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The Sinking of The Sir Walter Scott represents a way of life that was based on medieval myths. The Scottish writer, Sir Walter Scott, was very popular in the South before the Civil War. This image comes from the original drawings from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. Edward Kemble drew 174 illustrations for the celebrated novel, published in the UK in 1884 and then three months after in the US in 1885.

To understand a Southerner’s fondness for monuments and say, the rebel flag, it is essential to understand its culture through its rich literary history. Leafing through such pages will not excuse racism or intolerance or xenophobia, but at least it may help us understand.

Every September in AP Language and Composition, we tackle Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a scathing satire so essential on race relations that it’s essentially absent in high schools.

One of my questions leads into rather good discussion. What’s the significance of Twain calling the wreck on the Mississippi The Sir Walter Scott? Is it just a random name? Or is it emblematic of something deeper? …


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That day in early July when I “got the call” in 1999 at Story Book Land. The world was before me, literally and figuratively. My polo shirt, the color of a September sky, mirrors my excited eyes. I’m pointing to a future homework assignment, assignments and assessments that must surpass the heavenly stars.

Are teachers still smiling? Even after five, ten, or twenty years later, do our smiles stretch across the Straits of Gibraltar and the radiant warmth of the Showing results for Mediterranean sun? Does our passion and energy still radiate optimism and hope for our students and our profession?

It’s 2020. Late October.

My smile has faded, like the yellowing leaves of the sweet gum outside the window of my study, but I still want to smile like this photo from 1999.

What can be done?

THE BACK STORY

My wife Mary Jane took this jubilant photo at Storybook Land, just outside of Atlantic City. At the park, there was a “play” One Room Schoolhouse. The time for play was over, for me, at last, as my career as a full-time English teacher was about to commence. …


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Up until this year, on the advice of my wife and my therapist, I would write fifty recommendation letters, or about 10% of the graduating class.

This year, I’ve reduced that number to twenty.

I just finalized my third “story” this afternoon, on unsubsidized time. Not really sure anyone but the student knows or cares, but that’s why I teach, right? I only have twelve more to do before the end of this month.

Each story is about 600 words. In my crazy days, I would write 30,000 words in October. “The Great Gatsby” is 47,000 words.

While I care about hooks, concrete detail, character development and conflict, my quickly crafted stories never get published. I write for an audience of one: the admissions reader. …


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In 2015, the National History Day Scholars from New Jersey proudly display the banner. For more information about National History Day events, visit: https://www.nhd.org/

What I witnessed over the course of 2015 for National History Day is a testimony to how we can revolutionize education in the United States.

During Back to School Night at Rosa International Middle School in Cherry Hill, 8th grade social studies teacher Mrs. Marella cheer-leaded student participation in National History Day — an organization where half a million children compete “to tell the human story.”

Pom poms and somersaults were the only missing feature.

A combination of Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Rosie the Riveter, Ms. …


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It’s not really about zombies, or Communists, or space invaders anymore, right? The real scare may be something much harder to see and to fight. Created on Canva.com. CC By NC-ND 4.0.

The study of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the fictional account of the Salem Witch Trials, invariably leads to the discussion of current-day hysteria. In English class we study the paranoia of the witch scare, when superstitious Puritans believed that to allow a witch to walk amongst them was worse than allowing an Ebola patient loose in society.

An infected Ebola patient could merely kill you. A witch would condemn souls to eternal damnation.

And if Exodus 22:18 states that “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” well, our friendly, God-fearing ancestors took scripture quite literally.

But as Arthur Miller pointed out, “fear doesn’t travel very well.” …


I remember my first pain on a local carnival

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

“Come on son, are you a man or a weakling?
Yes you, step up here and test your strength
Win your girl a stuffed koala bear
(Come on baby)
Come on son.”

~ The Beach Boys “County Fair”

The post-traumatic syndrome is perhaps better understood for soldiers on the field, but on the field of that local carnival, I remember my first pain.

The carnival appeared overnight. The smell of wet hay lingered above furrowed fields where black tarps served as slip and slides. I tripped and hurt my arm socket when my mom tried to steady me.

As my parents argued in front of the ticket booth, I rubbed my shoulder. My dad wanted an unlimited pass, but my mom said that it was too expensive.


His short stories are accessible, mostly, but this novel of word-play made me fall in love with words and ideas all over again

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The streets of Dublin in 1904. By Walter Bowne

It amazes me those who start to listen or to read the monumental “Ulysses” without doing some research. “It’s too hard to follow.” “It doesn’t make sense.” Great writers, says Thoreau, require great readers.

As one with a Master’s degree in English and Rhetoric, I knew a lot about Joyce. I’ve taught “Dubliners,” and I’ve read “Portrait” twice. But I was always wary of “Ulysses.”

How many times did I start?

Was it, like Twain said, such a classic that no one wants to read it but everyone wants to brag about having read it? I knew enough about the fame and infamy of the book, with its ban in the UK and the US, as pornography…. …


Read Ron Chernow’s monumental biography “Grant” to gain a better understanding of the current societal rifts in America

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Walter Bowne poses with his copy of Chernow’s “Grant” for his school’s Read campaign. His journalism students photographed teachers with a favorite book and then used Photoshop. He teaches AP Language and Composition, English III Honors, and Journalism I, II, III, and IV in New Jersey. Photo by Walter Bowne

Reading Ron Chernow’s Grant has been much like walking across this great country. It took a while, and I stopped to visit other locales along the way, other books, like Dante’s Inferno or Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, those I could breeze through, but what I gained from this momentous biography has been well worth this Yankee’s worn shoe leather.

As a Civil War buff since I was a teenager, I already knew much about Grant. I also knew a little about his two terms in office, and the legends of his drinking and the corrupt cabinet members of his administration. …


As we approach probably the strangest farewell address ever, let’s take a look at the first, and perhaps, the best

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Walter Bowne’s bookcase. Photo by Walter Bowne

An interview on CNN with John Avlon brought me to his book Washington’s Farewell. As a journalism instructor and as the advisor of a high school newspaper, I found his insights on fake news and hyper-partisan politics interesting enough to have my students watch the segment.

During the interview with John Stelter, John Avlon, the editor in chief of The Daily Beast, said that this was the best time to be a journalist because journalists, more than ever, are needed now. He said this could be a “Murrow moment” — the time Edward R. Murrow stood up against the demagogue of Joseph McCarthy on national TV while a burning cigarette burned off camera. He said that the Trump years will be “the best time to be a journalist . . . …


The books that served as a guiding and lightsome co-pilot for those dark days of winter and sickness.

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I read somewhere that one should try to read all of an author’s books. We do such things with directors and actors, right? Kubrick. Tarantino. Francis Ford Coppola. Tom Hanks. John Belushi. Why not Jane Austen?

My mother-in-law was in the hospital in Altoona. That equaled two hundred and minutes of tiresome Turnpike motoring. I wouldn’t call it driving. Driving requires skill: a stick shift on the Autobahn.

It was February in Western Pennsylvania, but I only encountered black slush and calls for “Teacher Volunteers” at area high schools. Usually alone, I made the Keystone 2020 Run in 1.7 parsecs from New Jersey on weekends (or whenever needed). My Kia Sorento is fast enough for this middle-aged man.

My wife’s mom was seriously ill from a fall. Not only was she beloved, who loved me as an adopted son, she was also my best reader and editor. I had to be there for her. …

About

Walter Bowne

Walter Bowne teaches English and journalism. He writes and publishes on education, gardening, family, American literature, humor, craft beer, and books.

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