Our statistics are striking. Over half the people in the United States are women. Over half. But the fact remains that half the population has little political voice nor is it enmeshed in a political structure that embodies the knowledge, skills, talents, and gifts of the feminine.
The unexamined national goal now seems to be a productive, compliant workforce, at the lowest cost, not an educated citizenry. Instead of building on our public education infrastructure, we talk about "failing schools," and bogus international testing data.
I told my students I had assessed their prowess as musicians, and tried to divide the groups evenly, so nobody would be in the "top" band--or left behind. Our job was to play well all the time, to live up to our potential as performers--not to be better than the other band. It took a while, but this policy eventually led to greater achievement, especially from students who did not start out at the top of the skills spectrum.
"Hillbilly Elegy" is impressive personal narrative--plaudits to Vance for his persistence--but hardly illustrative of poor habits and prospects of an entire region of the country. Nor does it illuminate any of the very real problems--crises, per the book's title-- facing working-class families in America today, beginning with the dangerous income gap between the haves and the have-nots that threatens the social order.
I am fortunate; I get to spend time in a range of public schools, as observer, presenter, consultant and, on occasion, substitute teacher. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data--but there are hundreds of thousands of vital examples of what needs highlighting and replicating in public education. Why aren't we focused, like a laser, on those?
For arts teachers, this is the ongoing, contentious, core issue in their pedagogical practice: What is the value of what I do? How do I share my conviction that the arts are essential in the lives of children? Why does artistic expression typically carry less weight than other fields and specialties?
New teachers: Don't stop speaking up when others may discount your thoughts, or make you feel as if you are too new to know any better. Be willing to stand up for the change you see that is needed --if not for your students, then for yourself. Your willingness to learn more about change can foster growth in both teachers and students.
While I toiled away at what you termed the retail level, you, Checker Finn, studied the research, analyzed the data, and made pronouncements impacting education across the nation. It's interesting to think that you have, in many ways, shaped the work that I actually did. For decades.
At the very least, engaging in substantive conversation about current events on a social media platform is good practice in dialogue, honing our values, and determining which sources are accurate. Our students live in this world. Turning away from the red-hot center of American political argument right now feels like abandoning democracy.
Ten books that rocked my world in 2016. A mix of fiction and non-fiction, all delicious.