Fearless Girl—A Contrarian View

Fearless Girl Faces Charging Bull in Manhattan’s Financial District

Fearless Girl gets to stay in the path of Charging Bull  at least until February of 2018.

State Street Global Advisors installed the bronze statue on the eve of International Women’s Day in order to highlight the need to increase feminine representation on the boards of Wall Street firms. An inelegantly expressed sentiment on the plaque at the girl’s feet states, “Know the power of women in leadership. She makes a difference.”

That should make the feminists happy, right? but not all are. Gina Bellafante, columnist of the New York Times criticized the statue as a cynical PR ploy, an example of “corporate feminism.”  However, after 28,000 people signed an online petition advocating for its permanent placement, Mayor De Blasio, acquiesced to popular opinion and decided to let her stay—for now.

But the fact that the statue represents a prepubescent child suggests correctly that it may take a long time to achieve gender parity on Wall Street boards, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she is around for much longer. No doubt State Street realized that many people would be offended by the representation of an adult female protester, who would certainly appear too aggressively militant. Everyone can sympathize with a brave child. But I can’t help wondering why she is thought to be “fearless.”  Ticked off, resentful and angry, surely, but fearless? Being ignored is different from being threatened.

Fearless_GirlFor awhile, moving Fearless Girl to another location was under consideration.  But of course removed from the path of the charging bull, she would lose her power as a messenger for equal rights. Out of context she just looks like a spoiled brat. One has the impression she would stamp her little foot if she could.

Arturo Di Modica, worked on the bull  for two years following the crash of 1987 and with the help of friends secretly installed the 7,100 pound statue in the early morning hours of December  19, 1989. Di Modica himself wants “Fearless Girl” out of there. He was recently quoted by the New York Post as saying that his statue is “a symbol for America. . .of prosperity and for strength.” He resents his statue being viewed as an oppressor. New York City does not own the statue. Actually Di Modica would be within his rights to remove the bull, though he has not threatened to do that.

I am in sympathy with the sculptor. Surely no one would consider the bull a symbol of the male managers of Wall Street who make the decisions about board appointments. Rather, Charging Bull is a positive statement about the energy and bullish optimism the stock market generates. It is a powerful tribute to capitalism.

Standing defiantly in its path, Fearless Girl is a rebuke that makes no sense whatsoever.  MK

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I No Longer Believe in the Profession of Journalism

University of Missouri

Two years ago, on Feb.13, 2015, I wrote a post on this site titled “I Believe in the Profession of Journalism,” a line taken from the Journalist’s Creed written by Walter Williams, founder and first dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

A former student who had been in a journalism class I taught many years ago had asked me what I thought should be done about Brian Williams who was then nightly news anchor for NBC News and had “misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003.” My opinion was that he should be fired forthwith because I still believed in the profession of journalism as defined by Walter Williams in that long creed I had to memorize before I was granted the B.J. degree. I have always been very proud of that degree, for at the time The University of Missouri School of Journalism was the most respected undergraduate school of journalism in the country.

As it turned out, Brian Williams was fired.

Now, however, two years have passed. Brian Williams is being rehabilitated at MSNBC. Dan Rather, who participated in journalistic fraud resulting in the firing of three producers and his leaving his position as anchor of the CBS evening news, is opining all over the place, demanding that the truth be told (!) and we are bombarded daily by “fake news,” stories that because of careless reporting, devious manipulation or outright deception turn out to be false. We no longer know what to believe.

We should not be surprised. The political climate is so acrimonious that there is little appetite for balanced or accurate reporting. Brian Williams’ embroidery of his experience made his account more exciting and entertaining for his audience. But there is a different more sinister motive behind current journalistic deception. It is simply to delegitimize a presidency. The perpetrators make no bones about it.

It breaks my heart to say it, but I no longer believe in the profession of journalism as defined by Walter Williams. The only way we might recover is through the education of a new generation of critical thinkers. But given the state of American education, that seems like a long shot.

MK

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Leave the Kids Alone!

According to today’s Wall street Journal, in many schools, those in charge of the school day realize that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to do away with recess.

