Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lesson Learned?

from here

I often think of Frank Smith's wise insight that we are always learning. Always. What we are learning though is often not what has been intended.

When Excellence is a Single Standardized Measure

from here
When a nation standardizes its tests and then relies on that single measure as its primary definition of excellence, learning is doomed and with it freedom.  At a national level,  the standardized measurement coupled with the weight of its value limits what can be considered as important knowledge regardless of initial intention. To limit what is important knowledge especially at a time when information is no longer considered scarce is of course, ironic. But it is also very misdirected, as it is the suppression of  thought, voice, and agency that is most crippling to individuals and groups and will do the most harm.

Considered what Antoine Mas wrote decades ago about standardization (as quoted by Jacques Ellul in The Technological Society, pp. 11-12, 1954)
"Standardization means resolving in advance all the problems that might possibly impede the functioning of an organization. It is not a matter of leaving it to inspiration, ingenuity, nor even intelligence to find a solution at the moment some difficulty arises; it is rather in some way to anticipate both the difficulty and its resolution. from then on standardization creates impersonality, in the sense that organization relies more on methods and instruction than on individuals."
Is there nothing that lessens desire more than to live in a world that has been scripted?  We have known this for a long time and yet each 'new crisis' allows those with political and economic power to dictate bad practices and impose their will on the masses.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ring Out The Old, Ring in the New

Time Traveler (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

I. That Which Is Ending

Where is the dwelling place of light?
And where is the house of darkness?
Go about; walk the limits of the land.
Do you know a path between them? 
    - Job 38:19-20
Finding that path by following is wasteful.  Making that path is another story--one worth naming.
The last decade in eduction has been more about following, less about making.
It is time to make, yes?

 II. Imagining a Near Future

Imagining near futures requires letting go of certainties, wrestling with doubts, especially self-doubts, and embracing ambiguities. This brief video from Corning reminds me that the future is not set, open to possibility. The way we have conjured school as the singular place of formal learning is being rewritten. Technologies allow for new ways of co-joining, communicating, contextualizing.  What we make of it is in our hands.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lincoln, Euclid and a CCSS Cautionary Tale

Lincoln (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

I. A Small Story

I couldn't help but think of how we often redress truths we have learned from one discipline in the cloak of story.  I thought about this as I viewed Steven Spielberg's Lincoln last week. In the scene below, Abraham Lincoln is determining what to say in a telegram and uses Greek mathematician, Euclid's notions of geometry as an illustrative story about reasoning and equality.  Lincoln illustrates the significance of the then pending 13th Amendment by situating Euclid's reasoning that, "Things that are equal to the same things are equal to each other" as a story.

Specifically he tells the young telegraph operator:
Euclid's first common notion is this: Things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That's a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works - has done and always will do. In his book Euclid says this is self evident. You see there it is even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other.   

Although Lincoln is speaking to the operator, it seems as if he most needs to hear the story in order to finalize his decision not to sacrifice the chances for ratification of the 13th Amendment in order to end the fighting.

II. A Cautionary Tale

Australian economist, Allan Fels says, "As humans we are hardwired to tell stories and hardwired to listen to stories." At the 2011 Creative Innovation Conference, he told the audience that "70% of what we learn is through stories" and that "storytelling is essential for innovation."

I think of the scene from Lincoln and Fels' words in light of some interpretations of the ELA Common Core State Standards which advocates significant increases in students reading and teachers utilizing informational text in order for students to be "college and career ready."  By high school, 70 percent of the texts taught are supposed to be informational.  Although David Coleman, co-author of these standards says that the percentage is spread across disciplines as a response to concerns from English teachers about the role of literature, Sandra Stotsky and Mark Baurerlein insist that "Literature will inevitably have a lesser presence" in curricula.  Further they state that the claim that reading informational texts leads to being college and career ready appears to be unfounded. Baurerlein writes:
“We could find no research to support the assertion that substituting informational texts for literature will improve students’ college readiness,” said Professor Bauerlein. “In fact, experience suggests that exactly the opposite is likely to happen.”
Beyond the obvious need for human story, it is a mistake to assign specific percentages of text types to be read at a national level as such action reduces teachers' capacity to place into individual students' hands touchstone books and for students to exert agency and select works that resonate.  Keeping track of percentages may well take us off course  by redirecting our attention and energies from intellectual exercises to accounting.

