I'm always reading one of Pema's books, but it's such a part of the everyday-ness of my reading that it doesn't feel like something "special" enough t...moreI'm always reading one of Pema's books, but it's such a part of the everyday-ness of my reading that it doesn't feel like something "special" enough to update on Goodreads. (less)
This was one of the most thoughtful and nuanced books I've read about China. He's very open about the political oppression/lack of freedom of speech c...moreThis was one of the most thoughtful and nuanced books I've read about China. He's very open about the political oppression/lack of freedom of speech citizens face, but also about the ways in which that doesn't matter to many people because of the tremendous economic gains they've experienced in recent years. At the same time, he details how the rampant government corruption and inequality of opportunity has created a sense of moral vacuum and a search for meaning beyond economic advancement.(less)
This was one of the best books about interacting with nonhuman animals that I've read. The narrative of Juneau's relationship with Romeo was seamlessl...moreThis was one of the best books about interacting with nonhuman animals that I've read. The narrative of Juneau's relationship with Romeo was seamlessly interwoven with information about wolf biology and behavior that provided context and depth. Some of his writing is poetry reminiscent of Norman Maclean: "As a sentient, intelligent being, [Romeo] made a choice to live where he did, and to interact with us and our dogs -- not only on his own social terms, but through an adaptive understanding of our rules" (228). Or this: "Without knowing or caring, simply by being what he was, he brought people closer: friends and families, but also those who might have never met, if not for his presence. Across the years, I watched hundreds and finally thousands of Juneau residents -- two here, a half dozen there, one group after another, out on the broad sounding board of the lake -- lean on their ski poles and chat as they watched the wolf playing with dogs, trotting across the ice, or lying in one of his spots at the lake edge; and many times, I took part in such conversations . . . . So it was that the wolf melded into Juneau's story and became part of us" (229)(less)
There are a few books that are meaningful because they say what you've always felt but never had words for, and others that are fabulous because they...moreThere are a few books that are meaningful because they say what you've always felt but never had words for, and others that are fabulous because they introduce the reader to something she never knew or imagined. This book is one of the latter. I had no idea of the richness of native culture and civilization -- the sheer breadth and depth of them -- before European settlement. Somehow in history class I missed that native nations were vibrant actors on the continental stage at least through the beginning of the 1800s (not to say they're not continuing and acting in meaningful ways today). I couldn't stop reading.
So much was fascinating -- but to mention only one thing: there are only something like a dozen remaining examples of the strings of yarn that some Peruvian tribes used to communicate, and that may perhaps even have constituted a form of writing - one that would have been read with both the eye and the hand, and have been contained in the color and twist of the fibers as well as the order and kind of the knots.
Okay, and to mention one more: the Amazon is likely not a "pristine wilderness" but instead an example of a kind of agriculture for which we don't have a name -- most of the forest was probably planted/cultivated by humans (that's why something like 50% of Amazonian trees produce fruits humans can eat). And there is a kind of soil in the Amazon -- terra preta -- that occurs in widespread areas, usually highly interwoven with pottery shards broken for the purpose of providing a substrate, that is intentionally created by humans using charcoal. (less)
The collection was uneven, but some of it, especially Norman Fischer, Ezra Bayda, and Sharon Salzberg, were especially helpful. It goes without saying...moreThe collection was uneven, but some of it, especially Norman Fischer, Ezra Bayda, and Sharon Salzberg, were especially helpful. It goes without saying that Pema Chodron's essays were also a highlight.(less)
I was disappointed. The qualitative reporting about the lives of kids who were "different" was nuanced and interesting, but not interesting enough to...moreI was disappointed. The qualitative reporting about the lives of kids who were "different" was nuanced and interesting, but not interesting enough to read the whole book. There wasn't much analysis, and in the end, the problems the author did discuss seemed to relate more to the toxic relationship/peer incentive structure of high school than to the individual personalities of "geeks." My takeaway was that sequestering teenagers in age-stratified social groups with little contact with people of other ages is probably not the best idea.(less)
Although I am not a professional educator, I read Nel Noddings because she always makes me feel both calmer and smarter, and I always wish I could sit...moreAlthough I am not a professional educator, I read Nel Noddings because she always makes me feel both calmer and smarter, and I always wish I could sit down and have a conversation with her. In this book, she provides her thoughts on how we can prepare students for today's world -- one where cooperation will be as important as competition, where citizenship must be as important as corporate service. She insists that public education should prepare students for home, occupation, and civic life -- not just occupation.
One of the things I cherish about her work is the voice she raises against the drumbeat of "college for all." In part, she does this by taking vocational training seriously -- or by taking seriously the possibility that vocational training could be fully educational, could educate whole persons and encourage reflection on the big questions in the same ways - and perhaps in some better, different ways -- as traditional academic subjects. I was reading _99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses_ by Joe Cottonwood at the same time I was reading this, and so I particularly appreciated this: "Am I -- working thoughtfully at my library table, supported by Beethoven in the background -- superior to the man who is now working physically to repair a leak in our porch roof? Even if we insist it is not the person who is superior but the type of work, we can still ask: In what does this superiority consist?" (55).
I appreciate her insistence that homemaking and parenting are subjects worthy of serious inquiry and study -- that homemaking is both a physical performance and the creation of certain kinds of safety and means of shaping behavior.
Throughout, she insists that "the main purposes of education are to help students find out what they are good at, what they would like to do with their lives, and how to live responsible and fulfilling lives" (66). This is certainly quite different from the "push STEM, push college" focus of much current K12 thinking, and I philosophically appreciate the whole-person approach. However, I'd like to talk with her more about some of her assumptions -- that schooling should help us figure out what we're good at rather than introduce us and help us to love things we're not good at (I suspect that, as a math teacher, she thinks this is important). And I wonder what would happen if we embraced a more life-long education model. As lifespans increase, it seems to me that we should give serious consideration to increasing or spacing out the education years. I'm a different person now than I was twenty years ago, and the interest inventories and aptitude tests I take differ markedly from those I took twenty years ago. What we're good at and what we want to do with our lives changes, and I wonder how Noddings would think about that, if she did so more explicitly.
As a former administrator at a small private liberal arts college, I especially enjoyed her chapter on the liberal arts. This was to the point: "[my] admiration is for [the liberal arts tradition's] devotion to existential questions and the immortal conversation. The misgivings are directed at the certainty and snobbery that sometimes accompany it" (65).
I always feel enriched by her conversations about caring -- what it means in practice, in detail, in particular, not just as an abstract notion. And I appreciated her framing of educating for morality and ethics in terms of neither the individual nor the community but in terms of relationship (she cites Martin Buber for this idea). She writes "our objective in moral education is to establish a climate in which natural caring flourishes" (119).
I appreciated her discussion of standards and the way in which detailed standards, the same everywhere and for all children, are not a good substitute for clear, deep thinking by professional teachers about the aims they are trying to reach. If the purpose of education is to teach students to think for themselves, she writes, "we are making a very bad mistake by prescribing our curricula in more and more standardized detail." (65)(less)