Some Readings on Writing: Sherman Alexie, Gloria Anzaldua, Stephen King, Mike Rose

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… if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway. (Stephen King, “Reading to Write”)

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Know Your Rights: Blogging in College

The advice Seth Godin gave me on teaching college & how that connects with WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and Pearl Jam…

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In March 2012, I attended the Triiibes Conference in my hometown of Ventura CA. The conference was inspired by Seth Godin’s book, Triiibes, from which an online ning community was formed. That ning is full of Linchpins, whom Godin described in his next book on the same name; however, readers of this blog may be most familiar with Godin from his manifesto on education Stop Stealing Dreams.

That March, while Godin was unable to travel across the country in person from NYC to CA, thanks to technology, he Skyped in to speak with us about being Linchpins and creating and leading Triiibes. We also had the chance to ask him questions; since I am a college teacher who has also taught undergraduate and graduate classes in educational philosophy and had just read Stop Stealing Dreams, I asked him for his advice.

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In Recognition of Martin Luther King Jr

No school on Monday January 20, 2014 at Ventura College! Celebrate MLK’s birthday and honor him by being of service!

Note to current students: links to today’s readings and discussion materials embedded here to make it easier for us to prepare for class.

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From Martin Luther King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, given on 4 February 1968:

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.

You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

imagesYou don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

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New Year, New Semester: What is school for?

Seth Godin in a video worth watching about what school is for

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As my regular readers know, I teach writing at the local community college and I’ve just earned a MA in Community, Liberation, and Ecopsychology.

seth-jodi-alleyPaulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, has been a huge influence on my teaching philosophy, and some semesters, my students and I have read chapter two of that book where he discusses the problems of banking education and suggests instead a problem-posing approach where students name a problem, investigate solutions, and put a solution into action.

Recently, marketing guru Seth Godin and author of Tribes and Linchpins targeted the ills of education: in 2012, he published Stop Stealing Dreams as a free pdf. (I last wrote about Godin’s advice here–this is about public speaking.) As I was already a big Godin fan (see photo!), I read it immediately, and had a chance to talk to Godin about his suggestlens19112751_1338373593aaaaions for…

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Joan Didion’s “Holy Water”

PoseidonPasadenaP1This semester, my English 1A classes are going to tackle some tough environmental problems, with a focus on water.  We’ll also share what we’ve learned at an Earth Day event we’ll organize.  Water has been on my mind for a while now, and in 2013 I was commissioned by the City of Pasadena to write a poem about water and power which will be part of an art installation in 2014 (part of the poem is pictured). I’ve also been concerned about plastic in the ocean and following a lecture by Chris Jordan, I wrote on this topic here and here, as well as a paper for my degree in Ecopsychology.

In anticipation of where we’ll go and what we’ll learn this semester, here is Joan Didion’s celebrated essay “Holy Water” from her 1979 collection of essays, The White Album. I found it here as part of a special look at water called “Thirst” on PBS.

Some of us who live in arid parts of the world think about water with a reverence others might find excessive. The water I will draw tomorrow from my tap in Malibu is today crossing the Mojave Desert from the Colorado River, and I like to think about exactly where that water is. The water I will drink tonight in a restaurant in Hollywood is by now well down the Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens River, and I also think about exactly where that water is: I particularly like to imagine it as it cascades down the 45-degree stone steps that aerate Owens water after its airless passage through the mountain pipes and siphons.(1)

As it happens my own reverence for water has always taken the form of this constant meditation upon where the water is, of an obsessive interest not in the politics of water but in the waterworks themselves, in the movement of water through aqueducts and siphons and pumps and forebays and afterbays and weirs and drains, in plumbing on the grand scale. Continue reading