1956

by Eszter Hargittai on October 23, 2006

Our revolution was not a movie Fifty years ago today events occured in Budapest that quickly led to the death of many and the emigration of about 200,000 Hungarians to various corners of the world. (Considering a country of 10 million, that’s a significant number.)

Having grown up in a system that didn’t recognize this day as worthy of mention (given that its whole point was to topple the Soviet-influenced regime) I have never had much of a connection to it. And having left Hungary soon after the political changes of the early 90s after which the date became officially important and a holiday, I have never developed much of a bond with it. In fact, I’m more likely to recognize November 7th as a special date (the one Hungarians and others in the region used to celebrate) than October 23rd. All that is a testament to how strongly social context can influence one’s perception of important historical events and dates.

The image above is from the Times Square area in New York City. I was walking down Broadway on Saturday and noticed the red-white-and-green lines. I figured it was a mistaken use of the Italian flag. When portrayed horizontally, the Italian flag has to be green-white-and-red in order not to be confused with the Hungarian flag. But people unfamiliar with the Hungarian flag (which would be most of the world) don’t know this and so I sometimes see the Italian flag portrayed that way. However, as I neared 50th St. I realized that this was meant to be a Hungarian flag. The Hungarian Cultural Center put up two huge billboards on the corner of Broadway and 50th to commemorate the occasion and to invite folks to “REimagine freedom“.

And yes, there has been unrest in Budapest during the past few weeks including some events today. Some people are trying to draw parallels to the events of 1956, but that seems ludicrous. Just because some people – mostly on the far right so you are not going to see sympathies from me – who are especially good at inciting a few hundred folks do not like the current regime doesn’t mean the president prime minister [d’oh, of course] needs to be ousted. (I commented on all this a few weeks ago.)

Helping Children with Homework

by Harry on October 23, 2006

spiked (my favourite) is sponsoring the Battle of Ideas conference next weekend at the Royal College of the Arts. My friend Adam Swift will be a panelist in the session on home-school relationships, Sending Parents Back to the Classroom (11-12.30 on Sunday morning). In the opening document Kevin Rooney says:

a profound change is taking place in the relationships between families, pupils and schools. What was once a relationship largely based on trust and informality is now being increasingly formalised into carefully regulated contracts and transactions. Parent-school contracts and homework contracts on the one side and inspection and auditing of teachers on the other are now the norm. At the extreme end of this spectrum are truanting orders, fines and the jailing of parents as well as a rise in litigation, with parents suing both schools and teachers.

Rooney’s piece is nicely provocative, and he raises most of the important issues. But I take issue with one thing he says in passing:

Most people over 40 struggle to remember their own parents spending any time helping them with homework.

Maybe, but perhaps that’s because most people over 40 think og helping the kids with their homework as doing it for them. My parents never, as far as I can remember, looked over my homework before I submitted it, or helped in any substantial way with the content. But they were helping me all the time. They made me go to bed early and get up in time for school, they encouraged me to listen to Radio 4 until I was addicted (at about age 6), they forbad homework in front of the TV, and provided space to do it without interruptions. They showed an interest in the work I did at school which resembled the interest my daughter now has in what I do at work — casual conversational interest, indicating that though it was no great concern of theirs they were genuinely interested. And, of course, at the limit I always knew that I could seek help. I can’t remember seeking substantive help from them, but the day I screwed up my first A/O Level paper in Additional Maths I called in a favour from the bloke down the street whom I trained in the nets for his annual work cricket match, and got him to run through how to do calculus with me. (Update — I should have added that he was bloody brilliant at it, and I salvaged a B, thanks to his incredibly clear explanations, in case anyone is considering taking a class from him, although the data is now 27 years old)

The difficulty with home/school agreements is not that they prevent parents from parenting, or encroach on their rights; by and large they don’t. The difficulty is, instead, the fact that this is a very blunt instrument for conveying to parents what really counts as helping kids with homework and giving them the means to do so. Basically, the help I needed was reinforcement of the message that this stuff was really really interesting and important for its own sake. That’s a very hard thing to get parents who don’t already know it, and feel that way, to do.

Hackwork

by Henry on October 23, 2006

Back to Jacob Hacker’s book, this “review”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/business/yourmoney/22shelf.html?ex=1319169600&en=e12ba6da23dbafc5&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss by Roger Lowenstein in the NYT this weekend is really pretty awful. It’s one of those reviews which prompt you to wonder whether the reviewer has read the same book as you have. The very faintest of praise,”as predictable and, at times, whiny as his examples seem, Mr. Hacker does make a contribution to our understanding,” together with some unpleasant insinuations, “[s]ounding at times like a liberal Pat Buchanan.” But what really gets me is that Lowenstein baldly mis-states Hacker’s argument. [click to continue…]