readers [09].

Only a few readers in the republic remain anyway—we who read not for pleasure but to escape, to forget the currency of now, to distract our attention’s natural focus on the void of joy [10]. True, sometimes this escapism comes accompanied by a belief in acclaimed benefits of “learning,” “being well informed,” or “the discovery of something new,” yet such benefits are beneficial only in the sense that they allow us to read more material with slightly more speed, intuition, and understanding which thereby increases our rate of escape from reality. The ultimate benefit of knowledge gained through reading resides in the access that knowledge provides for further reading, but if bad books are still printed, remain unread, left for dead, and continue to be complained about, has anything really changed in human–book relations [11]?

01. This terminology for autopsy was inspired by Mark Bauerlein’s Literary Criticism, an Autopsy (1997). Recently, however, Joy Hakim has claimed in “Let Them Read Whole Books” at the Oxford University Press Blog (03-29-10):
Our schools aren’t letting children read whole books. In this information age, when young people are very aware of the real world, we’re keeping any book-driven consideration of it out of classrooms, especially in those crucial middle school years. Studies show [though not shown by Hakim] that the average American schoolchild never reads a single whole nonfiction books [sic] during middle and high school (except maybe a textbook).
Today, it is only homeschoolers, and children at a few elite or unusual schools who even read as much as one whole book. Teachers are much too busy teaching reading to actually let their students read a nonfiction book.
There is also E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s “How to Save the Schoolsa review of Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education in the New York Review of Books (04-19-10). Hirsch writes:
Two decades ago I was appalled by an international comparison showing that between 1978 and 1988 the science knowledge of American students had dropped from seventh to fourteenth place. In the postwar period we have declined internationally in reading from third place to fifteenth place among the nations participating in the survey.
02. These techniques of dissection are warned of by Hakim as well as in Hirsch on Ravitch:
What schools are doing—endlessly—is teaching reading “strategies.” Our young students are analyzing paragraphs. I call it “snippet” reading…. They tackle reading “strategies….” [A teacher] may take a chapter, or maybe a few paragraphs from a book, combine it with an original document and an activity—and there you have it. No one has to actually read a book. [Let Them Read Whole Books” at the Oxford University Press Blog (03-29-10)]
And:
Many of the weekly hours that are assigned to language arts in the early grades are now being devoted to practicing reading strategies such as “questioning the author” and “finding the main idea.” Ravitch describes in detail a highly touted reform in New York City and San Diego called “balanced literacy,” which requires students to spend a lot of time practicing such reading strategies but does not prescribe any particular books, poems, and essays to practice them on. [Hirsch “How to Save the Schools” a review of Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education in the New York Review of Books (04-19-10)]
03. Not only does the intensive inspection of selections of excerpts of texts, in a way, neglect the text as a whole, but Hirsch, via Ravitch, reports on an American tradition of institutionalized book neglect:
By the early twentieth century worries about the stability of the Republic had subsided, and by the 1930s, under the enduring influence of European Romanticism, educational leaders had begun to convert the community-centered school of the nineteenth century to the child- centered school of the twentieth—a process that was complete by 1950. The chief tenet of the child-centered school was that no bookish curriculum was to be set out in advance. Rather, learning was to arise naturally out of activities, projects, and daily experience. [Hirsch “How to Save the Schools” a review of Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education in the New York Review of Books (04-19-10)]
04. As Melinda Burns thoroughly reports in “As the Internet Replaces Print Publishing, Urge to ‘Unpublish’ Means Censoring History” at AlterNet (03-01-10):
In a recent survey of 110 news organizations, the Toronto Star found that increasingly, publishers are fielding regular requests from anxious and embarrassed readers to “unpublish” information, sometimes months or years after it first appeared online…. Some readers don’t want their marital status or the price of their home known, or they were quoted saying something they now regret.
As Kathy Steiner of the Jamestown Sun wrote, “‘Unpublishing’ is a word that doesn’t accurately reflect what people are asking. They’re asking to censor or rewrite history….” Yet, as Paulette Haddix of the PostTribune of Northwest Indiana said: “If something happened, it happened. If it was said, it was said. We don’t want to set any ‘unpublishing’ precedent where we are rewriting history.”
