Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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A New Paradigm for Accountability: The Joy of Learning

A New Paradigm for Accountability: The Joy of Learning | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Whatever you call it, Race to the Top has hurt children, demoralized teachers, closed community schools, fragmented communities, increased privatization, and doubled down on testing. But I have an idea for a new accountability system that relies on d...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

16 November 2014


In the Venn Diagram of a circle representing good pedagogy and a second circle representing the impact of attempts to assess the success of existing pedagogies, there are issues that appear to have been thrown into a sort of oubliette.*


Whether intended for the betterment of education or for less noble reasons, the question is what is it that is being forgotten and thereby left out of the very important conversation about how to improve education? 


Remember that old saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"?


I can't help but wonder whether an application of that wisdom to the Venn diagram would consider assessment to be the baby and existing pedagogical practice the water. Or, whether pedagogical practice is the baby and current assessment is the water.


It's a rhetorical question. There is an upside and a downside to both current assessment structures and to current pedagogical practice. 


Truthfully, to frame the question such is Jesuitical.** 


I'd propose that what is best for educational reform is NOT a black and white issue. To see it as such is simplistic whether one takes the side of any of the article's mentioned attempts to improve education or one takes the side of any of the critics of those attempts to improve education. 


I'd prefer to think of the situation as having to bathe two babies who happen to be siblings. What would you consider worth cleansing and worth disposing of in the CURRENT assessment structures baby? And similarly what would you consider worth cleansing and worth disposing of in the current pedagogical practices baby?


And, what would be a realistic plan to save the best of both babies while eliminating the dirty waters in which both currently exist that is not a plan merely built upon little more than a Panglossian*** brand of optimism? 


What has been thrown into the oubliette are the many forgotten (overlooked) shades of gray that deserve to NOT be forgotten (or summarily dismissed by proponents of either side). 


I will leave the question of which baby is "less dirty" than the other. I'll leave it at this; neither is clean enough. Both need serious bathing. But, one is probably dirtier than the other.


Annotated ENDNOTES: (or WHY Literary Reading is worthwhile)


* My first encounter with the word "OUBLIETTE" came when I first read Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

 "An oubliette (from the French oubliette, literally "forgotten place") was a form of dungeon which was accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling. The word comes from the same root as the French oublier, "to forget", as it was used for those prisoners the captors wished to forget." 


** It should be recognized that this definition of a "JESUITICAL ARGUMENT" itself has proponents and opponents. I recognize the controversy. Though in this commentary, I'm referring to a common use of the term that takes the following position.


“In order to be successful, the Jesuitical Argument must be  pursued articulately, aggressively and forcefully, but perhaps not always sincerely – indeed, the most effect Jesuitical must at times be cunningly downright deceitful – mixing emotional half-truths and rhetoric into the answer."  


*** Thanks to having read Candide by Voltaire I came to understand an important distinction between the optimism of the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King jr,, and Mother Theresa and those who simply put on a pair of rose-colored glasses and scorn those who complain and feel no personal obligation to address those complaints




**** Most people would no doubt(?) be able to construct a fairly accurate understanding of the author's use of "GRADGRIND ACADEMY" without having an awareness of the term's origin. 


I'll just suggest that being an English major does provide extremely valuable insights into the extent to which modern issues have existed throughout time.


The term actually references Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Consider this explanation of a Gradgrind academy from English Literature: A Very Short Introduction, by Jonathan Bate...


"... Gradgrind's academy sought to extirpate children's capacity for wonder, for poetry and imaginary play, in order to prepare them to become factory hands, mechanical cogs in the wheel of Victorian capitalist production. Conversely, the aim of literature teachers in the Leavisite tradition was to create beings of strong feeling and humane understanding. English was often taught with messianic zeal: the study of literature was to be a life-changing and, potentially, a society-changing experience."



Who was it who said, "The more things change, the more they remain the same"? 


Was that pessimism or a challenge FOR ALL OF US WHO CARE to do better?


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brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit


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The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage

The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
American students need to improve in math and science—but not because there's a surplus of jobs in those fields.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

19 March 2014

Get ready. Do we really want to hear what we really do not want to hear?


Why is it that articles like this one calling into serious question the attention being given to STEM education, are essentially "off the mainstream radar"? 


The article's premise? A quote..


(referring to the belief that the US has a serious shortage of properly STEM educated graduates)


"Such claims are now well established as conventional wisdom. There is almost no debate in the mainstream. They echo from corporate CEO to corporate CEO, from lobbyist to lobbyist, from editorial writer to editorial writer. But what if what everyone knows is wrong? What if this conventional wisdom is just the same claims ricocheting in an echo chamber?

The truth is that there is little credible evidence of the claimed widespread shortages in the U.S. science and engineering workforce. How can the conventional wisdom be so different from the empirical evidence?"



Not far into the article, this  "apple cart upsetting" information.



