Klingbrief April 2014
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Firing the Canon
How Would a Book Like Harold Bloom's Western Canon be Received Today?

In two thoughtful essays, Daniel Mendelsohn and Pankaj Mishra take stock and provide a retrospective view of the canon wars of twenty years ago. As both note, the furor has died down since the publication of Harold Bloom's controversial book, and the ardor that animated the debate has been replaced by a stance both reasonable and inclusive. "Canons inevitably shift and expand," according to Mendelsohn, "not merely enshrining the thought of the past but reflecting an evolving perception of the worlds and cultures we inhabit in the present. This is why a reasonable canon today will include voices that went unheard in the 18th century - or even 50 years ago: the novels of Toni Morrison, with their insistence on acknowledging the moral legacy of American slavery, or the works of Derek Walcott, with their rueful vision of the inheritance of European colonialism." Independent schools take many curricular cues from the norms set by colleges and universities. This assessment of where vital content in the humanities has settled at the university level should be reassuring to secondary schools who will see that a diverse reading list will simultaneously form the bedrock for a strong undergraduate education and also provide a curriculum that reflects back a diversity of human experiences, all to the benefit of students in our school populations.

Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albequrque Academy, NM


The New York Times, March 18, 2014
Klingbrief is a free, monthly publication of recommended articles, books, research reports and media selected by and for independent school educators.  The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership provides graduate programs and professional development for independent school educators throughout their careers. For information about submitting to Klingbrief, please click here.
April, 2014 VOL 45

Coordinating Editor, Assistant Head, Upper School, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

PK-12 Director of Studies, The Walker School, Marietta, GA

Klingenstein Center Director, New York, NY

Head of the Park School of Buffalo, NY

Assistant Head, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM

Principal, The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, Canada

Principal, Bruce A. Shaw Consulting, LLC     Essex, MA        

Head of Lick-Wilmerding High School,
San Francisco, CA

Communications and Special Projects, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY

04_14_From_Service_to_learning Learning to Help
From Service Learning to Learning Service, by Claire Bennett and Daniela Papi

In this concise blog entry, Claire Bennett and Daniela Papi, both global and service learning educators, make an important distinction between helping others via global service learning programs and learning service via global travel. They offer the latter as an effective model to deepen student understanding of themselves and others; meanwhile, they warn that the former can be a shallow and ego driven endeavor. At a time when many independent schools are deepening their commitment to global travel and service trips, the guidance provided by Bennett and Papi is useful if not trenchant: "service travel aiming to support global development" may not be as "altruistic" as it can seem from a distance. On the flip side, "travel designed for personal development" is not always "selfish." Global and service learning programs that help students to see that "personal development and global development are intrinsically linked" may have the most far-reaching effects. To help contextualize and advance the conversation about responsible volunteer travel, the authors have also published a book, Learning Service, accompanied by a video series and educational tools.

Eric Temple, Lick-Wilmerding High School, CA
Stanford Social Innovation Review, April 8, 2014
04_14_the_future_of_professional High Five
The Future of Professional Learning, by Mary Burns

Mary Burns, a designer of technology-based teacher training programs for the Education Development Center (EDC), introduces us to five technologies that are now entering the world of teacher professional training and have the potential of growing exponentially in the coming years. While briefly describing how new uses of internet-based television, immersive environments, video, social media, and other mobile technologies are being used around the world to improve teacher training, Burns provides us with ideas for new ways in which some of the most pressing issues of professional development can be addressed. Social media, for example, enables teachers "across distances to establish and nurture strong professional relationships" as they "join groups, attend lectures, [and] co-develop activities." Based on two years of research conducted around the world by EDC, this report also offers references to other studies and organizations that can be consulted, and an explanation of the demographic, technological, and social trends that make the five featured technologies such viable options for instructional leaders looking to improve teacher training programs.

Juan Antonio Casas Pardo, Gimnasio Campestre, Bogotá, Colombia
Learning and Leading with Technology, June/July 2013
04_14_more_clicks_fewer_bricks The School of the Past in the Future
More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall is Obsolete
THINKTWICE intelligence2 Debates

If you woke up in a university lecture hall 1,000 years ago it would be very similar to the lecture hall of today. University education is not meeting the needs of students; it fails to incorporate research on learning and the current generation of learners. Gamification and technology can do a better job of delivering content than classrooms and lecture halls. So argues Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX and a professor at MIT, in a lively debate on whether the college of the future will be online. Supporting the argument is Ben Nelson, CEO of the Minerva Project, a selective, online, undergraduate program. Nelson argues that a teacher is more effective online because eye to eye contact, afforded by the focus of a camera, is stronger than in-person teaching to an entire class. In a powerful retort, columnist and adjunct professor, Rebecca Schuman, describes the essence of teaching as "contact." Teachers can change lives when they recognize the unique strengths of students and know their stories. They have ways of getting students to pay attention, something computers cannot achieve. Since this video presents compelling arguments on both sides, it provides excellent fodder for a faculty meeting or other conversations about integrating online education at the K-12 level.

