Bethany Nowviskie

  • Published: Jan 26th, 2013
  • Category: documents

the evaluation

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(Update, Winter 2015: Chad has re-posted The Evaluation on Medium, along with another piece of whistle-blowing futurism entitled “We will all be illiterate soon.” Messy and recommended.)

The next time Chad Sansing tells me he’s written a short story, I think I’ll read it immediately. You can skip my preamble, too, and download a PDF version of this sobering, dystopian near-future meditation on American education gone awry, right now. Other formats, below.

theevaluationvariant3Several months ago, my husband posted a brief, sci-fi vignette to the Cooperative Catalyst, tagging it with phrases like “merit pay,” “standardized testing,” and “school discipline.” I didn’t realize he had continued the story until a couple of weeks ago (a grim Saturday we spent in our pajamas, mourning Aaron Swartz), when he made a CC-licensed version of the full thing available online.

Still, I didn’t read it — at least, not all of it. Just enough to know I wanted to wait for a quiet moment. Tonight, I was reminded of “The Evaluation” by this report of brave teachers at three Seattle public schools whose act of civil disobedience is to refuse to administer and to be judged by deeply flawed standardized tests. So I returned to Chad’s story, and was struck enough by it to interrupt his dinner at Educon 2.5, to insist that he send me a plain-text version, for dolling up and posting in multiple formats, right away. You can read it here:

PDF (prettiest)
EPUB (for iBooks and various readers)
MOBI (for the Kindle)
TXT (for remixing)

or, newly, on Medium.

Chad teaches middle school humanities at a grassroots, teacher-led (ie. not corporate-run), arts-infused charter school in Albemarle County, Virginia — the Community Public Charter, which he helped to found. (Update: he’s now a technology teacher at the BETA Academy — “build, experiment, tinker, apply” — hosted within a public middle school in Staunton, Virginia.) Chad writes and speaks frequently about redeeming what he calls an “authentic and democratic” education, for teachers and students alike, from a culture driven by dehumanizing standardized assessment and punitive notions of discipline. You can find him on Twitter at @chadsansing. He’s the teacher you wish your kids had, every year.

sketching ivanhoe

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The publication of Johanna Drucker’s new book, SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing, has sent me back to my notebook of drawings from our SpecLab and ARP days, the period from roughly 2000 – 2006 when, first as a grad student and then as a post-doc, I worked closely with Johanna and Jerry McGann on the lunatic fringe of digital humanities. (Jerry and I had gone down the rabbit hole some years earlier with the Rossetti Archive as well.)

These are a few of my sketches for the last iteration of the Ivanhoe Game, the one that’s still available for play. I must confess — as much as I loved the design process in all its stages — that I haven’t played a really good game of Ivanhoe since we moved away from the more prosy and simple interfaces of the Turn of the Screw game (undertaken when Geoffrey Rockwell was a visiting scholar at UVA and I wrote moves like this) and the Haruki Murakami / D. G. Rossetti games I played in the wee hours of the night with my first baby sleeping in my arms. (The Rossetti one, on Jenny, in which I imagined a company specializing in flesh-bot reproductions of Victoriana, was re-printed by Laura Mandell at Romantic Circles and in Jerome McGann’s Like Leaving the Nile.)

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  • Published: May 24th, 2009
  • Category: documents

hidden history

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This letter — addressed to the wife of Confederate General William B. Taliaferro in October of 1863 — was found hidden away in a bit of architecture during the demolishment, some 20 years ago, of an old stagecoach inn on the Kanawha River in West Virginia. My grandfather, Vic Stallard, a history buff, recognized it for its interest and offered the finder a pretty good trade. He swapped an old outboard motor for this record of family life and friendship at the height of the Civil War, and of the reaction of Tidewater Virginia to Lincoln’s first Emancipation Proclamation, issued only a few weeks before.

What follows is a quick-and-dirty transcript and (for me) a few fun questions. Did Sallie Lyons Taliaferro ever receive this message from Mary C. Jackson Mann (wife of Rev. Charles Mann of Ware Church)? Why was it hidden on a mail route hundreds of miles away from sender and recipient? Now that we’ve re-discovered it in Gran’s dresser drawer and he has asked me to look into its preservation, to which of a couple of logical Special Collections libraries might we offer it? And is Mary Mann really calling the Yankees “pumpkin-heads” in her botantical meditation, below?

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Creative Commons License This site uses a heavily modified version of Bryan Helmig's Magatheme. Work at http://nowviskie.org by Bethany Nowviskie is always CC-BY. Want to know why? The falling letters are by Wayne Graham. He kindly made them to replace a set I designed in Flash in the late 1990s and had in place for more than 17 years. Not a bad run! Ave atque vale.