Tag Archives: books

Rewriting History, One Textbook At A Time

November 20th, 2014

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell

There is an epidemic and it is sweeping across continents, again. I’m not speaking of an infectious disease that is rapidly spreading and infecting a large swath of the population. I am speaking of a different kind of an epidemic that has happened before and is happening again. It’s target: school textbooks.

Recently in Russia, a purge has started where hundreds of textbooks that for many years have been used by the schoolchildren and their teachers at the country’s 43,000 schools have been scrapped and deemed unsuitable. The reasons given have been a series of bureaucratic nitpicking mixed with accusations of unpatriotic content. Not only has this rash ban on textbooks by the Ministry of Education and Science upset curriculum and lesson plans, angered principals, teachers and parents, but is also threatening the livelihood of the small publishers for the textbook market. The purge, however, appears to have cleared the way for Enlightenment–a publishing house that used to be the sole provider of school textbooks during the Soviet era–whose CEO is a close friend of Mr. Putin, Russia’s President. To get an idea of how Enlightenment, ended up in such a cushy position, please read the article by Jo Becker and Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times. Now that the power of textbook publishing rests in the hands of a publisher with ties to the former Soviet era and the country’s current ruling powers, one is apt to expect that the content of history textbooks will soon be revised to meet the political views of those in charge today.

Next, we head over to China, where education officials are thinking of changing elementary and middle school textbooks to include more subjects on Chinese philosophy and literature in an effort to emphasize China’s cultural heritage. If the Ministry of Education approves these changes, they would go into effect next September in time for the new school year. What is unclear is if these changes are approved which components of the existing curricula will be dropped to make room for the new subjects? Are there any qualified teachers in China who are available to teach the traditional Chinese language and literature? The young teachers today were educated under the influence of Chinese Communism. Most of the experienced teachers with knowledge of these traditional subjects are long gone. How will these subjects be taught in today’s modern China?

Moving on to Japan and South Korea, we see their respective Prime Minister and President, each pushing to have high school history textbooks rewritten to reflect their political views. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe has instructed the country’s Ministry of Education to revise the textbooks so that they are more patriotic and no longer include Japan’s atrocities during WWII. The South Korean, President, Ms. Park Geun-hye, wishes to downplay and do away with Korea’s history of collaboration with the Japanese colonial authorities and have the textbooks rewritten so that Koreans are seen as having been coerced into collaboration rather than having done so willingly. Much of this push has to do with the fact that a majority of South Korea’s professionals and elite members of the civil service come from families that did in fact collaborate with the Japanese colonizers.

And, right here in the USA, we recently heard news of students and teachers in Jefferson County, Colorado, protesting a controversial conservative plan to change the AP U.S. History curriculum to stress more positive elements and “promote patriotism and avoid encouragement of civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” The students, their parents and teachers opposing the proposed changes see them as censorship and an attempt by the conservative board to rewrite history in accordance to its own political views.

I’m sure by now you see the common thread amongst the sampling of countries mentioned in this blog. There’s no better way to sum this up but with this quote from “The Lost Sisterhood,” by the writer Anne Fortier: “He always says that those who control the present can rewrite the past.”


The Frustrated Evaluator


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Love and Romance: Our 3 Favorites in Music, Literature, Art and Film

February 13th, 2014

Last year for Valentine’s Day we posted a blog on how different cultures and countries celebrate the day. This year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve invited three of my friends and contributors to ACEI’s AcademicExchange blog to chime in and share their most favorite romantic songs/musical compositions, literary creations, film and art. Here are some of their personal favorites.

Contributor: Tom Schnabel

My three picks in the music category are:

“I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos

Tom: “This is a late 50’s doo wop classic and always makes me swoon with wonder and fills my heart.”

“Romeo and Juliet” by Tchaikovsky.

Tom: This is the story of passion against a backdrop of doomed love. It also reflects some of the great composer’s conflicts of being a famous closeted gay man in Tsarist Russia. The melody theme comes about 10′ after the opening and is one of the most ravishing melodies in all of music.

“In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel.

Tom: This mid-80s song is a longtime favorite, and still resonates with listeners today.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Check out Tom’s show Rhythm Planet and his blog

Contributor: Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

This was a tough assignment as there are so many brilliant works of literature by authors who have tackled love and romance. I see a theme in the three I’ve picked for this post and that is their timelessness and relevance to today’s times.

Here are 3 of my favorites from a very long list:

“Jane Eyre” (pub. 1847) by Charlotte Bronte.

