Is Kindergarten Dead?

Interesting post from Diane Ravitch. Source: Is Kindergarten Dead?

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Writing Advice From John Steinbeck

Great advice from John Steinbeck. Thank you!

The Politics of Writing

Whether a fan of his writing or not, John Steinbeck has been integrated into the American canon and shaped the way American literature has been perceived, moreso than any other writer has done. In 1962 he was awarded the Nobel prize in literature for “his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” Not only have his works been frequently taught in schools around the country, his books have also been subject to numerous book-burnings  and demonstrations; which is the landmark of any great writer.

At times Steinbeck was hesitant towards interviews, but the Paris Review has recently compiled a mix of different conversations, interviews, and writings about his art. It’s broken up into different sections, such as “On Work Habits”, and “On Publishing” for ease of finding the best piece of advice. But there’s one section in particular that sums it all…

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A book I loved

Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel, “My Name is Lucy Barton” is the story of a mother and daughter, told by the daughter. It is a short, absorbing book. I inhaled it.

Lucy Barton grows up in almost Dickensian poverty, living with her family in a freezing garage, insulated with pretty pink fiberglass. She is told not to touch the stuff that gives this minimal warmth, because if she touches it, the fiberglass will cut her. The coldness of her home reflects the coldness of a family where the parents are abusive by most standards. For example, Lucy’s parents lock her in their truck for an entire day.  But Lucy’s mother sometimes gives her a hot water bottle to heat the bed at night.

Lucy stays late at school each day, doing homework and reading, just to be warm. She learns that “work gets done if you simply do it.” Books help her not to feel alone, and she decides to become a writer to help others not feel so alone. Doing homework and reading, she becomes an excellent student, wins a college scholarship, and escapes the poverty of her family. But she never stops missing them.

When the adult Lucy is hospitalized for nine weeks her mother comes to the hospital and never leaves Lucy’s side. Laughing and joking about the nurses, whom they have nicknamed Toothache, Cookie, and Serious Child, Lucy and her mother come to a kind of closeness.

Partly through the advice of another mother figure, a published author, Lucy achieves success as a writer, but, as her mother predicts, there are tough times in her future.

As a writer myself, and as a daughter and mother of daughters, I loved this book. Thank you, Elizabeth Strout.