Frost's 'Road Not Taken': the perfect metaphor for America in 2012…and not in a good way

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

While I’ve never conducted formal research on the question, it has always seemed to me that America’s favorite poem is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” ( says it’s number three, and frankly, I’d like a look at their methodology. “i carry your heart with me” and “Messy Room” at one and two? Seriously?)

Even people who neither know nor care a whit about poetry are familiar with the work, at least in passing, and I’m sometimes surprised to find them smiling as they think of it. Why, I wonder. Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Unemployed adventurers

by Terry Hargrove

As I write this I am six days removed from the worst day of my professional life. On March 25, after a classroom/lesson evaluation, I was informed by my supervisor, who I always held in high regard until she told me how useless I was, that I would not be rehired to my position as language arts teacher at a charter school in Norwich, Connecticut.

Dang. Continue reading

The first day of the rest of my life

I walked into the classroom hopped up on caffeine and adrenaline. I’d gotten to the room early—a drab box on the second floor of of our largest academic building—with the intent of staking out my territory well in advance of the freshmen, but a few of them had already beaten me. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who wanted to get a jumpstart on the first day of class.

Continue reading

Why do you want to be a storyteller?

“Why do you want to be a storyteller?” I asked my freshmen.

It was the second time I had asked. The first time had been on the second day of class, an eternity earlier, during the last week of August.

Then, most of them looked at me quizzically. A couple of them looked downright bored. They weren’t here to be storytellers, they told me; they were here to be journalists and public relations executives and television reporters and magazine writers.

“That’s not storytelling?” I asked. Continue reading

Democracy & Elitism 2: performance elitism vs privilege elitism, and why the difference matters

Democracy+ElitismPart two in a series.

“Elite” hasn’t always been an epithet. In fact, if we consider what the dictionary has to say about it, it still signifies something potentially worthy. Potentially. For instance:

e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism (-ltzm, -l-) n.
1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.le

That definition, while technically accurate enough, could use a bit of untangling, because it embodies the very nature of our problem with elitism in America. In popular use, the term “elite” and its derivatives has been twisted into a pure, distilled lackwit essence of “liberal” – another once-proud word that fell victim to our moneyed false consciousness machine. Continue reading

Why do we teach? No, really. Why?

by Terry Hargrove

A guy I know once said: “People who teach can’t do anything else.” So I hit him with a chair.

OK, I didn’t hit him with a chair. It was The Dad, after all. Still. I was plenty steamed by his statement. But upon reflection, I realized it wasn’t an insult. I’m a teacher because I really can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I enjoyed my time as a reporter, but I could see that newspapers were dying, and in defiance of one of The Dad’s favorite sayings, they were taking it with them. And so, after 15 fun and fulfilling months as a reporter and columnist at the Pictorial Gazette (1889-2008, RIP), I returned to the classroom. That is, I tried to return, but most classrooms in this state didn’t want me. Continue reading

Take the time to take the walk


CM-Boot“Take a walk with me,” I said.

My students, some twenty-one freshmen, followed me into the hallway. “We’re going to take a walk around the building,” I told them. “I want you to just notice things.”

With my cowboy boots clicking on the tile floors, I moseyed down the hall with the pack of students behind me.

Some of them chit-chatted with each other. Almost all of them wondered what the heck we were doing: If this class was Composition and Critical Thinking, why were we going for a stroll? Continue reading

Dr. Slammy in 2008: A thinkpower curriculum for the 21st Century

Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’m running for president on a platform that stresses education’s critical role in solving our nation’s problems and assuring a future of universal opportunity for all citizens. Today I’m introducing my platform plank on curriculum, a cornerstone concern for any productive educational system.

One size does not fit all. It goes without saying that we must emphasize education in mathematics and the sciences, as these skills provide the foundation we need to compete in a world of increasing technical complexity. Language, writing and communication skills, which have been sadly de-emphasized in the past 20 years, are also essential. Continue reading

Dr. Slammy in 2008: Teacher compensation – you get what you pay for

Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’m running for president.

Contrary to what some “reformers” seem to believe, the laws of economics apply to teaching. An extremely talented teaching candidate who’s bright enough to earn $80,000 in another field isn’t likely to settle for $25,000 to teach, especially when current policies have turned the job into a thankless slog. There are plenty of incredibly talented people out there who fit this description, but when push comes to shove they’re simply not willing to sacrifice their ability to earn a decent living. Continue reading