The great pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty wrote how college professors should do more than just assign text books. One of the books that always makes my list is The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.
I do not do this to curry favor with students, but I saw something in this story that went beyond politics. I first read this book during my senior year at college, and realized it was the one of the only books that I read cover to cover in four years.
When I realized that a guy in prison could read more books than I did in college, it woke me up. I wanted my students to see that if a man in jail can read more books than they did in school that something was wrong.
Just last semester, I bought a copy and gave it one of my students. I told her that I thought the book would encourage her to read more, but the book is only useful if it is read in its entirety. The beginning of the story is uncomfortable, but gradually gets better.
There is some controversy about how we teach history to younger students, and Malcolm X is back in the news because of it. This is nothing new. School systems went from teaching history to teaching “social studies” as a way to put sentiment over substance, which is not good education policy.
If students want to know about people like Malcolm X, the best way to do it is to read the autobiography. In his own story he is not portrayed as a squeaky clean part of American history. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
It was, however, kind of ironic how some parents were angry that teachers were imposing their opinions on students and not letting them write about this in class. Is this really new?
In 1984, Junior High School 202 social studies teacher Mr. George Kahn had a “Mondale-Ferraro, The Winning Ticket ‘84” placard stapled to the wall in class. This was outright campaigning in the classroom.
There is a lot to learn there about America in the 1960s in stories like this, some good and some not so good. The best leaders in any community are flawed. But these are gateway books. This gets students into other subject matters. That was the idea I had with my book list and why I keep this book as part of it.
Everything is Awesome!
Go see the Lego Movie, even if you do not have kids. Although, if you do not have a child with you, bring a friend, because that would just be creepy otherwise.
It is a fun movie written at levels for adults and children. Much of the movie is a stylized confusing storyline that gets tied up so perfectly at the end that it makes this a “must see.”
This has never been an entertainment column, but the opening song alone makes it awesome.