Ah, I am in the last minutes of my dissertation adventure and just taking a moment to breath and appreciate! As I wrap the dissertation up and also finish up my second year teaching, I am so thankful for the chance to have a nice settled job where I am can teach, write, and live in a great little city. Our year-round CSA starts in April and our garden is ready to roll, just as soon as I get seedlings. The Community Farmers Market should have some non-GMO seedlings to buy. I’m excited to focus on trying to eat more local and more healthily.
We are getting ready for a search for my new faculty where I teach, so I was getting together all that we’re reading this semester so that the syllabus is ready to share when folks come to campus. It has taken four semesters, but it seems that we’ve gotten together a nice little collection of readings and an arc that makes sense of when we read what so that the readings build on each other. It gives me such pleasure that we’ve finally gotten a collection of readings that work. Although I do think I’ll need to add something in about community-based research. We need to have a better week on “how to do community research.” We read large parts of Smart Communities: How Citizens and Local Leaders Can Use Strategic Thinking to Build a Brighter Future, by Suzanne Morse, and Better Together: Restoring the American Community by Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein. They are actually a little dull in terms of “fun” reading but they do contain a lot of important information and examples that I think are helpful to students. But the fun part that most students love is the more popular stuff. I am sure I would get eye rolls from some on the amount of New York Times article we read, but it really engages the students, so I keep it in, realizing that we do have to good strong books and some more heavier academic stuff too. Here are the articles/interviews/reports we read. Each reading supports a different part of the research that they are doing – they start out by doing the big picture of an issue (e.g. homelessness), then they conduct interviews in the city about the state of that issue in our community, then they study best practices, and then they make recommendations for our city, emphasizing the assets to build on, but also with suggestions for improvement. The best thing of the whole class is that they get out into the community and see that no matter how much you read about something, it looks different on the ground. I feel like the What the Best Teachers Do book and workshop was so helpful to me last summer in that it helped drive home the importance of students trying to answer real and relevant questions that matter. Just like kids learn better by doing stuff rather than using flash cards, students also learn better by doing, when supported with readings and coaching, rather than just memorizing stuff.
Anyway, just a short break to reflect on the adventures of teaching and writing. And to procrastinate a little bit on my dissertation which will be turned in in three days!
Because I know you will all want to go out and look these readings up and read them on your own… here there are!
David Brooks, “If it Feels Right…” The New York Times, September 12, 2011.
Harry Boyte, “The Work of Citizens: A Conversation with Harry Boyte,” The Civic Arts Review 24(4), Summer-Fall 2012.
David Greenberg, “Why Last Chapters Disappoint,” The New York Times, March 18, 2011.
Alan Feuer, “Occupy Sandy: A Movement Moves to Relief (Where FEMA Fell Short, Occupy Sandy Was There),” The New York Times, November 9, 2012. (Hurricane Sandy Case Study)
Jonathan Haidt, “The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail,” Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York: Random House), 29-51.
Derrick Jensen, “Forget Shorter Showers Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change,” Orion Magazine, July/August 2009. (Wicked problems reading packet)
Tim Kreider, “The Busy Trap,” The New York Times, June 30, 2012.
Peter Levine, “Why Political Recommendations Often Disappoint: An Argument for Reflexive Social Science,” Peter Levine’s Blog, April 4, 2011, peterlevine.ws/?p=6123.
John McKnight, “Why Servanthood is Bad,” The Other Side, Jan-Feb 1989.
Steven E. Mayer, “The Assets Model of Community Development,” Remarks made at the conference “Maximizing Returns on Community Investment,” 1991.
Keith Melville, et al. “What’s in a Story,” and “Let’s Talk,” The Democracy Project, Forthcoming, 2015.
Sarah Maslin Nir, “Helping Hands Also Expose a New York Divide,” The New York Times, November 16, 2012. (Hurricane Sandy Case Study)
Michael Pollan, “Why Bother?” The New York Times Magazine, April 20, 2008. (Wicked problems reading packet)
Andrew Postman, “The Energy Diet,” The New York Times, October 5, 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/10/05/garden/05green.html?pagewanted=all (Wicked problems reading packet)
Selections from last semester’s State of the City Report – Homelessness Report and Quality of Life Report.
Rebecca Solnit. Selections from A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (Penguin, 2010). (background reading from Hurricane Sandy Case Study)
Addendum as requested by my most loyal reader, Mom: Here is the course description.
We are going to try to learn about how we can live better together. This will involve studying the self, democracy, citizenship, and community, among other things.
The idea is not to help everyone or be do-gooders (as lovely as that is), but the idea is that we have to live on this planet and in this country with other people and we are impacted by each other so it makes sense to try to find ways to make it go better for more people. We’ll learn how to solve problems with other people. We’ll learn what makes communities work well. We’ll learn about different ways of understanding ourselves and how this relates to understanding the communities we live in. This is an interdisciplinary course so it doesn’t focus on one area or discipline. There is an emphasis on thinking outside of disciplinary boxes and instead taking a broader and more holistic approach since the problems we face as a democratic nation in a complex, interdependent world demand a creative citizens who can think and act beyond traditional frameworks and expert solutions.