Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Booknote: Teachers as Cultural Workers

I debated for a while whether I wanted to post this review or not in the blog. I was reading this book during ACRL Immersion this past summer (mostly during the trip back and forth and in the evenings before bed). I have been meaning to write down some of my reflections from that experience here in the blog, but the daily grind at work means that has gotten sent to the back burner. Then again, a lot of my blogging has been sent to the back burner as of late, but let us look past that for now. I am posting my small review as I posted it on my GoodReads profile, and then I will jot down a couple of ideas from the book that I jotted down in my personal journal that are worth sharing (well, to me anyways).

Teachers as Cultural Workers (Edge, Critical Studies in Educational Theory)Teachers as Cultural Workers by Paulo Freire

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished this a couple of days ago, but it took me a while to finally get around to reviewing it. I am giving it three stars, but it is not because it is a bad book. The book can be a bit repetitive, especially if you have read some of Freire's other works, and a few passages can be a little dry. Having said that, there is a lot in this book for teachers and educators to reflect upon. I found myself making notes in my personal journal at various times, jotting down passages and quotes I wanted to remember for later. Freire covers a lot of ground in this book from the teaching of reading to the behavior of teachers, from the teaching act to political action and activism. I think a lot of what Freire wrote in this book is very relevant today if educators would take the time to read the book, reflect on it, then take action. I also think that the book has a lot to say to librarians, who are educators as well, and who often do a lot of teaching (especially if you are an instruction librarian, but even at the reference desk some degree of teaching goes on). Some of it also speaks to our profession in terms of the idea of library neutrality, a topic I have considered before (I have a book just on that topic listed in my GoodReads lists if anyone is interested).

I took this book with me when I went to Immersion (ACRL Institute on Information Literacy for those not in librarianship, an intensive institute for instruction librarians) this past summer. In part, I was looking for a bit of inspiration. I think I also longed to read something that is not necessarily present in the Immersion curriculum (or if it is, it is very well hidden or unacknowledged). I think Freire has a lot that can speak to librarians, if we take the time to listen.

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Additional notes from and about the book:

Freire gives a suggestion on writing:

"If we think about the intimate relationship between reading, writing, and thinking and about our need to intensely experience this relationship, we might accept the suggestion that at least three times a week we should devote ourselves to the task of writing something. That writing could be notes about something read, a commentary about some event reported in the media, a letter to an unknown person--it doesn't matter what. It is also a good idea to date and keep these writings and, a few months later, critically analyze them" (45-46). 

This sounded to me like a pretty good argument for keeping and writing in a personal journal, which is something I have been doing for years now, even if not in the most consistent way. This may also be another explanation, for me, of why I keep a journal. I need to experience that intimate relationship between reading, writing and thinking. I have expressed before in some previous writings of mine that writing helps me think and work out ideas. Lately I have been doing more writing in my personal journal than blogging. Part of it has been time constraints. Work has been very busy, and at the end of the day, it is easier to just write in my journal for a while than fire up the computer and open the blogging program. Another reason is that, to be honest, a lot of the drama in the librarian sector of the blogosphere just does not interest me, so I would rather just not blog about certain things. I am still reading a bit of the library literature; I just have not gotten around to blogging some of those notes.

There are a few other things I jotted down, but I am choosing not to blog them here. However this passage on progressive educators moved me, and it made me think about our profession as well. Freire writes:

"Progressive educators need to convince themselves that they are not only teachers--this doesn't exist-- not only only teaching specialists. We are political militants because we are teachers. Our job is not exhausted in the teaching of math, geography, syntax, history. Our job implies that we teach these subjects with sobriety and competence, but it also requires our involvement in and dedication to overcoming social injustice" (103-104). 

That may be a large reason why I became first a teacher and then a librarian. In fact, I think this is very applicable to to librarians, especially those of us in reference and instruction. To me, this takes me back once more to the question of library neutrality. How neutral can we really in a world of social injustice? I know what I would answer, but I also know a lot of my professional brethren choose to ignore the issue, evade it, or in some cases just do not care. And as Forrest Gump would say, "that's all I got to say about that." By the way, if you are interested in the topic of library neutrality, this book may be of interest.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Booknote: The Surrogates, 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge, Book 12

With The Surrogates, I come to the end of the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge. I did cut it close there at the end. I will admit that was part of the reason I put in a couple of graphic novels into the list. I can read those a bit faster, so I could move along the list a bit quicker as needed. By finishing today (actually, I finished the book last night, but I did not get to write the review until today), I managed to get the challenge done before the September 5 deadline. I will say this was a bit challenging because I tend to read a lot by serendipity. There were moments when I just did not really feel like reading a book on the list when I had other things I was more interested in. The challenge did give me the chance to read some books that had been sitting on my shelves for a while, and that is a good thing. I also got to read a pretty eclectic selection, and that is also a good thing. Now that the challenge is done, I am moving along with other books. My three readers may want to tune back in at the end of this year or early part of next year where I will post my annual reading list and reading reflection.

Here is the review of the book as I posted it on my GoodReads profile:

The SurrogatesThe Surrogates by Robert Venditti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only thing I will say upfront not so positive is that I had a bit of mixed feelings at the end, which I will not reveal because I think this book deserves to be read. And to be honest, an ending that does make you think a bit is a good thing. It certainly is something you do not get often when you think of graphic novels and comics. So, that out of the way, let's look at the rest of the book.

The book is a nice blend of a police procedural/mystery and science fiction. In a world where humans now have the option to live their lives via mechanical surrogates, people do not have to leave their homes and worry about anything. But they can still go to work, so on. The authors did excellent work thinking about the implications of such a society, and they really do an excellent work bringing it to life. In this world, there is a terrorist that destroys surrogates in a quest to make the world go back to living a real life. The protagonist is the detective tasked with stopping him. Among the suspects is a cult leader who leads a faction that sees surrogates as aberrations. This all has the makings of a very good story, and the authors do deliver on that front.

The art is not too realistic, but the style matches the gritty, kind of noir setting the authors wish to evoke. It does feel right in relation to the story. In addition, the book has textual materials (news articles, a brochure for surrogates, so on) that add to the authenticity of the story. I will warn that if you are more of a visual reader, taking the time to read some of these extras found at the end of each chapter can slow your reading pace a bit. But I think readers will find some of the materials interesting. Additionally, this particular edition has a series of extras after the story: a deleted scene, author commentary, so on. If you like knowing how a comic is crafted, you may enjoy reading through this part.

This is the comic series that gave basis to the recent The Surrogates film. I have not seen it, but knowing Hollywood, I have a feeling they probably mucked it up. But being curious, I will likely watch it if I get a chance. Overall, this is one of the best graphic novels I have read so far this year. It has a good story, depth, good art, and good science fiction.

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Update Note (9/4/11): Mark Lindner, who was also doing the challenge, has posted his tally and reflection on his challenge. Note he did read quite a challenging list. I went a bit easy on my self by adding the graphic novels. And hey, a list with Borges in it is definitely a plus for me. Go on and have a look.  

Update Note (10/2/11): Latter Day Bohemian has posted the final roundup for the challenge. Have a look.