recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : rebeccatraister   3

Jia Tolentino Wants You to Read Children’s Books - The New York Times
““A really good middle-grade novel,” says the New Yorker essayist, whose debut collection is “Trick Mirror,” “will supersede a lot of contemporary fiction in terms of economy, lucidity and grace.”

What books are on your nightstand?

When I like a book, I carry it around everywhere until I finish it, like a subway rat dragging a slice of pizza down the stairs. So usually if a book is living on my nightstand, it’s not my thing. Right now, though, I’ve got a galley of Anna Wiener’s “Uncanny Valley” keeping me company — it’s so deft and stunning that I started rereading chunks of it as soon as I was done.

What’s the last book that really excited you?

“Death’s End,” the final installment of Liu Cixin’s Three-Body trilogy, in which the narrative and conceptual momentum of the series takes off at a scale and velocity I couldn’t possibly have imagined before reading. The Three-Body trilogy makes insignificance and unknowability and futility seem so spiritually exciting that I felt breathless. I’d join a book club that just discusses it every month for a year.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Rebecca Stead’s “When You Reach Me” won the Newbery Medal, so it’s certainly not unheralded, but everyone tunes me out when I recommend it, since it was written for kids. Their mistake! A really good middle-grade novel — and this book, a “Wrinkle in Time”-esque mystery set on the Upper West Side in the late 1970s, is a phenomenal one — will supersede a lot of contemporary fiction in terms of economy, lucidity and grace.

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

“Random Family,” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. It’s so spicy, so riveting, so empathetic and devoted, so alive in the world as it actually is. No shots to Chaucer and “A Separate Peace” and all that, but I think a lot of people might be far more interested in reading (and possibly more interested in other lives in general) if they got to read books like this in high school.

What book would you recommend to people over 40?

“Kids These Days,” by Malcolm Harris. Most writing about millennials has tended to focus on effects rather than causes: After all, it’s easier to make a spectacle of the ways instability manifests itself in young people than it is to really reckon with the fact that capitalism has reached a stage of inexorable acceleration that has broken our country’s institutions and (arguably) my generation’s soul. “Kids These Days,” thankfully, goes straight for the point.

[ Tolentino’s new book, “Trick Mirror,” was one of our most anticipated titles of August. See the full list. ]

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Ocean Vuong, Jenny Odell, Doreen St. Félix, Vinson Cunningham, Bryan Washington, Tommy Orange, Jenny Zhang, Ross Gay, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit, Emily Nussbaum, Rebecca Traister, Brit Bennett, Caity Weaver, Rachel Aviv, Kathryn Schulz, Pamela Colloff, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Patrick Radden Keefe, Patricia Lockwood, Samantha Irby, Leslie Jamison, Lauren Groff, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Wesley Morris, Meg Wolitzer, Marlon James, Ted Chiang, Eula Biss.

You once described yourself as “an obsessive and catholic reader.” What moves you most in a work of literature?

Bravery and surrender, which can manifest in so many forms.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a purely emotional or purely intellectual reaction to anything, let alone to anything I was reading. Systems and concepts are always inextricable from the way they shape our hearts, and I love books that demonstrate this, like Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted,” or George Saunders’s “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.”

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

From Casey Cep’s “Furious Hours,” that Harper Lee was once neighbors with Daryl Hall and John Oates. What?!

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I’ll read almost anything, though I don’t love reading about history and science as much as I love whatever I learn. The only books I actively avoid are the “how X explains all of human civilization” books — the type seemingly written for men who love a counterintuitive idea but find complex thought disturbing — as well as those “how to be a perfectly imperfect goddess who doesn’t give a f**k” books. I don’t like anything with a sales pitch that’s like, “Hey, you’re a woman!” These books feel like dolls of Frida Kahlo dressed as Rosie the Riveter or something, like display objects that chirp the word “badass” when you press their hand.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

My boyfriend got me a first edition of Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” — one of my favorite books of all time — about seven years ago, and this past year, he gave me a copy of “Eve’s Hollywood” with a note in it for me from Eve Babitz herself. I almost keeled over on the spot.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

Turtle Wexler from “The Westing Game” and Undine Spragg from “The Custom of the Country.”

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I would read while Rollerblading around my neighborhood, read while eating, read in the car, read in the bathtub — my books were stained, swollen, ripped to shreds. I was always just desperate to be constantly reading. I’d memorize the copy on the Herbal Essences bottle in the shower; I read “Gone With the Wind” about 20 times in fourth grade. I remember things from kids’ books much more clearly than I remember anything about my life even a few years ago. I’ve got a mental encyclopedia of useless sensory details: the lavender-and-black bathroom in “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself,” the tin peddler’s wares in “Farmer Boy,” the meals that Francie Nolan helped her mother make from stale bread.

