Archives for category: Literature

Arthur Goldstein, veteran teacher of many decades, thinks he knows a thing or two about teaching English. The State Education Department doesn’t trust him or other English teachers. So they have distributed new mandates about how to teach “advanced literacy” to make sure that he does what he is told. And he doesn’t like it. 

Frankly, it sounds like Common Core in a new dress.

Goldstein writes:

Forget everything you’ve heard and read about education. There’s a new paradigm, and it’s called Teaching Advanced Literacy Skills. This is revolutionary, of course, because it appears clear to the authors that no English teacher in the history of the universe has ever taught advanced literacy. Also, since no one in the world will ever go into a trade, and since everyone will spend their entire lives doing academic writing, we need to start work on this right away.

No, evidently we just do the whole phonics thing, and once students are able to sound out words, we give up on them for the next eleven years or so and hope for the best. Thank goodness these brilliant writers are here to let us know that students need to be able to identify a main idea, and that this indispensable skill is actually an amalgam of other vital skills.

Not only that, but we now know that it’s important students use a variety of sources to support their arguments, as opposed to just making stuff up (like the President of the United States, for example). That’s why we, as teachers, should hand them several sources on which to base their writing, as do the geniuses in Albany when they issue the NY State ELA Regents, the final word on whether or not students have advanced literacy.

Never mind that students who’ve passed the test with high grades don’t seem to know how to read or write well. Never mind nonsense like writer voice, mentioned absolutely nowhere in the book. Never mind whether or not anyone actually wishes to read whatever writing the students produce, because that’s also mentioned absolutely nowhere in the book. The important thing is that they be able to produce academic writing. Do you go out of your way to read academic writing? Neither do I.

The book is big on synthesis, that is, using multiple sources. Like the awful English Regents exam,  students are generally provided with sources. I suppose this is some sort of training to write research papers. Here’s the thing, though–if you write research papers you will have to find your own sources. I recall being in summer classes at Queens College, in their old crappy library searching through shelves with a flashlight trying to find things to write about. No such issue for our advanced literacy-trained students. Here are texts a, b, c and d. Get out there and tell me which ones are better.

We don’t need to teach students about logical fallacy either, which is good news for politicians everywhere. Students need not recognize ad hominem or straw man arguments. No guilt by association for you. We don’t need to bother showing them why some arguments are less logical than others, as per this book at least. I suppose when Donald Trump calls whatever doesn’t suit him “fake news,” that’s okay. It’s just another academic source.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book, to me, is that the project they spend the most time on is one in which students discuss whether or not their school should adopt uniforms. I wrote in the margins, “great topic,” Why? Because this was a topic that had a direct effect on their lives. This decision would change their behavior, and perhaps change their entire school. There was an intrinsic motivation for students to be involved in this decision.

Nowhere in the book did the writers deem this worthy of mention. I have no idea whether or not they even noticed it. I did, though, and it was hands down a better topic than some of the crap students must wade through on the English Regents exam. Don’t get me wrong–I understand that students, like us, will have to wade through a lot of crap in their academic lives. To me, though, it seems smarter to make them love reading. It seems smarter to motivate them to do so on their own. Then, when they have to read some crap to which they cannot relate, they’ll be better equipped to do so, having developed the skills this book advocates in a far more positive fashion.

One thing that makes me love writers is something called writer voice. A great example of this is Angela’s Ashes, a non-fiction work (!) by the late and brilliant Frank McCourt. They made a film out of it which faithfully told the story, but was total crap. That’s because the allure and charm of this story was all about the way McCourt told it, his humor, his deft and inspiring use of language. He had me at the first sentence about childhood, and kept me hypnotized until the last sentence. I couldn’t put the book down.

Why should students today have the same pleasure? Why do experienced teachers know about teaching anyway? Nothing, by the lights of the bureaucrats in Albany.


Zora Neale Hurston is one of my favorite writers. I read in Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac” that today is her birthday. A reader wrote me offline to criticize my reference to Keillor’s work because many women credibly accused him of making sexual advances. I am aware of that. I think everyone has a chance to redeem themselves. In the meanwhile, I will continue to post whatever interests me.