A compelling body of research is now available, from many leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations such as theNational Bureau of Economic Research, the RAND Corporation, and the Urban Institute. No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree.


The article proves the importance of informational reading. while at the same time proving that informational reading is more than reading itself. It's a form of gaining information upon which very opinions are based, that requires a  skill set exceeding the information gathering skills of many of those who write informational materials. And if the information we read is "too thinly" gathered and read by massive audiences too thinly able to synthesize that information, then  maybe there really is "trouble in River City." 


So if our focus in designing a better education system is on preparing our students for college and career, and our unquestioned premise is that STEM education is the key, Then how do informational articles such as this one play into our calculations about how to slice up the educational budget pie?


The article does not discredit the importance of STEM Education. It's intent is to call into question the decisions being driven by a less than well-informed citizenry that does not question the depth and thoroughness of those who provide information to us. 


My personal take-away from this article might focus more upon one of the most important skills required for information literacy. And, that is, can we really be information literate if we do not know what the most well-informed people holding opposing views to our own have contributed to the public discourse? 


That is, do we or our students practice discerning the reliability of the information from both sides of issues of public concern? Or, do we believe thatcherry-picking evidence in support of what we want to believe or are being told to believe, while paying inadequate attention to the best thinking being done on the other side and the questionable thinking being done on "our side."


Yes! Insist upon defending Literary Reading where you may be among the minority of those with a budget vote. But, do not do so without also recognizing that informational reading is not the "bad guy" in curricular discourse; it is of critical importance and like literary reading, it probably deserves more attention than it is getting too. 


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New science says literary fiction helps us understand one another

New science says literary fiction helps us understand one another | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
“Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies.” - David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, “Reading Literary ...
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This particular article picks up on one of the more common threads in those commentaries, namely that science is providing data-based evidence of what those of us who love and teach literary fiction have known in their guts for a long time in spite of the fact that so many of our literary friends have articulated that point quite clearly. Atticus Finch said it out loud, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."


Isn't that a familiar message? How many echoes from great literary fiction come to mind? Until you climb into that old jalopy with Tom Joad and head out for California hoping against hope? Until you get kicked out of the Castle of Thunder-ten-Tronckh as take that bumpy ride with Candide? Or travel alongside Gulliver to insanely unfamiliar places that seem sooo familiar?


So as I read this third or fourth followup article to the original research, my question was what does its author Andrea Badgley bring to the conversation. The answer is plenty!


For  example, I did not know that "there is an entire journal, Scientific Study of Literature dedicated to pursuit of this research." If you're like me, you'll have to take Badgley's word for it that this journal is of the quality one expects from journals that are peer reviewed since a quick Google search revealed that the journal itself is probably well out of most of our budget limitations.


Badgley also references the conversation of how literary fiction relates to  the "Theory of Mind" (ToM) which she defines (quoting from the original study)  as " 'the capacity to identify and understand others' subjective states,' allowing us to detect and infer others' emotions, beliefs, and intentions."  


It seems to me that there are several, okay way too many, examples to be found in the black and white polarization of public discourse that has caused extensive gridlocking  of public opinion and government response to public opinion, that too many of us no longer are even capable of detecting and inferring others' emotions, beliefs and intentions well-enough to take those emotions, beliefs, and intentions that are not our own into consideration as sometimes being valid, but diffeent concerns.


As a result, compromise has almost become a "dirty word" of sorts. And, "for the common good" has devolved into a tug of war where too many believe and even profess that those "on the opposing side of the rope"  are either idiots or unpatriotic. This black and white "tug of war" does not bode well.


So if the Theory of Mind has merit then perhaps literary reading ought to be given an increased presence in the classroom or at the very least, an increased presence in the assessment of literary reading which has been reduced significantly since assessing the "skill set" associated with literary reading is so difficult to accomplish. 


Let me pause and clarify that last statement. The ELA Common Core State Standards for literary reading have been quite controversial in that there has been much concern expressed regarding the  PERCEIVED decreasing percentage of literary reading in relationship to informational reading. This is technically a misperception in that the Common Core State Standards suggest that the reading standards are to be applied across the campus so that in effect, the percentages of each type of reading may well be about the same as they have been given the amount of informational reading that has always been done in "other curricular areas."


However, that being said, one need only read up on the percentages of assessment questions  for each type of reading on the Smarter Balance tests, particularly in the area of numbers and quality of the literary reading questions, to see that even if the percentages established in the standards are actually reasonable, given the emphasis on the assessment of the standards achievement there are clear indications that smart money would bet that improving informational reading would be a much quicker way to raise a school's performance stats than improving literary reading would.


And, history is fairly full of evidence that teaching to the "power standards" (those that are more likely to raise a school's scores) will have a de facto influence on whether or not literary reading continues to receive its due attention at staff and budget meetings. 


This brings me to what is, in my mind, the most significant contribution that this article brings to the conversation. That is that although "literary fiction is not (easily) quantifiable or, frankly, definable," what is it that literary fiction brings to the curriculum that separates it from the much less defendable "pop fiction"?


