News of Interest to Heritage Reporters and Teachers
What’s wrong with NCLB
What’s wrong with NCLB is what’s always wrong with school. It’s the product of the timid and colorless imaginations of middle-aged or older functionaries who have risen to positions of eminence by stifling the heroic spirit that so easily gets one in trouble. If J. Alfred Prufrock ("Do I dare to eat a peach?") had been put in charge of teaching the nation’s young people what they need to feel and know to live in the world that’s forming and reforming around them like a kaleidoscope of blood-red and Eden-green moments, I doubt he would have done much worse than NCLB.
I admit that my antipathy is somewhat childish. I didn’t like school, and I remember clearly the boredom I felt when unheroic functionaries who imagined I might care about their timid and colorless plans for me tried to give me advice. What did they know? I was poor, ignorant and stupid, but not so stupid that I couldn’t see that life was dangerous, fully charged with potential for ecstacy and for despair, and that to get through the day I needed better help than little cost/benefit thoughts and blather about the global economy.
It’s not possible to live well without a heroic spirit, and kids need advice and encouragement about how to live heroically. Getting a few more points on a standardized test doesn’t do it. NCLB is full of threats to school administrators, but it’s completely void of promises to young people.
The solution is not a big plan backed by lots of Senators, but lots of little acts of passion. I suggest reading a poem each day by a man who did hear the mermaids singing to him--William Butler Yeats:
Bald heads, forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.
All shuffle there, all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk their way?
-- William Butler Yeats
Examining a Woman’s Life in Letters
Drawing on an art form that is rapidly being degraded by technology, author Lee Rostad has brought back to life the story of a remarkable small town Montana woman who lived a passionate and rich life through her letters in the 1920s and 30s.
On Thursday (July 28) at 6:30 p.m. at the Montana Historical Society Rostad will present a free public program based on her recent book Grace Stone Coates: Her Life in Letters.
Coates once advised a friend to “remember that … a stamped, self-addressed envelope is a pulling power that sometimes makes them answer a letter; the envelope lies looking up at them reproachfully every time they turn around, and finally in sheer self-accusation they say something and send it back.”
Rostad has skillfully edited the rich legacy of correspondence to and from Coates and used them to wind together a fascinating biography of a woman who lived out most of her life in the Musselshell Valley.
With her husband Henderson, she moved from Butte to Martinsdale in 1910 and established a general store in what Grace called “an alien land.”
Through her letters and writing Coates created a life that took on a national flair. She immersed herself in poetry, short stories and of course letters, and published two books of poetry and a novel, Black Cherries.
Reaching out from her small town, Coates had a long, personal correspondence with William Saroyan, a young San Francisco writer who later became one of America’s most celebrated writers, who always credited Coates with influencing his work.
She shaped other writers through her reviews and essays in The Frontier, a prominent magazine edited by H.G. Merriam, and regularly exchanged letters with noted Montanans including Charles M. Russell, Frank Bird Linderman and historian James Rankin.
Rostad, who is president of the Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees, also call Martinsdale home and has become a writer and historian worthy in her own right, and uniquely qualified to tell Coates’s story.
The book is an adventure on every page, as Rostad leads the reader to find the person behind the demure housewife who wrote the local news for the county newspaper and often hunted and fished with her husband.
Rostad’s book will be available at the Museum Store, and she will autograph copies after the talk.
Simms Students To Present at the Montana Historical Society
TWO EVENTS HIGHLIGHT THURSDAY EVENING AT SOCIETY,
AWARD WINNING STUDENT STUDY AND GHOST TOUR OF HELENA
The Montana Historical Society is offering two programs Thursday (June 16) beginning at 6:30 p.m. to kickoff its summer season that extends museum hours until 8 p.m. to provide more access to Montana’s Museum.
The Museum will be open each Thursday until 8 p.m. for programs or for those who just want to go through the exhibits.
An award winning student study will lead off the programs, and will be followed by a special Last Chance Tour Train trip through “some ghostly haunts” in Helena hosted by the Society’s Ellen Baumler, who is the author of a new book on the subject, “Beyond Spirit Tailings.”
The first part of this Thursday’s program will be the same report and study that four Simms High School students made recently to Librarian of Congress James Billington on a trip to Washington, D.C.
The students were chosen to represent the Society’s Montana Heritage Project for their study of the history of transportation in the Sun River Valley. They investigated themes ranging from how prehistoric Old North Trail use compares and contrasts to current Interstate 15 use, to the impact of rail line closing in the valley and the politics of local transportation.
The students are Heidi Tynes, Crystal Tetzel, Neah Pashall and Jessica Eastley. To help set the stage for Baumler’s tour, Eastley also will talk about the Simms Heritage Project study she led last year that involved creating a database of information from headstones at local cemeteries that is servings as a model across the state.
Heritage Project Education Director Marcella Sherfy said “with teacher support and encouragement from organizations like the Montana Historical Society students can contribute rich material for future researchers to help tell the story of our great state.”
After the student presentation, Baumler will lead a tour of cemeteries, Reeder’s Alley and other places where unexplained spirit events have been reported in Helena.
There will be a $5 charge for the tour, and Tour Train spokesman Lee Holmes said that tickets will be sold at the regular tour train area on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We know this will be popular, so people can purchase tickets when they get to the Society, or after the student program,” he said.
Tom Cook (MHS Information Officer)