Category: Parenting


EDUCATED by Tara Westover (Random House, 2018)
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What is education for?

This deceptively simple question is guaranteed to open a can of worms.

In Charles Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’, the severe school board superintendent Thomas Gradgrind expresses the view that “facts alone are wanted in life”. Schooling in Victorian times typically followed the view that young captives in the classroom were little more that vessels to be filled.

In our supposedly more enlightened age, decent-minded folk are scathing towards such blatant child abuse. The robotic process of memorizing and reproducing information is rightly dismissed in favor of an educational model that encourages students to, in the words of Noam Chomsky, “shape the questions worth pursuing”.

In a talk to teachers, James Baldwin followed the Chomskyan line when he said “The purpose of education is to create in a person the ability of to look at the world for himself”. But Baldwin was also aware of how problematic a well-informed, critical populace could be and added that “no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around”.

In ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover , the author implicitly asks readers to consider where instruction ends and indoctrination begins.

In a note to readers, she advises: “This is not a book about Mormonism. Neither is it a book about religious belief”. Yet the fundamentalist of her survivalist parents and their rigid application of principles prescribed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have a huge and primarily negative impact of her upbringing.

A weaker, less stubborn personality would have been broken and submitted to a conventional life mapped out for her. As it is, she not only survives to tell her remarkable tale but thrives against all odds to become an esteemed scholar and to exemplify the virtues of individual thought and creative enquiry. Continue reading

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BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley (1931)

huxleyIn his foreword, Aldous Huxley wrote that “A book about the future can interest us only of its proficies look as though they might conceivably come true”. Unfortunately for us, his nightmarish visions are increasingly coming to seem all too accurate.

Almost half a century before the birth of the world’s first ‘test tube’ baby, Huxley imagined how “newly unbottled babes” might be used to “improve on nature” by replacing the need for parents and what he provocatively defined as the “appalling dangers of family life”. In the ‘new world’ human genes are manipulated to produce docile and efficient workers and consumers.

The promise of sexual freedom and the encouragement of promiscuity serves as a compensation for the absence of political or economic liberty. Dumb movies known as ‘feelies’ have an additional sedating function while a legal drug called ‘soma’ is taken to avert any lingering gloomy thoughts. Continue reading

To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2018)

vivThis is not a memoir about music but if you come to it as a fan of The Slits you will not be disappointed by the embodiment of the punk spirit that Viv Albertine represents.

In it, she describes herself as questioning, militant, aggressive, secretly shy, awkward, mistrustful and solitary. Continue reading

CAROL directed by Todd Haynes (USA, 2015)

carol_film_posterI borrowed this film from my local lending library in Cesena, Italy. This excellent ‘mediateca’,  somewhat anachronistically, continues to maintain a healthy stock of old and new DVDs.

In a card inside the case of more recent acquisitions you are invited to write what you think of the movie: “Lascia un commento, potresti convincere qulache indeciso” (Leave a comment – it may convince others who are undecided).

For Carol, there is just one review which (translated from Italian) states that it is “the story of an upper class woman who destroys the life of her husband and, not content with this, also ruins the life of a poor young working woman. All this in the name of a presumed sexual liberation. A film of homosexual propaganda”.

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The offending review of ‘Carol’.

This blinkered and spiteful reading of Todd Haynes’ elegant and intelligent movie illustrates that, despite some encouraging advances in LGBT rights, this is no time for complacency. Continue reading

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“Bands are like psychotic families” – Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon (A Girl In A Band)

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