You’re a digital native, and your publisher describes you as “what Susan Sontag would have been like if she had brain damage from the internet.” Do you find it difficult to tune out distractions and sink into a book?

In part because I am very aware of what the internet is doing to my sense of scale and reason, I spend a good amount of my life seeking out states of being — like reading — that are so consuming and pleasurable that I won’t grab my phone and interrupt. It also helps that for most of my life I’ve read a paper book for an hour or two every night before falling asleep: It was always a way of managing my insomnia, which I’ve had since I was little, and is now a regular reminder of how much more like myself I feel when I’m not shattering my attention to bits.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

There are plenty of beloved books I don’t like at all — the most demographically fine-tuned version of this for me is probably Chris Kraus’s “I Love Dick.” But I have a hard time accessing a sense of “supposed to” with pop culture. I read whatever I feel like reading, and if neither the book nor my reaction to it interests me, I put it down without another thought. I’m a big believer, anyway, that reading is like eating: The most fun lies in finding a match for your mood. If I read 20 pages of something people love and I can’t get into it, then I welcome the possibility that a few years from now it could be the perfect thing.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Nearly everything about being alive feels embarrassing, but the enormous gap between what I’d like to have read and what I have actually read does not. As it is, I read a hundred books a year and it doesn’t seem to matter — there will always be so many books I haven’t read yet, and I will always be kind of stupid no matter how much I read. For example, I only recently realized that when people turn 30 they are completing their 30th year of life rather than beginning it. It’s possible that I’d have grasped that basic fact and many others much earlier if my head weren’t so stuffed with so much minutiae about the Shackleton expedition, so many descriptions of light from James Salter short stories, all these invisible psychosocial landscapes from all these books.

What do you plan to read next?

I’ve got to read the Lydia Davis translation of “Madame Bovary.” I’m having physical cravings for it. If I could stop time right now I’d lie down in the grass somewhere and go straight through from beginning to end.”
jiatolentino  howweread  reading  books  2019  internet  susansontag  web  online  digitalnatives  attention  yafiction  genre  malcolmharris  adriannicoleleblanc  tebeccastead  liucixin  oceanvuong  jennyodell  doreenstfélix  vinsoncunningham  bryanwashington  tommyorange  jennyzhang  rossgay  zadiesmith  rebeccasolnit  emilynussbaum  rebeccatraister  britbennett  caityweaver  rachelaviv  kathrynschulz  pamelacolloff  gideonlewis-kraus  patrickraddenkeefe  patricialockwood  smanthairby  lesliejamison  laurengoff  johnjeremiahsullivan  wesleymorris  megwolitzer  marlonjames  tedchiang  eulabiss  bythebook  georgesaunders  matthewdesmond  caseycep  sherwoodanderson  thewestinggame  chriskraus  lydiadavis  madamebovary 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
David Gooblar on Twitter: "I want to urge you to read @rtraister's extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more tha
[via: https://hewn.substack.com/p/hewn-no-316 ]

“I want to urge you to read @rtraister’s extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more than worth your time.
https://www.thecut.com/2019/08/elizabeth-warren-teacher-presidential-candidate.html

Traister’s argument: although one might think Warren’s professorial manner might be a liability on the campaign trail, she’s actually a *really good* teacher, and the way that she’s a good teacher might be the key to her success, both as a candidate, and as a political leader.

The way teaching is talked about here—by Warren, but also by Traister—gets to the heart of what it means to be an inclusive teacher, and (to me) draws a thicker line between teaching for social justice and plain old political action for social justice.

For instance: Warren, as a law school prof, relied on the Socratic method in her classes. The Socratic method means different things to different people, but in a law-school context, it usually means the relentless grilling of students, one at a time, to reveal their weaknesses.

There are a lot of problems with this mode of teaching, like: what are all the other students supposed to be doing while the one unlucky sap is being questioned?

Traister refers to “the seeming paradox of a woman known as a bold political progressive adhering to an old-fashioned, rule-bound approach to teaching.” But it’s not a paradox, because the way Warren conceives of the Socratic method is actually deeply progressive.

She worried that “traditional” discussion, in which the professor only calls on those students who raise their hands, inevitably reinforced privilege. “The reason I never took volunteers,” Warren tells Traister, “is when you take volunteers, you’re going to hear mostly from men.”