They’ve decided kids need to let off steam. (Who knew?) They concede that “recess can even improve emotional and social development in children.” And indeed it can, if children are allowed to play on their own without direction or interference. But that’s not exactly what these educators have in mind. They’re educators, after all, so they’re determined to educate. The result: “organized recess” complete with coaches. Sounds like gym class to us!

Fortunately there are other experts who value unstructured play. Debbie Rhea , professor of kinesiology at Texas Christian has developed a program based on a Finnish model which is in 16 schools in Oklahoma and Texas. It provides for four 15-minute recess periods per day, ethics and character teaching, less standardized testing, and restructuring of the school day. More power to her!

  • Forty years ago we wrote a book, One Potato, Two Potato: The Folklore of American Children. We discovered that children’s folklore—the traditional games, jokes, stories, songs, superstitions, and pranks that have been passed down from one generation of children to the next without the benefit or sometimes even the knowledge of adults serves important functions in the lives of children. This folklore flourishes only when children are left alone to practice it as they play.

One Potato, Two Potato is still in print, available from Amazon. However, used copies are also available from alibris.com for around $1.50 plus postage.

 

 

 

 

 

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How and Why We Became Publishers, Part Three, Merchant’s House Meet POD

The Merchant's House Museum 29 East Fourth St., New York City

The Merchant’s House Museum 29 East Fourth St., New York City

After we moved to Manhattan we made it a point to see all the things people come to the city to see. One of them, the Merchant’s House Museum, a historic house built in 1832, was occupied by the same family for almost 100 years and still has original furniture and personal family belongings—even their underwear!

Mary asked if there was a book about the house.Well no, there wasn’t. So she volunteered to be a docent at the Museum and began to learn the answers to the things she had wondered about. What was it really like to live in a world without screens, air-conditioning, indoor plumbing, or furnaces, and what were the family’s assumptions about life—about courtship, diseases, women, and death, for instance.

Nineteenth-century woman in mourning

Nineteenth-century woman in mourning from Ch. 18 An Old Merchant’s House

After a lot of study, including close reading of diaries and letters and publishedworks of the time as well as research about the Tredwell family and their house, she finally knew enough to write the book that she had wanted to buy when we first visited the house: An Old Merchant’s House.

When it came time to submit the manuscript for publication, we realized that our agent had died and our editor had retired. The idea of selling ourselves and our books to new set of very young people was depressing. But while we weren’t looking, everything about the publishing business had changed. It was now possible for an author to publish his books himself. Digital presses can now print one book at a time, without costly set up. It’s called POD (print on demand.) There are a number of firms which you can hire do everything necessary to publish your work and to place it on Amazon and other online sites. We decided to publish our books POD. Since we can edit our books ourselves and have an in-house IT guy (a son-in law, who is also an author), we don’t have to rely on the POD firm for creating the necessary disc (not something most people can easily do themselves) or editorial services.

A girandole.

A girandole.

We decided to form a publishing company called Girandole Books. A girandole is a 19th-century lighting device, employing candles and sometimes a mirror. Since it illuminates and reflects, we thought that was a good name for a publisher. Turns out nobody can say it or spell it. Amazon argued that it wasn’t a real word. We finally prevailed.

Mary has written another book about the Merchant’s House, Miracle on Fourth Street. It’s about the cast of incredible characters who managed to save the house from being destroyed. Both her books are now on sale at the Merchant’s House and on Amazon. My recently published, Did You See This? Poems to Offend the Politically Correct is also available from Amazon in paperback or a kindle version.

Now since we are too old to dally, we plan to publish at least two books each year for awhile. We will be referring to these books and publishing excerpts. Next up is my novel Beating a Dead Stick, a book about a high school teacher who teaches in a school in the eighties where the students learn nothing and the faculty doesn’t care. No, it is not a fictionalized version of the Pembroke-Hill school in Kansas City where I taught or of Balboa High School in the Canal Zone or of the Canal Zone College or of Kansas City University, but . . . Stay tuned.

