Three book recommendations et alia

I haven’t gone this long without a blog entry in … hmmn. Don’t know how long, maybe not since 2003. My wife was hospitalized in late August, and until she came home last Wednesday, I have been juggling essential tasks like mad and jettisoning whatever was absolutely unnecessary for the time being.1 She’s much better, thank you, and I am very happy to have her home. This will not be a long or single-topic entry, but there are a few items I do not want to forget.

Three book recommendations: José Vilson’s This Is Not a Test, Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher, and Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. The last in particular is an essential resource for those who want to know more about the history of teaching and who see that history as important perspective on current debates. If Goldstein were a professional historian, I suppose I could chide her for missing a few bits of relevant historiography. She is not, and I don’t care to. If I were teaching an undergraduate course in my field this semester, I would assign it. Buy or borrow these; read them.

The Arizona primary in August. The day I took Elizabeth to her primary care office and then the ER, Arizona had a primary. By the end of the day, I cared far more about my spouse’s immediate condition than the election results, but the rest of the state focused more on two statewide upsets, one in the Republican primary for state superintendent: incumbent John Huppenthal was beaten soundly by Diane Douglas. Huppenthal essentially beat himself after revelations he had played a sock puppet online, posting blog comments under several names (none of them his), including comments no one running for office would want associated with their name. The general election pits Douglas, a social conservative and a former school board member in the Phoenix area whose campaign focuses on her opposition to the Common Core, against David Garcia, a former state department of education official and current faculty member at Arizona State University who supports the Common Core. Each candidate’s position on the Common Core is not all that separates the two, but it is the difference that is highlighted in campaign news coverage thus far.2

The “drinking from a fire hose” phase of an academic administrator job. In the summer, I moved from being chair of a department where I was a long-time member to the incoming head of a larger unit (the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation here at ASU) where I did not know the environment or on-the-ground issues even though I knew several faculty from prior collaborations or national reputation. Thank goodness I had almost two months to get to know the staff and the division before the semester started and before drinking-from-a-fire-hose became drinking-from-a-fire-hose-while-firewalking. I am especially grateful to the staff of the division and my predecessor, Ida Malian, who all made it very easy for me to move into the job. On Friday, I held the first meeting of the entire division, on one of the days where the entire college faculty and staff gather. I won’t echo Churchillian phrases about the end of the beginning, but on more than a mundane level, I can no longer claim to be a neophyte at the job.

I have a large backlog of work at this point, and it will be at least a while longer before I can return to regular blogging.

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Notes

  1. Giant kudos to East Valley Primary Care in Tempe and Banner Desert Medical Center for having competent medical professionals and being great on the whole with communication. I know from experience that is far from universal, and it is much appreciated. []
  2. Disclosure: Garcia is a member of my division. I’ve known several Florida faculty who have run for public office, so this is not my first time watching a colleague campaign. []