Jasmin: Jane Eyre, has been one of favorites since I was a teen and the book was required reading in school. Set in Victorian England, the novel’s gothic, melancholic tone and the hauntingly imposing “Thornfield” manor, home of its moody and mysterious master, Mr. Rochester, shows Jane’s evolution from a young woman into adulthood. Though her love for Rochester is palpable, she’s not willing to settle for anything less than she feels she deserves. Jane Eyre is considered by many to have been ahead of its time given its exploration of such taboo subjects like sexism, religion, and class structure. Jane’s single-minded character, her strong desire to be Rochester’s equal but remain independent (she has no reservation in advertising for a new post as governess when she thinks her current post is ending) is also a bold feminist statement at a time when such sentiments were neither welcomed nor discussed openly.

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Jasmin: All my friends and family will vouch for me when I say that I’m a certified loyal fan of Jane Austen’s novels. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a classic tale of love and misunderstanding set in early 19th-century class-conscious England. It depicts a time when the choices young English women had was either marry, become a governess, join a convent or enter the oldest profession to survive. Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist in Austen’s novel, is an intelligent, educated and like Jane Eyre, another single-minded independent young woman who refuses to abide by the traditions of the time. The novel shows us the world through Elizabeth’s eyes and the love that evolved between her and Mr. Darcy, member of the landed gentry, as she lets go of her prejudice and he overcomes his pride.

“The Red and the Black” by Stendhal

Jasmin: I first read the English translation of Le Rouge et le Noir by Marie-Henri Beyle–the French author who is best known by his pen name Stendhal–in my early 20’s, fresh out of college and wondering what I wanted to do with my life. It’s not a “romantic” novel, per se, but love does play a part in the protagonist’s life that ultimately betrays him. The novel is a sociological satire of 19th century France and chronicles the life of Julien Sorel, a young man of modest means from the French provinces who rises up the social ladder amidst hypocrisy, deception, emotional and romantic entanglements fueled by jealousy. He’s imprisoned after attempting to kill the married woman he had once loved when he finds out that she had a written a negative character reference calling him a social-climbing scoundrel who preyed upon emotionally vulnerable wealthy women. His love for her is resurrected when she visits him in prison which she continues to do so until his execution by the guillotine.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

Art: Paintings
Contributor: Clayton Winston Johans

Well Ladies and Gents I was hoping to get to some more somber and less fantastical representations of Love’s joys and outcomes however, I could not pass up these three classical representations of love incarnate, despite either infamy or popularity!

“The Kiss” (1907) by Gustav Klimt


Clayton: Gustav Klimt appearing in the world, July 14 1862 and leaving it, February 6 1918 is considered one of the most prolific Austrian painters of the 20th Century.

Utilizing inspiration from Bizantine mosaics and use of actual gold leafing techniques, Gus cranked out the The Kiss and other paintings of variable similarity in a series of paintings  later deemed a part of his ” Gold Phase”.

Here is how I feel the situation went down from the Man’s point of view:

(Read slow for best results)

I cloak myself in gold and meet her in the fire. 

Hips swivel and one knee rises as she turns to me,
revealing a river of hair that splays across the
sheen like a splash of molten copper.
Palming my hand across her cheek, she embraces my breath.
I greet her. 
A kiss for life, a kiss for now.

Two ivory figures liquescent, amongst a spread of velveteen amber.

“Romance” (1932) by Thomas Hart Benton


Clayton: Thomas Hart Benton April 15, 1889-January 19, 1975 was a Missouri Native and American surrealist. It can be said for the sake of description that Benton’s work was centered around working class American life and its simplicities and colors as seen through a warped looking glass (perhaps the bottom of a wine bottle). To put it simply, Romance 1932 was inspired by two young lovers sharing the joyous contemplation of life’s beauty and plainness while walking together.

Be aware that my interpretation of how the Woman’s feelings are depicted in this image are based solely on my view that this painting is of a couple’s nightly stroll, regardless of the hues and values that obviously suggest otherwise:

That air was so sweet with life and I breathed it in as we walked past the house.
That mother pearl shone above us,
lighting our way through our walk in that night.
Just the two of us. Yes just us, walked past that oak tree.
Looking at him and him back with delight.
He said I was all smiles, brighter than the moon herself.
Like flower of the night.

“Amor and Psyche” (1638) by Anthony Van Dyck


Clayton: Van Dyck, Flemmish Baroque painter, known for his time spent painting for the English Royal court, illustrated a scene from one of Rome’s most romantic stories ever told, Cupid and Psyche.

