On learning a new language, a new culture, and why “it must never be concluded that an urge toward the cosmopolitan, toward true education, will make people stop hitting you.”
Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg had a plan to reform Newark’s schools. They got an education.
Memories surface after an old friend reappears; an excerpt from Rahman's forthcoming novel.
All the same, it is not guilt alone that brings me to my desk to put pen to paper and reckon with Zafar’s story, my role and our friendship. Rather, it is something that no single word can begin to describe but which, I hope, will take form as I carry on. All this is quite fitting really – how it ought to be – when I call to mind the subject of my friend’s long-standing obsession. Described as the greatest mathematical discovery of the last century, it is a theorem with the simple message that the farthest reaches of what we can ever know fall short of the limits of what is true, even in mathematics. In a sense, then, I have sat down to venture somewhere undiscovered, without the certainty that it is discoverable."
A new counselor takes a job at a faltering Florida high school.
"The others at the table were talking about summer break, how it had gone too quickly, how the last thing they wanted was to be back at school, at this school. They complained about the heat, the giant mosquitos, the rain—the constant rain—and joked about how wrong it was to be so pissed off already when it was only the first day. Andrew, at the end of the table, nodded and smiled while he munched on a Cuban sandwich, trying to find an in, some common ground."
A young man's connection with a circle-drawing, perceptive young woman.
"Ericka left for two weeks that summer to go to Colorado. Her brother was in the hospital again, and I got the idea that it might be for the last time. I still pictured her in the waiting room. She would be drawing those loopy circles on the hospital’s copies of Vogue and People and Golf Monthly."
An old crush is remembered via childhood memories and an unusual anecdote.
"Then he began wearing pastel skateboarding-themed shirts. SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME, one said. Wallace Marguerite is not committing a crime, Stella thought. It was novel and thrilling, true whether or not he was a skateboarder. She never saw a skateboard."
Tensions rise when a high school teacher fails a star student-athlete.
"Word spread: Jimmy Carter, the prize of the Permian Basin, the boy who could flat-out fly, the jovial kid who never turned in work but still somehow always got Cs, was in danger of getting yanked off the team, all because some Yankee teacher had to show his moral fiber. How convenient that his son just happened to be the backup."
A boy attempts to find common ground with his troubled younger brother.
"Dad glanced at me and his eyes were angry and pointed, but I thought his stern look was the end of it. We pulled into Friedrich a minute later and dropped Tommy off with the other kids in front of the lower school, waiting under the graying sun to be led single-file into classrooms by their teachers. When we got to the middle school carpool, Dad drove right around the circle and back toward the exit without dropping me off. Normally I would’ve been excited at the prospect of being late for school, but as we pulled out onto the main road a thick sense of dread sloshed around in my stomach."
A former teacher on what students lose when elementary schools skimp on science.
A story of friendship and distance between two Filipino-American women.
"If Cathy could ever convince herself to write a story about that night, she’d probably mention how she took Evangeline home after her friend had nearly passed out on the sidewalk in front of the fifth bar they had gone to; she’d admit that she had known that Evangeline wasn’t used to marathon drinking, but that Evangeline didn’t seem to mind. Maybe she’d describe how Evangeline’s laughter buzzed in her ears like flies’ wings as when she had asked Evangeline for her address, and how she watched the lights of downtown Austin illuminate the interior of their cab with its indulgent, wasteful glow. Evangeline had sobered up when they had gotten home, and they helped each other fold out her futon couch, laughing when they realized that they couldn’t figure out how they had done it when they futon finally gave in to their pushing. If words fractured a friendship, alcohol healed it, and she wished it were possible to drown in the amber-colored recklessness of that night forever."
Childhood memories of occupied Manila, 1944.
"My new school was a brick building on a once-busy street of banks and offices about a mile outside Intramuros. Like everything else, the school was overseen by the Japanese. We wore uniforms: khaki shorts, white shirts, white sneakers. Each morning we lined up in the schoolyard, a small fenced-in square of concrete, and while exercise instructions blared from speakers propped in an open window above us, we followed: first bowing to the east, toward the Land of the Rising Sun, next stretching, then running and jumping in place. "
Mystical, unsettling rumors surround a student at an all-girls school in Nigeria.
