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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Periodical, "Strengthening Teaching through School-University Partnership"

A new issue of the periodical On Common Ground: Strengthening Teaching through School-University Partnership has been published.

8:38 am est 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

“Positive Coaching” and “Coaching Boys into Men”

David Bornstein – one of the “Opinionator” bloggers at the New York Times – wrote an October 2011 column on “The Power of Positive Coaching,” with lessons from the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).

The column and reference were of particular interest as I recently began helping as a volunteer to coach several 1st-graders (boys and girls, including my daughter) introductory basics of basketball at a New Haven public school, one evening and one Saturday per week.  The PCA’s emphasis on “ELM” – Effort, Learning, and responding constructively to Mistakes – is appealing.  Fun, fitness, teamwork, and the balance between competition and sportsmanship are among other elements that my fellow coaches and I will try to cultivate in the kids. 

My own experiences in organized basketball from age eight to seventeen are an influence.  Most formative were six years with the Willimantic (CT) YMCA’s “Little Pal” league in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  That league assigned each player to an “A” or “B” team on a larger sponsored team (e.g., “Sport Hut” and “Lewis Insurance”).  The first-string A team and second-string B team alternated four- or eight-minute intervals with the result that the biggest and most skilled players and the smallest, youngest, and/or least skilled players received 16 minutes each, matched up with opponents of roughly comparable stature.  Waves of players would go in and out, cheering on their teammates.  This system allowed younger players to develop, bigger and better players still to be challenged (albeit with less playing time than they might have received in a more conventional allocation of minutes with separate varsity and junior varsity teams), and teamwork to grow.  Some years our teams did well, other years not.  When I was a 5th-grade B-teamer, our Lewis Insurance squad went undefeated with an A team that consisted of at least three future college players (at the Division III level).  By 7th and 8th grade, I was on the A team; it was no coincidence that our team’s winning percentage sharply declined!  Whatever that record, I did enjoy the game. 

Some three decades later, the examples of my own Willimantic YMCA team’s coach, Dan Lamont, and of the league instructor/commissioner, Ron Pires, endure.  Dan was the father of two of my teammates (and friends), a volunteer who taught us fair play and sportsmanship along with fundamentals.  Coach Pires was a genial professional, a former college player himself who tempered his lessons with humor and poise.  He would go on to a long career as the coach of E.O. Smith High School, where his players have included brothers Ryan (now of Fairfield) and Tyler Olander (now of UConn), whose teams met this week.

Beyond the PCA, another resource is Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM), a program of the Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund.  The approach: “Men – as fathers, brothers, coaches, teachers, uncles, and mentors – have a role to play in coaching boys into men.”  The program “invites men to utilize their influence … to prevent domestic and sexual violence. First launched in 2001, in partnership with the Advertising Council, CBIM’s core goal is to inspire men to teach boys the importance of respecting women and that violence never equals strength.… CBIM has been transformed from an awareness campaign into a comprehensive violence prevention curriculum for coaches and their athletes. The Coaching Boys into Men leadership program equips athletic coaches with strategies, scenarios, and resources needed to build attitudes and behaviors that prevent relationship abuse, harassment, and sexual assault.”

This program, along with Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation among other organizations, was mentioned in an October 2008 opinion article, “Domestic Violence No Game.”

10:54 am est 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Remembering Farhan Mujib, Artist/Physicist

Last week brought sad news to my extended family: the death of Farhan Mujib, an artist mentioned in a January 1, 2010 post here.  He was a warm person whom I first met in New Delhi in 2005 and visited with there again in late 2009. 

Excerpts from his Indian Express obituary follow: “His art brought together traditional miniature art and modern-day collage. He experimented with the paint brush, but in the art circle most recognise Farhan Mujib as the physicist who brought scientific precision to collages, putting together pieces of papers from magazines and photographs to create intricate images.The 65-year-old, who died of cardiac arrest, is survived by wife Fawzia.… ‘He lived his life to the fullest and truly enjoyed every moment. He was very social and had no greed or remorse,’ said Sharon Apparao, director of Apparao Galleries, who organised several exhibitions of the artist and was his close associate…. Mujib, who taught at AMU [Aligarh Muslim University], took voluntary retirement in 2004 when he decided to pursue art as a profession. While his debut solo was held at Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi in 2003, the following years saw him hold shows across India, including Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. Literature often inspired him and the artist created two-dimensional illusions of architectural spaces, complete with minute details. Recognition came not just from artwork on the board, but also book covers that he designed...”

5:28 pm est 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More Volunteer Tutors Needed

New Haven Reads has launched a new website.  One student who has been receiving tutoring and free books at New Haven Reads since 3rd grade and is now a thriving 10th-grader (and a tutor herself) was featured in a Yale Daily News article, as noted among the News items on the LiteracyEveryday site.  The article mentioned that despite the hundreds of tutors already volunteering locally, more than 200 students are awaiting tutors. 

You can help – contact New Haven Reads or e-mail: info@literacyeveryday.org

8:34 am est 

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