Notes from the Now

Recent Lit Events Attended (Sept-Oct 2009)

In Chicago, Education, Events, news on October 7, 2009 at 9:18 pm

In the last two weeks, I’ve seen Ralph Nader speak about “Only the Super Rich Can Save Us” and Jacqueline Edelberg speak about “How to Walk to School” at the University of Chicago’s International House and Divinity School respectively.

To be perfectly honest, I’m still processing both talks and since neither book is one I’m going to read for a while (we’ll see what the wait at the Chicago Public Library is like for both of these), I don’t know to what degree I can say anything meaningful and coherent.

I can certainly clue you in to where I think I’m going with both these.

“Only the Super-Rich…” :: The very idea of utopian literature today is somewhat preposterous. Ours is an era that almost presumes that any attempt at significant change (not even “utopia”) will necessarily end in dystopia (you can’t change the military budget without demilitarizing, you can’t improve the healthcare system without ushering in socialism, any environmental protections are going bankrupt our business, etcetera. I’d add deregulation will cause the financial sector to collapse under the weight of it’s own greed, but that one actually happened). So, it’s an interesting move by Nader to take this tact to reminding us that things can be different. I don’t know how I feel about setting this up as “the left’s answer to the Fountainhead“, as I feel like the Fountainhead has already done enough harm. I like that Nader designed this as a civics course, but have some serious doubts about how well that’ll work as literature. All said, it’s interesting enough for me to check out from the library during the winter. I’m going to write about Nader himself and the rest of talk over at my regular blog sooner or later.

“How to Walk to School…” :: I think all I’ll say here is that it’s dangerous to think that every positive change can be systematized and turned into a model that’s replicable. It’s also dangerous to discount the uniqueness of the environments or the social capital of the individuals involved, or to dismiss the unintended consequences as being non-consequential. So even though it’s a very positive heart-warming story at Nettlehorst, I left the talk more concerned about how these individual instances get turned into banners for arm-chair policy wonks to run cookie cutter reforms under. I’m hoping that the book differentiates between what is unique to that neighborhood and what is more generally applicable in a better way than the talk did.

  1. Let me know what you think of the Nettelhorst book. Both my father and grandmother went to grade school there, so I have a personal interest in the narrative. I’d also be wary if the book claims whatever they did right at this school (in a wealthy neighborhood) is a cure-all for the system at large.

  2. I’m getting the Nettlehorst book from the CPL soon, and will update you on how it. The talk was trying to be more general than could be justified. She should have stuck to how they managed to make a difference that was meaningful to them.

  3. […] Recent Lit Events Attended (Sept-Oct 2009) — some impressions from events that I went to at the University of Chicago about the “Super Rich” and how Gentrifying Playground Moms can save education. […]

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