"We shuddered when we heard her invoke Allah. All but begging her not to unleash her powers on us, we recounted, in turns, how we had heard from someone who had heard from someone of the pencil case in the gym. Pencil case in the gym? What pencil case in what gym? We said that we had heard stories, too, about the blotting paper. Naturally, we made no mention of her Islamic faith. The word ‘witch’ remained unsaid. We said only that, whatever she had done, we were certain she had done for a good reason. And that her adversary, whomever it was, probably deserved it. Nuratu, as the full implication of our story dawned on her, looked as if she had been stabbed. She slowly sank to the floor, and began to weep and shake her head.
In this excerpt from the novel Tampa, a pedophile prepares for her first day of teaching middle school; NSFW.
"The early start time of Jefferson Junior High was one of its main allures: seven thirty a.m. The boys would practically be asleep, their bodies still in various stages of lingering nocturnal arousal. From my desk, I'd be able to watch their exposed hands rubbing across their pants beneath the tables, their shame and their half-inflated genitals arm-wrestling for control."
A poet's first day of teaching in an inner-city school.
"She looks at me through squinting eyes and waits. I drag out one poem about someone’s bad day, to let the students know that poets have bad days too, and that poets’ lives can be mundane and that poets’ lives can be like their lives, and that, therefore, they too can be poets. She takes a large black felt pen and crosses out words. I’m so shocked I just stand there speechless. I’d assumed we were all together in this old school in the depths of Brooklyn, hoping to reach and educate the kids."
In Ramapo, New York, the immigrant community and the growing population of Hasidic Jews had eyed each increasing wariness for years. Then the Hasidim took over the public schools, schools their children do not attend, and proceeded to gut them.
A generation that has seen inestimable violence comes of age in Juarez.
A student navigates the treacherous world of isolation and bullying.
"But you just can’t, that’s all. It’s the one thing you have no talent for: being a little bit brave. You think you could be very brave, if the need arose, and if you had to slay a dragon or fight a Sith Lord. But enduring Paul Boehler’s wedgies and Marvin Grossman’s under-the-breath-threats? It’s too much psychic trouble for so small a reward. You cannot do it. And so you’ll stay here for third period, lunch, too. There is no one to eat with in the cafeteria, no place to sit without feeling alone, and so you eat in the nurse’s office and pretend that you are her assistant. She never really seems to mind, though she sighs a little whenever she looks in your direction."
A woman, originally hired as a tutor for a now-deceased girl, finds herself in the middle of a wealthy couple's mournings and problems.
"At Grace’s next session on Park Avenue, Mrs. Bank does something she hasn’t done since the first session: she comes into Perry’s bedroom. Grace is flipping through online photos of kids who stuck with the theater program when she senses she’s not alone and pretends to be scribbling history cards. But when she casually turns a minute later, it’s obvious Mrs. Bank isn’t paying attention to what she’s doing at the desk. Instead Mrs. Bank is sitting in Perry’s pink armchair, the one that’s usually colonized by old stuffed animals and American Girl dolls, looking out the window at Midtown."
The former chancellor of New York City schools was not, in fact, “a child of the streets. He was not an academically unmotivated student. He did not come from a deprived family background. He did not grow up in public housing as we understand it today.”
A new teacher begins work at a TB hospital in rural Canada.
"The number of students who showed up varied. Fifteen, or down to half a dozen. Mornings only, from nine o'clock till noon. Children were kept away if their temperature had risen or if they were undergoing tests."
The failed deposal of a university president.
A year at a “low-performing” high school in San Francisco.
Adolescent desires and yearnings permeate the memories of an all-boys academy.
"At school, we were allowed to wear costumes but were not allowed to bring treats. So we'd made the most of it -- we wore our costumes, we overcrowded the hallways with streams of sleepy ghosts. And often, through the punctured eyeholes of our masks, we tried to imagine how things might be if only we had girls. We envisioned an influx of princesses, maybe a witch or two or three positioned by the lockers. But we were an academy, an all-boys academy, and the possibility of both girls and treats were, in Principal Foster's eyes, completely out of the question."