05. “Journalism’s next generation: A new wave of writers are going online to get their message across” by Ian Burrell of the Independent (04-22-10) notes:
It is a widely held view that the internet has made writers of everyone. Whether we prodigiously blog or just contribute to message boards, we all like to think that we can make a pithy observation. That shouldn’t mean the specialist correspondent cannot have a greater resonance.
06. Burrell reports that the changes in British publishing now include “creating a network of expertly written websites that cater for the specialist audiences that are arguably no longer being served as they once were by more traditional media organisations.” [ Journalism’s next generation: A new wave of writers are going online to get their message across” in the Independent (04-22-10)]
Jeremy Caplan, a blogger for the Wall Street Journal, expands the conversation concerning the mutations of published texts in “The iPad and the Future of Text” (04-28-10):
Digital text is at a crossroads, and the iPad’s momentum could nudge it in one of two directions.
Down one path lies a world in which words are increasingly digitized in iPad-like e-readers that function like locked glass boxes. That renders books, magazines and newspapers easy to carry around but difficult to share or remix.
Down the other path, openness wins out, and text can be shared in myriad ways. This brings digital books closer to a historical precursor: commonplace books. These were personal scrapbooks created centuries ago expressly for spontaneous text sharing, long before Web links made that concept, well, commonplace.
Concerning the Kindle and other electronic reading devices, Virgina Hefferman, in “The Medium” on the Shelf Lifeblog of the New York Times (03-04-10) notes: “The [Kindle], which consigns all poetry and prose to the same homely fog-toned screen, leaves nothing to the experience of books but reading.”
07. See Rob Walker’s comments in “Books, the idea: Suggesting wealths of learnedness” from his marketing/design blog murketing (04-22-10):
Unlike other collectibles, books “represent a different order of plenitude,” [Nicholson Baker’s piece, “Books as Furniture,” from the June 12, 1995 New Yorker] writes, one that encompasses “the camel caravans of thought-bearing time to read them through.” And he quotes William Gladstone arguing against a fashion for ornamental bookcases; those objects should remain plain, Gladstone says, because books “are themselves the ornament.”
Also note Herrman (ibid.):
If [Walter Benjamin] says not reading books can be as sophisticated and European as reading them, I believe him, and I will try to think of my books as Sèvres china. But Sèvres china, if I had any, would be for display on its days off, wouldn’t it? [Virgina Hefferman’s post “The Medium” on Shelf Lifeblog of the New York Times (03-04-10)]
08. Ibid.
09. Steiner, George “Critic”/“Reader”. New Literary History, Vol. 10, No. 3, Anniversary Issue: I. (Spring, 1979), pp. 423–452. < http://www.jstor.org/stable/468921>:
But a text can only enter into the full life of the canon when it is woken by, housed within, the negated distance of precise memory. It follows that “total reading” has an inherent logic of dispensation, that it tends towards a condition in which the materiality of the text is no longer required. The icon has been wholly internalized. (p. 444)
10. As Twain put it in his last known story, Captain Stormfields Visit to Heaven (1909): “Happiness ain’t a thing in itself—it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant.”
11. A recent, semi-humorous example can be found in Sean Fennessey’s post (“Cancel Publish: A Call For the End of Tumblr Book Deals.”) On GQ’s pop culture blog, The Verge. (04-27-10). Fennessy calls for an end to such “spawn of social media,” noting that:
Agent Jason Allen Ashlock explained to Galleycat why he connected at the idea: “The blog to book projects seem tired because so many of them have been one-trick ponies. They’re based around a gimmick: They tell a joke and then they tell it again and again. Image, caption, laugh. Image, caption, laugh. Their concepts are thin. The ones that have been really successful, and have a chance of making the backlist, have had a clear editorial voice: there’s an honest critique or cultural observation built into the ostensibly humorous project.”