As I look at what I am reading and want to read this summer, it’s kind of all over the place. I’ll be reading about Vermont education, racial justice, and some fiction in the fantasy genre.
As a new Professional Development Coordinator, I’m trying to get the lay of the land. Even when I lived in Massachusetts (as recently as a few weeks ago), I was aware that Vermont education was unique. The hard truth is that in the rest of the country education reform is dominated by a worrisome blend of privatization, standardized testing, and victim blaming. The Vermont contrast is best drawn by the letter from Commissioner of Education Holcombe, which to a progressive educator and education policy hobbyist reads like pure poetry. Now, after experiencing the innovative educators and professional development model of the Middle Grades Institute, I’m even more convinced that there’s something special going on here in Vermont. So this summer I’ll be scouring the Vermont Agency of Education website along with other resources about Vermont education and personalized learning.
Lately Twitter has brought to me many articles about another great emerging story – the rise of Ta-Nehisi Coates as a master journalist, truth teller, and increasingly influential public intellectual. After savoring his appearances in such places as a feature by the New York Times Magazine, an interview with Slate, two stories on National Public Radio, and a teaser blog post in the Atlantic, I’ve ordered his new book Between the World and Me. I’m not yet sure how to translate my intentions to be an ally in the fight for racial justice with my new life in the most predominately white state in the union. But I know we each have a role to play and that studying Mr. Coates can only help me figure out mine.
And finally, to bring a bit of balance, I will be reading some fun fiction. This includes various books filled with fantastical adventure that I will read with my 5- and 3-year-old daughters, such as My Father’s Dragon, where a young boy quests to rescue a baby dragon. I just finished The Last Unicorn, featuring an immortal protagonist who sheds much light on the human condition, in a way only an immortal can. There’s a parallel between the inevitable triumph of magic and love with the hopefulness found in Vermont’s educational context and the poetry of Coates’ social commentary. I suppose the parallel is unsurprising, since I gravitate to the fantasy genre not just because its stories provide an escape, but also because they offer hard truths alongside hints of paths to a better future.