It is agency, more so than titles or genre, that lead learners to become avid readers, not simply compulsory ones.  It is the breadth and depth of read and appreciated texts that allow readers to couple ideas and insights gleaned with circumstances they now confront.  It is this action of making and applying meaning to lived contexts that better represents signs of being 'ready' for adulthood.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Said Some Words to the Close and Holy Darkness

(December 2011, M.A. Reilly)

 I have loved this work by Dylan Thomas for more years than I can count. It feels holy to me, each and every time I hear him read it.  I wish you a most joyous Christmas, holiday season, and New Year.

Mary Ann

A Child's Christmas in Wales
Dylan Thomas
One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.
"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.
"There won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas."
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting.
"Do something," he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and ran out of the house to the telephone box.
"Let's call the police as well," Jim said. "And the ambulance." "And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires."

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?"

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

"Were there postmen then, too?"
"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells."
"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"
"I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them."
"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."
"There were church bells, too."
"Inside them?"
"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence."

"Get back to the postmen"
"They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ...."
"Ours has got a black knocker...."
"And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out."
"And then the presents?"
"And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger's slabs. "He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone."

"Get back to the Presents."
"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why."

"Go on the Useless Presents."
"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons."

"Were there Uncles like in our house?"
"There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms' length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers."

Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite, to blow away the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the dinners of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of a black eye, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face of Christmas when suddenly he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high, so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinsled windows, the whole length of the white echoing street. For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o'-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.
"I bet people will think there's been hippos."
"What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?"
"I'd go like this, bang! I'd throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I'd tickle him under the ear and he'd wag his tail."
"What would you do if you saw two hippos?"

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel's house.
"Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box."
"Let's write things in the snow."
"Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel' all over his lawn."
Or we walked on the white shore. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?"

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying "Excelsior." We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly; and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. "What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?"
"No," Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count three." One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen ... And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.
"Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said.
"Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading.
"Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Images of Snow

It doesn't look like we will have a white Christmas here in the NJ, so here are a few images of the white stuff I made.

And Still the Birds Came (Leonia, NJ, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Watching (Newburgh, NY, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Woods Filling with Snow (Mountainville, NY, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Suburbia (Teaneck, NJ, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
The Distance Between (Mountainville, NY, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Snow is Fleeing (Ringwood, NJ, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Red Hydrant (Ringwood, NJ, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
Bench in Winter (Ringwood, NJ, 2012, M.A. Reilly)
Minimal Snow (Morris Plains, NJ, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Willows (Mountainville, NY, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Posted (Leonia, NJ, 2011, M.A. Reilly)
Soar (Hudson River, 2009, M.A. Reilly)

Zen  (Warwick, NY 2010, M.A. Reilly)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice (December 21, 2010, M.A. Reilly)

           So the shortest day came, and the year died,
              And everywhere down the centuries of the
                          Snow-white world,
                    Came people singing, dancing,
                       To drive the dark away.

              They lighted candles in the winter trees;
                They hung their homes with evergreen.
             They burned beseeching fires all night long
                       To keep the year alive.

            And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
                       They shouted, reveling.
            Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
                    Echoing, behind us - listen!

              All the long echoes sing the same delight
                          This shortest day
               As promise wakens in the sleeping land.

                   They carol, feast, give thanks,
         And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
                      And so do we, here, now,
                     This year, and every year.
                             Welcome, Yule!

      --by Susan Cooper, 1977 written for The Christmas Revels

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Listening to Gun Advocates Talk

A curious thing has happened during the last few days since I published two blog posts and tweeted more actively than I usually do about the topic of gun reform: I have heard from people I don't normally interact with--people who do not share my ideological stance about gun ownership.

