July 4, 2018
I’m stewing, as usual, as I put together a new syllabus. In the fall, I’ll be teaching 35 undergraduates a history of the United States – the entire history, from the nation’s colonial roots to the present day. This is a difficult task at any time, but it’s especially difficult for me at the moment as the country plunges ever more deeply into a free-for-all over the meaning of who “we” are.
Though I am thoroughly opposed to using textbooks, especially at the university level, I also know it’s helpful to give students something to lay down a narrative. I’ve relied on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United Statesfor the past eight years in the course on early American history I’ve offered at UMass Boston. A sprinkling of students over the years, usually from liberal, private high schools, has encountered the text before my class. For the rest, the book has mostly been a welcome introduction to early America, the subject of the course. I’m not sure Zinn’s overview will be the right fit for the class I’ll be teaching this fall, which will be at a somewhat selective, private college. I’ve tried to find an alternative, but I’m coming up empty-handed.
March 5, 2018
“Would being armed change the dynamic between teacher and student in the classroom?” WBUR’s Deb Becker asked Lisa Graustein, teacher and equity coordinator at Boston’s Codman Academy. Codman is a successful K-12 charter school in Dorchester, a majority minority neighborhood in Boston whose public schools have long struggled to meet the demands of its population. Ninety-nine percent of students at Codman are low-income and of-color.more >
June 7, 2017
There’s been much to celebrate in the last few weeks: Mark’s and my 30th wedding anniversary, my 55th birthday, and the graduation of a bunch of middle schoolers heading to private high schools whom I’ve gotten to know through Beacon Academy, a one-year academic boot camp. I volunteered to help plan and prepare for the graduation reception, which fell on my birthday. The committee opted to serve tea, whole strawberries, and homemade cookies, which seemed great to me, but not sufficiently festive. It took me a minute to figure out what was missing. Punch.more >
February 17, 2016
I met with a student yesterday before class who left me feeling at a loss. I am struggling, yet again, to set realistic expectations when it comes to writing.
The student came to me wanting to make sure he understood what I was asking in an upcoming essay. After we had worked together to clarify and develop a strategy to complete the assignment, we had a few minutes to talk. “Who are you?” I asked. “I mean, when you’re not at school, what’s your life like?”more >
January 17, 2016
I wish I had a photograph — or, better yet, a video clip — of Sam in the family van, heading out of our driveway this morning. I thought of running inside to get my camera/phone. It just didn’t seem the right moment to impose my Smotheriness on Sam and his friend, both strapped in for their last trip from Boston to Ohio. So, I will conjure the image through words.more >
November 12, 2015
Two well-written and reasoned pieces responding to Marco Rubio’s assertion that we need more welders and “less” philosophers:
— one by Scott Timberg in Salon
Both question assertions about pay as well as the false opposition between liberal arts and vocational educations. My favorite bit: a reference to Matthew B. Crawford’s short, smart book, Shopcraft as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. Crawford (who earned a Ph.D. in phiosophy) argues for the importance of skilled, thoughtful manual workers.more >
November 10, 2015
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio seems to have distilled his education policy during tonight’s debate. “Welders make more money than philosophers,” declared the Florida senator. “We need more welders and less philosophers.”
If Rubio is serious about education, he shouldn’t draw an artificial line between welders and philosophers. This country will not get stronger by assuming that workers who “do” don’t think…and that those who think don’t “do.”more >
February 12, 2014
Excavating in the basement storage area this week, I unearthed “Lily, Max + Sam’s Day by Day Book, Volume I” (Mark’s titling), a.k.a. “The Book of Life” (my titling). Mark and I began recording in the book on October 22, 1992, when we brought our two-week-old triplets home from Yale-New Haven Hospital. We seem to have stopped keeping records on Friday, January 30, 1993 – the last page of the book and also the eve of the kids’ baby naming ceremony. If there is a second volume, I don’t remember it…or haven’t come across it.
On the sheets of this pad, we tracked each kid’s ins and outs. That is: what the babies took in…and what came out t’other end. Who could muster an oral report at 2 AM? Who’d remember by 4 PM? These records aren’t very interesting, except to demonstrate how often we were feeding and changing diapers.. The jottings – in my hand unless otherwise indicated – evoke what it was like to get premature triplets (who weighed about 4 lbs. each at birth, about 34 weeks gestation) from two weeks to three months old.more >
November 22, 2013
A long-time, much loved friend posted a question months ago, which I paraphrase: what do you think about parents who have the resources not to work outside the home and who know, from the get-go, that they will seek full-time employment because they want it?
My answer today is prompted by a piece I read on Politico.com this morning. Writer Michelle Cottle criticizes Michelle Obama for “Leaning Out.” Cottle complains that Obama has wasted her Ivy League education and career as a high-powered lawyer and that when, this week, Obama weighed in on an education system that leaves behind impoverished kids of color — especially impoverished girls — it was too little, too late. Cottle also criticizes the First Lady for choosing a public role that has emphasized traditionally “feminine” issues such as healthy eating and exercise. I am sympathetic to the complaint that Obama might have focused on less traditionally feminine topics, but I draw the line at the following: “Turns out,” Cottle writes, “she was serious about that whole “mom-in-chief” business—it wasn’t merely a political strategy but also a personal choice.”more >
August 15, 2010
Lily came out of her interview at a small, elite New England liberal arts college sure that she’d had a good conversation but frustrated by the content. She knew she was supposed to “take charge” of the interview, so she asked a question about how well the college accommodated students with learning differences. She wanted to know, specifically, how she would go about fulfilling a language requirement given she’s dyslexic. The interviewer reassured her that the academic dean was always willing to go to bat for students with documented disabilities. Some professors wouldn’t “get it,” the interviewer said, but college policy would always back up LD students. With accommodations, Lily would be able to fulfill her requirements, just like everyone else. “Besides,” the interviewer told Lily, “it’s no one’s business.”more >