I can’t make up a better description than this:

Jealous of her magical love affair with Cupid (Amor), Psyche’s sisters convince her that her mysterious lover is a demon.  Deceived and curious to know the truth, Psyche seeks out her lover’s identity, where they meet in the dark with a lamp and a dagger. At the site of her true lover’s beautiful demi-god form, she cries in surprise, spilling hot oil on his body. Cupid flees to his house in the heavens and his mother Venus casts Psyche on an odyssey to appease the gods for her treachery. When Psyche completes the final task of retrieving a box full of Proserpina’s* tears said to cause everlasting beauty, she is struck with curiosity to look inside the box.  Upon opening the box, she is struck unconscious and enters a deep state of sleep. Cupid, all wounds healed, sets out for his love and awakens and brings her before Jupiter. In trade for his servitude, Jupiter happily weds Cupid with Psyche. At the wedding feast, Jupiter feeds Psyche ambrosia, sealing their lives and love eternally.

* (Queen of the Underworld)

Clayton Winston-Johans
Director of Communications, ACEI


The Frustrated Evaluator’s picks:

I decided to jump in here and throw in 3 of my favorite films on love and romance. They may not be your traditional favorites, e.g. Casablanca, Gone With The Wind, Doctor Zhivago, and even contemporaries like When Harry Met Sally, etc… (which happen to be favorites of mine), but ones I think address love and romance in not so traditional ways.

Harold and Maude (1971)


Frustrated Evaluator: Simply put this is a love story between a young man Harold and a much older (79-year old) woman, Maude played by Ruth Gordon. Through Maude, Harold who’s intrigued with death learns to live life to its fullest and begins to see and appreciate life as the most precious gift of all.

The Graduate (1967)


Frustrated Evaluator: Directed by Mike Nichols, this film is the story of a young college graduate Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) who is seduced by an older married woman, Mrs. Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft) and ends up falling in love with her daughter Elaine (played by Katharine Ross). Let’s also not forget the terrific soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkle. The film is classic boy meets girl (Benjamin is set up on a date with Elaine), boy loses girl (after he breaks the news to her that he was having an affair with her mother), boy wins girl (crashed Elaine’s wedding to Carl and takes her away). But it is the final scene, the last shot, that sticks with you where a disheveled Benjamin and Elaine still in her wedding dress sitting in the back seat of a bus. At first they seem ecstatic and exhilarated by what they had just pulled off but gradually their expression changes as they both realize what they had done. You can hear them both thinking: “Now What?

WALL-E (2008)


Frustrated Evaluator: Not just another one of Pixar’s usual genius with animation but a love story. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that was once our planet but abandoned for eons. WALL-E is the robot that remains on this wasteland and reminds us of what we all need and seek: companionship, protection and trust. I never expected to get wrapped up in the romance between a pair of robots. But I did and so will you.

I know this is cheating and we were all asked to give 3 of our favorites, but I’m going to sneak in a few more of my odd and not so odd romantic favorites: Star Man, The Lady and the Tramp (animation), The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Crying Game, Jules and Jim, Gilda, Brief Encounter, In the Mood for Love, Lost in Translation, and one my favorites from the ‘80’s “Say Anything,” which compliments Tom’s favorite music selection.

Hope you like our list. Now, it’s your turn: Tell us what are your favorite romantic films, novels, music and paintings?

And, Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Frustrated Evaluator

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George Whitman, Shakespeare & Co., and what I learned from living in Paris

December 29, 2011

George Whitman died recently at the ripe old age of 98.   He took over the famous Left Bank bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., after the original owner, Sylvia Beach, left it at the onset of World War II. She ran it as a publishing company that famously published James Joyce’s revolutionary novel Ulysses in 1922. The book was banned in the U.S., no American publisher would publish it.  It was considered obscene.  But what is considered obscene in America is often considered great literature or art in Paris.  George Whitman took over the book store part after she left and ran it pretty much until he was in his 90s and infirm; his daughter then took over.

My three years in Paris in the 1970s taught me much more than I ever learned in college. When in Paris you discover Arab and African culture. The powerful music emanating from these regions, and the art that moved Picasso, Debussy, and Brancusi to create fabulous new works. I heard a lot of African Arabic music that was simply out of reach in LA. I also learned about the great multi-ethnic food culture of the City of Lights, both 3 star and three-franc, as well as the joys of walking in a city designed for the pedestrian instead of the car. And plenty of good slang.

You learn from living abroad. You come to understand how other people live and think. Cultural differences become less important. I was concerned, when George Bush was elected in 1998, that he’d never travelled outside the U.S. This lack of understanding certainly colored his presidency after September 11th, 2001, and his self-righteous, chauvinistic crusader behavior reflected this ignorance.