Today is the birthday of Zora Neale Hurston (books by this author), born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891. She grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated African-American community in the United States, with a population of about 125. Hurston loved it there, and would set many of her stories in Eatonville, depicting it as a sort of Utopia; she also described it in her 1928 essay, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” When she was 13, her mother died, and her father remarried immediately, so she was sent to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. She was expelled when her father stopped paying her tuition, and she went to live with a series of family members.

She went to Howard University and co-founded the school’s newspaper, The Hilltop. She was offered a scholarship to Barnard College, where she studied anthropology, and she was the college’s only black student. She published many short stories in the 1920s and early ’30s, and her first book, Mules and Men (1935), was an anthropological study of African-American folklore. She’s best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

A founding member of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston died in poverty in 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973, novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the cemetery where Hurston was buried, and marked it as hers. Alice Walker wrote about the event in her article “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” (1975), and the article sparked a renewed interest in Hurston’s writing.

The rediscovery of Hurston continues to this day. Her book Baracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” was published posthumously in 2018. Based on interviews she conducted in 1927 with Cudjo Lewis––one of the last known slaves transported to America 50 years after the trade was outlawed––the biography became a bestseller.

I recently subscribed to Garrison Keillor’s free website called”A Writer’s Almanac.”

He told this wonderful Christmas story today:

It was on this day in 1956 that novelist Harper Lee (books by this author) spent Christmas in New York City with friends, and received a gift that changed her life. In 1949, Lee had dropped out of a law program at the University of Alabama and moved to New York City, the home of her childhood friend Truman Capote. Capote had just published his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948) — which featured a character based on Lee, and he was a literary star. In New York, Lee found a job as a ticket agent at an airline. For seven years, she wrote on the weekends, but she never published anything.

She rarely got time off from work, so she wasn’t able to get home to Alabama for Christmas. That Christmas of 1956, she was homesick. Lee wrote: “What I really missed was a memory, an old memory of people long since gone, of my grandparents’ house bursting with cousins, smilax, and holly. I missed the sound of hunting boots, the sudden open-door gusts of chilly air that cut through the aroma of pine needles and oyster dressing. I missed my brother’s night-before-Christmas mask of rectitude and my father’s bumblebee bass humming ‘Joy to the World.’”

Lee spent that Christmas, like many others, with her closest friends in the city: a couple named Michael and Joy Brown, whom she had met through Capote, and their two sons. Michael Brown was paid by companies to write promotional “industrial musicals,” like “Wonderful World of Chemistry” for DuPont, which was performed 17,000 times. In the fall of 1956, he had written a successful industrial show for Esquire magazine, and he was feeling rich.

Lee and the Browns had a tradition of trying to exchange the best Christmas gifts for the least amount of money, and that year Lee’s present for Michael Brown was a portrait of an 18th-century Anglican writer and cleric. It cost her 35 cents. Lee couldn’t hide her disappointment when everyone had opened their gifts and there were none for her. The Browns told her to look in the tree, where she found an envelope addressed to her. Inside, it said: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

Lee thought it was a joke, and when she finally realized that it wasn’t, she protested, but the Browns insisted — they were feeling financially comfortable, and they thought she was talented and deserved a chance to write full-time. When she said that it was too big of a risk for them, Michael replied: “No, honey. It’s not a risk. It’s a sure thing.” She wrote: “I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle. Christmas trees blurred softly across the street, and firelight made the children’s shadows dance on the wall beside me. A full, fair chance for a new life. Not given me by an act of generosity, but by an act of love. Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them.”

She went to work immediately, and just three weeks later she brought 49 pages of a new novel called Go Set a Watchman to an agent. By the end of February, she had finished the draft. Her agents suggested some edits, and by October of 1957 the manuscript was sent off to a publishing company without a title. The publishers liked it but thought it needed major revisions — most significantly, they thought that Lee should focus on the childhood, not the adulthood, of the novel’s narrator, Scout Finch. Lee spent two years reworking the novel, and came up with a new title: To Kill A Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) went on to sell more than 30 million copies and become one of the most beloved books in American literature.

