Hold It All

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Active Participants in a Democratic Society or Effective Corporate Employees?

Alfie Kohn, What Does It Mean to be Well Educated?
And More Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies

You only learn things and learn how to think if there’s some purpose for learning, some motivation that’s coming out of you somehow. In fact, all the methodology in education isn’t really much more than that—getting the students to want to learn. Once they want to learn, they’ll do it.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what you read, what matters is how you read.… You only learn if the material is integrated into your own creative processes somehow, otherwise it just passes through your mind and disappears. And there’s nothing valuable about that –it basically has the effect of learning the catechism, or memorizing the Constitution or something like that.
—Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power


After finishing my 23rd year of teaching, I do breathing gathas and slowly reconnect in the days ahead with the clarity of Alfie Kohn…


Nel Noddings: “the main aim of education should be to produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people.” 2

The best sort of schooling is organized around problems, projects, and questions—as opposed to facts, skills, and disciplines. Knowledge is acquired, of course, but in a context and for a purpose. The emphasis is not only on depth rather than breadth, but also on discovering ideas rather than on covering of prescribed curriculum. Teachers are generalists first and specialists (in a given subject matter) second; they commonly collaborate to offer interdisciplinary courses that students play an active role in designing. All of this happens in small, democratic schools that are experienced as caring communities.

Critique of Education: Aims: quantifiable results, standardized procedures to improve performance, on order and discipline and obedience to authority. Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Tweets by AOC

The cruise industry registers as foreign companies to avoid paying US taxes. Now they want US bailout money.

Now the same Republicans who say immigrants who pay US taxes shouldn’t get help are bending over backwards to give Money-mouth face to foreign companies who DON’T pay taxes.


Read the rest of this entry »

Notice What You Notice

At the Richmond Heights gym
She resembled Kathy Kelly, hair-wise

She walking on the treadmill
Reading Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel, The Sympathizer

Three Working Epigraphs for Forthcoming Book

Everybody too intransigent. Everybody too mean.
—Allen Ginsberg

Appreciation is the sacrament.
—Allen Ginsberg

You have to write your own history, nobody’s going to do it for you.
—Allen Ginsberg



Hedy Epstein

If Not a Room, Perhaps a Shed

For Lala

Above all, you must illumine your own soul with its profundities and its shallows, and its vanities and its generosities, and say what your beauty means to you or your plainness and what is your relation to the ever-changing and turning world of gloves and shoes and stuffs swaying up and down among the faint scents that come through chemists’ bottles down arcades of dress materials over a floor of pseudo-marble.

–Virgina Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Q & A in 1952

A meeting held a long time ago, put together by the Mattachine Society, had the distinction of being among the first times homosexual literature was publicly and sympathetically discussed. Held in 1952 or 1953, the meeting focused on the topic, “What is the greatest problem facing the homosexual novelist at this time?”

In 1952 they had a problem finding homosexual novelists who would indeed admit that they were gay. Sanford Friedman was one of the writers who agreed to appear. Another of the volunteers was Paul Goodman.

The meeting began, and the moderator posed the question, “What do you feel is the biggest problem facing the homosexual writer today?” He turned to Goodman. “Mr. Goodman, what do you have to say?”

Goodman answered, “I believe the biggest problem facing the homosexual novelist today is the hydrogen bomb.”

–Samuel R. Delaney, “Panel: Politics of Identity,” in Anne Waldman and Lisa Birman, Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action

Sanders and Warren Unite!

“Sanders and Warren are both fighting against the neoliberal policies of austerity. They are being attacked by Wall Street, the media, and the Democratic Party leadership. Rather than allow them to suffer death by a thousand cuts, let’s call for them to combine their efforts in an act of political jiujitsu. In this case 1+1 does not equal 2, but something much greater and potentially revolutionary. Sanders + Warren will provide the leadership we desperately need.”

Please check out my friend Andrew Wimmer’s site, and pass along to any who may be interested.



