[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images are from Lapham’s Quarterly June/July 2022:Education, except where noted.]
[Click or right-click on an image may give the option to open it separately.]
[NEW to Lapham’s Quarterly? See the standard notes at the end of this review. After 50+ LQ summaries I jump right in.]
[This is a READING section, for those who might stumble in looking for words visual (Photos) (a picture is worth a thousand…). My edits/summaries of the L.Q. historical journal continue.]
My best friend ever often said that the solution to this or that problem, large or small, was EDUCATION! I cannot disagree.
I once heard Werner Erhard say, to paraphrase: ‘A teacher is one who creates a space for learning to occur.’
It’s STORY TIME, the second section of Voices in Time. Is education just a story we tell ourselves?
Critical Race Theory! Let the games begin. The first extract this section is available free elsewhere online here. Has anything recently caused more of an uproar in education than CRT? The convoluted discussions pro and con (intersectionality?!?!) leave me equally nauseated. The damage may already be done to prevent a simpler, more reasoned conversation.
Maria Montessori informs on the development of the school desk and its immobilization of the student. Are these the best words of wisdom Lapham’s could glean from the woman who started a system of schools? On the other hand, freedom from the confinement of fixed seating supposedly contributed to children’s mental exercise. Some Montessori quotes can be found HERE. As one of ‘senior’ age, I found noteworthy the link and subsequent info at the bottom of that page titled: ‘The Montessori Method Applied to Dementia: An International Perspective’. (You may have to search for it. The links appear to change.)
Segue from Montessori educational free spirits to the Mao’s Cultural Revolution, purges, and ‘re-educations’ depicted in the 1966 extract by Aiping Mu, from her book Vermilion Gate:
“Eventually, a final-year pupil jumped up. He seized the microphone and started to read a quotation from Mao Zedong’s recent letter to Lin Biao, hot from big-character posters in Beijing University: “The term of education must be shortened, and a revolution launched in the educational field. The fact of having bourgeois intellectuals run our educational institutions must cease.” His reading was answered by thunderous cheers and applause, while the few “bourgeois royalists” lost their voices.
Many senior pupils at our school had visited Beijing University to learn from its revolutionary experiences. It was not difficult to start the fire of the Cultural Revolution on our campus. Spurred on by the official media, more and more pupils longed to strike a blow against the school authorities, and their craving to fight the class enemy was tinder waiting for a spark.” (P. 89)
Wikipedia enlightens this sad era searching on Cultural Revolution and Guangxi Massacre, for starters.
In 1901 Louis Sullivan excoriates the dearth of depth in architecture education.
Fleur Jaeggy describes her 1950’s youth in various boarding schools. Her descriptions of girls or nuns has a noteworthy detail:
“The Mère préfète’s eyes were blue as alpine lakes at dawn, childish and venomous. She was so much a fin de race that her eyelids had turned to white lead; generations of supplicants must have kissed the hands of her forebears, before the guillotine. She had an oriental look to her, her forehead was covered with a veil, and veils are becoming on women, even old women. They confer majesty and mystery. And treachery. There was something soft about her body, something faisandé. The imminence of her return to dust, to ashes, and her imperious cream-colored robes, conspired with the stiffness natural to her status to make her look like some great dame of sepulchres.” (P. 95)
“There was one girl who didn’t pay the fees, and she did favors and little kindnesses for the Mère préfète. And maybe she spied. We were kind to her, she came from a family that had come down in the world, her eyes were silky blue and yellow. She was blond and she came from the South; but a bothersome flibbertigibbet, because she was a spy. A spy, we supposed, out of necessity. We could have given her much more than the very reverend mothers did, but she was naturally inclined to be submissive to authority. Some people are born like that. We tried to win her over, but she wasn’t interested. She should have been taller, her calves were close to her ankles, there was no lift to her figure. Seated, she was very pretty, her complexion and the color of her hair suited her small, slightly rough pottery face. She was an older pupil, kept out of charity. She was over eighteen, and that was sad. She practiced her vocation—to us it seemed a profession—of being poor very well.” (P. 96)
Ms. Jaeggy is yet another notable author (of many thousands) with whom I am not familiar. Google, Wikipedia, The New Yorker, et al, enlighten. She is somewhat reclusive, it has been said. Take https://oxonianreview.com/articles/the-monumental-lonerism-of-fleur-jaeggy for example. Cerebral, and curious.
Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, late 18th- early 19th-century, was innovative, pre-Montessorian, even. Wikipedia and Britannica enlighten.
“Children taught children. They tried to put into practice what I told them to do and often came themselves on the track of the means of its execution,from many sides. This self-activity, which had developed itself in many ways in the beginning of learning, worked with great force on the birth and growth of the conviction in me that all true, all educative instruction must be drawn out of the children themselves, and be born within them. To this I was led chiefly by necessity. Since I had no fellow helpers, I put a capable child between two less capable ones; he embraced them with both arms, he told them what he knew, and they learned to repeat after him what they knew not.” (P. 98)
Michelle Kuo is noteworthy in her early 2000’s piece on attempting to find common ground while teaching poor black kids “…in the Mississippi Delta at an alternative school for children expelled from other public schools.” She finds they are interested in the play Raisin In The Sun. She is less successful when passing around a blurry photo of a lynching:
“Finally David muttered, “Nobody want to see that.”
The moment he said it, I knew, instantly, that I had failed to understand something essential. In the tone of his voice, in the sudden change of his demeanor, he was telling me that I had crossed a line. I retrieved the photo from his desk, and even a quick glance at it made my heart skip a beat. It looked different now, something I didn’t at all recognize; some other teacher must have found it, printed it, and passed it out.
I walked to the front of the class and resumed my place at the board. I wrote some words idly, so that my back could be turned and the kids could not see my face. My chest was exploding. How could I be so casual or, worse, smug about a lynching? I had confronted them with their history, treating it like a secret whose exposure would transport them to a painful but necessary enlightenment. I’d meant to be daring and transgressive in bringing up the history of violence against black people. But maybe David and the others wanted school to be a refuge from that memory.
I had expected to be guilty of other things—of sentimentalizing their conditions, of patronizing them with my sympathy. But I didn’t expect to be smug. Here, look, learn, says the smiling teacher with mysterious motives; learn about your history or get a zero.
After class I put the photograph facedown in my drawer and never looked at it again.” (P. 113)
Stefan Zweig’s piece on the rigorous and stifling aspects of late nineteenth-century Austrian education is noteworthy. Like John Ruskin in my Pt. 1, he says “If only for the sake of social standing, every well-to-do family was anxious to have “educated” sons, who were taught English and French and familiarized with music.” (P. 117) The intent was to impart knowledge but not inquiry.
As usual, a side journey to Wikipedia for Zweig and his book The World Of Yesterday is very worthwhile. Jewish, and a wandering emigrant from Nazi fascism for the previous eight years, Zweig and his wife committed suicide in Brazil in February, 1942, the day after posting to his publisher the manuscript for the book.
The extract from The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is amusing.
““Next year,” she said, “you will have the specialists to teach you history and mathematics and languages, a teacher for this and a teacher for that, a period of forty-five minutes for this and another for that. But in this your last year with me, you will receive the fruits of my prime. They will remain with you all your days.”” (P. 125)
Published in 1961, the setting is 1930s Scotland. Her praise of Mussolini and Fascism is curious. Those of a certain age may remember the 1969 movie starring Maggie Smith of current Downton Abbey fame in the title role.
Such is Story Time, the second section of Education.
The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.