Lee didn’t release another book until 2015, when she published what had been the first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird, now marketed as a sequel to it: Go Set a Watchman. She died in 2016.

Peter Greene reveals here why he loves to read. What is reading for? It is utilitarian, to be sure. It would be impossible to make your way in the world without knowing how to read nowadays.

This post focuses on the author Rebecca Solnit, who writes about reading and its pleasures.

Greene writes:

It is easy in the ed biz to get caught up in things like the reading wars and test results and arguments about whether or not Pat can read and if not why not. And in our very utilitarian reformster-created status quo, some lapse far too quickly to the discussion of reading as a set of Very Useful Skills that will make children employable meat widgets for employers on some future day, and therefor we shall have drill and practice and exercises to build up reading muscles for that far off day.

“But let’s not kill the lifelong love of reading,” is a common reply, and one that I’m not entirely comfortable with. It’s fuzzy and reductive. I can love peanut butter and jelly, but that doesn’t really open any windows on the world; I don’t love science, but understanding it at least a little has enriched my world. The act of reading is wonderful in a sense, like looking through a pane of glass in an otherwise dull and impenetrable wall. It’s magical, yes– but what’s really uplifting and life-changing is what we can see on the other side.

The reading technocrats and pure phonics police are focused on the future, and even the lifelong love of reading camp is looking forward. Both run the risk of forgetting that reading is useful for children right now, this year, this minute, as a way of finding answers to fundamental questions– how does the world work, and what does it mean to be fully human, and how can I be in the world? Reading gives children access to answers beyond their own immediate experience which is always limited and all-too-often, as in Solnit’s case, severely limited by the control of adults who have trouble working out answers of their own. In the crush to provide reading instruction that will benefit children someday, we shouldn’t overlook the ways in which reading will benefit them right now. Both reading science and lifelong love camps stand at the window and say some version of, “Let’s look at this window. Let’s examine it and study it and polish it and enter into a deeper relationship with it,” while anxious children hop up and down on their toes and beg to look through it.

Solnit likes the wall metaphor. I’m fond of windows. You can pick your own favorite. I just want to argue that we not get carried away by either the desire to reduce reading instruction to hard science or fuzzy emotions, that we not forget that there’s an actual reason for children to read, and that the reason exists today, right now. Don’t get caught up on the trees in the larger reading forest. The children are small people, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working on big questions. School should help.

After I read this post, I ordered Rebecca Solnit’s book as a gift for a grandson, who will love it.

I recently began subscribing to Garrison Keillor’s online daily website called ”The Writer’s Almanac.” He offers poems, celebrates the birthdays of famous writers, and includes things that interest him. Like this:


On this date in 1660a professional female actress appeared on the English stage in a production of Othello. It’s one of the earliest known instances of a female role actually being played by a woman in an English production. Up until this time, women were considered too fine and sensitive for the rough life of the theater, and boys or men dressed in drag to play female characters. An earlier attempt to form co-ed theater troupes was met with jeers and hisses and thrown produce.

But by the second half of the 17th century, the King’s Company felt that London society could handle it. Before the production, a lengthy disclaimer in iambic pentameter was delivered to the audience, warning them that they were about to see an actual woman in the part. This was, the actor explained, because they felt that men were just too big and burly to play the more delicate roles, “With bone so large and nerve so incompliant / When you call Desdemona, enter giant.”

Bob Shepherd is a teacher, an author, a curriculum developer, and many other things.

On Reading Poems

Two thoughts, tonight, about poetry

First, a theory of poetry and how it means:

Perhaps the most important lesson that I received, in college, about reading poetry occurred on a day when, in a class on nineteenth-century American poets, I commented that unlike just about everyone else, I wasn’t a fan of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry—that it seemed to me phony through and through. The guy made significant innovations in the short story. He invented BOTH the detective story and the madness/supernatural ambiguity on which so much horror and science fiction rides, but his poetry, mostly, seems to me contrived and false. The professor said, “Hmm. That’s a problem, your not believing him, because you can’t read a poem well without being willing to take the author’s trip.” And then he shoved everything off his desk and lay back on it and closed his eyes and recited “Annabel Lee” from memory. I still hold to my opinion about Poe. But I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

