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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, April 29, 2012

"Trees" and Poetry Month

An April 1 post below mentioned Poetry Month.  My daughter, a first-grader, has enjoyed extra poetry this month at her New Haven public school.  Preparing for “poem in your pocket day,” she selected a poem from an anthology.  We both aimed to memorize her selection: “Trees,” by Sara Coleridge.  With leaves emerging early this spring, my daughter and I rehearsed “Trees” – just eight lines, from oak to beech.  Together, we made this small chore a shared pleasure.

8:29 am edt 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Political Protest in Malaysia

Protesters in Kuala Lumpur are demanding electoral reforms in Malaysia, where my wife’s parents are currently living.

December 2008 posts described a trip that my family made to Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur.

7:32 am edt 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day

An April 1 post below cited Earth Month, of which April 22 is the most visible day.  Greater action is needed.  May there be many happy days and decades, centuries and epochs, ahead for our planet.

6:55 am edt 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

More Recognition for Biographer

Recently, Yale historian of the Cold War John Lewis Gaddis received the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of George F. Kennan.  John Gaddis had already received other honors for that book, including from the National Book Critics Circle.  As noted in a (March 18) March 2012 post below, he is leading a Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute seminar this year on “The Art of Biography.”

9:37 am edt 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Discovery Place (and Basketball)

My family is on a trip to North Carolina, primarily to see the Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville, where we arrived tonight. 

During the past day, we were in Charlotte.  A highlight was Discovery Place, which my two young children as well as my wife and I enjoyed for its hands-on introduction to scientific principles and exploration.  Stationed outside were volunteers with Charlotte’s “Parent University,” inviting families to enter the museum with their kids.  A block away was the impressive main branch of the Charlotte Public Library, with wonderful literary quotations printed attractively outside.  We spent half an hour inside this community asset. 

Our Charlotte hotel, which we had identified blindly through the discount service Hotwire, coincidentally turned out to be hosting many of the players taking part in the (Michael) Jordan Brand Classic, a series of basketball games held blocks away at the city arena.  Yesterday evening, who should emerge from the hotel but Anthony Davis, the 6 foot 10 Kentucky freshman who just led his team to a national collegiate championship and will be the top pick in the NBA draft.  In the hotel elevator today, I struck up a brief conversation with a 6 foot 7 fifteen-year-old who was in Charlotte to play in the Jordan Brand game for European prospects.   Jan Niklas Wimberg, who humbly introduced himself as “Niklas Wimberg, from Germany,” seemed startled when (thanks to my mother’s German origins and my own limited study) I replied in German!  Tonight, there was more basketball as my son and I attended a Celtics-Bobcats game.  Despite playing on the road without three of their star players, the Celtics won handily.  A rare highlight for the Bobcats occurred when Kemba Walker – last mentioned here in an April 2011 post after he led the University of Connecticut to an improbable NCAA championship – stole the ball from Rajon Rondo of the Celtics and went the length of the court for a lay-up.

Tomorrow, we see the Biltmore Estate – the next day, the Blue Ridge Parkway…

11:59 pm edt 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Earth Month, Poetry Month

Today is the first day of Earth Month and Poetry Month.  As noted in a (January 18) January 2009 post about such designations, they have an arbitrary aspect.  Still, they can be reminders to parents especially about conversations to initiate with our children.  For teachers, such months can provide latitude to give greater emphasis to lessons that integrate student learning across disciplines.

Beyond many poetry curricular resources on the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s website, I was interested recently to encounter a book of poetry for children that Caroline Kennedy compiled.  It’s called A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children.  Her observation resonates: “If our parents read to us as children, we remember the closeness of the moments together, the sound and power of voice and expression, the sense of wonder that a poem inspires.”

An April 2011 post included comments and links related to Earth Month, among them a link to April 2010 reflections.

10:38 am edt 

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