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Let the wild rumpus start!

by Elena on Oct 15th, 2009

The highly-anticipated film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are comes out this week. Today, the New York Times’s “Learning Network” blog posted a lesson plan titled “No More Moldy Oldies: Appreciating Classic Texts,” with suggestions for teaching Sendak’s classic, which was published in 1963. Their approach seems to indicate that today’s elementary school students need some help getting interested in the “wild rumpus,” which begs the question–will kids be interested in the film? Even if they aren’t, it’s clear that theaters will be packed with adults who remember the book fondly.

In anticipation of the movie, I’ve been thinking a lot about the particular pull of “one of the most beloved books of all time,” as the movie trailer puts it. I have been asking my friends, all in their twenties, what they remember about reading it when they were younger and whether they are excited to see the film adaptation. The results have been quite varied. My friend Nick, who is a writer and musician, says:

As a child I thought a lot about how the monsters were ferocious but not particularly scary. I was a supremely frightened child. I got anxious about things that didn’t exist, like walking dolls and gruesome corpsemen, and about things that did exist, like war and car crashes. But the wild things didn’t scare me one lick. They represent(ed) mischief rather than malice, and their world was inviting.

It’s true: in the book the wild things “roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth,” but something about their strange, wide-eyed faces and lumpy bodies renders them lovable. My friend Max, who shares a name with the book’s protagonist, remembers the way the book celebrates rebellion:

I think that’s probably the best part about the story, that although Max is portrayed as having misbehaved in the beginning, there’s never the moment where he realizes that he misbehaved and feels guilty about it and says sorry (or maybe there is–I haven’t read the book in probably ten years). He just goes on misbehaving until he tires of it, and then goes home and gets his dinner once he’s calmed down. He’s actually rewarded for his audacity in the monster world by being made king of the monsters.

Where The Wild Things Are is not a typical story for children, or even a typical fairy tale, in that it doesn’t seek to teach children anything in particular. Instead, in its few cryptic lines, it opens up a mysterious, wild world, the bulk of which has to exist in the reader’s imagination. I assume it’s this–the pull of the book on the imagination–that made Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers want to bring the book to life, to flesh out its brevity. Eggers has written a novel-length version of the book-and-now-film, called Wild Things. All of this adaptation makes me nervous, but my friends who work in film tell me to relax. Watch the trailer, below, to get yourself excited (or worried) about the movie, which comes out tomorrow.

No More Moldy Oldies: Appreciating Classic Texts [NY Times, 10/15/09]

Review: The Wild Things by Dave Eggers [Flavorwire, 10/7/09]

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Media Monday: Papers, An (Un)Documentary

by Learning Matters on Sep 21st, 2009

For many students graduating high school is an exciting step in a journey towards higher education. But for the more than 65,000 undocumented students in the U.S., graduation often signals a dead stop in the road.

Federal law doesn’t prohibit undocumented students from attending college, but there are major admissions obstacles for students without papers: it’s difficult to obtain in-state tuition and nearly impossible to apply for financial aid. And because they lack papers, they also can’t work in order to save up money to attend college. These are often students who have been in the U.S. for much of their lives, attending elementary and middle school. So why shouldn’t they have access to the same resources as their native-born peers?

The DREAM Act has been introduced in Congress and aims to increase access for undocumented students. If passed it would “allow undocumented immigrant youth who were brought to the country as children to obtain legal permanent resident status if they remain in school through high school graduation and go on to college or military service.”

Papers is a new film that draws attention to this issue and hopes to spark advocacy on behalf of undocumented students. The film introduces us to six characters–based on real-life undocumented youth–who share their stories and the challenges they face as they turn 18 and graduate high school without legal papers. The film begins nationwide screenings in October; in the meantime, you can read more about the DREAM Act and the struggles of undocumented students in the report, “Young Lives on Hold.

Watch the trailer:

Papers, The Movie [Official website]
Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students [College Board Report, 04/21/09]

Related Program: Lost in Translation [LMTV]

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Update: Girls Allowed

by Elena on Jun 3rd, 2009

Much has been made of the achievement gap between men and women in science and math, but new research suggests that the genders are edging closer together.  girls_math_sm1

According to a new report by the National Research Council, women who hold PhDs in science and math are now as likely as their male counterparts to end up with tenure-track jobs.  And new research from the University of Wisconsin indicates that school-age girls and boys are now achieving nearly equivalent test scores in science and math.  Women still form a relatively small percentage of applicant pools for jobs in science and math, however, which suggests that disparities are the result of cultural–not biological–factors.

Women Are Seen Bridging Gap in Science Opportunities [NY Times]

Tenure-Track Jobs in Science and Math Are Open to Women, if They Want Them [Chronicle of Higher Ed]

Related Program: Young Scientists

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AFT Releases New Report on Academic Workforce

by Ed Beat on May 12th, 2009

AFT ReportThe American Federation of Teachers released a new report today that documents a general shift within higher education:  a reduction in tenure-track positions and an increase in hiring contingent faculty (part-time, full-time nontenure track and graduate employees).

The report, “American Academic: The State of the Higher Education Workforce,” finds that over the last 10 years the higher ed teaching workforce grew, but colleges and universities overwhelmingly relied on “hiring under-supported contingent faculty and instructors.”

From the press release:

Previous reports have demonstrated the problems created when colleges hire contingent faculty and instructors without fair wages, job security and professional support. This new report documents that, rather than working to reverse these trends and investing in a more secure higher education teaching workforce, colleges and universities are expanding their reliance on contingent faculty and instructors.

Download the full report from the AFT’s FACE Campaign site

Related Program: Declining by Degrees [VIDEO]

categories: Ed Beat, publications

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