7 Quick Takes Friday (4/11/14)
My friend Oscar has just started an awesome new website about education that you should check out! It’s called The McGuffey Reader, named after William Holmes McGuffey.
From the “About” Section of the site:
An independent organization committed to the improvement of local schools and to the reform of education in America, The Mcguffey Reader is the first ever online space for the exchange of school-specific solutions, and a source for the latest in education news, policies, and pedagogies that are currently changing education. (The McGuffey Reader About Page)
Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies!
What a Godsend! I am definitely ordering one of these for my classroom next year…
Especially this one.
I love this:
What I Never Would Have Known About Becoming a Teacher Before I Became One
It’s a list of 10 things.
But especially this thing:
Some teachers ask me incredulously why I often wear heels when I teach. Aren’t I just asking for sore feet?
But I began wearing heels because, during my first year of teaching, I was so much SHORTER than the huge senior boys who came marching into my classroom.
And I realized as well that a decisive click click click on the classroom floor, or in the hallways, can have a surpassing amount of power.
Although of course “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Especially the responsibility of not tripping and falling during class. THAT has almost happened.
My friend Serena has another great article over at Public Discourse: “Crowdfunding, Selfies, And Mommy Blogs: Finding Community in the Internet Age.”
Very, very interesting. You hear in homilies and articles all the time how “the internet” and its forms of social media have ironically only isolated us from one another–but Mrs. Sigillito (!) challenges that oft-repeated narrative:
I believe that social media have the capacity to help establish new forms of community that fulfill our innate desire to be part of a group that is larger than ourselves, but small enough to for us to be known, accepted, and loved. (Sigillito via Public Discourse)
She gives some great examples:
Blogs like these document the place where the rubber meets the road. They take general political and religious statements about the importance of the family and they make them real, personal, and incarnate. It’s one thing forHumanae Vitae to explain why contraception is wrong; it’s another thing to read the words of a woman who’s struggling to keep the faith through her fourth or fifth surprise pregnancy. And because blogs express their authors’ personalities so strongly, they provide a powerful opportunity to encounter others. (Ibid)
Bottom line: go read it.
Her article also gives me some hope and encouragement about my own blogging here. One wonders, at times, what the point is of sharing one’s musings with a silent computer scene… until you get a comment here or there that acknowledges that someone else has felt the same way, or has come to see things differently or more clearly because of what you said.
As I learned in ACE , community can come in all sorts of strange shapes and sizes. And yet God can work through them–even through the Internet.
Speaking of blogging…
I’m gathering ideas for several different upcoming blog posts, but I wanted to ask if there is any topic in particular that you would like to see explored.
Here are some things I’m thinking of writing about:
1. More About the Common Core and its Implications for Catholic Education
2. Vocation – Br. Justin Hannegan has a disquieting thesis about discernment that all of us should take into consideration. I’ve been meditating on this for a while, and though I am not expert on vocations by any means, I thought I’d tackle it.
3. My Top 10 Pieces of Advice for Teachers – which is kind of funny, because I’m not exactly a veteran teacher myself…
4. Should certain books be excluded from Catholic high school classrooms? If so, any notable ones? Why? – This has become rather a sticky issue at my own school, and though I know the sad majority of Catholic high schools don’t take their identity too seriously anyway, I thought it might be useful to ponder for those of us who do kind of care about being “Catholic” and what that means. For example, one parent does not think Homer is appropriate. (!)
5. Why Anthony Esolen isn’t completely right about writing … See what I did there?
Well, I’m not going to go into a very long tirade about writing right now…
But I am going to venture into a little one.
I had a student from another English class ask me for help with her paper. Long story short, I didn’t think this student really had a thesis statement at all. I thought her thesis was basically a universal truth that any sane person who read her novel would agree with, and therefore wasn’t really worth writing about.
And then her current English teacher told me her thesis was absolutely fine, because this wasn’t supposed to be a “persuasive essay” anyway. It was an “analysis” essay.
I swallowed my astonishment, and then began to doubt everything I ever knew (and, honestly, everything I have ever taught) about essay writing.
Okay. I know Middle School teachers are taught to teach different “genres” of essay writing: the Descriptive Essay, the Analysis Essay, the ever-revolting Compare-and-Contrast Essay, the Personal Essay, the Persuasive Essay… which seems rather silly in a way. The only benefit I can see from over-complicating essays like this is teaching kids how to take purpose and audience into account. That’s a good thing, but I don’t think you need to make up fake essay genres for that.
But here’s my problem.
To me, an essay–even a thesis for that matter–is nothing at all if it does not argue something.
To me, ALL essays are persuasive essays.
Describe something? Okay, well prove why this thing is best described in this way.
Compare and contrast? Basically it’s just a list of stuff if you don’t throw in an argument somewhere–this thing is BETTER than that thing, or this character achieves X whereas the other one doesn’t.
Personal Essay? It’s just a journal entry if you aren’t trying to teach your reader or yourself something true about human life.
Am I wrong? Am I missing something? Is this just me?
ESSAYS MUST BE PERSUASIVE.
*Caveat: I said essays. Not necessarily science research papers. But even then…
A little Calvin and Hobbes to put writing back into perspective:
Once in a while my students will try something like this. Thing is, I’ve tried it before myself. And ya can’t BS a BS-er.
Please excuse my French.
Happy weekend, everyone!