One thing I tried to teach my students about reading in general and, in particular, about reading poetry, is that they have to enter into it—they have to go into that world of the poem in their imaginations, and then they have an experience there, and that experience has significance of some kind, and that’s what meaning means in poetry. It’s the significance to the reader of that experience that he or she had. That doesn’t mean that any reading will do. If the poem is well-constructed, that experience will be quite specific, and the reader will be led inexorably to have something very like the experience and to gain from it something very like the significance that the writer intended. The whole thing is an exercise in bridging an ontological gap–my mind and experiences and understandings over here, yours over there. Poetry is a form of communication that tries—sometimes successfully! —to do the impossible. It’s the heavy-duty artillery for doing that job.

This is why it’s so awful that some English teachers approach poems by reading them aloud and then asking, “What does this mean?” as though poets were these perverse people who hide their true meanings and as though the meaning of a poem is some blithering generality (the answer to that English teacher’s question: e.g., Life is transitory. It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. Some such generalized bs).

There’s an old joke that asks, “How many Vietnam veterans does it take to change a lightbulb?” Answer: “You wouldn’t know because you weren’t there, man!” The reader who turns a poem into a blithering generality hasn’t taken the poet’s trip, hasn’t had that vicarious experience, hasn’t learned things from the experience that mattered, that had significance, that were meaningful in that sense.

So, a poem is the very opposite, at its core, of a vehicle for expression of a general principle, though one can glean general principles from good poems, as from life. A good poem is incredibly concrete and precise. Every added detail further delimits the precision, the particularity, of the world of the poem. To be specific about this, to say that Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” is about anguish at the loss of faith is true enough, but if that’s it—if that’s its sole meaning to you—then you weren’t really there, man. The moment that Arnold describes so precisely, has to be experienced—that fellow, standing at the window, looking at the receding tide, which no longer speaks but is a freaking thing roaring mechanically, who tries to have this conversation with the woman in the room who isn’t really interested, whom he fears does not love him, is experiencing loss on so many levels—of faith, of hope, of belief in the progress of the world, of love. And if you’ve gone there, if you’ve inhabited him as you read the poem, and if you’ve experienced his PARTICULAR experience, then it’s not one that you’ll readily forget. It’s wrenching, and heart-breaking. And it will be quite meaningful to you.

Great poetic writing renders with a few incredibly deft strokes that entire world into which the reader enters. A few words are enough to bring it fully, hauntingly, breathtakingly into being in the mind of the reader. This is what Derek Walcott was talking about in the opening of his “Map of the New World: 1. Archipelagoes”:

At the end of this sentence, rain will begin.
At the rain’s edge, a sail.

Poof. Rain. A sail. A world. He’s talking about the freaking ancient MAGIC by which, via words, one brings a world into being. It’s what’s left for Homer to do now that Helen’s hair is a grey cloud and Troy is an ashpit in a drizzle.

So, poems mean in a way that treatises don’t. And this is why authenticity is so important in poetry—why that’s what separates the good from the bad, “Dover Beach” from the typical high-school versifying of adolescent angst and Valentines. If the poem doesn’t create an authentic world, you can’t go into it. There’s no coherent there to go into.

There has to be a there there. I have a young friend, Brooke Baker Belk, who is a very great poet. There’s a there there in her work, and this separates it from almost everything else being written now.

Second, the need for poetry to have something to say.

I love Shelley. And I think that he’s far more important than most people realize. He wrote in “A Defense of Poetry” that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and ironically, that’s true of him today. HE FREAKING INVENTED the language that we use to talk about our emotions, and every stupid pop song in the 20th and 21st century owes an enormous debt to the language he used. No Shelley, no “Sounds of Silence” or “Stairway to Heaven.” But the writers of those songs and the consumers of them typically did not and do not have a clue that this is so. And he did it so, so, so much better, ofc, than rock star lyricists typically do, Lord knows. By all the gods, he could use words well. And what a spirit he had! He was probably murdered, you know, by British intelligence because of his rabble-rousing for Irish independence (this was the proximate and determinative cause, but he was also loathed by conservatives for being an aristocrat who hated aristocracy, for espousing republicanism and the end of monarchy, for being a model to young people, they thought, of atheism and sexual license).