It Can Be So Appealing

Or let me tell you another story I heard about twenty years ago from a black civil rights activist who came up to study at Harvard Law School-it kind of illustrates some of the other pressures that are around. This guy gave a talk in which he described how the kids starting off at Harvard Law School come in with long hair and backpacks and social ideals, they’re all going to go into public service law to change the world and so on–that’s the first year. Around springtime, the recruiters come for the cushy summer jobs in the Wall Street law firms, and these students figure, “What the heck, I can put on a tie and a jacket and shave for one day, just because I need that money and why shouldn’t I have it?” So they put on the tie and the jacket for that one day, and they get the job, and then they go off for the summer and when they come back in the fall, it’s ties, and jackets, and obedience, a shift of ideology. Sometimes it takes two years.

Well, obviously he was over-drawing the point-but those sorts of factors also are very influential. I mean, I’ve felt it all my life: it’s extremely easy to be sucked into the dominant culture, it can be very appealing. There are alot of rewards. And what’s more, the people you meet don’t look like bad people–you don’t want to sit there and insult them. Maybe they’re perfectly nice people. So you try to be friends, maybe you even are friends. Well, you begin to conform, you begin to adapt, you begin to smooth off the harsher edges–and pretty soon it’s just happened, it kind of seeps in. And education at a place like Harvard is largely geared to that, to a remarkable extent in fact.

And there are many other subtle mechanisms which contribute to ideological control as well, of course-including just the fact that the universities support and encourage people to occupy themselves with irrelevant and innocuous work.

–Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, p. 239

Hong Kong, Harvard Square; photo by Mev

The Real United States by Hedy Epstein

Not long after I came to the United States [later 1948], I began to work for the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) near New York’s City Hall and later in the agency’s shelter on West 103rd Street. The agency brought to the U. S. displaced persons who had been living in displaced persons camps in Germany since the end of World War II. I had daily contact with these persons. With every new boatload of people arriving, I scanned their faces, hoping to find my parents among them. I inquired of them where, in what camp, they had been during the war, hoping someone would be able to provide some information about my parents. None could.

Ethel instructed me in my duties. Her response to my repeated suggestion that we go to lunch together was always, “No.”  Summoning up a lot of courage, I asked her why she did not want to go out to lunch with me. “Don’t you know we cannot go to lunch together,” she said. “Why not?” I asked. She replied: “I cannot eat in the places where you can and I am sure you would not want to eat where I eat.” I failed to understand until she explained: “Negroes are not allowed to eat in restaurants frequented by whites.” I was shocked, incredulous. After all, President Lincoln had freed the slaves. That is what I read in history books. I thought therefore there was no more discrimination. This incident served as the catalyst for my involvement in the civil rights movement, always as a protestor and later, also, professionally.

Seventeen Quotations from Glenn Gould in Kevin Bazzana’s Wondrous Strange

“Dying was a great career move for him.”  

—Kevin Bazzana, Wondrous Strange:
The Life and Art of Glenn Gould


  1. “I gather my inner resources from the outdoors.”  
  1. “Behind every silver lining there’s a cloud.”
  1. “My ability to work varies inversely with the niceness of the weather.”
  1. “From the time I was about 12, I was forced to do a complete analysis and to memorize any work I was going to play before actually going to the piano and playing it. When you are compelled to do that, you get a kind of X-ray view of the score, much stronger than any tactile imagery the piano might create for you.”
  1. “I happen to believe that competition rather than money is the root of all evil.”
  1. On Tureck: “Her records were the first evidence that one did not fight alone. It was playing of such uprightness, to put it into the moral sphere. There was such a sense of repose that had nothing to do with languor, but rather with a moral rectitude in the liturgical sense.”
  1. “I love Tristan. I was fifteen when I first heard it, and wept.”  
  1. “The greatest of all teachers ix the tape recorder.”
  1. “You owe nothing to your public.”
  1. GG on Strauss: “I’ve always been addicted to his music the way some people are addicted to chocolate sundaes. I find it absolutely irresistible. “ 
  1. “Isolation is the one sure way to human happiness.”
  1. “I see nothing wrong in making a performance of out of two hundred splices, as long as the desirable result is there.”
  1. “It’s true that I’ve driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I’ve stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it.” 
  1. “Music is my ecstasy.”
  1. When asked what one must do to be a professional artist: “You must give up everything else.”  
  1. “One does not play the piano with one’s fingers. One plays the piano with one’s mind.” 
  1. “One of these times I’ll write my autobiography, which will certainly be fiction.”