Whatever I teach, I teach storytelling because it is an expression of human creativity that provides perspective. Stories help us understand our world by showing us that random events surrounding our lives only seem random, but are in fact connected. Stories enable us to perceive a higher level of meaning. Fiction such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Alex Haley’s Roots explore the role of cultural storytelling in personal formation. Aesop uses “The Tortoise and the Hare” to explain the virtue of diligence, and Ernest Hemingway critiques modernist conventions of storytelling in “Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Continue reading
Elizabeth Cotten was never famous, and almost slipped into total obscurity
Domestic, 71, Sings Songs of Own Composition in ‘Village,’” ran a New York Times headline in November of 1965. The piece, about a woman with “five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, a guitar, a banjo and about 20 old-time folk songs,” heralded the return of then-unknown folk songstress Elizabeth Cotten, who was poised to play the Gaslight Cafe, on Macdougal Street in a Greenwich Village still quaintly set off by single quotation marks. Continue reading
Whatever his sins, Andrew Jackson was a man. He did not cringe before power or curry favor with oligarchs. He admired independence.
Andrew Jackson’s reputation is drifting down, down, down, like a sere autumn leaf. Whereas in 1948, the first year of Arthur Schlesinger Sr.’s poll of historians, Old Hickory ranked sixth among the presidents, in recent surveys by a variety of sponsors he has dropped into the midteens. It seems only a matter of time before Jackson is banished to the reputational basement with Warren Harding, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan, presidents who never dragged their country into war, which is the yellow brick road to greatness. Continue reading
Books are good for your brain
Turn yourself into a bookworm. These techniques will help you read more.
Reading books can exercise your brain and even boost your emotional intelligence. Despite this, about a quarter of all Americans haven’t read a book in the last year and our overall book-reading time is on the decline.
In the new year, it’s time to buck this trend. But how do you find the time to read full-length books—and why should you bother in the first place? Continue reading
Politicians Hate That
Government officials should use the success of the competition as an educational moment.
There’s no better sign of success than an escalation in attacks by your enemies. Based on such evidence, homeschooling is enjoying a boom, as growing numbers of families with diverse backgrounds, philosophies, and approaches abandon government-controlled schools in favor of taking responsibility for their own children’s education. As they do so, they’re coming under assault from officials panicking over the number of people slipping from their grasp.
There’s little doubt that homeschooling is an increasingly popular option. “From 1999 to 2012, the percentage of students who were homeschooled doubled, from an estimated 1.7 percent to 3.4 percent,” reports the National Center for Education Statistics. While the government agency suggests that growth has leveled off since then, other researchers say data is hard to come by, since many states simply don’t count people who homeschool. Continue reading
By now, many parents know there is something seriously wrong with the average American school. Time and again, children go into the school system as bright bundles of energy, curious about the surrounding world, and time and again, they stagger through the system frustrated and losing their interest in learning. Unfortunately, parents have firsthand knowledge of what former New York teacher John Taylor Gatto explained in his book, Weapons of Mass Instruction:
“After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”
That’s easy enough to say, but is it actually possible to do? Continue reading
My eight-year-old daughter and I recently read about the Salem witch trials. She had heard about Salem from a friend who visited the nearby town during its popular Halloween festivities, and she was curious about the witches. We went to the library to get some books on the topic of how 20 innocent people were put to death for “witchcraft” in 1692, with scores more accused and jailed.
What struck me most about revisiting the Salem Witch Trials with my children was the fact that these English Puritans who had recently settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony had no presumption of innocence. Those accused of a crime at the time, both in the New World and elsewhere, were guilty until proven innocent. The presumption of innocence in trials, with court defenders and impartial juries, would take centuries to catch on. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” was coined by an English lawyer in 1791, but even then it took a long while to become the legal precedent we all now take for granted. Continue reading
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a Kansas state freshman Republican representative hopes to help struggling college students burdened by the already high cost of textbooks via tax relief. Rep. Rick Hoheisel suggests that Kansas exempt all textbooks from the statewide 6.5% sales tax, thus saving students money each year they buy new books for their curriculum.
