Theme of the Week

L – Education – Stand and Deliver

Reader: Tony Zbaraschuk
Author: Allan Tucker and Robert A. Bryan
Title: The academic dean: dove, dragon, and diplomat
Call Number: LB2341 .T778 1991
Rating: 4

Summary: I always wondered what my boss did all day, and now I’ve found out.

This is a fairly comprehensive guide to the art of academic administration at the middle levels, starting with why anyone would want to become a dean (“a rage for order” is the characteristic listed first by the authors, who definitely have a sense of humor to go along with plenty of practical experience and common sense.) The early chapters on making decisions and budgetary planning are a bit sparse, but as they get into the heart of the dean’s job, dealing with chairs, faculty, and students, the book becomes much more interesting and detailed. There are many good stories (probably heavily anonymized), and a lot of case studies; this book could be a useful textbook for a “How to be a Dean” class, though many others interested in academic administration would probably benefit from reading it.

And I now have a much better idea of what my boss does all day.

Reader: Kitty Simmons
Author: Herbert Kohl
Title: Painting Chinese
Call: LA 2317 K64 A3
Rating: 5

Summary: “How many mid–autumns can an old man have?
He knows this passing light cannot be held...”––Shen Chou, p. 103

Herbert Kohl is a familiar name to anyone involved in education during the 1970s, even just taking classes as I was. The Open Classroom and 36 Children are just two of the important books written by this renowned reformer during his long career. However, when we meet him here in 2007, with his work winding down, he is taking stock of where he has been and where he might be going next. Although this isn’t a biography or a book about education, Chinese painting, or aging, the author skillfully manages to pack all of these elements and more into this slim volume.

Moving into his seventies, Kohl seems to be taken by surprise that old age is just around the corner. Even more disconcerting than newly emerging physical infirmities is the realization that “many of my theories about educating children were neither relevant nor effective anymore.” Although the ingredients for despair, at least deep melancholy, are bubbling up, this life–long learner refuses to stagnate in self–pity. Instead, he seeks out a completely new challenge to provide the balm that will both heal his pain and give him new incentive for growth. He joins a beginners class in Chinese painting. Surrounded by children and guided by a patient teacher, Kohl slowly learns to master and then enjoy both a new skill and a new phase of life.

The introduction to Chinese painting will be an interesting bonus for most readers. One of the most fascinating aspects of this practice for me was to become aware of the importance of copying over originality. For Kohl, whose professional life featured the individuality, creativity, and free–expression of the open classroom, accepting this discipline was both a struggle and a mind–opening experience. The Western reader is given valuable insight into this area of Chinese culture and point of view.

Although accessible to all, this book will probably be most appreciated by those who are at least in mid–career. Contemplating one’s mortality is never a pleasant experience, probably best delayed until the bloom of youth is at least a recent memory. Traveling along with Kohl as his journey takes some unexpected twists, he provides the reader with valuable lessons for dealing with the “long and winding road” of life.

Theme Archives

B’s – philosophy, psychology, theology, religions
C or D – history of Europe, Africa, Asia, archaeology History of the World part 1
E or F – history of the Americas – Roots
G or H – Economics, business, anthropology, sociology, crime – Wall Street
L – Education – Stand and Deliver
M or N – Music, Art – Amadeus
P – Language and Literature – The Diary of Bridget Jones
Q or R – Science, Math, Medicine – Beautiful Mind