• Passages Part I: Paris

    More than anything, the way people moved around—without a definite direction, and yet somehow methodically, checking a piece, hesitating, deciding to continue on—reminded me of the way I walk around my apartment when I’m not sure where I’ve put my keys. Only, people in museums usually aren’t looking for something specific, like keys. They don’t know what exactly it is they’re looking for. They’re hoping they’ll know it when they see it.

  • On Rigor, Grades, Challenge, and Leisure

    An authentic, intellectually challenging education summons students to a difficult task, yes, but it also summons them to something real. Its arena is not the confined dimensions of a classroom or the fixed hours of a school day but the boundless world in which we live. True intellectual challenge is animated by the spirit of exploration; mere academic rigor by the specter of the grade.

  • The Wait

    Something is going on under a blanket of dead leaves and snow when we no longer expect anything. The false sense of fulness is being done away with, done to death by the cold hard season. Sorrow’s flower is in full, ice-crystal-fringed blossom. Perhaps it is not so much barren as bare. Spare.

  • Smoke as Motif

    Was there, in all this tension, in the clenched, interwoven fingers of Cezanne’s motif, an expectation of inevitable release? An anticipation of relief? Like the relief that comes with clarity, even a terrible clarity. As I left, that impassive painting looked to me like the face of an aging dam. 

  • On Qualitative vs. Quantitative Assessment

    Numbers are not more real than words. On the contrary, the idea that a number like 82.3% could serve as a summary of student performance is the real problem. It cannot. What a student has learned is demonstrated in the skills, knowledge, understanding, and habits of mind he has acquired. Those skills are best understood linguistically, not numerically.