Pearl Rock Kane, The Klingenstein Center, NY
Richard Paul Richmond Center for Business, Law and Public Policy
Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School
, April 2, 2014
  Don't Just Survive
Thrive, by Meenoo Rami

Science Leadership Academy teacher Meenoo Rami presents an eloquent and introspective glimpse into the psyche of the modern teacher, who often feels isolated in a constantly changing profession. Rami is the founder of #engchat, one of the oldest and most energized educational twitter chats. While many know about the ways 140 character bytes can extend the walls of the classroom, or the way teachers find solace and support within global PLNs (professional learning networks), Thrive contextualizes the reasons why such community is imperative to the growth and sustainability of our profession. In her brief meditations, Rami explores how teachers thrive in their practice: turning to mentors; joining and building networks; keeping their work intellectually challenging; and empowering students. Embedded within each meditation are the narratives of teachers who explore such principles in their daily practice. Most impressively, Rami humbly acknowledges her own doubts and fears as a novice teacher, but unlike other texts, she investigates how these sensations persist even as one becomes a master teacher. By writing down sometimes-unspeakable concerns that are universally shared, Rami also models the growth mindset necessary for educators to continue to evolve in their profession.

Gina Sipley, Buckley Country Day School, NY
Heinemann, March 2014
  The Thinking Behind the Making
The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice, edited by Rosanne Somerson and Mara Hermano

Design thinking, project-based curricula, and hands-on learning represent the vernacular and pedagogy guiding many of our forward-thinking schools. But questions abound. For example, what methods can educators use to construct learning experiences that nurture student creativity and innovation? What metrics can be used to measure progress in such endeavors? The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice, a collection of thoughtful and provocative essays, provides dynamic answers. Consistently lauded as one of the top design schools in the country, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has developed a unique methodology known as "critical making" wherein students employ both their hands and minds to create authentic experiences, objects, and meaning. Applicable to a wide range of ages and disciplines, the chapters comprising The Art of Critical Making delve into subjects including the research behind hands-on learning, partnerships with neighboring organizations, and the inherent power of students acting as designers of their own knowledge. Inspiring and practical, these essays provide a window into a world of self-initiated and experimental learning and application.

Ashley Marshall
Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
Wiley Publishing Company, 2013
04_14_Smarter_thanyou   Deep Blue Vs. Socrates
Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, by Blen Girum, et al.

For years, chess grand masters knew that a computer like Deep Blue would eventually beat humans. But, as Clive Thompson explains in his new book, this fact doesn't mean that computers are better chess players - they just play differently. The perfect chess game is a hybrid, bringing together a computer's processing power with a human's insight and intuition. Computers are good at finding patterns we can't see ourselves; we're good at making sense of those patterns. Thompson explores the competing interests we balance in these hybrid relationships: we can store more information than ever before, but indexing and retrieving it is more complicated; online networks allow for mass collaboration and fact-checking, but opinion and art remain the product of independent vision; social media strengthens our weak ties, but connecting with small groups can be more meaningful than connecting with large, disparate groups. The worries provoked by the prevalence of online technologies echo the fears that Socrates expressed as memorization lost favor to the written word. However, Socrates did not foresee the kinds of complex thought that became possible once you didn't have to store in your own head all the facts you needed to access. Provocative and pertinent, Thompson asks us to consider the possibilities that arise when computers and humans collaborate.

Sara Kelley-Mudie
Ed.M. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
The Penguin Press, 2013
  Why Ask Why?
A More Beautiful Question, by Warren Berger

As schools engage in debates about how to maximize students' academic potential and wonder whether creativity can be taught, journalist Warren Berger posits that an intentionally developed system of inquiry might accomplish both these goals at once. A More Beautiful Question is a wide-ranging exploration of the functions questioning can serve in education, business, and life. In an environment where facts proliferate, the ability to apply knowledge is highly valued, and questioning can inform how information is treated. Inquiry, therefore, can generate deeper understanding and foster innovation. Citing Alison Gopnik's wonderful observation that "children are the research and development division of the human species," Berger offers strategies for sustaining the preschooler's ability to wonder and ask questions across the lifespan. Adding heft to his own inquiry, Berger describes in compelling detail systems of structured inquiry, including Toyota's 5 Whys and the Zen concept of beginner's mind. Of particular use for educators is Berger's exploration of the power dynamics of posing questions in the classroom. An engaging read, this book will inspire reflective questions for anyone inclined to ponder why, how, or what if, and motivate anyone charged with multiplying potential in our schools.

Cricket Mikheev, Pear Tree Point School, Darien, CT
Bloomsbury, 2014
  A Literal Fiction
Princes of New York, by Robin Lester

One does not often describe books about private schools - even novels - as "guilty pleasures." Yet Princes of New York aptly fits this billing as readers follow the trials and tribulations of headmaster Tom West during a turbulent year in both his professional and personal life. West, who heads the tony Christ Church School on Manhattan's Upper East Side, must find a way to keep his job and maintain the integrity of the school, both of which are under attack from a wealthy board member committed to having Tom fired and selling seats on the board of trustees as well as admission to Christ Church. Along the way, West, a widower, falls in love and marries the head of the parents association, makes peace with the demands of his position, and develops the resolve needed to save the soul of his school. As Robin Lester is the former head of Trinity School, one assumes that there are kernels of truth in the characters and plot devices in his debut novel. While Princes of New York contains moments of uneven writing and some overly broad character sketches, it is also a page-turner, particularly for those readers who are intimately familiar with its world.

Christopher Lauricella, The Park School of Buffalo, NY
Argo-Navis, October 29, 2013

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