What we're reading (August edition)...

As we enter August, we hope that you have been enjoying a restful summer with time for intentional and meaningful leisure. For us at ILS, that has included plenty of time for reading and reflection, which we hope that you have had the opportunity to enjoy also. And so, we have for your enjoyment, our final summer edition of "What we're reading..." (But don't worry- we'll kick off the new school year in September with a new edition - so send us any interesting things you've read this summer so that we can take a read!)

This month, we contemplate voices in mythology, a look at what schools need to do if democracy is to work, the dangers of re-writing literature, a historic discovery, and more. As always, we hope you enjoy these articles as well!

In mythology and the epics we encounter three different female characters: the Muse, the Siren, and the Echo. But these three women are more than just characters; they are three distinct Voices, each singing a different song—some to destruction and some to life.

At the heart of every myth is the Muse. She is the divine source of every story, and Homer does not utter a word before he calls upon her. We moderns are tempted to view the formulaic invocation of the Muse as solely a literary device—a nod to creativity and imaginative inspiration. Perhaps we might even admit that the invocation is a prayer whereby the poet is asking for divine help to tell a good story. But that is not how the ancients would have thought about it all.

For the modern, the story comes from the storyteller. The poet conjures a tale from his own imagination. We expect our stories to be original works, appearing like phantoms. But the ancient poet had a completely different understanding both of the function of the poet and the purpose of story. For the ancient, the primary function of the poet is not to create, but to remember.
— Angelina Stanford, "The Muse, the Siren, and the Echo: A Contemplation of Voices"

As the nation approaches its 242nd birthday, there are signs our schools are failing to equip citizens to play the vital role the founders anticipated. For democracy to continue working, teachers need to ensure students understand and can write analytically about key factual information, starting in elementary school.

Many students, even at the college level, lack basic knowledge about American history and government. Scores on nationwide tests of civics, history, and geography are alarmingly low, particularly among low-income students. Especially in the wake of the 2016 election, many have called for more—and more participatory—high school civics courses.

Students should certainly know things like how many senators come from each state, and it wouldn’t hurt to have them write letters to the editor. But an even more fundamental problem is that many can’t distinguish between reliable and false information. Many middle and high school students—and even those in college—fail to meet “a reasonable bar” in evaluating the credibility of online sources, according to researchers, who call their findings “dismaying” and “a threat to democracy.”
— Natalie Wexler, "Three Things Schools Need To Do Differently If Democracy Is Going To Work"

Few people are unfamiliar with the Little House on the Prairie book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her simple retellings of her childhood memories of life in the big woods of Wisconsin, to the prairie of the Dakota territories, to her life as a married frontier wife have captured the imaginations of generations of readers.

Wilder’s stories of her family’s journey west in a covered wagon, the careful details of the minutiae of their daily lives, and her descriptions of an America most commonly seen in history books should, without question, cement her place in history as a talented and important author. Wilder’s books also have served to introduce children for decades to disability issues, specifically blindness, and are an important look at the positive difference a supportive family can make for people with special needs.

The enduring nature of her work is a testimony to her ability to write, and that talent and ability to capture reader’s minds and hearts led the Associate for Library Service to Children to name a literary award after her in 1952. Now her presence has been stripped from the the award, which has been renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
— Holly Scheer, "Scrubbing Laura Ingalls Wilder is a Dangerous Step Towards Ignorance"

The purpose of this study is to investigate whether off-task multitasking activities with mobile technologies, specifically social networking sites and short messaging services, used during real-time lectures have an effect on grade performance in higher education students. Two experimental groups and one control group were used in this research. While participants in experimental groups 1 and 2 were allowed to navigate Facebook and to exchange short messaging service messages via mobile phones during real time in class lecturing, the control group participants were allowed to take notes using only pen and paper in the same lecturing conditions during three consecutive experimental sessions. The results showed that when students were given the opportunity of non-lecture-related multitasking using mobile phones writing/sending short messaging services and looking at Facebook profiles/reading news feed/looking at shared multimedia/reading wall messages during the lecture, their grade performance was hindered compared to traditional pen and paper note-taking. Engaging in social media use while trying to follow instruction may reduce learners’ capacity for cognitive processing causing poor academic performance.
— Muhammet Demirbilek & Tarik Talan "The effect of social media multitasking on classroom performance"

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient tablet engraved with 13 verses of the Odyssey in the ancient city of Olympia, southern Greece, in what could be the earliest record of the epic poem, the Greek culture ministry said.

The clay slab is believed to date back to the 3rd century AD, during the Roman era.

“If this date is confirmed, the tablet could be the oldest written record of Homer’s work ever discovered in Greece,” the culture ministry said.
— AFP in Athens, "Ancient find may be earliest extract of Homer's epic poem Odyssey"

Classicism fits comfortably in the city, with its suggestions of the polis, arts, architecture, academia, and culture; and it fits comfortably in the country, with its evocations of quietude, contemplation, tradition, and permanence. But in the suburbs—the place, increasingly, that most of us call home—isn’t classicism rather an ill fit? Can it be taught, practiced, and lived out, with integrity, in the landscape of strip malls and subdivisions?
— Lindsay Bringham Knott, "The Classicist in the Suburbs"