EUGENE, Ore. – When his foreign language instructor says something, University of Oregon freshman Carson Viles knows it’s important to pay attention.
“I might never get a chance to hear that phrase again,” he said.
It’s true. Viles is taking Yakama Sahaptin, one of a family of American Indian languages spoken along the Columbia River and offered for the first time this year at the UO. The class, taught by native speaker and Yakama elder Virginia Beavert, is not a typical foreign language class. There are no textbooks, no study-abroad programs, no dubbed TV shows, and the instructor is one of only 200 people who can converse in the target language.
Viles knows the importance of hearing native speakers such as Beavert.
“It’s the only way you can sound right,” he said. “You hear how they speak and when they pause.”
From the Rockford Register-Star:
Future North Boone High School students may need to prove they’re community minded in order to graduate. The North Boone Board of Education is considering a proposal that would require students to complete 40 hours of community service in order to graduate. If approved, the new graduate requirement would start with next year’s freshmen, the class of 2013.
Last year the Annoyed Librarian took on this annual rite of the late summer season. A couple of excerpts:
It's unfortunately that time of the year again. For 11 years now, as the academic year begins, you can count on Beloit College to come up with another one of their Mindless Lists to tell us dull and trivial things they think are relevant to understanding the incoming freshman class. I still can't figure out either who the audience is for this or if any of it is even remotely relevant, but apparently we academics are supposed to take this list and meditate on how these kids today are so different from you and me.
For example, this year's Mindless List starts off by saying: "Most of the students entering College this fall, members of the Class of 2011, were born in 1989. For them, Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead."
Huey Newton? Abbie Hoffman? Who's given any thought to them for 30 years? I guess the audience is supposed to be all the aging hippies who are now professors about to retire. I hate to break it to the aging hippies, but these people were history even when I started college, whenever that was. ...
The only lesson we learn from the Mindless Lists is that the compilers think we're all fools who will try to communicate with 18-year-olds as if they were 50. When I used to teach, instead of referencing popular culture, I always made sure to sprinkle my discussions with references to historians or philosophers or poets, and occasionally a classic movie or composer, not to show off, but to show the students there was another world, a broad cultural world, outside of the limited domain of their knowledge.
Perhaps instead of pap about Pete Rose, the Mindless List could include things like: "For them, Beethoven is a movie about a big dog. Why don't we try to teach these kids something?"
From the AtlanticBlog:
On July 29, 1977, the AEI held a forum on academia and politics, chaired by John Charles Daly, and including Robert Bork, S.I. Hayakawa, Irving Kristol, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It begins with this bit of wisdom from Moynihan.
Daly: How deeply has the academic community affected government policy?
Moynihan: Sam Hayakawa and I agreed ahead of time that we would say academia.
Daly: I knew I was going to have a problem. I must confess that I asked Professor Hayakawa how to pronounce that silly word. I have been pronouncing it four different ways all day, and I doubt very much I will have it right before the night is out, but I will try.
Moynihan: You can remember the pronounciation by thinking of academia nuts.
No quarrel with that.
Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate in physics who died Jan. 11, was once asked, ''Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?''
His answer has served as an inspiration for me as an educator, as a credo for my son during his schooling and should be framed on the walls of all the pedagogues, power brokers and politicians who purport to run our society.
The question was posed to Dr. Rabi by his friend and mine, Arthur Sackler, himself a multitalented genius, who, sadly, also passed away recently. Dr. Rabi's answer, as reported by Dr. Sackler, was profound: ''My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: 'So? Did you learn anything today?' But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. 'Izzy,' she would say, 'did you ask a good question today?' That difference - asking good questions -made me become a scientist!''
As a classroom teacher for more than 20 years, let me try to clarify why the issue of class size is more than just counting bodies in a room or the number of papers teachers have to grade. Class size is not the issue, really; it's the culture of the class that matters. I do not mean racial or ethnic or socioeconomic culture, I mean the culture of a particular group of students in a particular room in a particular institution.
I have two 10th-grade classes of about 30 students each. One of them is an "honors" class; the other, "regular." In my honors class, the 30 students are engaged and demanding. They probe texts, cultivate questions, encourage discourse and write analytically. My regular class, on the other hand, is allergic to homework; students belch aloud and feel no shame because this is "just school"; they bully and curse at one another; they cannot sit still; they cannot listen; and their distraction is heightened by the gadgets they carry.
Each of these classes has its own culture. At the root of the culture are expectations -- mine and theirs. In both classes my expectations exceed the students', as it should be, but in the honors class, the students feed on one another's enthusiasm. Sometimes the parts fare worse than the whole, but when the whole grows, so do the individuals. In the regular class, the parts are often better than the whole, but when the whole fails, as it too often does, so do the individuals.