Sunday, August 28, 2016

Why Am I Running for Re-Election to the School Board?

There is a stock answer to this question available to any one of the four incumbent members of the school board seeking re-election this year. I have the knowledge and experience to address the challenges facing our school district in the next four years, and to follow through on district-wide initiatives—such as the master facilities plan and the new strategic plan—already in progress. I have four years of experience as a school board member; Fritz Bogott has six months, Ellen Iverson has eight years, Noel Stratmoen has more than thirty years. There's a good case to be made for sticking with experience.

On the other hand, there’s a benefit to be gained from a fresh perspective—the perspective of someone who’s been an outsider to the process. When I joined the school board in January 2013, the board was preparing to make a decision on the implementation the one-to-one iPad initiative (otherwise known as Transformational Technology). I was the only new member of the board, and the only board member to vote against implementation of the program. Although my lone dissenting vote couldn’t stop the iPad implementation, it allowed me to be a voice for those—teachers, parents, and students—who continued to have questions and reservations about the program.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Poet Laureate

I'm extremely honored to have been chosen as Northfield, Minnesota's first Poet Laureate. You can read more about the appointment in the Northfield News

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hero Now Theatre's Production of "Oresteia" (adapted by Rob Hardy from the original by Aeschylus)

Aeschylus’s Oresteia, originally performed in 458 BCE, is the only surviving dramatic trilogy from classical Athens. The trilogy takes audiences to ancient Argos, on the eve of Agamemnon’s bloody homecoming from the Trojan War, and ends in Athens, where the mythical cycle of violence is resolved with the establishment of a homicide court on the rock of the Areopagus.

In 2012, I adapted Aeschylus’s trilogy as a single 90-minute play that keeps the mythical framework of the original but updates it for modern audiences. The adaptation was first presented by the Carleton Players, directed by Ruth Weiner, in May 2012. It was the final production of the inaugural season of Carleton’s Weitz Center for Creativity Theater. You can read a review of that production here

Next month—September 9-11 and 15-18, 2016—the adaptation will be given a new production by Hero Now Theatre in Minneapolis, directed by Kristin Halsey. Hero Now presents plays in “found spaces,” and for the Oresteia has found an evocative sculpture garden in Northeast Minneapolis to stand in for ancient Argos and Athens.

Tickets are available for $25 through Brown Paper Tickets. All performances are at 7:30 pm.


For more information, check out the Hero Now Theatre website.

Zoran Mojsilov's sculpture garden in Northeast Minneapolis: the "found" set for Hero Now Theatre's Oresteia.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

New Publication: "'Deceit only was forbidden': A Brief Literary Biography of Richard Henry Wilde"

If you want a distraction from current politics, you can read my long essay in the summer issue of the New England Review. It's about Richard Henry Wilde (1789-1847), a nineteenth-century Congressman and poet who opposed Andrew Jackson's monetary policy and lost his bid for reelection amid accusations of plagiarism. It's a story about deception, hypocrisy, poetry, slavery, and the power of gold. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

New Publication: "Encounters in the Fairy Hill"

The Spring 2016 issue of The Bottle Imp, the online journal of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, is devoted to Naomi Mitchison. Included in the issue is my essay "Encounters in the Fairy Hill," exploring the connections between Mitchison's children's book The Fairy Who Couldn't Tell a Lie (1963) and her memoir of becoming an honorary member of the Bakgatla tribe in Botswana, Return to the Fairy Hill (1966). It's about imagination and encountering difference.

My two earlier essays on Mitchison—“Naomi Mitchison: Peaceable Transgressor" (New England Review) and "'Real and Not Real': Naomi Mitchison's Philosophy of the Historical Novel” (Readings)—were recently reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, vol. 327, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau (Gage/Cengage Learning 2016). 

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Pioneer of Women's Rights: Phebe Sudlow, the First Female School Superintendent in the United States

In 1860, twenty-nine year old Phebe Sudlow had been teaching for twelve years—for most of that time in a one-room school schoolhouse in rural Scott County, Iowa—when she was appointed principal at Grammar School No. 2 in the city of Davenport.

When she found that the salary she had been offered was less than that of a male colleague in the same position, Sudlow she brought up the issue with the school board. At the time, lower salaries for women were justified on the grounds that female teachers—unmarried women who left teaching when they married—had only themselves, while male teachers had families to support. The school board refused to raise Sudlow’s pay, but she continued to press the issue.

In 1874, when she was chosen to become Davenport’s superintendent of schools, she again approached the school board and refused to accept the position unless her salary was equal to that of her male predecessor.

“Gentlemen,” she told the school board, “if you are cutting the salary because of my experience, I have nothing to say; but if you are doing this because I am a woman, I’ll have nothing more to do with it.

The school board agreed to Sudlow’s conditions, and she was hired as the first female superintendent of schools in the United States. Thanks to Sudlow’s efforts, the teachers’ contract in Davenport was changed to offer equal pay to men and women—decades before this became the standard practice elsewhere.

In an address given as the first female  president of the Iowa State Teachers Association in 1877, Sudlow said: "I cannot understand why equal attainment, equal culture, and equal strength of purpose and will should not have equal influence whether in man or woman."

The following year, she was hired as the first female professor at the University of Iowa. As one newspaper reported: "Every institution of this kind should have at least one lady in its faculty; and we know of no one more worthy to fill the place than Miss Sudlow."

(Photo from the Davenport School Museum)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

New Publication: "Bee Line: How the Honey Bee Defined the American Frontier"

My essay "Bee Line: How the Honey Bee Defined the American Frontier" has been published in the online journal Readings. The essay traces the spread of the honey bee, an introduced species, in advance of white settlement, and examines what bee hunting tells us about property rights on the frontier.

The essay looks at references to honey bees and bee hunting in 18th- and 19th-century travelers' accounts, as well as in 19th-century stories and novels by Caroline Kirkland, Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and others.

I started working on the essay in 2007, and abandoned it until late last year, when I rediscovered the fragmentary essay in a file on my computer and decided to complete it. This writing method is not uncommon with me.

Readings is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that aims to publish scholarship accessible to a general audience.