A Commitment to Change

“After six long years, why do you remain so committed to The Purple Pen?” A Commitment to Change Prior to the last six Purple Pen years, I taught — and learned — in four very-different-from-one-another Chicago high schools. English was my subject and passion. I witnessed so many teachers positively impacting the lives of youngerContinue reading “A Commitment to Change”

In the learning process, is the student an asset or a deficit?

In the learning process, is the student an asset or a deficit? Broadly, two mindsets have been competing for the direction of learning in America. Classic mindsets: the quantitative, data-driven mindset and the qualitative, human-driven mindset. And, clearly, one mindset has been winning. Equally clear is the pedagogical cost of that mindset’s march toward elusive victory. Oh,Continue reading “In the learning process, is the student an asset or a deficit?”

Teaching is . . .

Teaching is . . . Teaching is not easy. No matter what some in society may think. Not the commitment to every single child in the individualized way that his/her personality, skill-level, and learning style demand. Not the unlimited reservoir of patience and relationship creativity that being present to young people requires. Not the countless hours planning andContinue reading “Teaching is . . .”

As to Bs: A Beginning

As to Bs: A Beginning This is about curriculum. Arguably, the most important curriculum there is to the future of a human and his/her society. ∞∞∞∞∞ A quiet boy, no more than fourteen. The walls peel inward while classmates eyeball the boy, in the rear corner, and me, in the front. Dry October leaves pile inContinue reading “As to Bs: A Beginning”

Hunger Games: The Parable (Redux…)

Hunger Games: The Parable (Redux…) Chicago is one heart- and mind-numbing community. During this past holiday weekend, Chicago experienced horrific human-on-human violence: 82 shot, 14 killed. Whether living in Chicago or outside it, one way that many of us understand and cope with a rate of violence that can feel so overwhelming is to draw implicit boundaries around Chicago’s more violent,Continue reading “Hunger Games: The Parable (Redux…)”

III. Land and Sea

III. Land and Sea How impactful to land is this one fault line below the sea of educational politics? The tsunami of educational empiricism, which has reduced the meaning and value of learning to numbers, covers nearly all the land. Only those on the high score ground are relatively unaffected. The tsunami’s saltwater has infiltrated the underground fresh waterContinue reading “III. Land and Sea”

II. Like Fresh Water, Intelligence is

II. Like Fresh Water, Intelligence is Children are born intelligent. Intelligence is not circumstantial. Intelligence births regardless of the circumstance into which the learner is birthed. Black, white, brown. Poor, rich, other. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic. Female, male. Urban, suburban, rural. Separate from the salty currents of educational politics, each child exists as the landedContinue reading “II. Like Fresh Water, Intelligence is”

I. Deep beneath, the Fault Line agitates

I. Deep beneath, the Fault Line agitates A Triptych Deep beneath the swiftly changing, ever dangerous political surface of public education, is there a single tremulous fault line causing these hostile currents? Could one such tectonic fault line, tremoring and quaking, cause even the present tsunami of empiricism in education? Deep within the sea of our human consciousness, then reflected in political action, areContinue reading “I. Deep beneath, the Fault Line agitates”

The Tin Man

The Tin Man “Mine is not a story to pass on,” the student offers, resigned, yet knowing full well that I will. How can I, an American educator, not? “Who will listen, anyway?” the perennial American student continues. Plenty. What is this story you don’t want passed on? “Well . . . “ I’m listening.Continue reading “The Tin Man”

An Ode to Teachers

An Ode to Teachers As energies, giving and taking do not dwell well within one special human, a teacher. To teachisTo give.Always. To fight is to want to take.Now.And, as teachers, we will fight. When backed into corners, teachers fight. Class size. Salaries. Pensions. These are things teachers should fight with society’s decision makers about. Teachers in allContinue reading “An Ode to Teachers”


Humanism Recently, two young teachers recently offered me wildly contrasting views on humanist education. You know, humanism, where [1] the individual student’s cognitive, social, and emotional development is the teacher’s and school’s central focus and [2] the curriculum accentuates “an inclusive sensibility for our species, planet, and lives.” One of the teachers sees humanist education more to the right, regrettablyContinue reading “Humanism”

Belmont Avenue

Belmont Avenue Evening. Chicago.Late 80s. Just endedSpring showerSteams the warmPavement.A Big appetiteNeighborhoodWith more walkers thanWheelsAnd moremale walkers than female. Et tu, César. After eating at a Greek diner, Cyrene and I stroll down a busy Belmont Avenue. Cyrene enjoys regaling me with stories of his many summers spent in Montreal. I, recently an undergrad, have little conception ofContinue reading “Belmont Avenue”