But there’s an aspect to his work that really troubles me: He had a lot of really bad ideas. Platonism, determinism. Stupid, wrong, dead-end ideas. Stuff from his time. He died young. Too young, d**n it, for he was brilliant. He wrote sooooo well, and he was brilliant. At the age of 24, he could read ancient Greek as you read Google News. Perhaps in time he would have developed some good ideas (aside from his political ones). Poetry, like other writing, is supposed to communicate. It renders significant experiences, and so they have an earned quality, like actual life. And in the greatest poetry, what is earned is intellectually, spiritually, morally, or in some other way significant. It matters. It’s fresh and new and insightful. And so, it helps, a lot, for anyone who wishes to write poetry to have something to say. The very best poems always do. “A Tree Telling of Orpheus.” “Dover Beach.” “Credences of Summer.” “Directive.” ‘Mr. Flood’s Party.” “Lucinda Matlock.” “Among School Children.” “Easter 1916.” Almost anything by Blake or Rumi. These poems provide deeply significant experiences that teach, about life, about other people. It’s worth taking their authors’ trips.

For the past decade, the number of people majoring in English has declined, while STEM fields are booming.

Yet economists say that English majors are needed to tell the stories, shape narratives that make sense to people.

A great migration is happening on U.S. college campuses. Ever since the fall of 2008, a lot of students have walked out of English and humanities lectures and into STEM classes, especially computer science and engineering.

English majors are down more than a quarter (25.5 percent) since the Great Recession, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics. It’s the biggest drop for any major tracked by the center in its annual data and is quite startling, given that college enrollment has jumped in the past decade…

Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller’s new book “Narrative Economics” opens with him reminiscing about an enlightening history class he took as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. He wrote that what he learned about the Great Depression was far more useful in understanding the period of economic and financial turmoil than anything he learned in his economic courses.

The whole premise of Shiller’s book is that stories matter. What people tell each other can have profound implications on markets — and the overall economy. Examples include the “get rich quick” stories about bitcoin or the “anyone can be a homeowner” stories that helped drive the housing bubble…

In many ways, President Trump’s constant attempts to call this the greatest economy of all time are an effort to tell a positive story to encourage Americans to keep spending, Shiller said, even if his claim is not based in fact.

What matters most is the ability to communicate clearly, a skill that English majors are likely to acquire.

Perhaps the most powerful argument for why students (and their parents) might want to think twice about abandoning humanities is the data. The National Center for Education Statistics also keeps track of pay and unemployment rates by major.

There’s no denying that the typical computer science major makes more money shortly after graduation than the typical English major.

Contrary to popular belief, English majors ages 25 to 29 had a lower unemployment rate in 2017 than math and computer science majors.

That early STEM pay premium also fades quickly, according to research by David J. Deming and Kadeem L. Noray from Harvard. After about a decade, STEM majors start exiting their job fields as their skills are no longer the latest and greatest. In contrast, many humanities majors work their way to high-earning management positions. By middle age, average pay looks very similar across many majors.



Jamie Gass writes here about a powerful literary tradition that was honored in Massachusetts and perhaps a few other places, but was tossed aside by the state when it adopted the Common Core.

Gass illogically puts the blame on “educrats” and schools of education for the decision that junked the state’s reverence for literature: the political decision by its governors to pursue Race to the Top funding and endorse the Common Core. The blame lies with the Gates Foundation, which funded the federally mandated, content-free Common Core. Then with the authors of the Core, who took upon themselves the task of writing national standards. And then, of course, the elected officials of both parties who put money above principle.

Gass writes:

The Bay State, with English standards that were rich in classic literature and high-quality vocabulary, outperformed every other state between 2005 and 2017 on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), “the nation’s report card.”

When Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker studied English at Harvard, its revered professor W. Jackson Bate won the 1978 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for his Samuel Johnson biography.

Interestingly, Dr. Johnson’s Dictionarydefines “politician” as “a man of artifice; one of deep contrivance.”

