THE RADICAL COMPASSION OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS

14 Feb

Frederick Douglass portrait

This year’s Black History Month coincides with the 200th birthday of Douglass, and it’s an ideal occasion to rectify some unfortunate ways in which this influential writer has continued to be misrepresented and misunderstood—and not simply by the likes of Trump. Specifically, consider this famous quote that has been attributed to Douglass for decades: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

William Cheng offers a fine piece of historiography here about Douglass and a quote attributed to him. You may read his entire piece at the Pacific Standard here.

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How was St. Valentine’s Day transformed from a sacred event into an amorous one?

14 Feb

How was St. Valentine's Day transformed from a sacred event into an amorous one?

Valentine’s Day has a curious history. Its name belongs to an early Christian martyred in Rome during the 3rd century. When Pope Gelasius in 496 added Valentine to the Catholic register of officially recognized saints, he could never have imagined that the day chosen to commemorate him, Feb. 14, would become consecrated for lovers.

So begins Marilyn Yalom’s brief history of St. Valentine’s Day. You may read her entire Los Angeles Time‘s story here.

 

Faithland: What’s the Most Highly Religious Part of America?

13 Feb

Faithland map of religious adherence in America

via Faithland: What’s the Most Highly Religious Part of America?

TEACHING THE ART OF READING IN THE DIGITAL ERA

12 Feb

PacificStandard_Hugo&Marie_MVM_Teaching_6,5x4,5_RGB

Perhaps the oddest aspect of reading is that, for all the pleasures of the text, we must be taught to do it. Recognizing symbols and signs, as well as the ability to assign them meaning, might be innate to the human brain, but directing these abilities to follow words on the page—a relatively new skill in human history—requires instruction. Like a child learning to ride a bike without training wheels, the magical moment comes when the parent lets go and the child pedals off—and keeps going. “The most significant kind of learning,” writes the Stanford University reading specialist Elliot Eisner, “creates a desire to pursue learning in that field when one doesn’t have to.” The wonder of experiencing a novel (or the sensation of coasting on two wheels) can be habit-forming.

So notes James McWilliams in a report at the Pacific Standard. You may read his entire report on reading in the Digital Age here.

A Peek at Famous Readers’ Borrowing Records From a Private New York Library

7 Feb

The Reference Desk at the library.

The New York Society Library, a subscription library now located in a prim townhouse on East 79th Street, has been squirreling books away since 1754. Today the collection occupies nine stacks, and like any library, it can be bit overwhelming if you don’t know what to read. But the Library’s archive offers an unusual book trail to follow: the borrowing histories of its readers past.

So begins Erin Schriener’s fascinating post at Atlas Obscura on the New York Society Library. You may read the entire post here.

 

Embrace the Pain: Living with the Repugnant Cultural Other

5 Feb

When my son was quite young, I took him to our family doctor for a regular check-up, and during the examination the doctor said “Now I need to look for bruises.” I was instantly offended and alarmed: I don’t hurt my child! “No, no,” he said. “I want to see bruises. Because if he doesn’t have a few bruises, that means that he’s not taking the physical risks that he needs to take to develop as he should.” If playing too recklessly can lead a child into trouble, timidity can create its own, very different, troubles.

I have often reflected on what Dr Judge said that day, and even now I apply it to myself – not in terms of physical risk, physical development (that ship has sailed, for me), but in terms of intellectual risk-taking. I see too many people my age, indeed younger than me, who have ceased to take any chances, who have settled into complacency, whose outlook on the world can never receive any bruises because it is never risked on the playing field. I don’t want to be like that – not now, and not ever.

And here we arrive at the heart of the matter: I want to argue – with considerable trepidation, I admit – that the task of the undergraduate student is to embrace this kind of bruising, such pain, and the task of teachers and administrators is, if they can, to structure the game in such a way that that pain doesn’t escalate into harm. If we can manage that, then it’s good for students, good for the university, and good for the society at large. Let me unpack this argument.

If you want to see how Alan Jacobs of Baylor University unpacks this, you can read his entire address here.

 

 

A disturbing new report on how poorly schools teach American slavery

5 Feb

Consider this from a disturbing new report on how U.S. schools teach — or, rather, don’t teach — students about the history of slavery in the United States:

  • Only 8 percent of U.S. high school seniors could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War.
  • 68 percent of the surveyed students did not know that slavery formally ended only with an amendment to the Constitution.
  • Only 22 percent of the students could correctly identify how provisions in the Constitution gave advantages to slaveholders.
  • Only 44 percent of the students answered that slavery was legal in all colonies during the American Revolution.

These results are part of an unsettling new report titled “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” which was researched over the course of a year by the Teaching Tolerance project of the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center. The report includes results of surveys of U.S. high school seniors as well as social studies teachers in all grades — nationally representative of those populations — as well as an analysis of 15 state content standards, and a review of 10 popular U.S. history textbooks. The best textbook achieved a score of 70 percent against a rubric of what should be included in the study of American slavery; the average score was 46 percent.

So begins a Washington Post report by Valerie Strauss on how well the history of slavery is taught in U.S. high schools. You may read the rest of Strauss’ report here.

 

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