-HK

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Filed under Books, Historic House Museums, Merchant's House, Museums

Why and How We Became Publishers Part Two, Remembering the Canal Zone

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal. Oil by Herb Knapp

In 1983, we were back in the States, having lived and taught in the Panama Canal Zone for almost 20 years. The Canal Zone was a unique American community very similar to the fictitious utopia Edward Bellamy described in his book Looking Backward, which was hugely popular at just the time the Canal was being built.

Nowhere on earth had such a place like the Canal Zone existed. We believed it deserved a close look before it disappeared forever. We decided to write a combination memoir and history about the Zone. We’d call it Red, White, and Blue Paradise.

Since we had been unhappy with our agent, we decided to sell it to a publisher ourselves. I sent a pitch letter to an editor named Jovanovich because I once had a student by that name. I didn’t realize that at the time he was the president of what was then Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

718 El Prado, Balboa Canal Zone, early morning. Oil by Herb

718 El Prado, Balboa Canal Zone, early morning. Oil by Herb Knapp

He liked the book. Sent us a splendid advance and turned us over to a junior editor. She told us to make it shorter but made no suggestions about what to cut, which we took to be a brush-off. Weren’t editors supposed to edit? We asked to see the readers’ reports.  She delayed sending them, but when she finally did, we understood. They hated it.

We thought “they” bought our book because “they” thought we could all make money from it. We now realized “they” had not bought it. Their boss had. The book’s title alone was enough to offend their liberal sensibilities.

We knew some liberals thought America was an evil, imperialist nation, and that the Zonians were illiterate bigots, but we had not yet grasped the intensity of these feelings in some quarters of the publishing world. We were still pretty naïve about politics.

The book was mentioned in The National Review, and we thought we were off to a good start. But when our editor told us the sales department didn’t think it would be worth while to set up a booth at the Panama Canal Convention in Florida, we realized they intended for the book to fail. We weren’t surprised to get a letter saying the book wasn’t selling and would be pulped—unless we wanted to buy the inventory, an option that was in our contract.

We sent them a check, and before long an eighteen-wheeler pulled up in our driveway. Using a forklift, the driver stocked one side of our double garage with thousands of books on wooden pallets. Mary took them on as inventory for The Flying Book, a mail-order book business she’d started which until then had been focused on supplying books to Americans living abroad. We spent a couple of hundred dollars on advertising and began selling copies at a rapid pace, making much more money on each copy than we would have made if our publisher had sold them for us. By the time we moved to Manhattan, we had sold them all.  (Next: We discover that while we weren’t looking, a miraculous change had occurred in the publishing industry.)      —HK

 

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Why and How We Became Publishers, Part One, Including Mary’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Mary being interviewed on The Today Show

Mary being interviewed on The Today Show

Since Mary and I have already published two books with major publishers, some of our friends have wondered why we are doing it differently now. Easy. Done that, been there—twice—and we didn’t like it!

In 1970, we were offered a sabbatical leave year from our teaching jobs in the Panama Canal Zone and were soon en route to Indiana University to enroll in graduate school for the second time. While there, we wrote a paper about children’s folklore. The project required a lot of fieldwork with kids and was a lot of fun.

Back in the Zone, I suggested we turn our paper into a book. “We’d get to talk to a lot more kids.” Mary was dubious, but she went along, and four years later, the book was finished.

Our agent was not enthusiastic, and several publishers turned it down. So we were happy when W.W. Norton agreed to publish it.. Our editor told us the company’s readers didn’t much like it because it fell “between two stools.” (Publishers like books that fit into a definite category. They are easier to market.) However, the president of the company liked it, so they didn’t have much choice. Today, 40 years later, it is still on the backlist and available for purchase on Amazon, which must be some kind of a record.

When the book came out, Mary happened to be on leave (unpaid this time). She was in New York, there to put our youngest daughter in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

As was customary, the publisher sent copies of all their newly published books to the Today Show, hoping that they’d pick one to feature. Much to their surprise and undisguised dismay, the Today Show suggested they might be interested in our book! Norton had their hopes set on a book of photographs of Picasso’s studio by David Douglas Duncan.

