Judy Blume for Banned Books Week: “Children are the real losers”

23 09 2011

. . .when anyone tries to control what they can read, and know, and ask and talk about. Are you ready to read a banned book tomorrow to help kick off the 30th anniversary of the ALA’s Banned Books Week? We sure are!

See other author and book-champion videos on the dedicated Banned Books Week youtube channel. Play with the interactive “censorship” map of the US here. (Show your kids it’s not just YOUR backward town or state! It’s everywhere!)

Snook posts for Banned Books Week every year — this makes six because the blog started just in time for the 2006 celebration, which was the silver anniversary. Last year’s posts are here: Think for Yourself and Let Others Do the Same and If I Had a Robot, Would I Hammer in the Morning?

And there are lots of book-burning related posts through the years, most notoriously this and maybe this from 9/11 last year:

On this notorious day as Americans remember, reconstruct and reject both the best and worst of our national identity all at once — because whatever else we the people may be, we’re never easy! — the images of hate in my mind aren’t of burning towers but burning books, burning flags, burning bigotry and yes, burning flesh.

See a more comprehensive collection of links to explore here: Ideas Are Incombustible! (that means you can’t burn ’em up no matter how big your bonfire.)

But I think the most fun we had discussing Banned Books Week probably was in 2007:

. . . a Maine woman and an Alabama granny-girl combo using the eerily similar publicity stunt of kidnapping a book that shocks them and holding it hostage, supposedly so no one else can ever read it.

LOL – Southern ladies used to be so much more clever with their public manners, to solve such problems with devastating yet impeccably polite little social gambits.

If I were the shocked Granny, I might’ve Read the rest of this entry »





A Musical Theatre Unschooler’s Ode to Last Harry Potter Premiere

14 07 2011

I woke up this morning to discover — posted as a new note on his FaceBook page — what Young Son had been up to all night. Talk about flow! 🙂

As far as his mother knows, this is the first song parody he’s even tried to write, so it just astounds me.

He’s still asleep so for now I can only speculate how it came about. (When I checked just now, one of his Jim Dale-performed Harry Potter audiobooks was playing, as it has all night every night since he started putting together a premiere character costume and pre-purchased his ticket for tomorrow.)

He’s studying French with a private tutor, yet I wonder whether he noticed his parody particularly fits today as Bastille Day, set as it is to music from a French musical, his all-time favorite, Les Miserables.

For my part, I never imagined much less planned for Bastille Day to figure into our unschooling musically or any other way, even though it already has done, for both of them.

Young Son and Les Miserables power of story

Harry Potter power of story

You’ll appreciate this much more if you have the soaring Les Mis lyrics and rhythms in your head, which doubtless aren’t QUITE as deeply bred into everyone as in my house:

Okay? Did you play the video? Do you have a goose-bump or two? Then here we go, exactly as he wrote and posted it! [hush falls over the audience]

“Ode to the Harry Potter premiere”
by Young Son Ross on Thursday, July 14, 2011

(To the tune of “1 day more” from Les Miserables)

‎FAN #1: One day more, another day another costume piece, in this never ending wait to the release. The fans all seem to know it’s time, to buy tickets is not a crime, one day more.

FAN #2: I will not live until that day, the day when it all ends forever

Read the rest of this entry »





Harry Potter: We Better Believe It’s Real

19 11 2010

Is the new Harry Potter movie life imitating art?

Do you need to know who said this, about whom, when and where, to believe it?

The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment.

. . .The era we face, that is soon upon us, will require a great deal from our leaders. They had better be sturdy. They will have to be gifted. There will be many who cannot, and should not, make the cut. Now is the time to look for those who can. . .

It’s not a time to be frivolous, or to feel the temptation of resentment, or the temptation of thinking next year will be more or less like last year, and the assumptions of our childhoods will more or less reign in our future. It won’t be that way.

We are going to need the best.

(It was Rita Skeeter’s real-world counterpart, in Rupert World’s Wall Street Journal.)

