Slouching Toward Bedlam

The Postmodern Column: What Happens If Fictional Characters Recommend Real Books?

Name: Gordon Winkle

Position at Bedlam Christian High School (BCHS): Industrial Arts Teacher

Book Recommendation: My favorite book to read is Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. His section on the mythos of searing meat is itself worth the price of the book. There are lots of explanations in here about the scientific principles of everyday cooking. I wish he had written more about deep-frying, though. I think deep-frying is one of the most imaginative directions in which cooking is going today, and I would love to read McGee’s take on it.

 

Name: Jane VanderAsch

Position at BCHS: Math Teacher

Book Recommendation: If I could recommend only one book to junior high and high school math teachers, it would be The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. The book’s protagonist, a young boy, has a series of dreams in which a number devil introduces him to mathematical concepts and theory. The book playfully shows the beauty of math, and though the tour guide is a devil, any reader will be left amazed once again at the way our God has ordered the universe. This book would offer creative math teachers new ways to introduce and reinforce mathematical concepts that our students must master.

 

Name: Edmund McGonigal

Position at BCHS: Head Janitor.

Book Recommendation: Ach, there is oonly wan booch warth readin’ (if ya ask me), and tha’ is Robert the Bruce: King of Scots by Ronald McNair Scots (who I ken might be related to mah coosin Angus). Oh, ’tis a fahn booch, all aboot the Bruce’s rebellion against the bloody English. Mah personal favorite part is when the Bruce is ready tae give up the fight an’ throw in the tartan. In the wee hours of the nacht, he watches a wee sleekit timerous spider tryin’ again and again tae string a web, Oh ’tis a most moving tale, that. Make me get a wee tear in mah eye.

 

Name: Christina Lopez

Position at BCHS: English Teacher

Book Recommendation: Waves of education reform keep rolling up into our schools year after year, and as good teachers, we try to catch those waves and ride them like surfers. Often, however, the waves come so fast and so furious that we feel caught in a riptide. Thankfully, one new book—Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning—comes at us across the horizon like a lifeboat. In this book, Mike Schmoker argues for an education reform that strips down the education process to three key areas: developing a focused and coherent curriculum, creating clear and prioritized lesson plans, and giving our students genuine writing and reading tasks to engage them. If that sounds simple, that is Schmoker’s point. Think back to your favorite teachers from when you were a student. What made them so successful? Likely, according to Schmoker, it was that they did these three things very well. This book, though at times a bit overly simplistic, does offer a clarion call for educators to get back to the basics. The call is long overdue.

 

Name: Bentley VanderHaar

Position at BCHS: Principal
Book Recommendation: Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Wess Roberts is a book I have been “reading” lately. Now, to tell the truth, I do not know exactly what a “Klingon” is, or a “Borg,” and actually, pretty much every reference in this book is a mystery to me. But I like reading books about the best way to manage “my” teachers. To tell the truth, the whole book was a little “confusing.” It consists of “log” entries from a guy named “Captain Picard” who makes suggestions about leadership and then ends each entry with the words, “Make it so.” And I guess that was my biggest “takeaway” from this book. Since I have read it, I have enjoyed saying, at the end of every “pep talk” or “course correction” I have had with my teachers, “Make it so!” My teachers are still kind of learning to appreciate my new “Star Trekking” leadership style. I am considering requiring that all of my staff read the book.

 

Name: Jon Kleinhut

Position at BCHS: Librarian

Book Recommendation: That Book Woman by Heather Henson. It is hard to find something really wholesome you can get behind in this world. After all, Disney (which always seemed like a purveyor of good and innocent stories) now owns most of the entertainment world (and who knows what they are teaching our kids); fast-food joints are feeding us nutritionally bankrupt food that is making us addicted to sugar and fat; and do not get me started on the music these kids listen to today. When I feel exasperated with this world, I page through Heather Henson’s wonderful picture book. It tells the story of a humble librarian during the days of The Great Depression, and how she rides on horseback up into the Appalachian Mountains to bring books to families that wouldn’t otherwise be able to get them. It always makes me smile. (You should pick it up soon, though, before these e-readers take over; then we won’t even be able to choose our own books anymore.)

 

Name: Rex Kane

Position at BCHS: Physical Education Teacher Extraordinaire

Book Recommendation: I want to tell you about the best book I have read since that novel about that made-up basketball star, Dennis Rodman. I laughed so hard at the idea that someone like that could ever exist. Anyway, this book is even funnier, and it is true. So this guy Jan Kaarsvlam wrote a bunch of goofy letters to people as if he were this made-up guy with another name, and then saved their responses. My favorite letter is where this made-up guy writes to a knitting magazine to tell them about this program he has started to offer to exchange gang members’ guns for knitting needles. I can’t explain it; you just have to read it. Anyway, the book is called Injecting Chocolate, and if you need a good laugh, check it out. Like the saying goes, Kaarsvlam is such a good writer that “If he did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”