Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Gene Weingarten is a humor writer. His column, Below the Beltway, is published weekly in the Washington Post Magazine. On April 7, 2008, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for Pearls Before Breakfast, "his chronicling of a world-class violinist [Joshua Bell] who, as an experiment, played beautiful music in a [Washington D.C.] subway station filled with [mostly - to all appearances] unheeding commuters."


Excerpt from the story:
He [Bell] was, in short, art without a frame. Which, it turns out, may have a lot to do with what happened -- or, more precisely, what didn't happen -- on January 12.

Mark Leithauser has held in his hands more great works of art than any king or pope or Medici ever did. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station.

"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"

Leithauser's point is that we shouldn't be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.


Of course it does. This story makes me think that it is a shame that it matters so much. On the other hand, it is a powerful lesson for those of us who develop and present curricula and work to sustain holistic and humane learning.

Click on the link to the story or Bell's site to hear clips of the lovely music.

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