No need for a night at the movies, to experience a war-riven world without real grown-ups, this “bleak, perilous grown-up world that tests the independence [we] have struggled to obtain” in an “especially somber and scary coloration.”

Childish things have been put away — this time there is no quidditch, no school uniforms, no schoolboy crushes or classroom pranks — and adult supervision has all but vanished. . . . Harry and his companions must rely . . . above all, on one another.

. . . Hermione for her part, seems lonelier than ever. She has broken entirely with her Muggle parents, expunging herself from their memories to prevent them from being caught up in an increasingly vicious intrawizard civil war. . . .

Time to put away childish things including the fiction that school is preparation for real life, instead of Dark Art in itself. Time for serious leaders to do serious work in serious ways.

Small screen queens billed as real moms tweeting and dancing like bears animated by corporate control set up to seem like America’s “votes” are really dangerous only if we believe it’s real. Harry Potter is dangerous only if we don’t..

Watch tv and see the new movie, or not, but get the picture.

And then act, for real.





Power of Story Can Change the World

18 11 2010

Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has done.

We need to sing our epics or lose them. For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, conflicting power of story.

Oh sure, the usual ancient stories and myths of course — and here we go fighting about the meaning of Christmas again — but wasn’t the world-changing power of old religious stories most potent in their own real-world time? We don’t call “currency” that for nothing. What are world-changing power of story stories with currency in our time, in this world?

MisEducation humbly suggests she herself may be the first — of whom she in her cloistered library is aware!– to ponder The World of Potter for real school themes rather than Sunday School themes.

. . .I think Rowling’s genius is to see humans as carrying both hope and fear, both good and evil, to see us as magnificent, and animals, and facing new threats of extinction — to realize our ancient songs and stories need to be understood in progressively evolving ways, for anyone to win anything worth living or dying for.

. . . we love movies about learning to define yourself and your own creative power in the world, instead of any organized institution (church or school) conspiring with society to standardize and subjugate individuals, the better to keep them under control . .

Stories like Avatar and the Harry Potter series might seem like unlikely starting points for civic engagement, but they speak a global language, and they stir something in people.

Did you ever wish that Harry Potter was real? Well, it kind of is.

Just as Dumbledore’s Army wakes the world up to Voldemort’s return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we:

* Work with partner NGOs in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide.

* Work with our partners for equal rights regardless of race, gender, and sexuality.

* Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place.

Join our army to make the world a safer, more magical place, and let your voice be heard!

Remember whatever your personal world and worldview:

. . .the whole purpose of “education” anywhere, is more and forward and freedom, not less and backward in a box. . .





Banned Books Week: Think for Yourself, Let Others Do the Same

1 09 2010

Thinking Parents know how enthusiastically we celebrate Banned Books Week here at Snook, every September. Last year’s theme was “Ideas Are Incombustible” and imo still fits the social inferno some folks are stoking with spittle-soaked frenzy.

This year’s official theme features a robot unplugging his head from the Borg download, happily reading a real book instead. (No technology required, not even a Kindle.)

You can tell the robot is happy from its glowing eyes and smile of satisfaction. If you follow the sequence of robot art through the whole list of books known to have been challenged during the past year, you can see the free-to-read robot’s power of story play out — thinking for yourself and letting others do the same turns into real liberty (and eyes aglow from books) for all.

Who could be against that? Well, this parent for one:

Lee, Harper
To Kill a Mockingbird

Removed from the St. Edmund Campion Secondary
School classrooms in Brampton, Ontario, Canada
(2009) because a parent objected to language used
in the novel, including the word “nigger.”
Source: Nov2009, pp. 203–4.

And this guy — who sounds like he should cut way back on the caffeine and might keep deadly firearms at home but perversely fixates on the threat of library books in his child’s backpack instead. We loved this book when FavD was a kid, read it aloud together and then went on to read several more Read the rest of this entry »





We Need to Sing Our Epics or Lose Them

20 08 2010

For any nation in any age including here and now, the ultimate war is over competing narratives, conflicting power of story.

