It’s classic!

By UnknownMarie-Lan Nguyen (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By UnknownMarie-Lan Nguyen (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about the classics and libraries. I was a bit intrigued by the coincidence, for my current audiobook is A Classical Education The stuff you wish you were taught in school, written by Caroline Taggart and narrated by Bill Wallis. Maybe the words would reflect my situation better if they read “The stuff you wish you retained from what you learned in school”. I did study ancient history and even retained enough of it to get a passing grade in my final year of school, but most of what I learned dissipated once the exam was done.

Although I am enjoying the audiobook, I think I will be none the wiser at its conclusion and retain little more than in earlier days. It is a reflection on my retention rather than the worthiness of the book.  At the top of Taggart’s webpage is a statement from the Yorkshire Post that I think is probably no idle boast:

Caroline Taggart…has carved out a niche for herself in user-friendly, wittily written factual books which capture the imagination and quickly find their way to the top of the bestseller lists. 

Prior to reading this statement I had thought that it was perhaps the narration that had brought the book alive in a most entertaining way. I was surprised that the narrator was not the author for the wonderful meanings and interest he evokes. If not the author then, I thought, he must be a wonderful character actor. Indeed, I was not surprised to find, he was.

According to the Yorkshire Post, the writing itself is worthy too, though it seems to me, in many ways to be little more than a list of names, dates and snippets of events brought to life by an expert narrator. I’m not sure that I would read it cover to cover as I have listened to it, but it would definitely make a useful resource for checking out who and when, which is more or less impossible to do with an audiobook.

ausines headphones

One thing I have not liked about the book is the repeated opinion that maths and science in school are boring, and that most of us would only groan when thinking of what mathematicians like Archimedes and Pythagoras have burdened us with. If you’ve read many of my posts you would probably accuse me of being inconsistent, for haven’t I often agreed with that opinion of maths at school?

algebra

However, learning in mathematics should not be that way. I wish that everything we learned in school would be alive with interest, purpose and meaning. Then there’d be no need to groan. We’d be amazed and inspired by these great thinkers who have enlightened our lives.

Arthur Benjamin, Mathemagician, would agree.

He summarises his talk with these words:

“Mathematics is not just solving for x, it’s also figuring out why.”

But I digress a little. Charli’s main point was about the joy to be found in libraries. In my younger years I spent many hours in libraries. And if I wasn’t in a library, I was reading a book I’d borrowed from a library. Our home was filled with books but there were never enough to read and my parents and many of my siblings were frequent library book borrowers. On many Saturday afternoons throughout my teenage years I would walk the 5½ kilometre journey to the local library and back. I can’t remember how many books I was allowed to borrow, but I borrowed as many as I could.

So many things about libraries have changed from those days of enforced silence, carded catalogues, and microfiche readers. But I don’t feel nostalgic for it. The systems are much more efficient now, and libraries have much more to offer the changing needs of a changing society.

What does sadden me is that many local councils and schools are doing away with their libraries, and many schools are choosing administrators over teacher librarians when organising their staffing. A teacher librarian should be first enlisted. Nobody knows books and readers better than a teacher librarian.

While I have not frequented my local library in recent years, I would be very distressed if it were to close. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to choose ownership over borrowing as I do. Libraries are important to communities and should be accessible to everyone; and not only for their books. Libraries play a significant role in developing a sense of community by providing meeting spaces for books clubs and groups of all sorts, activities for children including storytelling and reading, craft activities, films, games and puzzles, visits by authors and illustrators …

They are also a great place to brush up on the classics that you may have missed out on in school, or find a book about mathematics that may inspire you to ask a big question and figure out why.

The idea for my flash in response to Charli’s challenge, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a library, comes from the idea of taking books to the people, in their own neighbourhoods, and connects with my thoughts for an early childhood caravan.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Another life, another dream, another possibility …

 The Book Lady

She pulled the trailer from the shed, cleaned off the grime, gave it a lick of paint and hitched it to its once permanent position behind her bicycle. A trial ride around the yard confirmed all, including her knees, were still in working order. She propped the bike against the stairs and trundled back to her library where books lay scattered, spewed from shelves no longer able to hold them. She bundled them lovingly, tied them with memories, and wished them new hands to hold and hearts to love. It was time to share, and she knew just where.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

50 thoughts on “It’s classic!

