Saturday, June 09, 2007

Book Challenge - Update 2

I have just returned from birthday party drop-off and pick-up, with a short interlude in my office to try and finish my report summarizing the trip to China. I can't seem to let it go yet, which shouldn't surprise anyone who's read this post.

Since I've been away for so long, I really should be spending my time cleaning this house (it's a darn mess) and doing laundry, but instead, I'm happily reading. I've put in another 6 hours and finished these books.

Class Matters - I shouldn't have been surprised that I was so moved by this collection of essays on social class. Reading Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich forever changed my views of the working class. I must say that reading Class Matters was a bit like watching a train wreck. The view is horrific but you can't avert your eyes. The essays all pack a punch, but the one that moved me most was "The College Dropout Boom." With statements like the ones below, I found myself wondering about my University's commitment to all types of diversity, including economic.
  • Only 41% of low income students entering a four-year college managed to graduate within five years, the U.S. Department of Education found in a 2004 study, but 66 percent of high-income students did.
  • Many more students from all classes are getting four-year degrees and reaping their benefits. But those broad gains mask the fact that poor and working-class students have nevertheless been falling behind; for them, not having a degree remains the norm.
  • Opening up colleges to new kinds of students has generally meant one thing over the last generation: affirmative action. Intended to right the wrongs of years of exclusion, the programs have swelled the number of women, blacks, and Latinos on campuses. But affirmative action was never supposed to address broad economic inequities, just the ones that stem from specific kinds of discrimination.
In addition to reading the book, I got online and spent some time looking over the teacher resources. Good stuff.

I also finished Resurrection Men this afternoon. T.K. Welsh, where have you been? I loved this book! As a fan of Sherlock Holmes novels and most pieces of historical fiction set in the Victorian era, I was right at home in this work. The fact that I had recently finished Anne Roiphe's An Imperfect Lens about the cholera epidemic of 1883 in Alexandria just put me in the mood for the grisly details of Welsh's story. Victor is a worthy protagonist, and one that is not easily forgotten once the book is finished. Suffering a cruel early life, Victor witnesses the murder of his parents, is sold to a merchant, and is abused at sea and finally thrown overboard. Once he washes ashore in England, he is taken in by an elderly man who helps him recover, only to sell him to a pair of grave robbers (the "Resurrection men") who steal corpses for use in research and dissection. This is a wonderfully ghoulish story that captures the darkness of London in the mid-1800's. Pick it up and you'll find it hard to put down. Once you reach the end, you have the option of logging on to the hidden section of T.K. Welsh's web site for some added fun.

Time now to get dinner together, do bath time, play some games and read books before bedtime. Until then, Larbalestier is in the on-deck circle.

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