I oppose gun ownership and see no reason for anyone apart from military to actually possess automatic weapons. My posts and tweets have been exceedingly kind, invitational in nature and the responses from gun advocates have been for the most part both aggressive and offensive in tone.  This has given me pause and made me wonder if these few are representative of the larger group of gun advocates.

Perhaps, it is unusual given the millions of Bushmaster AR-15s in circulation (most sold by Walmart), but I don't know anyone who actually owns an automatic weapon of any kind and I know only one person who owns a gun (a retired detective) who would prefer better gun control.  I heard one caller from the Rockaways who phoned into Brian Lehrer's show today and I listened to the arguments he made for why automatic weapons are critical. He told us that he and others need the Bushmaster AR-15:

  1. For personal protection against flash mobs and riots
  2. To hunt wild hogs
  3. For paramilitary purposes so that 'average citizens' can wage war against the US military when the US takes military action against the average citizen

The offered reasons by the Rockaway caller are hardly satisfactory and citing protection for potential riots or to arm paramilitary factions is disturbing.   So I am assuming that these reasons are not ones that the majority of the gun owners would cite and yet I have heard no other reasons offered.

Why should the US allow citizens to own automatic and semi-automatic weapons?  What need  does anyone have to do so?

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Crow and The Pitcher: A Fable for These Times

Jerry Pinkney's The Crow and the Pitcher. From here

In the New York Times yesterday (12/16/12) there was a fascinating essay by Firmin DeBrabander, The Freedom of an Armed Society. DeBrabander argues that freedom is reduced in a gun culture.  He writes:
Our gun culture promotes a fatal slide into extreme individualism. It fosters a society of atomistic individuals, isolated before power — and one another — and in the aftermath of shootings such as at Newtown, paralyzed with fear. That is not freedom, but quite its opposite...Arendt and Foucault reveal that power does not lie in armed individuals, but in assembly — and everything conducive to that.
Later in the day I am reading Jerry Pinkney's Aesop's Fables and stop to consider how The Crow and the Pitcher offers additional insight into the issues before us concerning the use of force.  After reading DeBranbander I was asking myself:  Does living in an armed society lessen our capacity to think, to speculate?  To wonder? To be patient, if not inviting of ambiguity?  Does force lessen wisdom?  Consider what Aesop offered years earlier.

The Crow and the Pitcher

For weeks and weeks there had been no rain. The streams and pools had dried to dust, and all of the animals were thirsty. Two crows, flying together in search of water, spotted a pitcher that had been left on a garden wall. They flew to it and saw that it was half full of water.  But neither one could reach far enough inside the pitcher's narrow neck to get a drink. 
     "There must be a way to get that water, " said the first crow. "If we think it through, we'll find an answer." 
     The second crow tried to push the pitcher over, straining with all of his might. But it was too heavy to budge. "It's hopeless!" he croaked, and flew away to look for water elsewhere. 
     But the first crow stayed by the pitcher and thought, and after a time he had an idea. Picking up some small pebbles in his beak, he dropped them one by one into the pitcher until at last the water rose to the brim. Then the clever bird happily quenched his thirst. 
Wisdom and patience succeed where force fails.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Be the Change We Most Need

Cry Down Into a Big River (M.A. Reilly)
I. Be Still.

Whereas babies are the very image of innocence--5, 6, and 7 years olds are its voice. And that voice was quieted on Friday.

In the remaining silence I find myself wanting to fill it quickly so as to not have to feel what I can not find words to describe and yet thankfully, there is little escape. We need to feel, first.  Perhaps you too are finding that one minute you are cruising through your life and the next you are stopped and in tears.  It feels very much like the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when it was still too soon to understand that life had shifted, changed in fundamental ways.  Now too, I am called from sleep this time by the list of names of these unknown children that I somehow know as they have become for those of us at a distance--every child.

And like 9/11, there are the stories of heroics--this time teachers, a principal, and a school psychologist--all women who did what those of us who teach know is an inescapable act: they sought first to protect the children.

Circa, 1967 (M.A. Reilly)
The deaths of the children and educators in Newtown remind me that too many children, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers in and beyond Newtown are dying through a proliferation of guns and an absence of sound mental heath protection and care.  Collectively we have the voice to stop such madness and we must.

