Saturday, July 12, 2008

An amateur's summer reading list:

Great Summer Reading: Simultaneously and with great enthusiasm, I am way into three amazing books right now. As a teacher of social studies I take my summer reading seriously, but as I love to read the effort is not unlike feeding the rat while cycling…

Howard Fineman’s “The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring debates that define and inspire our country.” A great read that promotes a notion that I hold near and dear to my heart; namely, that productive, well conceived argument is a good thing; a necessary and productive element of a progressive democracy (dialectical constructivism or the "Socratic method"). Weaving the here-and-now with great historic examples, Fineman provides an in depth analysis of thirteen critical topics/debates (from both sides) that have (and continue to) greatly impacted the “American Experience.” The chapters on the role of faith and the extent of the power base of the executive branch are especially captivating. Students of my 2008 fall American Govt. courses will be excited to note that I will be using Fineman’s work to supplement class! Five stars…A required read for any and all committed government aficionados, especially teachers.

Neil Postman’s “Amusing ourselves to death.” Although published 20+ years ago, Postman’s academic thesis on the disastrous implications of our society’s fundamental shift from learning (and thinking) via the written word to pseudo-learning (and not thinking) from watching television is perhaps even more relevant today (lump in with “the boob-tube” all the other “high-tech” trivial garbage that has been shamelessly marketed to the “soma-addicted” public in the last two decades, e.g. computer games, cell phones, "shock jock" radio, Fox news, etc…). Credit my good buddy Scotty Kylander-Johnson for requiring me to read A. Huxley’s Brave New World prior to starting Postman’s work. In that, an exposure of the themes presented by Huxley (and also those of Orwell’s 1984 and Vonnegut's Player Piano) significantly enhances ones ability to appreciate the essential point of Postman’s work. The main point being that we have been duped by the fast-food 7 minute TV nation. Postman contends that Orwell’s totalitarian world would be easy to hate and to therefore rail against, but Huxley’s world is much more covert, subtler and therefore insidious in itz ability to trick us into becoming “comfortably numb” content to mindlessly consume shiny knick knacks, while the earth burns. Itz great stuff…Of course, Ya can do what ya want, but even before, my kid had to fight hard to get even 30 minutes on PBS in our house and now after reading Postman, I am concerned that even that time allotment is too much.

Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms,” is aptly considered a classic. I was not sure about Hemmingway as I was forced to read the Old Man and the Sea in high school by a tyrannical malcontented she-wolf, but now without the duress of picking out symbolism and other contrived busy-work, Hemingway’s epic narrative of a forlorn American ambulance driver in Italy during WWI is a masterpiece. It is just great great writing…pick up a copy and become completely enthralled! I love this book, I love Cat!!!!! This is great great great literature-- I say "Hemingway for President!"

Feeding the Rat: I'll get 20 hours in for the week by Sunday evening, then itz taper as follows--
10 to 12 hours next week; 5 to 6 hours the following week; and then ITZ THE BIG Mega-SUMMER FORMAL @ 9 Mile...I am getting totally pumped!!!!!

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