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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

How Holi(days) Can Promote Unity

Anticipating both the Hindu festival Holi and Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17, I wrote an opinion article. 

The Times of India then published a modified version.

8:58 am edt 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MBAs Across America, Update

A March 2013 (March 3) post mentioned MBAs Across America – launched by Casey Gerald, a 2009 Yale graduate, among others.

Now, the New York Times has featured MBAs Across America.

7:32 am edt 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Library Innovation" at LiteracyEveryday

“Library Innovation” is the subject of the latest, March 2014 post at LiteracyEveryday.

3:27 pm edt 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women’s Day: “Girl Rising”

Today is International Women's Day.

One related effort is Girl Rising.

7:42 am est 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Encouraging More Blood Donors

Someone named Erin Gentry (possibly with a commercial interest that I do not endorse) forwarded a graphical depiction of blood donors, using Red Cross estimates that about 8 percent of potentially eligible U.S. donors actually give blood each year.

Once it becomes a habit, it is relatively painless to donate blood. I did so last week and encourage others to consider giving blood, which one may do every 56 days.

3:43 pm est 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Love (Not Just Sex) Across Cultures

The New York Times reported this week on a new study in Science that describes an emerging "genetic atlas" of “human mixing events.”  These events include trade, war, empire-building, and slavery.  Sometimes, of course, these developments involved not only sex but also love.

Amid Valentine’s Day, NPR’s Code Switch explored cross-culture love, including "the widening aisle of interracial marriages" – no longer the rarity they were when Barack Obama’s parents married more than fifty years ago, or when the Loving v. Virginia case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1967.

For some related musings, see a September 2011 (September 11) post, among others.

2:44 pm est 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Education and Redirecting the Cultural “Primacy” of Sports

Amanda Ripley’s book The Smartest Kids in the World compares the U.S. education system with those of Finland, Poland, and South Korea.  One of her observations concerns the relative attention devoted to sports (and other extracurricular activities) in the U.S., versus in the other countries.  She writes:

“Most successful or improving countries seemed to fit into three basic categories: 1) the utopia model of Finland, a system built on trust in which kids achieved higher-order thinking without excessive competition or parental meddling; 2) the pressure-cooker model of South Korea, where kids studied so compulsively that the government had to institute a study curfew; and 3) the metamorphosis model of Poland, a country on the ascent, with about as much child poverty as the United States, but recent and dramatic gains in what kids knew.” (p. 24)

She continues: “Sports were central to American students’ lives and school cultures in a way in which they were not in most education superpowers.  Exchange students agreed almost universally on this point…. sports brought many benefits, including lessons in leadership and persistence, not to mention exercise.  In most U.S. high schools, however, only a minority of students actually played sports.  So they weren't getting the exercise, and the U.S. obesity rates reflected as much.  And those valuable life lessons, the ones about leadership and persistence, could be taught through rigorous academic work, too, in ways that were more applicable to the real world.  In many U.S. schools, sports instilled leadership and persistence in one group of kids, while draining focus and resources from academics for everyone…. Wealth had made rigor unnecessary in the United States, historically speaking.  Kids didn't need to master complex material to succeed in life — not until recently, anyway.  Other things crowded in, including sports…. the glorification of sports chipped away at the academic drive among U.S. kids.  The primacy of sports sent a message that what mattered — what really led to greatness — had little to do with what happened in the classroom.  That lack of drive made teachers’ jobs harder, undercutting the entire equation.” (p. 118-119)

While Amanda Ripley may exaggerate “the primacy of sports” in the U.S., she does raise important issues (e.g., “higher rates of child poverty” here than in many other countries).  Academic rigor is often diluted by excessive attention to non-academic matters, including sports.  In some schools and colleges, “student athlete” is a term with contradictions.  As the Concord Review proposes, “varsity academics” should be championed. 

Sometimes, the balance between sports and other priorities seems right. 

For example, current Yale basketball players have been recognized not only for their play on the court, but also for their scholarship, leadership, and community service.

One student athlete, elected to Phi Beta Kappa earlier in his junior year, recently earned further academic recognition while continuing to play on a Yale team that won at Harvard last night and is contending for an Ivy League title.