  1. Sarah Brentyn

    Have to agree with Irene and Sherri. I couldn’t stand math in school. I was always a reading/writing, philosophy kind of student. I think we all “cringe” at certain subjects. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to love it ONLY because it’s fun to teach my kids. And they sometimes teach me.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, Sarah. I was more the reading/writing/philosophy type too. Still am really. But I agree with you about maths. It can be fun learning for, with and from the children. My grandson was doing some calculations that blew me away this afternoon! 🙂

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  2. Bec

    Lovely FF as always! I wish I had the opportunity to see your make your early learning caravan more than just a great idea. I too feel very strongly about libraries, even though I rarely visit (though I do depend very heavily on my university library – though that’s usually for journal papers though the computer rather than being in the building with the books) – I would be horrified to hear about a local library closing.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec. One day I might get to do the caravan. It would be so much fun! 🙂 I can’t imagine the university library closing. You may not use it but every time I go past it is full of students reading. 🙂

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  3. TanGental

    my secondary school had a tyrant of a librarian who assumed all children did was desecrate books so his job was either to keep us out of intimidate us so much we barely went in. He retired in my second year and the new, female librarian was welcoming and rather motherly. Took us an age to believe we could just go there. I wonder now how many kids he put off completely. Sorry, a bit of a ramble triggered by your post.. Nicely done as per

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Geoff. Oh the thought of that librarian makes me cringe. I don’t like my books to be desecrated, but I do like them to be read. If books aren’t being read in, or checked out, of a library there’s not much point in it, is there? I cry for those potential readers turned off by his attitude. I’m pleased you weren’t one of them. That would be tragic. Apologies I haven’t been over to your place much this week. There have been other distractions which won’t go away just yet. I haven’t forgotten you. Your notifications are still sitting in my inbox. 🙂

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      1. TanGental

        You are kind to treat them as an obligation but please don’t . I vomit out posts like a cat does furballs so just skip the old and wait Until you have a quiet moment. Hope your busy week is something good.

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        1. Norah Post author

          It’s not vomit!!! I’m pleased I got to read a couple today for a bit of light relief!
          There have been good things in the busy week. I just suffer from the common ailment – too much (I want) to do and not enough time!
          Thanks for your understanding.

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  4. Sacha Black

    I have sooooo many wonderful memories from childhood that involve libraries. Including having to change library because I’d read EVERYTHING in the child’s section! In the end I read years above my suggested age bracket because I devoured them too quick. Lovely post, gorgeous flash, and lovely memories you have reminded me of. 💖

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    1. Norah Post author

      What a reader you were. The librarians must have loved you! Now you’re doing your best to fill the shelves the way you emptied them. Awesome!

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  5. Sherri

    I’m with Irene I’m afraid Norah, I did not get along with Maths at school at all. In fact, I had one maths teacher for double period on Fridays in high school. He used to get out his slides of his travels on safari in Africa and then tell us which pages to work on over the weekend. Whilst I found the slideshow inifinitely more interesting than any lesson about maths, when it came to attempting the maths problems, I was more than useless. I was as suprised as anyone that I scraped through on my exams, and went on to use mathematics in most of my jobs. Go figure. But science I loved, at least biology and a little chemistry (physics…not so much!) And those microfiche!! Oh, I remember those so well…hated them, ha! Libraries are wonderful places, it is so sad to think that in some areas they are closing down. When I look back to my children’s growing up years in California, I see not only the local library in town but the school library too. The school holidays are very long there, so I always signed them up to a summer reading programme run by the library, which was great fun for me as well as the kids! And your flash is wonderful. I can see you doing just that with your ‘spewed from shelves’ books. A fantastic idea for your Early Childhood Caravan ❤

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh Sherri, You are so generous with your comments, and I’m so far behind with your posts.
      I’m so sorry your in-school maths experiences were so abysmal. Something needs to be done with “teachers” (I use the term loosely) like that. I loved physics – it was experiential, but I struggled with the memorisation required for chemistry!
      The microfiche were a pain to use weren’t they? – poring through articles in tiny print trying to find the research that supported my own. No wonder my eyesight is so bad. Age has nothing to do with it! :0
      Libraries are fantastic for all the opportunities they provide, aren’t they? Taking children to the library or enrolling them in a program must be one of the best things parents can do for children over the holidays.
      If only I could ride a bike! Or tow a caravan! Dream on …

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  6. roweeee

    Great flash and post, Norah. Have you read Adam Spencer’s maths book? Mum gave it to our son a few years ago to encourage reading and maths. He loved it. Adam came and visited the school about a year ago. We were in the same group of friends at uni and it was great to catch up with him. He still remembered me.
    I am feeling a bit tired tonight so will head off xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      I haven’t read it, Rowena, but I’m aware of it. You were in great company at your high school with Hugh Jackman and Adam Spencer, and your lovely self. Anyone else? Sleep well. Xx