Snook, as faithful readers can attest, is all about narratives and the power of story — in education, relationships, science, politics, work and play, war and peace, in the meaning of life itself. Search this blog using the phrase “power of story” to stay busy reading and thinking for many hours. Add music/musical theatre and “thinking and feeling” to your search, and plan on making this your new homepage indefinitely. 😉

We’ve animated Snook with epic discussions of the Great Derangement of Matt Taibbi, the language stories and Political Mind of George Lakoff, the political right-speak realism of Frank Schaeffer, the situational ethics of Philip Zimbardo and his Lucifer Effect, Harvard’s Howard Gardner on educating kids to love truth and America instead of fighting over it, Don Beck and Ken Wilber’s memes, Richard Florida and his “creative class” plus meaningful movies from Milk and Mindwalk to Hairspray and Madagascar, not to mention Harry Potter and Stanley Fish, plus the leading science lights of edge dot org.

(More Mindwalk and Harry Potter. More Stanley Fishing for meaning of life memes. And the beat goes on . . .)

But nobody tells the story of story better than this new offering from another expert, one with a name that sings a story too, Read the rest of this entry »





Tim Tebow: The Boy Who Lived

6 02 2010

. . .destined to grow up as an example to us all. Of — um —

Are you ready for some football?
(Olympic Excess coming up next!)

We homeschooling families like learning at home in our living rooms, especially for free. You could even say we celebrate it! But you’re a Thinking Parent as well, so think about this — is “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” a sports message best taught on tv as multi-million dollar ad wars? Or is it paid political speech we’ve learned from real-world experience celebrates division and shooting to kill, the kind of combative warfare all learned people know that neither Christ nor America was ever about, despite false advertising through the ages?

What lessons are being taught in our living rooms, not by individual homeschooling parents or great literary characters like the Boy Who Lived but by corporate-controlled televised sports as entertainment, and is it sacred business, serious business, or funny business (if business has any business teaching any of us any of it?)

Our best entertainers and artists in any era help us conjure our own Patronus against the universally human fear of the dark.

Who in this story capitalizes, controls, one might even say conjures, this unarguably public education for which corporate America is unelected and unaccountable?

What if Tim Tebow had been born gay instead of gridiron-gifted? Would his mom still have been chosen for her choice to teach SuperBowl fans everywhere her ethics and how to define “family and life” worth celebrating? What if her unaborted son once grown to be a sports star, openly credited magic rather than miracles? Would he still have been chosen by CBS to dramatically break the network’s policy against advocacy ads mixed with hero worship? Is ignoring your doctor’s advice as Pam Tebow (and Sarah Palin) chose for themselves and apparently preach as mom gospel to everyone including the Supreme Court, a lesson CBS will be held accountable for as both profit-seeking and public broadcast system?

Here’s something your children will NOT learn about celebrating family and life watching the CBS SuperBowl:

“Women take decisions about their health very seriously. They consider their doctors’ advice, they talk with their loved ones and people they trust, including religious leaders, and they carefully weigh all considerations before making the best decision for themselves and their families.”

“My daughter will always be my little girl,” [the sports star] says. “But I am proud everyday as I watch her grow up to be her own person, a smart, confident young woman. I trust her to take care of herself. We celebrate families by supporting our mothers, by supporting our daughters. By trusting women.”

Upon which [the evil schoolmarm as minister of education] retorted tartly that students couldn’t be trusted to know what was good for them and they were a bunch of negative whiners . . .

Ethical? Educational? Christ-like? Good enough for your child at any age or stage?

Preparing for SuperBowl Sunday as a secular Gator up on cultural controversy, I’m reflecting on my own education through many years of bleeding orange and blue and watching UF sports, especially Tim Tebow as our most famous student-athlete ever. Yes, the most famous ever.