Instead, she adopted a cold-calling approach that made sure as many students were involved in each class period as possible. Here, Traister quotes one of Warren’s TAs, whose sole job during class was to keep track of who had spoken, and who hadn’t yet.

[image: “In this position, Ondersma remembered, she had one job: to make sure everyone got called on equally. “The whole idea was that she wanted everybody in the classroom to participate.” Ondersma would sit with the class list and check off every student who’d gotten a cold-call question. Then, in the last ten minutes of the class, “I’d hand her a notecard with the names of all the students she’d not yet called on,” and Warren would try to get to them all.”]

(A few years ago I wrote about cold-calling as a way to invite students into discussions. It’s a weird thing: it feels old-fashioned and authoritarian to many of us, but it can actually help ensure your discussions are more democratic.)

In line with that emphasis on reaching everybody, whenever a student would come to office hours before an exam with a question, Warren would ask the student to write the question down, so she could send it (and her answer) to every student.

Traister quotes one of Warren’s students: “it was very important to her that people were not going to have any structural advantage because they were the kind of person who knew to come to talk to a professor in office hours.” What a great idea!

I often tell faculty that teaching is much more defined by their mindset than by whatever teaching strategies they adopt. From what this piece tells us, it’s clear that Warren gets that, and that her mindset is the right one.

Look at how she talks about teaching:

[images:

““That’s the heart of really great teaching,” she said. “It’s that I believe in you. I don’t get up and teach to show how smart I am. I get up and teach to show how smart you are, to help you have the power and the tools so that you can build what you want to build.””

"But she explained to him the thinking behind hers: 90 minutes, she said, is a long time to sit and be talked to. The Socratic classroom as she handled it forced everyone in it to pay close attention not only to what she was saying but also to what their fellow students were saying. She was not the leader of conversation; she was facilitating it, prompting the students to do the work of building to the analysis.

It’s a pedagogical approach that Warren sees as linking all of her experiences of teaching. “It’s fundamentally about figuring out where the student is and how far can I bring them from where they are.”"]

Her approach to teaching begins with students, with thinking about the students’ experience, with consciously altering her approach so that as many students as possible can get as valuable an experience as possible. That is, at heart, an inclusive teaching practice.

But maybe even cooler is the way in which Traister goes beyond showing what a great teacher Warren was. She connects Warren’s pedagogical approach with her political one, in a way that really gets me thinking about the role of teaching and learning in our public life.

We often talk about politics in terms of communication—how well a certain candidate is getting her ideas across to potential voters—but the task is more complex than that typical lens suggests. It’s less communication than it is persuasion—persuading people to act.

Persuading people to vote for you, yes. But also persuading people that they are capable of action. Persuading people that they have agency, that they can do more than they currently think they can.

If you want to succeed at this kind of persuasion, you’d be wise to learn from the scholarship of teaching and learning, which is precisely concerned with these questions. How do we help other people do things—for themselves?

If learning is the work of students—if we can’t *make* students learn—then how do we help them do that work? What conditions can we create that make that work more likely to happen? That is the teacher’s task.

Likewise, if real political change is the work of citizens—many, many citizens changing the political reality, not a single politician—then how do we create the conditions in which that work is more likely to happen? That, Warren suggests, is the political leader’s task.

Elizabeth Warren can’t make us do the work of banding together to defeat corruption, inequality, injustice. But maybe she can use inclusive teaching methods to help us come to the conclusion—on our own—that such action is necessary, and possible. That is a wild sentence to type.

Traister does great work drawing parallels between Warren’s teaching practice and her campaign tactics. She quotes Warren talking about the challenge of teaching people about her proposed wealth tax, and why it’s not so radical:

[image: "When she was first doing town halls, after proposing a wealth tax, she said, “I’d look at the faces and think, I don’t think everybody is connecting. It’s not quite gelling. So I tried a couple of different ways, and then it hit me. I’d say, ‘Anybody in here own a home or grow up where a family owned a home?’ A lot of hands would go up. And I’d say, ‘You’ve been paying a wealth tax forever. It’s just called a property tax. So I just want to do a property tax; only here, instead of just being on your home, for bazillionaires, I want it to be on the stock portfolio, the diamonds, the Rembrandt, and the yachts.’ And everyone kind of laughs, but they get the basic principle because they’ve got a place to build from.”"]