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      1. roweeee

        Adam Spencer was uni but Melissa Doyle ex Sunrise Host was in my form room right through school. She has always been lovely. There were quite a few that weren’t at our school! Almost off to bed xx Rowena

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  7. jennypellett

    Our school library has recently had a major revamp. We are trying to instil a love of BOOKS into our students before it’s too late. Each class has one library lesson a week where they are encouraged to select a book and chill out with it. We have soft seating in funky colours. The kids are allowed to sprawl! These lessons are going down really well, especially with our younger students. There are reading challenges and opportunities for dressing up as a favourite character. All around the school are A4 sized laminate posters where the staff jot down their current reading choice. We are promoting the joy of reading in a big way at the moment and little by little, something is working…

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Jenny. It is so exciting to hear about something that is working. I love the sound of your seating in funky colours. Libraries need to be inviting for all, not just a place where the loners and ostracized kids hang out at lunch time. I’m pleased to hear the children are having a lesson in the library each week. Without it many children would never enter a library or discover the treasures inside.Sounds like your school is doing many wonderful things to encourage a love of reading. I’m impressed!

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      1. jennypellett

        Oops, reply sent before finished editing! Meant to say there’s not much to celebrate in our schools at the moment, so when something IS working, it’s great to promote it. Sorry, having breakfast now, reading posts and watching the news…obviously not good at multi tasking …😀

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  8. Pingback: The Library Collection « Carrot Ranch Communications

  9. Charli Mills

    Having attended a liberal arts college, I experienced first-hand that classical style of learning. I can say I thrived in that environment. I looked at your photo of the Greek temple and realized I could not name all the individual components I learned in college. However, the most important thing I learned in college is that I don’t always have to know the details or remember it all; I just need to know how to find the answers. And I loved your flash! What a beautiful gift back from someone who values books.

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  10. katespencer17

    I feel many of our public school systems are facing funding challenges these days. Reminds me of the ending of Mr. Holland’s Opus movie. Sadly, monetary needs drive to powers to be to prioritize and ‘after school programs’, music classes, libraries and even physical education classes are at the bottom of the list and chopped if necessary. I enjoyed the TED talk – I never thought of mathematics that way. I’m glad you included it. I liked the message of your flash: books are for sharing, for donating. Fabulous!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Kate. What a pity it is that today’s money wins out over children, education and our future.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the TED talk. It difficult to not feel enthusiastic about maths listening to Arthur Benjamin.
      Also pleased you enjoyed my flash. Thank you for your lovely comment. 🙂

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  11. thecontentedcrafter

    Loved your flash this week again Norah – like some other commenters I wonder where the books so lovingly tied with memories, will end up. Love that little sentence! ❤ ❤ ❤

    On libraries, I am much enchanted with the global rising of 'Little Free Libraries'. [One of my American friends hosts one in her front garden and it is very well used by the locals.] I have often wondered if this new social phenomenon is a result of the closure of libraries – or the restrictions some now impose – but whatever the reason may be it just shows that books will be read and will be shared no matter what a local council might decide. Isn't that brilliant!

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  12. Steven

    Arthur Benjamin always provides interesting talks. His mathemagics ones (where he squares large numbers or recites day names for any given date) are most entertaining. Although I know he is just using algorithms or rules to perform these, to see somebody do it on a whim up the the stage is something special.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Just using algorithms or rules!! It’s magic! Have you seen him perform in person? I have only ever seen his TED talks. I find it quite amazing.

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      1. Steven

        No not in person sorry – but I find that if I happen to watch one of his talks online, then I will often re-watch it a week or two later (because as you say, it is quite amazing). Who would have thought that watching someone performing calculations could be so entertaining.

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  13. Annecdotist

    I don’t think I was taught the classics (maybe I was but I’ve forgotten!) but I don’t think I’d be keen on a book that is mostly a list of names, however eloquently spoken, nor one that disses mathematics. How could she? Once you get beyond the basics of numbers (which are still a struggle to me) there’s a whole world of puzzles, philosophy and problem solving.
    I’m very impressed with you walking 5 1/2 kilometres in that heat to go to the library – you could have done with the librarian’s bike. Great flash, I wonder where she is going to take the books?