The Boy Who Lived has clearly surpassed even Steve Spurrier’s renown although the reasons seem murky and not merely statistical — perhaps because not even the most fanatical fan nor the SEC, the Heisman Committee or The Old Ball Coach himself, ever confused Steve Spurrier with Christ-like beatitude? 😉

I think my best self-learning on this subject was laid out in biblical allegory style, in What Should We Call Christ as a Kick in the Head? Tim has had his last on-field performance as a Gator for God but his first as a bought-and-paid-for shill airs tomorrow. I’ll let you know if it teaches me anything new . . .

*********
What Should We Call Christ as a Kick in the Head?

Just drove Young Son to Irish dance and musical theatre. Their performing arts studio is in a neighborhood shopping center with a sandwich shop and pizza place, a chinese food restaurant, a small computer shop — and a huge, very busy martial arts place with big glass walls across the front so you can watch from the sidewalk or your car, called Karate for Christ Ministries.

I’ve waited for the kids and wondered about this incongruous pairing of east and west before. School football players in the South seem very well-educated if Christianity is the standard and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is the measure. My favorite quarterback Gator Tim Tebow is always blessing the tv announcers and thanking his lord Jesus Christ for his touchdowns. His whole family goes on mission trips and he even convinced his coach to join him on one last summer. But school football and school religion are compatibly American — at least so I was taught — especially in the Bible Belt.

Karate though? For Christ?

So today as Spunky started a new conversation about what it means for a child to be “well-educated” I noticed it afresh and thought I’d mention some of what it makes me wonder, about what’s being taught and learned and why to our kids out of school, not in.

The phone number is painted on the glass, too: want your child well-educated in mind, body and spirit all at the same time? Who needs School OR Church? Just call 8-WE-KICK.

I called up wikipedia instead: Read the rest of this entry »





What School Movies Have Affected Your Life?

17 10 2009

Which ones are personally most memorable, for good or ill or just as powerful story-telling?

After posting that video clip from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie the other day, I was stunned that Lynn has never seen it thus doesn’t have it in her frame of reference as we talk about School Ideas — what an impact that movie had on me as a schooled girl, seeing it in the theatre in 1969! [shudder]

School stories in both book and movie form have always stuck in my mind. (We can do just books later if you want.)

Harry Potter obviously, and Maggie Smith is a teacher in those school movies too, 40 years after she was in her Prime, eerie huh?

Sidney Poitier’s To Sir With Love was another high-impact, early-influence school film for me. Later there was Robin Williams’ Dead Poets Society.

And for no easily explained reason I remember the power over my thinking of an obscure late-night movie about high schoolers who got pregnant before abortion was legal, called Blue Denim. I think it was an impossibly young and blonde-ponytailed Carol Lynley, never saw the film again anywhere but it’s definitely loomed large in my frame of reference ever since.

How about you and school movies that really affected you and stayed with you? And what about your kids?





JJ Reading Dan Brown’s New Book

27 09 2009

. . .and glad it isn’t BANNED! 😉

At the same time, I quite appreciate Killing the Buddha’s much more, ahem, historical and rational writing about the new book.

Dan Brown shares with the Masons a belief in the mythology that gave rise to modern culture, and hopes that his readers will join him in affirming those myths once again.

So I am just as glad Samuel Biagetti’s scholarship isn’t banned either, as I was glad the people freaked out by The Da Vinci Code couldn’t quash it or the people freaked out by Harry Potter couldn’t quash HIM:

I think Rowling’s genius is to see humans as carrying both hope and fear, both good and evil, to see us as magnificent, and animals, and facing new threats of extinction — to realize our ancient songs and stories need to be understood in progressively evolving ways, for anyone to win anything worth living or dying for.

Mortimer Adler’s definition of education was “the freeing discipline of wonder.” Religious education seems like an oxymoron then, unless we change our definition of religion, to match. Make it freeing rather than oppressive, wondrous rather than warlike, open to questions and new discovery and change. That was the thought when I wrote this:

“Maybe human spirituality is evolving [for the next cultural era] as we discover and accept truths not through patriarchal personification and studying “authoritative” writings spelled out for our dutiful performance on demand, but through an “unschooled” direct [and democratic if you will] personal connection to each other, and to the universe as a system?”

