Monday, January 25, 2010

Hamlets without Hamlet -- Thoreau, or dark ages?

The application of the real world is the most powerful tool in our educator toolbox, and what better way to understand a philosophy about cultivating land than to do it? As we read pages of "Walden" and planted our seeds, quotes from Thoreau such as "I chose to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived," carried much more weight with action. And guess what? We even wrote paragraphs about it.

[. . .]

When your elementary-school child is forced to pick up his or her toys after recess, you are going to claim that because your child is a "privileged American" he or she should not be taught the values of simple tidiness? When your child has the opportunity to attend a field trip to the zoo to see the lions after studying the climate and culture of Africa you are going to say, "You're not going. Read another book"? And frankly, what about the farmers who enjoy their life as it is and truly do not need to know the entirety of "Hamlet" to have a good life and make a good living? She dismisses physical work, under the guise of respecting students' upward mobility, but it also hints darkly at her views of the people in those fields. (Alissa Novoselik, “The school gardener strikes back,” Salon, 15 January 2010)

RE: “And frankly, what about the farmers who enjoy their life as it is and truly do not need to know the entirety of "Hamlet" to have a good life and make a good living?”

But what about the corporatists, those living in the metal jungle, who well enjoy their life of millions but will never aspire beyond Dan Brown? Will you speak up for them too? Or do you just have a thing for the different kind of green? There are good ways to move away from Shakespeare, but for me -- an urbane --pastoral romance is the worst of ways. There is no wisdom in dirt, just random happenstance. If we turn to it so we better understand "Shakespeare," okay, but if we do so in an effort to make HIM the one who is optional, then the ONLY reason this is still a plus is because progressives tend to be the ones so turned on to garden-learning. Personally, I way prefer the glass and concrete; I just want interactive, democratic, child-focused learning, to be the norm.

Re: “I was so angry after reading "Cultivating Failure," that I assigned my 11th grade students a writing exercise on this question: "Is interactive learning important? Why or why not?" After 10 minutes of frantic scribbling, I heard about the necessity of things like our school garden in my students' own voices.”

So something was bothering you, and you made your students sort it out for you. Maybe next time ask what was really bothering THEM, before assigning them to match your irritated state with their frantic scribbling. You make it seem as if they eased your tension, with their experiencing your pain. They're not extensions of you to use to stamp out internal fires. I hope one of them told you to piss off. And you proved okay with that. That's the kind of fire I MOST want to see: I could give a fig about the worms (mostly).

Link: “The school gardener strikes back” (Salon)

No comments:

Post a Comment

My books at

Essays on the Lord of the Rings Draining the Amazon's Swamp Wendy and Lucy, Star Trek, and The Lord of the Rings (and free at scribd...