Monday, March 11, 2013

Musings on Writing a Syllabus, Resisting the Canon, and Choosing the "Right" Book



Over the course of the last week or so, I have been developing a syllabus around the question “what is literature for?” Oddly enough, this would have been an easy enough endeavor for me—I wrote my undergraduate thesis on essentially the same question—except that I wasn’t simply designing a theory course. Instead, the syllabus is designed as an introductory literature course for community college.

How can I take up a debate that has gone on since Plato first threw the poets out of his imagined republic (with the notable exception of Homer) first, in the short length of a semester-long course, and second, with students who might not care or who have many other concerns like work and family filling their thoughts? In other words, how can I show that the study of literature can be personally impactful and socially relevant? [...]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Educational Shenanigans: The Onion, Altruism, and “Making a Difference”

Because obviously there are only two options: learn, or go to jail.

Earlier last year, the Onion published an article titled “Point/Counterpoint: My Year Volunteering As A Teacher Helped Educate A New Generation Of Underprivileged Kids/Can We Please, Just Once, Have A Real Teacher?”
Despite the rapid transfer of information over the internet, I only encountered this article recently; needless to say, I was immediately intrigued. While I do not serve as a teacher, the work I have been discussing in my latest blog series on Jumpstart fits into many of the features pegged by the article: fresh graduate works in underprivileged school to “make a difference.” Whatever that means. [...]

Monday, March 4, 2013

It Takes a Network to Raise a Child



  In my first post in this series on Jumpstart (jstart.org) a national organization dedicated to developing literacy in underprivileged preschools, I raised the following question: how much can and does Jumpstart really accomplish? As this series has tracked social barriers to education and the political stakes of providing quality education, it has become clear that the impact of Jumpstart is tangled up in many different factors. No child is an island, separate from the circumstances of his or her life; with barriers like school closings and lack of resources affecting children’s educations, how can Jumpstart make a difference through the albeit noble and important cause of developing language and literacy skills? [...]