Saturday, August 23, 2014

Person to Person: Essays from Two Centuries

One of the joys of writing is the opportunity it affords the writer to reflect on anything in his experience. That fact rings true in the case of Person to Person: Essays from Two Centuries, a collection of 26 essays on my abiding passions as an educator, poet, and playwright. The book focuses on theater, communication, society, literature, film, education, and sports. Often, I find links among these divergent interests.

This 172-page collection spans the last decade of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first, when I worked as a reporter, columnist, professor, and artist for diverse organizations in the New York metropolitan area. In this volume, my second collection of essays (The first is The Inwardness of the Outward Gaze: Learning and Teaching Through Philosophy), I write on a wide range of issues, including race relations, eating disorders, childcare, criminal law, school choice, the environment, cinema, playwriting, and literary biography. Twenty-two of the essays previously appeared in literary journals (The Sewanee Review), political bulletins (Cato Institute) scholarly periodicals (Et Cetera, Exit 9: Theory and Politics, Institute for Critical Thinking Conference), and trade publications (The Dramatist, Teaching English in the Two-Year College), newspapers (New Jersey Family, Home News Tribune, Rutgers Review), and e-zines (Cyber Oasis, Decathlon 2000, Education News, Srishti).

Two of the essays are looks at the writer’s life. Two are technical reflections on language. Six are on education issues ranging from contexts of history, film, school choice, corporate training versus traditional classroom teaching, the politics of textbook publishing, and critical theory. Three are appreciations of Robert Penn Warren and Tennessee Williams. Two are on the athletics discipline of the decathlon. Six are on social issues such as multiculturalism, child molestation laws, eating disorders, upward mobility, cultural reproduction and resistance. Finally, five are book reviews of On Dialogue by David Bohm, A Taste of Power by Elaine Brown, Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation by Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerard, Fatal Flight by Natalino Fenech, Genesis by Emanuel di Pasquale, Dialogue and theArt of Thinking Together by William Isaacs The Content of Our Character by Shelby Steele, and The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation by Daniel Yankelovich.

The line of thought in this book varies as broadly as the interests, and the conclusions can be surprising. In any event, reading Person to Person is like reading a part of me.