What does literary fiction do "for us" that may well be a solid source for developing incredibly critical skill sets in the a flat world so that our students will find themselves better prepared to succeed in a global world if they can work together with people of different "emotions, beliefs, and intentions"  in considerate respectful  (kind) and civilized ways? 


The biggest nugget in this goldmine of well-considered ideas for me was the bulleted list that appears about half-way through the article. By listing the distinctions between literary reading and pop literature, it becomes quite clear that the former causes us to exercise our minds in ways that are absolutely critical and yet seriously under appreciated in most classrooms.


Finally, the article ends with what is almost a sidetrip into the author's personal regrets for not having been really clear on the value of literary reading while in college where she still thought of reading as primarily a source of great pleasure rather than a pleasurable way of absorbing great wisdom. 


I was intrigued by her confession that her choice to pursue what she believed was her passion for science was a bit misdirected. She mistook her passion for learning about science for a passion about doing science. A distinction that a great many people recognize as an important element of the Common Core State Standards in its refocusing attention on assessing what they can do and will able to do with knowledge over merely what knowledge they have accumulated.


 I had not previously realized that the slight hesitation I'd felt ever since the concept of encouraging students to pursue their passions became a "THE mantra" thrown around department meeting and educaitonal conference presentations as though it was an unquestionable trump card in educational reform conversations.  


Of course, motivation and intellectual engagement is greatly enhanced when students are allowed to pursue their existing perceptions of their "passions." But, the downside as I have always perceived my "slight hesitation" was that truthfully, if I had focused only upon my existing passions during my high school years, I' would probably have wound up in jail rather than in college. It was only by chance that my experience in high school pursuing a relationship with a girl I had never even spoken to who I nevertheless believed I was madly in love with, that got me motivated to talk my way into an advanced English class that I knew she was going to be in. And, it was in that English class where a "god" of a teacher found a way to plant the seed of a new interest that I don't believe I would ever have explored if I hadn't been required to, found a way to engage me in literary reading to such a degree that I chose to completely revise my own understandings of what I really wanted to do with my life as an adult.


As a result, much in the same way that the author of this article discovered that some of her early passions turned out to be regrets later in life, I came to actually regret that in my senior yearbook where I was featured as being the male student with the best personality had become a source of embarrassment  as I had by the time the yearbook was distributed,  discovered that much of the personality for which I had been selected for that recognition was based upon my having mastered the art of being a friendly class clown much more interested in the attention  I'd received by my classmates as a result of my sometimes thoughtless sense of what might amuse my classmates.


I'll just leave it at that. I live with regrets about the unrecognized cruelty of sexist, racist, and homophobic "I was just joking" humor upon which I too often relied upon to get laughs.


So, yes! Encourage a pursuit of existing passion, but enourage a constant contemplation of the depth of understanding of those early passions. And, find engaging ways to help students explore the possibilities that teenage passions may be much less important to them as they transition from teens to actual adults.


And, that's where depth of character may rest upon the discovery of one's unrecognized areas of shallowness of character. It's a delicate art this business of ours. It is not easy to make suggestions about refiining one's passions without sounding like we're discouraging them from pursuing those passions.


But thankfully, storytelling has long been an engaging and pleasureable way of coaxing ourselves into paying attention to ideas to which we'd not previously given enough thought. 



25 Nov 2013

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Google Lit Trips is the legal fictitious business name for GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit

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Episode 45: Talking With Jerome Burg

Episode 45: Talking With Jerome Burg | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
In this episode: Mike talks with Jerome Burg about Google Lit Trips and more...  
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

12 August 2014


I was honored to have been interviewed by Mike Vollmert for his and Andrew Schwab's great "The reboot ED Podcast."  


Here it is in its "unedited as it happened" wholeness. We galloped through a wide range of Google Lit Trips topics. I was very happy to have had a chance to touch many of my favorite bases including a bit of a discussion about the underlying pedagogy upon which Google Lit Trips are based, cross-curricular and cross-cultural goals, even CCSS ELA issues, and a few of the new directions coming down the line for the project.


If you happen to have not visited The reboot ED Podcast before, take a look. Mike and Andrew have interviewed some big voices in the ED Tech world.


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brought to you by GLT Global ED a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit 


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The Peculiar Underworld of Rare-Book Thieves :: Books :: Features :: Paste

The Peculiar Underworld of Rare-Book Thieves :: Books :: Features :: Paste | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
While the criminal personalities vary, rare-book thieves all share something in common: base greed and a knack for gaining insider access to the cozy, exclusive world of rare-book collecting.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

25 January 2014


Mentioned in my previous scoop, I found this to be one of the more fascinating articles. 


How about this for Informational Reading that has a direct bridge to Literary Reading?


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by GLT GLobal ED (dba Google Lit Trips) a 501c3 tax-exempt educational non profit encouraging learners to "READ THE WOR(L)D"


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