Breakfast Al Fresco

This morning I made french toast (or is it Freedom Toast) for breakfast and we ate outside on the deck. There is a brief period when the temperature is just right to eat outside, the sun is behind the trees and the bugs haven’t come out yet. At the start of breakfast, we were in that sweet spot. As we ate our french toast (the best in the world, but not according to Grace), it started to get warmer and we went inside.

Meg wants to get an oscillating fan so we can have a breeze when we sit on the deck.

My Writing Professor Publishes New Book

My writing professor from Duke, Elizabeth Cox, has a new book out this summer, The Slow Moon, published by Random House. This is her fourth published novel. It is a story about a violent incident in the life of a young couple and how the town responds. It will probably have some extra resonance in the wake of the Duke Lacrosse incident.
Here’s the page on the Random House site
Here’s an old interview
Here’s her outdated web site
Here’s her course page at Bennington, where she teaches a graduate course
Here’s a Boston Globe article from Wofford College’s site, where she teaches now.

Spalding Gray “Returns”

from the New York Times:

When Spalding Gray committed suicide, most likely by throwing himself off a Staten Island ferry on a cold January day nearly two and half years ago, he left behind an array of grievers: fans, colleagues, friends and family. People were stunned by the loss of this unusual performer, a man who had been artfully befriending audiences through his confessional monologues since 1977. But Mr. Gray’s family — his wife, Kathie Russo; his stepdaughter, Marissa, now 19; and his 9- and 12-year-old sons, Theo and Forrest — had to face a different tragedy: the disappearance of a husband and father. Ms. Russo was suddenly left to keep their family together as well as to shape her own unexpected legacy as Spalding Gray’s widow.

“I wanted to do something around Spalding’s 65th birthday, which is on June 5,” Ms. Russo, 45, recently explained at a Greek restaurant in the West Village. “So I thought, ‘Let’s do a reading of his work for one night at P.S. 122’ — that’s where he started all his monologues — ‘and I’ll put it together.’ “

Continue to NY Times Web site

Too much standardized testing

Peter does not begin End of Grade (EOG) testing until 3rd Grade (next year), but the point is still well taken.

from Today’s Chapel Hill News:

Test obsession denies students real education
By BOB BROGDEN

I can go to Raleigh-Durham airport, get on a plane and be in Portland, Oregon in six hours. I can get in my car and drive to Portland in six days. Or I can get on my bicycle and ride to Portland in six weeks.

I ask you by which method do you think I will gain the most lasting knowledge about my country and its history? I know the answer, because I have done the trip all three ways.

The North Carolina curriculum for U.S. history is a mile wide and an inch deep. What students learn about U.S. history amounts to a fly-over or a high-speed cruise down an interstate highway.

This is no way to teach or learn U.S. history. And we wonder why students do so poorly on U.S. history tests.

Our national, state and local political and education leaders judge students’ knowledge of U.S. history based on their scores on a 100-item multiple choice test. And teachers had better make sure their students are proficient, for that is how teachers and schools will be judged. Teachers will teach to the test and students will be forced into endless drilling for these tests. Anybody who tells you that this is not the case obviously does not spend much, if any, time in the classroom.

This year I have a wonderful group of students in my U.S. History class. They ask probing, inquisitive questions and make comments that reflect intellectual engagement.

Questions asked this year include, “Did Hitler get mad at the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor and bringing the U.S. into the war?” and “Why did FDR drop his vice-president in the 1944 election and select Truman as his running mate?”

When we discussed how Lincoln and FDR, two of our greatest presidents, were vilified while they were in office, one student asked, “How will history judge President Bush?” A rather lively discussion followed.

I doubt these questions will be on the end-of-course test.

I am writing this before these students take their state-mandated end-of-course test. Regardless of their scores on this test, they rank as some of the best history students I have had in my 21 years of teaching. And because they ask so many questions we will not get all the way through the curriculum. I even had to stop doing the hands-on activities that I have done for years because of the pressure to get those scores up.

If we truly want our students to be lifelong learners of U.S. history we should reduce the scope of the curriculum. This would allow time for students to research and write, have debates and discussions, complete art projects, create PowerPoint presentations, take field trips, and participate in activities that will enhance their love and appreciation of the subject. I’m all for accountability, but let’s use curriculum and assessments that are relevant and realistic.

This inane obsession with testing is driven by people who are far removed from daily contact and interaction with students. They only judge students, teachers and schools by test scores.

Students in any class should develop a lifelong love and appreciation of that subject. Teaching to a test does much to undermine that. Those that continue to advocate for judging students, teachers, and schools based on test scores are engaged in educational malpractice.

And next year, because of a new schedule in my district, I’ll have even less time to teach this same curriculum

Bob Brogden teaches history at East Chapel Hill High School.

Old Friend has Art Opening

Here’s a story about a friend from high school from the Ft Myers News-Press:

Artist Gerard Damiano almost set fire to a lifetime of work.

“I was going to make a big bonfire in my back yard,” he says, completely serious. “It’s just that I felt I wasn’t growing and moving ahead as an artist. I was too attached to the art I’d done in the past — I was blocked by it. I was so frustrated; I just wanted to burn everything.”

Fortunately, before he struck the match, Damiano got a better idea. He joined forces with downtown Fort Myers’ Arts for ACT gallery for an exhibition, opening with a gala reception May 5 and continuing through May 30, appropriately titled, “Gerard Damiano’s Bonfire of Vanity.” A portion of the proceeds will go to ACT (Abuse, Counseling and Treatment, Inc.), the non-profit agency which provides services to victims of domestic violence.

Continue to New-Press