Circa, 1967 is an image I made while out one afternoon with my son, turning my camera and finding him just after he had made a wish. It is these small moments that the families in Newtown and all who have had family die through guns have lost.   They leave behind a void--a loud silence.

We cannot allow that silence to become the last word.  You and I now speak for those who have been murdered. It is well past time to take collective action.  Here's a few ways to get started.

II. Inform yourself.

Be sure that the rhetoric from NRA will be plentiful. Here are a few links to background information:
  1. Mother Jones' Guide to Mass Shootings in the US
  2. The New YorkerGun Control Action
  3. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
  4. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  5. States United to Stop Gun Violence
  6. from The Atlantic: A Land Without Guns - How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths
III. Take action.
  1. You can become involved and take action through The Brady Campaign.
  2. You can sign on with Mom's Rising - Open Letter to NRA and Congress demanding common sense gun regulation
  3. Call your congressional representative on Monday and keep calling to demand commonsense gun control.  Here's a link to the phone numbers.
  4. Thank and support those congressional representatives who have been an active force in gun control, such as US Senator, Frank Lautenberg from NJ.
  5. Urge our president to replace sentiment with action NOW. Contact President Obama via twitter, facebook, email, phone (202-456-1111) and demand that he uses his political muscle to get a bipartisan bill out of Congress he signs that brings forth common sense gun control. 
  6. If you own handguns/automatic weapons, turn them in. I recently read that there are 300,000,000 guns in the US.  Here's how you can get rid of your guns.  Contact your local police and ask when there will be a gun collection. Here is a Facebook Page Dedicated to Handing in Guns.
  7. Write letter and send to local media.
  9. Crowdsource this issue. Blog, tweet, facebook, youtube... Get the good word out that we will not be managed by the likes of the NRA and their congressional and judicial followers.
Let's get this going without waiting for Congress. In many ways it rests in our collective hands.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Coming Prepared for the Discussion: Videos

A look at three ways to come prepared to a discussion.

Grade 3: Share Who Said That

Grade 5: Text Talk Time

Grade 5: Post Its: Little Notes for Big Discussions

Grade 12: Pinwheel Discussions

Grade 12: Being Patient

If You Are Teaching It--It Helps to Read It: Recommended Essays

from here

Recommended Essays: An Eclectic Set

Chinua Achebe

Julia Alvarez

Martin Amis

Gloria E. AnzaldĂșa

Hannah Arendt

Dan Ariely, Ed.

Robert Atwan, Ed.

James Baldwin

Walter Benjamin

John Berger

Wendell Berry

Eula Biss

Joseph Brodsky

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat, and Michelle Cliff

Mona Caird

Italo Calvino

Judith Ortiz Cofer

John D’Agata

Edwidge Danticat

Mark Dery

Joan Didion

Annie Dillard

Michael Dirda

Gerald Early, Ed. And Randall Kennedy, Ed.

Umberto Eco

Timothy Egan

Barbara Ehrenreich

Loren Eiseley

Joseph Epstein

Anne Fadiman

Jonathan Franzen

Gary Giddins

Amy Goldwasser, Ed.

Maxine Greene

Robert Hass

Christopher Hitchens

Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)

bell hooks

Richard Hugo

Barbara Kingsolver

Jamaica Kinkaid

Tim Kreider

Anne Lamont

John Leonard

Amy Leach

Philip Lopate

Barry Lopez

Audre Lorde

Carolyn Merchant

Czeslaw Milosz

Charles W. Moore

Toni Morrison

John Muir

Lewis Mumford

Kathleen Norris

Naomi Shihab Nye

Joyce Carol Oates

Mary Oliver

Tillie Olsen

Michael Ondantje

Walker Percy

Lia Purpura

Ray Robertson and Chris Doda

Marilynne Robinson

Edward Said

David Sedaris

Lee Siegel

Leslie Marmon Silko

Zadie Smith

Susan Sontag

John Jerimiah Sullivan

John Updike

Gore Vidal

David Foster Wallace

Terry Tempest Williams

Virginia Woolf

William Zinsser