Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a regular feature with three links to fascinating, provocative, or particularly well-written, (usually) long-form pieces collected over the last three years. There will not be a test, but there may be a theme.

Three* thought-provoking pieces just for you…

~On Being an Octopus: It’s about exactly what it says it’s about. Fascinating throughout.

~How Consciousness Works: From Aeon, which has published more amazing stuff in the last six months than I can keep up with.

~The Scientific Riddle of Consciousness?: This one, published in the New Yorker, is chock-a-block with great links, most greatly, to the work of philosopher David Chalmers who will blow your mind if you give him the chance.

~There is Only Awe: Part book review, part reflection on consciousness, the author, Rachel Aviv, is a routinely impressive writer, thinker and researcher. Her stuff is ALWAYS worth reading. This is no exception.


Philosophical Opinions

Perhaps you’ve been nagged by a persistent question, one that you didn’t even know how to form, much less pursue, and for months now, but without knowing why, or even that it was there. Perhaps your question was something like this: I wonder, you might have asked yourself, what the names of the ten best/most important books on ethics are from the last 200 years?

Well you can scratch that itch, now. Here’s the list.

Bonus points for saying how many you’ve read. I’ve got three in their entirety, most of a fourth, and small pieces of a fifth and sixth. And so, I guess I’ve got some more reading to do…

A Great (read: philosophical) Treatment of “Nature”

I loved this piece when I read it back in December, and not just because he mentioned Annie Dillard in it…

For many, myself included, criticizing nature doesn’t come, well, naturally. My own preferred recreational activities—hiking, climbing, running, snorkeling, riding horses—embed me in nature. I have surrounded myself with animals of all sorts, and I try to avoid consuming pesticides, herbicides, and the antibiotics and hormones to which industrial agriculture has become addicted. I was delighted when a natural-foods supermarket recently opened within a mile of our home, and I patronize it almost exclusively.

Nonetheless, in resisting many things that I view as “unnatural”—nuclear weapons, global warming, chemical pollution, habitat destruction—while also honoring, respecting, defending, admiring, and nearly worshiping many things that are natural (sometimes just because they are natural), it is all too easy to get carried away, to forget that much in the world of nature is unpleasant, indeed odious. Consider typhoid, cholera, polio, plague, and HIV: What can be more natural than viruses or bacteria, composed as they are of proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and the like? Do you object to vaccination? You’d probably object even more to smallpox.

The rest is here and so, so good.

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

This may not appear to be relevant but I’ve been thinking about school uniform requirements and if it would be a good idea to have a dress code at the college level. There is a precedent that leads me to raise the issue: male students are asked to remove their head gear when entering HWC.

I suppose we (an institution of higher learning) are trying to mold our students to be good citizens, right? Maybe we believe this requirement is in keeping with our college mission, right? If this is the case, why not institute a policy requiring students to meet certain dress standards from head to toe. The argument could be made that they are individuals and what they do is their business, not the business of the college or the district; but, isn’t it our business to make sure that our students are prepared to meet the challenges of academic and professional life?

Are we sending mixed signals to our students when we require them to write proper sentences and neglect to require proper attire even though both will compliment their future professional endeavors?

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

I’ve been told that reading a book and “listening to a book on tape” are not the same. In other words, if I read a book from cover to cover, I would understand and absorb the material better than if I were to listen to the same words being read to me by another person. Is this true?

Do you or would you allow your students the option of listening to a book instead of reading a book? What’s the difference? If listening to the spoken word is not valid, then why do we sometimes read passages out of books during class and ask our students to listen?

BTW, ALL faculty may comment; including our retired faculty members.

‘Trying to Teach’ Tuesday

Is there such a thing as faculty reading for pleasure anymore?

I ask this question because as much as I’ve try to pick up a new book and read for pure personal  enjoyment, the words on the pages inevitably come back to connect with course content. I am not trying to do this on purpose, honest – I think.

The other day I was in the library looking at the new book selections and checked out Science: A Four Thousand Year History by Patricia Fara. I simply wanted to take a break from reading about art history, a quick break, a cleansing of the literal palate if you will allow the analogy. So what happens? The book introduces ideas that are relevant to the study of art history and immediately I want to incorporate content from the book in future class lectures (it happened as early as yesterday in the classroom).

So I think back and wonder: Was I really trying to get away from the subject of art or was I secretly trying to come at it from another angle? What started as an act of separation from my teaching discipline became otherwise.

Have I (or we) become victims of our careers? Have you read a book lately that was completely unrelated to your discipline? Are you able to read ‘just for fun’ anymore? Are you able to make the disconnect and recommend a book to a family or friend that is totally unrelated to a class you teach?

I school, you school, we all scream for… unschool?

I’m not sure how to preface this but take a look at this report from Good Morning America.

I’m not sure if I would call this objective reporting but it’s worth a look since we may have this minority group in our classrooms sooner than later.

I got a kick out of the b-roll showing the young adults horsing around while the reporter introduces the concept of “unschooling”.  Don’t be fooled by what you see. Keep in mind that this family represents one example of the concept.

Thinking About Maxine Greene, and There She Is

So, the other day, I was poking around in my Nikki Giovanni book looking for the poem in the post below, and I found another one she wrote about an old English teacher of hers who introduced her to this great work, which led her to that one, which led her to poetry, and so on. It’s great stuff. Anyway, while reading that, I started to think about Masxine Greene, who is the person I always think about when the topics of literature, diversity, and curriculum come up. The first time I ever read anything by her, it was over my then girlfriend’s (now bride’s) shoulder, and I was dazzled. It was an excerpt from her book, Teacher As Stranger, I believe, and I was hooked. And then, how weird is this, on the same day, the same, very day, I get an email from this society I’m in about a new issue of a journal blah, blah, blah, dedicated to Maxine Greene.

Like it was fate or something.

Alright, I know, I know…it’s a Philosophy Journal, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s called Journal of Educational Controversy, and everybody loves to read about controversy, and, like I said, this month’s issue is dedicated to Maxine Greene, who was unbelievably awesome, and it has great stuff like this in it. (Plus there’s a link to the previous issue which was called, “Schooling as if Democracy Matters” and has an all star philosophy of education lineup, including three of my favorite reads: Bill Ayers, Sharon Todd, and Claudia Ruitenburg)

And it’s free. And it led me to finding Maxine Greene’s Foundation Web site with its sweet library full of stuff that I haven’t read yet (but can’t wait to get into)…

And if you’ve never heard of Maxine Greene, do yourself a favor and check her out.