Observations and Perspectives Articles

To Read Is To Grow: Literacy in Cuba

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

I was very fortunate to have spent eight days of my spring break in Cuba!

Americans still need a reason (other than pure tourism) to be allowed to visit Cuba, and  I went on an educational research tour, during which we visited schools, clinics and the Cuban Literacy Museum in Havana.

“To Read Is To Grow”

The Cuban people place a high value on education, and Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

At the Literacy Museum, we learned about the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961, which enlisted “each person who could read to teach one person who could not read,” and which raised the national literacy rate from about 65% to 96%.

I feel passionately about one-on-one education as a source of empowerment and connection for both learner and teacher, so I was greatly moved to see tutoring having been implemented on such a grand scale and having had the effect of forming bonds between people from different backgrounds and geographic areas.

“Before 1959 it was the countryside versus the city. The literacy campaign united the country because, for the first time, people from the city understood how hard life was for people before the revolution, that they survived on their own, and that as people they had much in common. This was very important for the new government.”- Luisa Yara Campos, Cuban literacy museum director

I also believe that all people should be lifetime teachers and learners, so I admired that the Cuban literacy initiative enlisted all kinds of people, especially young people with little to no formal teacher training, to become instructors, and that anyone, regardless of age, gender or profession, was given the opportunity to learn to read.

Here are two pictures of photographs on display in the literacy museum:

Literacy tutors carry lanterns in order to teach in rural homes without electricity .


ADHD Types I and II?

Monday, January 26th, 2015

IMG_0110One of my students included this very interesting 9-minute TED talk in a psychology class project.

The speaker proposes that, as with diabetes, there are now arguably two forms of ADHD. We could call the inborn variety ADHD Type I; Type II would be what one doctor calls “Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder”, developed through excessive Internet use.


The Wisdom to Know the Difference (Day Twelve: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Monday, January 12th, 2015

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.PC250048

-The Serenity Prayer

I like Victorian-era cemeteries, and whenever I visit one the Serenity Prayer enters my mind.

In those days there was no cure for tuberculosis, which was romantically called “consumption” and which along with other infectious diseases filled the churchyards and necessitated the creation of vast new burying grounds.

Victorian cemeteries were intended as parks where families could picnic and visit their departed loved ones on Sunday afternoons.


The Key to Happiness is Becoming a Lower Maintenance Person (Day Eleven: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

P7170168Because attention, time, and energy are all limited resources, scaling down and living a high-quality yet low-maintenance life is really the way to maximize contentment and minimize stress.


It’s Best to Face Your Fears and Let Your Kids Face Their Fears, Too (Day Ten: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

P6300072To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. -Pema Chodron

Is there anything more painful than watching your child suffer? But when we shield our kids from the lumps Life dishes out, we rob them of the critical growing-up experiences that will make them into strong, brave, confident adults later.


The Basic Physical Stuff is Amazingly Important (Day Nine: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Friday, January 9th, 2015

P9160337Sleep is the best meditation. -Dalai Lama

These are the simplest pieces of wisdom in this whole collection, and they are amazingly powerful.

Oh, how I wish I could relive those days in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s (days?…actually years) of chronic weariness, when I was heroically trying to “do it all” and muddling through on way too little sleep.


You Can Become a Better Person (Day Seven: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

P6290016It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you. -Randy Pausch

I make my living working with kids, and it’s my impression that most of them have little clue as to what they want to do with their lives, and that they find the very question terrifying.


It’s Great to NOT Be Special (Day Six: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

P6290031As you get older, you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun. -Randy Pausch

I’m part of that generation of women who were told we could have it all and actually believed it.


Day Five: Read the textbook and work the problems. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Easter April 4 2010 Met with M and H 013My mom deserves the credit for this one.

When I was a kid math was not my forte, and in eighth grade I was struggling and failing at algebra. So my mom went to the local bookstore and bought me a review book (picture the mid-1970’s version of Algebra for Dummies).


Day Four: Memory is not accurate. Nope, not even yours. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

P8050102Our memories can seem so vivid and realistic, it’s hard to believe they’re not literally true! But memory doesn’t work like a video camera.

For one thing, due to our limited powers of attention (see Day One) we never get the whole story to begin with. Then, every time we recall an event our minds edit and interpret and embellish, like a fish story.

And we do an especially inaccurate job on emotionally loaded events; we freight those memories with so much emotional baggage that they become personal fairy tales more than actual recollections.


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