Rep. Hoheisel is a recent college graduate and remembers quite well that he would have to shell out big bucks each year simply to afford required reading. While Kansas cannot control the price of textbooks directly, the state government can control the taxes imposed on said products. Continue reading
Many people still consider “homeschooling” to be a religious farmstead cult instead of a legitimate form of education. Yet on average, homeschoolers are far out-performing their publicly-educated peers in almost every subject.
According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA),
In 1990, the National Home Education Research Institute issued a report entitled “A Nationwide Study of Home Education: Family Characteristics, Legal Matters, and Student Achievement.” This was a study of over 2,163 homeschooling families. Continue reading
…for my friend, Charles Dickens
Portrait of a thirty-something Charles Dickens as he looked when he wrote A Christmas Carol was found caked in mould at a South African market 150 years after it vanished
A youthful portrait of British writer Charles Dickens that went missing for 150 years went on display in London in late November, 2018 after being found covered in mould next to a metal lobster at a market in South Africa.
The miniature watercolour and gouache portrait by Margaret Gillies, valued at £220,000 pounds was painted in 1843 as the young Dickens, then in his early 30s, was writing ‘A Christmas Carol’.
The painting shows the Victorian writer clean shaven, with long, wavy hair, looking over his left shoulder, a contrast to the more common image of an ageing Dickens, with long bushy beard and messy, balding hair. Continue reading
The paper money that funded the American Revolution led to post-war grievances, the most well-known of which was Shays’s Rebellion in back-country Massachusetts. For years after the war the Boston legislature imposed taxes, falling mainly on those least able to pay, for the full payment in specie of the highly-depreciated notes issued during the war and held mostly by well-to-do legislators and bankers. As a further aggravation, the war was fought mostly by those on whom the taxes fell, while the elites stayed home. (See the Nobel-worthy Shays’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle by Leonard L. Richards)
Petitions for redress having been ignored by the legislature for several years, town leaders in western Massachusetts organized marches, beginning in August 1786, to shut down the courts, demanding that the state constitution be revised. Eventually, through force of arms, the government put a halt to the uprising while mischaracterizing it as a refusal of the poor to pay their just taxes. Continue reading
Huckleberry Finn is no hero, though he does symbolize the American conscience at the time Mark Twain wrote, or at least the conscience Twain hoped for. Yes, Huckleberry Finn is a coming-of-age tale and a social criticism and satire, but it also asks crucial questions: Who actually changes? What type of American will change?
…and 4 Challenges
When deciding whether or not to homeschool your child, it’s important to keep in mind both the positives and negatives of homeschooling.
All parents want what’s best for their children. But when it comes to schooling, the field of choices can be murky and the decisions difficult. Parents don’t always get a close look at what goes on in their kids’ schools, nor can they fully understand the demands of homeschooling until they’ve made the leap. Continue reading
In a decision last week, the European Court of Human Rights has undermined its claim to being the “conscience of Europe” and pitted parents against children.
The Wunderlich family wanted to do what thousands of families in America do with no questions asked: educate their children at home.
But homeschooling is not allowed in Germany, and the state has relentlessly pursued the Wunderlichs and even seized their children. Continue reading
In 1875, Rev. Moses Drury Hoge stood before 40,000 people in Richmond, Virginia, at the foot of the newly dedicated statue of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and delivered what one historian called the “noblest oration of his later life.”
He believed that in the future, the path to that statue would be “trodden” by the feet of travelers from “the banks of the Hudson, the Mississippi, [and] the Sacramento…from the Tiber, the Rhine, [and] the Danube.” They would be accompanied by “Honor” and “Freedom,” the twin principles by which Jackson lived and died and which these pilgrims would seek to celebrate. Jackson represented the best of American society and his memorial reminded not just America, but the world, of patriotism, heroism, and duty, the highest traits of Western Civilization and of all dead heroes. Continue reading