18 June 2008

happy summer reading

I've been doing a lot of vegging lately, trying to savor the last days of unemployment and lack of responsibility. There's nothing better than re-reading old fantasy books I used to love as a kid, and lately I've been making several embarrassing forays into the "YA" (young adult, i.e. I have to crouch down to be level with the bookshelves full of colorful covered, Newbery-medal-winning, thin spined books) section of the public library. A list of the books I've read so far, most of them in one sitting:

The Hero and the Crown - Robin McKinley (all of her books are about sword-wielding heroines, which I pretty much worshipped as a kid)
The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
Spindle's End - Robin McKinley
The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula K. Le Guin (I just discovered her sci-fi, and it's good--less violence, more solemn tales)
Tales From Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin
The Other Wind - Ursula K. Le Guin

And some serious reading too:

The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen (wry and depressing)
The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
Blink - Malcolm Gladwell (a reference to some awesome psychological studies)
Who Will Teach For America? - Michael Shapiro

If you, like me, enjoy retracing your favorite childhood stories every time you come home, you might also try watching all of Hayao Miyazaki's films. Or anything that Studio Ghibli produces. They make you feel like a starry eyed kid again, a feeling I'm trying to recapture before I head off into the work world prematurely.

02 June 2008

Science is a way of life

A great Op-Ed column from the NYTimes yesterday summed up exactly why I love learning and teaching science. Below are a few excerpts, but the whole article is really worth reading.

"Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable — a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. To be able to think through and grasp explanations — for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on earth — not because they are declared dogma but rather because they reveal patterns confirmed by experiment and observation, is one of the most precious of human experiences.


But science is so much more than its technical details. And with careful attention to presentation, cutting-edge insights and discoveries can be clearly and faithfully communicated to students independent of those details; in fact, those insights and discoveries are precisely the ones that can drive a young student to want to learn the details. We rob science education of life when we focus solely on results and seek to train students to solve problems and recite facts without a commensurate emphasis on transporting them out beyond the stars."