Why I signed that White House letter

Well over 100 authors and illustrators have sent a letter asking the White House to ease up on standardized testing, which, they say, has a negative impact on kids’ love of reading and literature. I was one of the signers.

The venerable Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definitions (abbreviated here) of the noun “education”:

1)  The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university … A body of knowledge acquired …
2)  An enlightening experience …

Note: It’s a “PROCESS”, a “BODY OF KNOWLEDGE BEING ACQUIRED”, “AN ENLIGHTENING EXPERIENCE.”

What education is not, should not be, is the turning of kids into little parrots who are judged merely on the basis of how well they can mirror back ideas flung at them by a teacher.

An education should measure understanding — not memory, not rote learning, not force-fed ideas.

This is why I signed this letter. Students should be valued according to how well they have learned to understand something, not how well they can remember it and regurgitate it on a standardized onc-size-fits-all test.

Education poster

Standardized testing letter

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OED Third Edition a bit late

The Third Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary is 18 years behind schedule, Elizabeth Grice reports in The Telegraph but offers chief editor John Simpson’s reasonable explanation:

“One doesn’t like to rush these things.”

The OED has gone online and that brings some major changes. The dictionary has always appealed to the public for help in tracking down and compiling new words and usages, but the Internet has turned that steady trickle into a torrent.

“Contributors can send grumpy letters,” says Simpson. “They like to tell you what clots we are. But if you write back and show you have taken note, you find a poacher-turned-gamekeeper attitude. All the time, we are fighting against stereotypes – the long white beard, the Oxford elite. It’s not like that at all. I want to show that the work is fun.”

OED a bit late

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17 extraordinary bookstores

Text by Anna Norris.

Village Books in Bellingham, WA, my hometown, deserves to be on the list, not to mention Henderson’s for used books. But explore the great bookstores here. What bookstore would you add?

Livraria-LelloLivraria Lello in Portugal Photo: Matthew Furtado

There’s nothing like your first great bookstore discovery — that place where you go to sit in a soft chair and read, to marvel at the incredible architecture or to browse the maze of shelves for hours of literary exploration. Here are some of the most remarkable book shops from all around the globe, each one of them special in its own way.

Great bookstores

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Terrible Kanji Tattoos With Their English Translations

“It’s possible that the people in these pictures actually wanted things like “Chicken noodle soup” tattooed on their body (chicken noodle soup is delicious), but we’re guessing they probably didn’t.”

tattoos
Tattoos

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Winery plans to chop down California redwoods for vineyards

In California’s Sonoma County, environmentalists are fighting in court to prevent a Spanish winemaker from leveling 154 acres with coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make space for new grapevines, NPR reports:

A spokesman for the winery said that these aren’t old-growth trees, most are 50 years old.

I OBJECT!

Redwoods for wine

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Alma Alexander

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