The next step was for Mary to audition. She went through a practice interview with the Today’s Show screeners, which she passed with flying colors. On her way back to the hotel, she stopped off at our agent’s office to assure her the interview went well. The agent was too busy to see her and fobbed her off on an assistant. This puzzled us. How many of her clients appeared on The Today Show? And why did the woman handling serial rights always meet her in the lobby? Didn’t she have an office?

The Today Show called. They wanted her. Eight minutes. Suddenly she was besieged with requests for interviews. NPR interviewed her by phone on All Things Considered.  She went to Boston to be on the local segment of Good Morning, America. Since she was going to stop off in Kansas City on her way back home, she tried to get Norton to set up publicity events there. “We don’t have authors from Kansas City so we don’t set up events there.”  “But David Douglas Duncan is from Kansas City; we went to the same high school.” Didn’t matter.

In the green room at NBC, Mary discovered she was the only “guest” not accompanied by a PR person. But the show went very well. The PR representatives present complimented her on her performance. “Where else are they sending you?” Norton’s PR rep called to say she was “so relieved” (a real supporter). Here are four sound bites from that interview with Jane Pauley. Mary wants me to say it is not her real voice. Apparently the tape has been sped up a bit. However, she says that as unlikely as it may seem, it is definitely her real hair.

She had booked a flight back to Panama the next day, but as one last effort to feel good about publishing our book, she went to the famous Scribner’s book store on Fifth Avenue, now home to Sephora Cosmetics. She had hoped to see One Potato displayed along with other new books. But it wasn’t. With the help of a clerk, she finally found it on a shelf with the cookbooks.

—HK

 

 

 

 

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Television is Bad for Babies

infant-watching-tv

The American Academy of Pediatrics says so—and they have been saying so since 1999 when they published their first policy paper on television’s effect on children.

 In November of last year, the Academy  published an update, which pertains to all devices, including ipads videos, and ebooks designed for young children. Here’s the advice they want pediatricians to give to parents:

 For children up to eighteen months to two years: No screen time, except Skyping with relatives, (The Skyping is probably for the benefit of the relatives not the children.)

 For children 2 to 5 years: No more than one hour a day, but no solo viewing. Parents should watch with the child, reacting and explaining what they are seeing. Choose “high-quality” programming.

 No screens (including adult screens) during meals, parent-child playtime, and for one hour before bedtime.

 Turn off the TV when not in use.

 So what’s the problem?

Little children love TV; it soothes them; and parents and caregivers need a break! But because the brain changes and develops so rapidly during the first three years, babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to the environmental impact on structures of the brain. To pre-verbal children, television is just a series of mesmerizing pictures that change about every six seconds. Makes no difference if they’re watching Sesame Street or Sunday Night Football. Since they are still forming connections between neurons, repeated exposure to this kind of experience can impact future verbal abilities and cognitive ability.

Meaningful learning from television doesn’t occur before age three, and even then, children learn best from interacting with their environment. They need to explore with their hands, engage in hands-on play, listen to words spoken to them by members of their family or their baby sitter—people who are personally giving them their undivided attention.

That’s why pediatricians advise parents to watch television with their young children, actually treating the TV like they would a book.

But if you need to pretend the TV is a book, why not just read a book to the kid instead of watching TV?

We don’t need a scientific study to conclude that books and a familiar adult reader are better for very young children than TV:

  • Physical proximity is easier when you cuddle up with a child and a book.
  • You and the child control the pace. You can linger over an interesting page or skip those that aren’t. You can talk about the story  or just be silent while she stares at the images that intrigue her. There is no  movement or bells and whistles to distract from the story.
  • And after she has learned to talk, one day you may find that she has memorized the story and will recite it by heart as she turns the pages in the appropriate place.

And with that she has begun to learn to read to herself.

(Because my babies were girls, I use the feminine pronoun, but I will make it up to the boys with a picture):

steven-baby-sam

Hands On! Baby Sam and his dad.

For more on effects of  TV on early childhood development, including references, go here

As for schoolchlldren, the downside of television is the time it takes away from reading and independent play. Herb and I wrote a book about children’s folklore, an aspect of children’s play that contributes to their development. The publication of that book led to my fifteen minutes of fame, but that’s another story. mlk

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Filed under Childhood learning, Education, Technology, Television