A former player, Earl Martin Phalen, received national acclaim from the NCAA on this 25th anniversary of his graduation from Yale.  Congratulations to Earl, who was featured in a New York Times article as early as 1995 for founding this organization.

Some young New Haveners have been playing basketball this winter in a City league on Saturdays at John Martinez School.  I am a volunteer co-coach of a group of kids (my son among them) ages six to eight
.  The boys are getting some exercise and developing skills (including resilience and teamwork as playing time must be shared among 11 players) in a setting characterized by positive coaching – discussed in a December 2011 (December 24) post.

9:28 am est 

“Hospitalizations Due to Firearm Injuries in Children and Adolescents”

A new article in the journal Pediatrics, “Hospitalizations Due to Firearm Injuries in Children and Adolescents,” documents more than 7000 firearm-related hospitalizations of young people ages 19 and under in 2009 – some 20 per day.  In children under age 10, three-quarters of hospitalizations were due to unintentional injuries.

Article co-author John M. Leventhal, M.D., was cited on this blog in an October 2011 (October 15) post, and is among the "men who give" to counter domestic violence.

In December 2013, an American Psychological Association report addressed “Gun Violence: Prevention, Prediction, and Policy” — with an emphasis on measures such as “behavioral threat assessments.”

A January 2013 op-ed addressed “guns and security” from a parent’s perspective.

11:19 pm est 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Seminars for New Haven Teachers

January 28 is the deadline for New Haven Public School teachers to apply to the 2014 seminars that the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute is offering.

7:56 am est 

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Jr. Day: “Martin’s Big Words”

Before today’s holiday, my son brought home from his school library the book Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr., by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier.  My wife and I and both of our children enjoyed reading this book, which earned various awards upon its publication in 2001.

An August 2013 (August 25) post discussed our family’s trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. (and to the Lincoln) Memorial in D.C.

6:29 pm est 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Physics Symposium

An October 2012 post mentioned the work of Q.N. Usmani, a physicist who is my father-in-law.  In recognition of his 70th birthday, there is a symposium this month; congratulations to him.

7:25 am est 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Radiolab: Blood

Radiolab devoted a program to blood, a topic that this blog has occasionally addressed in encouraging people to donate blood.

10:44 am est 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The GED 2:00 pm est 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mentoring Month

National Mentoring Month begins today.

9:49 am est 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

“Closing the ‘Word Gap’…”

NPR today featured a story on the “word gap” among young children.  This issue has gained prominence in recent years; among the initiatives is Too Small to Fail, which Hillary Clinton is leading.

An April 2013 post on the LiteracyEveryday site addressed this gap, following a related Literacy Forum.

10:09 am est 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Learning and Dance, New Havener of the Year

An April 2013 (April 7) post mentioned Ballet Haven and that organization’s founder, Mnikesa Whitaker.

Mnikesa has now been named New Havener of the year.  Congratulations to Kesa; she is a tremendous person, and Ballet Haven deserves support.

9:04 am est 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013: “Education is the great engine of personal development..."

The death this month of one of the great figures of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela, is a marker of history – of when the events of our time ascend to all time. 

A passage from Mandela’s extraordinary autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, is among the words of inspiration on this website:

“Education is the great engine of personal development. . . . It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
9:14 am est 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

History, Civics, and STEAM vs. STEM

The Connecticut Mirror published my piece on "History, Civics, and Balancing 'STEM'" – an effort to relate debate over the humanities to civic literacy.

7:37 am est 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Literacy Forum: Teachers, Librarians, and Young Readers

A recent Literacy Forum gave voice to teachers, librarians, and students addressing, “Why read?”

This is a timeless question that each generation has to answer, from the agricultural and then the industrial era to the advent of radio, TV, and many more technologies since.  One accessible, brief exploration is Motoko Rich’s November 2007 New York Times article.

Francis Bacon, in 1597, recognized that “knowledge … is power.”  In his 1625 essay Of Studies, he asserted: “Reading maketh a full man ... and writing an exact man.” 

In 1771, George Washington wrote: “I conceive a knowledge of books is the basis upon which other knowledge is to be built.”

Amid all that has changed over the centuries, these insights endure.

7:57 am est 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blood Time

It’s bloody likely that I’ll give blood next week, eight weeks since my last donation.  More donors are needed.

10:36 pm edt 

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