It’s not quite Dan Brown’s power of story, but it’s close enough to satisfy me.





Newest Ranger’s Apprentice Book Goes Religious-Political?

24 11 2008

We ordered Book 8 of John Flanagan’s series from a bookshop in Sydney, Australia. It cost more to ship than the price of the book, so the total was about $37 but it’s worth it to Young Son. His dad and I read and enjoy the series, too, which adds to HIS enjoyment.

We’re just grateful they aren’t embargoed worldwide like the Harry Potter books were. Here in the US, publishers are only up to Book 5, and according to their projected schedule we’d have to wait years — until he starts community college classes!? — if we weren’t um, taking the initiative through the Internet, to participate in the global economy.

If you go to the links above, you can see a fascinating difference in the book covers, from culture to culture. I think I like the British covers best, with one tiny human figure in stark shadow on a distant ridge, with the full-color, elegant arrows of his trade dominating every foreground. (Shoutout to COD: tell Breck there’s plenty of swordplay too, not just archery. Shoutout to NotJC: tell Simon to read these books and then write his own!)

Holland and Sweden use the same look. These covers promise stories made of mystery, medieval mood, the times and tools of transporting adventure in a whole world to explore, rather than a small-set soap opera of larger than life fee-ee-lings to explore.

Which I’ll bet appeals more to boys (in any culture) than the tender, fine-featured, floppy-haired boy and girl characters filling the frame on every Australian cover? Relationships, ugh! 😉

The American covers actually are of the young good-guy characters too, but Read the rest of this entry »





It’s Banned Books Week — Read Something Shocking!

27 09 2008

Is this a good time to mention BANNED BOOKS WEEK is upon us again?  And how fitting that the vice-presidential debate falls right in the middle of it!

“Closing Books Shuts Out Ideas”
[Last year’s theme was “Free People Read Freely!”]
September 27- October 4, 2008

For more:
Palin’s “Actual Responsibilities” as Madame Mayor”

Ignorance Makes the N-Word Even Scarier

Family and Politics

Ban the Book-burning Book for Banned Books Week??

Or maybe you’d like Mess is Robust, With Resonance!

One shudders to think how much more Big School can stand to systemize! Is even more corporate power to tidy up both school and home really healthy for children and families? Rowdy recess games are long gone, purses and cupcakes are being banned as unacceptably untidy, long lists of clothing, toys and ingestible substances including candy have been purged, along with  books judged too stimulating and therefore disorderly for school shelves.

So I tend to welcome counterpoint now and then, toward uncontrolled, untidy thought, word and deed.





For Rolfe and Unschooled Readers Everywhere

31 01 2008

” Does J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series pervert American values?”
by Ally Chumley at helium.com

. . . For too long, kids have been offered stories which present real life – with its own evils. It’s high time that today’s kids are introduced to the conventions of the English-style fantasy story, which is a legitimate sub-genre, and which has been under-rated and under-represented in Australian libraries in the last decade.

. . .Recent statistical research suggests that children and adolescents are not enjoying the reading they conduct at school (Australia Council for the Arts, 2006). Nor are they choosing to read for leisure.

As a child, I found it virtually impossible to stop reading for fun. I also enjoyed the benefits of increased language proficiency, better powers of retention, recall and comprehension, improved concentration span, imaginative development, improved capacity and confidence in writing, tolerance for a wide range of new ideas and an optimistic belief that life is full of strange and wonderful possibilities. However, the virtually limitless sources of stimuli available to today’s kids compete for their attention, often at the expense of the humble storybook.

Narrative fiction tends towards unity and continuity in its outcomes, a feature which poses a stark contrast to the world of reality. It can become very personally involving, and offers the reader a significant role in constructing the meaning of the text, through exercising the power of interpretation.

. . .The universal appeal of the sharing of stories springing from the imagination and influenced by the experiences of the story-teller can be explained in part by the force of curiosity. Read the rest of this entry »