In 2010, the hollowness of the Patrick administration’s sloganeering – “education is our calling card” – was revealed when they took $250 million in one-time federal grant money to abandon our proven English standards and MCAS tests in favor of inferior nationalized Common Core and PARCC testing, which cut enduring fiction by 60 percent.

The Baker administration could have easily ended Common Core’s academic mediocrity in the Bay State, but instead it followed Patrick’s example by deferring to the wishes of career state edu-crats.

Why blame state employees for decisions made by the governors of both parties, the state commissioner, and the state board?

Robin Lithgow spent many years in charge of arts education for the Los Angeles public schools. Having retired, she is now writing a book and blogging about the arts, especially theater and drama and their relation to cognition.

I think you will enjoy this delightful meditation about rhetoric, what it meant in Shakespeare’s day, and what it means today.

What’s with all the rhetoric?

She begins:

This is fun!

In The Taming of the Shrew, before the shrew, Kate, matches wits with Petruchio in their hilarious first encounter, the illiterate servant Grumio warns her that Petruchio will “disfigure” her with his “rope-tricks.” He’s referring to Petruchio’s scathing facility with rhetoric (which Grumio hears as rope-tricks) and his ability to use rhetorical “figures” to counter and obliterate any argument she might throw at him.

When Shakespeare was a student, only a few generations after the printing press had been invented, rhetoric had been at the core of a child’s education for over two thousand years. Before literacy was prevalent, the ability to persuade though speech gave enormous power to the “rhetor,” the public speaker. The ability to make language punch and pop, to make the listener sit up and pay attention (or else!), was considered the most important skill of a person educated in the liberal arts. All through ancient times, the middle ages, and well into the Enlightenment, the “Trivium” (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) were the foundational subjects taught first to a child in elementary, or “trivial” school.

Shakespeare had to be able to recognize and practice in his speaking and in his writing at least 132 rhetorical figures, tropes, and devices. He had to be able to practice expressive, physical rhetoric (or rhetorical dance) every time he stood on his two feet and spoke to his teachers or his classmates. “Per Quam Figuram?” was the question asked repeatedly, all day, every day: “What figure are you using?”

Stuart Egan is an NBCT High School Teacher in North Carolina.

In this post, he notes that school boards and vigilantes often challenge Toni Morrison’s novels. Her writings are frequently banned. But he contends that the critics should read them and perhaps they will learn from them as he did.

Toni Morrison passed this past week. She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and what she did (and still does) for this white, upper middle class male teacher is something that I will always value as a life-long student: she made me understand that I don’t understand.

And she made me uncomfortable in my own skin to the point it still forces me to take a hard objective look at myself, my actions, and how I treat others. She also makes me look at the past through different lenses, especially my upbringing in a small rural town in Georgia…

Great literature teaches us about ourselves, especially the parts of ourselves that we do not want to acknowledge but that control how we perceive others and how we treat others. And in a nation where many hold the Second Amendment and guns with as much fervor as it does the Bible (which by the way is one of the most challenged books in the country), should we not also look at the First Amendment and its protection of the freedom of speech as dearly?

The very man who is the president of the United States freely exercises his right for freedom of speech through his Twitter account. He exercises that right because he can.

Do I agree with him? Hardly ever. And that’s my right. But having read great works of literature challenges me and forces me to have difficult and uncomfortable, yet peaceful, confrontations with issues and society.

I do not believe that our current president is willing to be challenged and be uncomfortable. I think part of the reason is that he doesn’t read. And what I mean by that is that he does not allow himself to be challenged by the words, the actions, the viewpoints, and the events that have shaped this country. In fact, when he “writes” his books, he has someone do it for him…

Maybe the fact Toni Morrison is one of the most challenged and banned authors is a statement that our society is afraid to look at itself through the eyes of others who have lived lives along different paths. That fear leads to division and that division manifests itself in so many ways, including violence.

This country desperately needs to learn about itself and listen to those whose viewpoints and experiences and words can challenge us to be better than we were yesterday and better than we are today.

This country needs to a country of learners.

And Toni Morrison was and still is a great teacher.