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Anne. There’s too much dissing of maths isn’t there? Numbers and their patterns are beautiful too, but I’m definitely with you on puzzles, philosophy and problem solving. The 5 1/2k didn’t seem that much at the time. I was young. I should be doing it now! I never owned a bike and can recall riding one only once, but I love the thought of riding a bike to neighbourhood parks and starting a little lending library of my own. 🙂

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  14. macjam47

    Math and science seem to always get the bum rap, but if people take the time to learn the basics, then they are in. Math and science will be much more fascinating if they have a basic understanding of the principles involved. A firm foundation will help anyone surmount and obstacle.
    I still carry my library card, but I rarely go to the library anymore. With all the books I have here, there is no need for me to go to select a book, and much research that used to be done in a library can now be done on the internet. Still, I would be deeply saddened if our library were to close.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I agree with you about maths and science, Michelle. It’s a pity they are not always taught that way in school though. I don’t think it’s the subjects, I think it’s the teaching. Many teachers have come through school learning not to love the subjects themselves, so have no love to pass onto their students. It’s a sad and vicious cycle.
      I heartily agree with everything in your final paragraph. We are both in enviable positions.
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  15. Lisa Reiter

    That’s a gorgeous flash Norah. Beautifully worded and heart-warming 😀
    I have one of Caroline Taggart’s books but it never seems like bedtime reading (which is when I tend to read). The bits I have dipped into are both hilarious and interesting. You’re making me think I should try audio for other occasions like car rides and cooking!
    Fortunately I loved maths and can get my neurons around some delicious statistics and the like. I remember talking to a post-doc maths guy at Leeds Uni though and it was clear he was more into the ‘why’ and described working through some mathematical solutions as conducting an orchestra playing music. He said explaining the rush it gave him was like trying to explain music to someone profoundly deaf. I’ve never forgotten that. Sometime you can’t experience the world the way others do can you?

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    1. Norah Post author

      I couldn’t live without my audiobooks now. They are such good company. But I certainly can’t imagine Taggart’s books as bedtime reading!
      Oh I’m so envious of your love of maths. Though I do love it now in all its beauty. I have developed quite an appreciation for it, but not for school-type calculus! Interesting that fellow at Leeds and his description of working mathematically. Music is maths anyway, which makes it all the more meaningful. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  16. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I have to admit that I hated mathematics at school. My Mum told me I was hopeless at it because I did not have a logical brain. She on the other hand saw the joy in it and where other children would be outside playing games she would be doing maths for fun. My brother took after her in this regard. It wasn’t until recently when I was trying to get my head around philosophy that I went back to Plato who was greatly influenced by Pythagorus. He claimed maths and science (the forms) is the only true knowledge and his dialogues, on analysis, shows a mathematical structure, as do many writings since that time. These include Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the poetry of Edmund Spenser and the Divine Comedy. More recently, mathematics has been used to layer the work and give added political, social and economic meaning taking the creative work back to Plato’s philosophical stance of forms beneath appearances. For me though, I’ll just go on the words written to give me the meaning. I might be missing a bit but there are too many books in the library to read that I couldn’t be bothered counting lines and trying to work out the mathematical meaning. Those ancients really were amazing when you think about the knowledge they discovered and the buildings they could build as a result of utilising it and we still use today. The TED talk was great as they usually are. A lovely flash also Norah. There is nothing nicer than sharing books (more difficult with the advent of the kindle) and I love your phrase “tied them with memories”.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about mathematics, Irene. It’s interesting that your mother loved maths and you didn’t. Often the dislike, or joy, is passed from parent to child. I discovered a love or interest in maths long after school, but not for the school-type maths. There is so much beauty in maths. It astonishes me. Like the Fibonacci numbers in the TED talk. They’re pretty amazing. As are prime numbers, and the mobius strip. I wish we’d been taught these fascinating things in an interesting way, instead of abstract calculations that none (almost) of us ever use. I’m pleased you enjoyed the TED talk, and my flash. I’m pleased my love of books gave life to the flash. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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      1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Mum passed it to my brother. When I went to uni I found that I loved statistics, although not mathematics. I hired a tutor to teach me the basics of maths prior to enrolling in 101 Mathematics. Unfortunately he had amorous intent so had to be let go before I learnt enough to cope with the speed that the lecturer went. Everyone else was following his logic but I was lost on the first equation. I withdrew before penalty. Having the shop was the best thing for my arithmetic skills and although Roger did economics at uni I have always acted as our accountant. I do agree with you that if maths was taught in a different way (and I bet they do compared to when I was taught) it could have been fun.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks for sharing those further thoughts, Irene. Sounds like your maths tutor was approaching at an incomprehensible speed too. That could turn one off maths for life! Sounds like you are quite competent in areas of maths that you need to be. That’s all that matters. 🙂

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