Elsewhere, Traister brilliantly points out that Warren’s habit of calling individual donors on the phone—regular people who gave $50 or whatever—mirrors her cold-calling in class, ensuring that *more people* are being heard from than the usual men raising their hands.

This is partly because I’m really inspired by Warren in general, but the piece really underlines for me the value of inclusive teaching, the importance of the work teachers do, in helping students remake themselves, and remake their worlds.

Inclusive teaching practices are based on sturdy research on how students learn best. But they follow, 1st of all, from a choice the teacher makes. We must choose to be committed to every student, to put their development first, to be led by them, rather than the other way around

That is, I’m sorry to say it, a political choice. Not because we’re trying to get our students to vote a certain way. But because we help students believe in their own possibility, in their own agency. I happen to think it’s hugely important.

Anyway, I should probably have just written this as an essay (and I don’t want to quote/screenshot from it any more)—go read the piece! https://www.thecut.com/2019/08/elizabeth-warren-teacher-presidential-candidate.html

Oh, and the companion episode of The Cut on Tuesdays (one of the best podcasts going, by the way), is delightful. You get to hear Warren herself talk about teaching, including a truly excellent rubber band metaphor that I’m going to use in workshops.
https://cms.megaphone.fm/channel/thecut?selected=GLT3342909803

Also also: [image of Elizabeth Warren with her dog]“
davidgooblar  elizabethwarren  teaching  howweteach  politics  elections  2019  2020  learning  howwelearn  education  highered  highereducation  inclusion  inclusivity  rebeccatraister  socraticmethod  instruction  pedagogy  via:audreywatters  cold-calling  lawschool  studentexperience  citizenship  participation  participatory  gender 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Marriage Equality Is a Win for Single People Too -- The Cut
"For those Americans who are not married — by choice or by circumstance — or for those who simply do not regard the institution as the apotheosis of adult existence, Kennedy’s flowery prose in this otherwise stirring context, which unlocked matrimony to millions who have been barred from it, was jarring and more than a little depressing.

“Marriage,” Kennedy writes, “responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.” It’s one of several sentences in his decision that sound really lovely and warm, but is in fact both cruel and inaccurate, what with its implication that marriage is a cure for loneliness and that those who have not found conjugal recourse are howling into an abyss of solitude that brings to mind Alien and its single heroine, Ripley: In [unmarried] space, no one can hear you scream! Kennedy’s vision of unmarried life is apparently absent friends, lovers, siblings, children; contra the experiences of millions, there is no satisfaction, relief, or fulfillment in independence.

He builds further on this in the decision’s ultimate paragraph, one that is destined to be read at gay and straight weddings for decades, but which Nation editor Richard Kim fairly described on Twitter as a “barfy, single-shaming kicker.”

“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy writes, “for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.” This will come as news to the millions of people who aim their love, fidelity, sacrifice, and devotion high, but in directions other than at a spouse. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were,” Kennedy continues, just hammering it home: Married partnership, according to the Supreme Court, is not only a terrific institution into which we rightly should welcome all loving and willing entrants, it is an arrangement that apparently improves the individuals who enter it, that makes them greater than they were on their own. Those who have previously not been allowed to marry, Kennedy avers, should not be “condemned to live in loneliness,” as if the opposite of marriage must surely be a life sentence of abject misery."



"Kennedy’s framing seems to bolster McArdle’s prediction of a return to Victorian social constriction. But because of the growing number of single people in America, it brings up the possibility of something worse: the cutting off of rights and benefits to an ever-expanding population of independent adults. It corresponds to the worst fears of single advocate Bella DePaulo, who has written that even when gay and lesbian people gain true marriage equality, “all those people who are single — whether gay or straight or any other status — will still remain second class citizens,” wanting for the tax breaks and legal dispensations and next-of-kin rights enjoyed by their married peers.

What’s extra galling about Kennedy’s wording is that it makes the glorious same-sex marriage victory a cramped thing, when in fact the social progress it represents is expansive in ways that should redound positively to many Americans, not just those who have already or who aspire to walk down an aisle or into a judge’s chambers. In reality, the right for gay people to marry each other represents a victory not only for gay-marrying people and their straight-marrying brethren but also for non-marrying Americans."



"Here is what we should not be doing: adding one narrow, institutionally defined expectation of adult life to another narrow, institutionally defined expectation for adult life. The freedom to marry someone of the same sex is the freedom to not have to marry someone of the opposite sex, which in an ideal universe should be tied to the freedom not to have to marry, period."
marriage  marriageequality  2015  scotus  singles  legal  law  rebeccatraister 
july 2015 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read