But back to Shakespeare & Co. and George Whitman. I got to know George Whitman while in Paris in 1970 and a student at the Sorbonne.  I had gone to Paris because I spoke French, loved France, nouvelle vague movies as well as Luis Bunuel and Jacques Tati. And Flaubert, Gide, Balzac, Stendhal, Voltaire, ad infinitum.  I loved that great photo of Jean Paul Belmondo smoking the Gaulois. And then there was the ultimate sex kitten, Brigitte Bardot. But, truth be told, I was also trying to delay draft induction into the army and be sent to Vietnam.

I liked the store for several reasons.  It was well-heated, had books everywhere, both in English and French. Books were much cheaper there than at the French bookstores (books are $$$ in France).  There were lots of comfy chairs to peruse what you found there, and no obligation to buy.  I didn’t go there to socialize, though many people did.  George to his credit also took in the homeless, hungry, and lonely crowd.  Shakespeare & Co. was a true literary and social oasis.

Obits have written about George Whitman’s lifelong commitment to running the store. For my part, I found him cantankerous, crotchety, and bilious.  I must have told him that I was living there partly because I had a small trust fund that my brother, sister and I got when we turned 21.  I must have told George about this, because he began pestering me every time I came in to buy the store from him.  It was the last thing I wanted at the time—I was only 23–but he just kept asking, but it seemed to me at the time that he, at 57, had had enough of it and wanted to unload the store.

I sometimes visited French libraries—don’t ask me why bookstores are called libraries in France……bibliothèque is the word for library—-but found the beautifully-bound paperbacks very expensive and beyond my budget.  One day, emerging from the Presses Universitaires near the Sorbonne, I was arrested by the C.R.S.–the French riot police–and thrown in jail.  There was a student demonstration at the Pantheon that I didn’t even know about.  But my carte de sejour said I was a Sorbonne student and that was enough.  I have a police record (dossier) there…I found this out when I was applying for a work permit after returning and getting a teaching job at the École Universelle a few years later.   I was awarded a knighthood by the French government a few years ago for helping promote Francophone music, and have a nice green medal framed in my office.  Now if I could only get my police record to proudly frame and put next to it. Wonder if there is a freedom of information act in France?

So George Whitman is gone, but Shakespeare & Co. is there for future generations of people, bibliophiles or not, to discover.  It’s there where it’s always been, on the Left Bank close to Notre Dame, Cluny, the Sorbonne., and all the wonders of Paris’ Latin Quarter.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program KCRW 89.9 FM Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW (rhythm planet / KCRW)
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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We Make the Road By Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change

A Pith Book Review
July 21, 2011

I was already a dedicated fan of Paulo Freire when my professor assigned the book. I had already fallen in love with the paradoxically romantic and pragmatic tale of Freire’s endeavor to effect social change in his homeland Brazil by teaching the most marginalized people to read so they could vote. What I didn’t know going into this book was that Freire had a theoretic doppelgänger in the Appalachian Mountains of America, named Myles Horton. “We Make the Road by Walking” is a collection of candid, provocative and intimate conversations between Myles and Paulo, two lovers of freedom through education.

At its’ heart, the book is about pedagogy. Both Freire and Horton were as concerned with the “how” as the “what” of education, so to speak. They talk extensively about how the teachers approach will determine the success or failure to build positive relationships in the learning environment; relationships that inform the selection of content. Students, and their experiences, are to be respected as critical aspects of the learning process. In fact, in the author’s view, the content of curricula cannot be determined in absence of the students.

Throughout his work, Freire refers to the “banking” style of education wherein the technician (teacher) deposits predetermined information into the account (student) and expectantly awaits a formulaic outcome. According to Freire, this style of education contributes to oppression, rather than freedom. In conversation with Horton, Freire says:

For me there is a certain sensualism in writing and reading—
And in teaching, in knowing…Knowing for me is not a neutral
Act, not only from the political point of view, from the point of view
Of my body, my sensual body. It is full of feelings, of emotions, of

The conversations take place at the home of Myles Horton. He talks about the importance of finding a process for learning, rather than relying only on books, or teachers, to get answers. Horton views teachers as guides rather than gatekeepers of information. A teacher doesn’t need to know every answer. A teacher needs to be skilled in helping students find their own answers.

What shines through in reading this book is the depth of value these two revolutionary thinkers hold for the process of education. Its hard not to be affected by the kindred spirit infused with love these two share.

For anyone seeking to renew and inspire a love of education, I recommend this endearing book. I go back to it and visit the ideas like old friends each time I need to remember the essence of my role as an educator. It is a truly grounded, yet somehow magical, account of how learning can unite people to work for a common good while empowering each and every one.

by Abby Wills, MA

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