Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ad Interim

Recovering from the first week of classes here – myself, Pippa, & Daphne (for whom this is the first time around, & she's taking to it swimmingly, thank you v. much); but not J., who has a semester's research release so she can lounge about eating bonbons (well, not really). Pippa (aet. 4 1/2) came home Tuesday and announced, "I can read!" Which, it turned out, she could: I tested her on a brand new "phonics" letter game we hadn't opened, & she buzzed right thru 35 of the 36 3-letter words therein (the only one she had trouble with was "boy," one of those damned tricky English diphthongs which could conceivably be spelled any number of ways – boy, boye, boi, even beu).

One's always pleased with one's own kids, often with the slimmest of reasons. I admire the forthrightness of one of my students some years back: A vice president at one of those ubiquitous "security" companies (right now I'm told they're guarding ex-Soviet missile siloes & industrial sites in Mexico, patrolling the Sinai, & operating all the prisons in Scotland), he had just moved to SoFla & was deciding whether to send his kids to private or public schools. He was told that while his local public school was a problematic bet, the "gifted" program was excellent, & having something of a social conscience (at least enough to theoretically want to support the public school system), he inquired as to how one gets one's kids into the "gifted" program. "After all," he told me, "my kids aren't 'gifted'; they're great kids, & I love them very much, but they're not really all that brilliant." It doesn't matter, he was told – if a family was able to pony up to have the child tested by a psychiatrist (& this was something the state would not pay for), then that was usually considered prima facie evidence that the kid was gifted, whatever the test results said. Realizing that the State of Florida had thereby built class distinctions right into the public school system, my student decided to cut out the middleperson & directly enroll them in private school.
Bob Archambeau spends some time explaining why he savaged Gabriel Fitzmaurice's latest collection. Truly dire stuff (the book reviewed, not the review or apology thereupon), but I wonder if Bob ain't skirting the more proximate reason why there aren't more bad reviews of new books of poetry in the circles in which we travel: ie, because it's after all a pretty small world, the world of contemporary poetry that one cares about or theoretically ought to care about, & one's always chary of treading the toes of someone who might be willing to publish or review one's own work the next time around. I'm all for those careful, descriptive reviews of projects that one's largely sympathetic with; I'd like to see more critical, even cutting evaluations of worthwhile projects that one wishes succeeded but don't.
Looking forward to the contents of John Latta's attention span – noting how our zones of weariness seem strangely to have overlapped at approximately the same time – & wondering if any of the same books have swum into our ken over the last year.


Jessica Smith said...

Yay Pippa! That's amazing.

Are are your daughters in public or private school?

We had an enrichment program in the public school I went to, and it worked like this: every new section of a textbook, we would have a pre-test and a normal post-test. if you scored high enough on the pre-test, you could go to the enrichment room during that part of class. there were a few of us wh were kind of permanently in the enrichment room, which was great because we got to do all knds of fun stuff in there.

Your daughters will have a built-in enrichment by virtue of having you as a dad (and presumably your wife, who i don't know, as a mom).

E. M. Selinger said...

Hmmm... let's see now:

"A" is for "a round of fiddles"
"B" is for Bach (or Bottom)
"C" is for Celia
"D" is for... hmmm... if I were at the office, I could think of one.

Help me out, folks: a Zukfosky alphabet seems overdue if Pippa's already reading! We could have it for Daphne, though, if we try--