A classroom of troubled children take a trip to a bowling alley.
"Mr. Chiasson shouted at him to stop. When he wouldn’t Mr. Chiasson seized his shoulder and shook it. Then he moved over to Ryan. Ryan’s snoring head lay on his desk. Mr. Chiasson never tried to wake him when he fell asleep. One day a supply teacher covering for Mr. Chiasson made the mistake of waking him up and he bashed a bowling trophy over her head. They had to get a new trophy, and a new supply teacher."
Not exactly Valentine's Day: an English professor in Chicago, lost in grief, begins dating a student.
"I can't even figure out what it is in Eric, why he sometimes reminds me of my old boyfriend. It's something in the way their faces shift, but I can never pin it down to a feeling or a cause. It surprises me right out of sleep."
Undercover as a student at Phoenix University, the largest for-profit higher education company in the country and the second-largest enroller of students (behind the SUNY system), where only 12 percent of first-time students graduate and the ad budget accounts for 30 percent of overall spending.
Ethnicity and primary education in Bosnia & Herzegovina.Part of Guernica's 'Writer's Bloc' series.
The present and future collide with the romance,collaboration, and tensions of two college classmates.
"Right now, the beanbag thunks into Scott’s left palm. His eyes still itch and he feels the grief he’ll feel again at the end of the semester. A ghost Scott moves to shut the dorm room door. If he closes the door, he and Tony will never meet. Tony will never learn how to hurt Scott in a way that only he can be hurt. Tony will never hurt him in a way that anyone can be hurt."
A high school band teacher engages in a psychological battle with an earnest yet musically-challenged student.
"Mr. Helmholtz started to shout after Plummer, to bring him back and tell him bluntly that he didn’t have the remotest chance of getting out of C Band ever; that he would never be able to understand that the mission of a band wasn’t simply to make noises, but to make special kinds of noises. But Plummer was off and away."
On Al Vernacchio, the best sex ed teacher in America.
How American higher education became a summer camp doubling as a debt factory.
A substitute teacher entices and repels her students with mysterious "substitute facts."
"'Pyramids,' Miss Ferenczi said, still looking past the window. 'I want you to think about pyramids. And what was inside. The bodies of the pharaohs, of course, and their attendant treasures. Scrolls. Perhaps,' Miss Ferenczi said, her face gleeful but unsmiling, 'these scrolls were novels for the pharaohs, helping them to pass the time in their long voyage through the centuries. But then, I am joking.'"
Alumni report in secret on Delphian, the mysterious boarding school that Scientology built in the mountains of Oregon.
From Winesburg, Ohio, this classic short stands as a model of character description and authorial empathy.
"The story of Wing Biddlebaum's hands is worth a book in itself. Sympathetically set forth it would tap many strange, beautiful qualities in obscure men. It is a job for a poet."
A year with an autistic 20-year-old.
Inside the lives of students at an elite Beijing high school in the months leading up to gaokao, literally “high test,” the national university admittance exam.
With fewer and fewer students having the income necessary to pay back loans (except through the use of more consumer debt), a massive default looks closer to inevitable.
On the emerging student loan bubble.
What happens in the classroom when a state begins to evaluate all teachers, at every grade level, based on how well they “grow” their students’ test scores? Colorado is about to find out.
Ramón González’s middle school is a model for how an empowered principal can transform a troubled school. But can he maintain that momentum when the forces of reform are now working against him?
Cathie Black, former magazine executive, currently Bloomberg’s hand-picked Chancellor of New York City schools
The first article in a two-part history of the Educational Testing Service, the institution behind the SAT.
A critique of Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for 'Superman'.
A new strain of educational thought (and practice) involves embracing the technology of the moment - which means bringing video games into the classroom.
Across the country, little-known schools are accepting almost everyone who applies, cashing a lot of checks, and offering so little support that only the most determined students leave with a degree.