Best of what I’ve read this week

1. “Nothing focuses the mind like surprise.”

–Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide

I can think of several implications for teaching (besides the obvious: Okay kids, POP QUIZ!).

2. “Restoring Our Schools” by Linda Darling-Hammond

This piece shows clearly that the gulf between the haves and the have-nots in the U.S. isn’t just a matter of material resources–this gulf divides the nation into groups who have access to quality education, and those who do not.

3. This New York Times article from yesterday is framed as a debate over diversity–but a finer point I draw from it is that many, many high achieving individuals from privileged backgrounds see their achievements as individual accomplishments. An equity pedagogy has two parts: hand in hand with teaching from a multicultural perspective, we have to teach privileged students to truly see their privilege. I’m just now waking up to the extent of my own privilege.

There’s a moral imperative here with millions of disadvantaged students throughout the U.S., equaling a lot of alarm and assessments and not enough social justice being taught or practiced. “High-needs schools” is a term frequently referenced in my progressive program, with schools in more prosperous communities remaining in the periphery of the conversation. And yet there is another way to see privileged, suburban schools: in high need of social justice rhetoric and action suffusing the curriculum.

Aaaand, I might be drafting a final paper for Topics and Tensions in Education class rather than writing a blog post. But I’ll carry on anyway!

4. Helping Students Explore Their Privileged Identities

Also, here’s an idea for relating the idea of handedness to privilege.

5. “State of play” by Rebecca Mead, published in the July 5, 2010 edition of The New Yorker (abstract here), contains this fascinating tidbit: The UN Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) sets out the same purposes for play as for education.

“The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education.”

What are these purposes?

“He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.”

More fodder for my essay, perhaps. I’m just really taken with the idea of play and education intersecting, and it makes me love my silly, playful, and very smart cohort at UW all the more.

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