The Six Pillars of Character

Trustworthy: Showing honesty, reliability
Respectful: To show concern for, or to honor others
Responsible: Dependable, completes obligations
Fair: Just, does not favor one over another
Caring: showing concern, protecting, loving
Citizenship: completing the duties and obligations that benefit society

CNN Heroes of the Year

Scott Strode
Read the above article about Scott Strode
Why does Scott Strode consider himself and people like him to be similar to the mythical phoenix? Be specific.
How does Strode's program help recovering addicts?
Choose two of the six pillars of character that Strode most exemplifies. In what ways does he exemplify those traits?

Ken Nedimyer
Read the above article about Ken Nedimyer.
According to Ken Nedimyer, why is it important to save the coral reefs?
How is Ken Nedimyer saving the coral reefs?
Choose two of the six pillars of character that Nedimyer most exemplifies. In what ways does he exemplify those traits?

Mary Coratani
Read the above article about Mary Cortani.
How does Mary Coratani's work help veterans of war?
In what ways does Mary Coratani's work help not just the veterans of war, but the entire country?
Choose two of the six pillars of character that Mary most exemplifies. In what ways does she exemplify those traits?

Diane Latiker
external image Heroes.jpgCheck out the above Everyday Hero of the Year.
What was Diane Latiker's inspiration for starting Kids off the Block?
What characteristics does she possess that makes her program successful?

Edward Canales
Read this article about another Everyday Hero of the Year.
How did Edward turn his son's tragic injury into a mission for the rest of his life?
How did Chris's discipline in sports help with the success of Gridiron Heroes?
What characteristics does Edward Canales posses that makes his program successful?

Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer-Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

A review by William Dean Howells

Very interesting classic book review from 1876… excellent nonfiction providing historical perspective. Read the review and consider the perspective and point of view of the author. Afterwards, compose a brief post regarding one point he made that reinforced or changed your perspective using the Discussion tab above.

Check out this video on a controversy initiated by the book:

Here is a sample of the debate in popular media:

Monday, January 10th, 2011 by Brian Seidman

Conversations on NewSouth’s edition of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

NewSouth Books appreciates all the attention and thoughtful debate generated by our publication of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, edited by Dr. Alan Gribben. We are still taking in the unprecedented media coverage of the book, and reading closely the comments and letters we’ve received.

While it would be difficult to link to all the coverage of the book, here’s a selection that stuck out to us over the course of last week, beginning with a retrospective from Publishers Weekly:

“NewSouth Moves Ahead with Controversial ‘Huck Finn,’” Marc Schultz,Publishers Weekly:
  • Since Monday, when PW first reported the publisher’s plans to release Twain’s most celebrated and challenged works without the “hurtful epithets” that have caused it to be dropped from school curricula, the story has generated enormous interest in both new and old media outlets — on Tuesday night, the report from ABC’s Diane Sawyer focused more on the Twitter debate than the who or why of the story.

“Cutting N-word from Twain is not censorship,” Boyce Watkins, CNN
  • Let’s be clear, Gribben’s actions do not represent censorship, at least not in its purest form … It’s not as if Gribben is asking that all original copies of the text be burned. He is not following the lead of the Chinese government and attempting to block websites that make reference to the book … He is expanding the freedom of teachers and parents to choose a version of the book that they might find more acceptable for children of a certain age.
  • The notion that any form of filtering, in any context, for any age group, is unethical is not only exceedingly idealistic, it is disconnected from reality. No matter how cherished a film or song might be, work presented to students in public school is going to be screened to determine whether it matches the age group for which the material is being presented.
  • Yes, our nation needs an honest conversation on race. That conversation shouldn’t start and end with “Huckleberry Finn.” In fact, the urgency with which some defend the use of this book as a tool for teaching racial history reflects our desperate and unfulfilled need to address the atrocities of slavery.

Keith Olbermann, Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
  • I despise censorship … on the other hand, it’s madness that Huckleberry Finn is essentially off-limits to anybody until college or later.

“Huckleberry Finn gets self-censored, loses ‘n word,’” David Rosenthal,Baltimore Sun:
  • I’m not big on censorship, but this word is so weighted that it gets in the way of a true discussion of the merits. Any teacher who assigns the new version should be required to explain the self-censorship. That way, at least, the tough prose won’t be completely white-washed.

“New edition removes Mark Twain’s ‘offensive’ words,” Phil Rawls, Associated Press:
  • The book isn’t scheduled to be published until February, at a mere 7,500 copies, but Gribben has already received a flood of hateful e-mail accusing him of desecrating the novels. He said the e-mails prove the word makes people uncomfortable. “Not one of them mentions the word. They dance around it,” he said.
  • Gribben, a 69-year-old English professor at Auburn University Montgomery, said he would have opposed the change for much of his career, but he began using “slave” during public readings and found audiences more accepting. He decided to pursue the revised edition after middle school and high school teachers lamented they could no longer assign the books.
  • Gribben conceded the edited text loses some of the caustic sting but said: “I want to provide an option for teachers and other people not comfortable with 219 instances of that word.” … Gribben knows he won’t change the minds of his critics, but he’s eager to see how the book will be received by schools rather than university scholars. “We’ll just let the readers decide,” he said.

To Kill a Mockingbird-Lee

Read about the trials that inspired Harper Lee.
Emmett Till

Scottsboro Boys

PBS Video

After watching this PBS video discussing the structure and use of prose by the author, find examples in the text to support these claims. Post one example using the Discussion tab above:

American Masters: ss on To Kill a Mockingbird

Literary Criticism

Check out this great example of contemporary literary criticism that's accessible to a wide audience, not just us literary nerds!

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Exposed Racism
Monday, 12 Jul 2010 09:33 AM
By Kathleen Parker

Fifty years ago Sunday, a novel hit America’s bookshelves that changed the way millions thought about race and the inexplicable South.

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by some estimates the most-read book in American schools, has grown old enough to have become slightly dotty in the minds of fresher readers, many of whom have only a textbook understanding of the way things were.
Indeed, it is fashionable to dis, as we now say, the great and humble Lee, a writer so without vanity that she has declined all attention to herself since the publication of her novel in 1960 and continues to live quietly in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala.

As a heroine herself, she deserves to live out her days without having to hear the din of critics wielding hindsight as virtue. Yet lately, Lee’s famous and only novel has earned special scorn as critics opine about the way things should have been, not only in real life but also in the artistic treatment of the era.

Writing a story in the Jim Crow South about a white lawyer who defended a black man against a charge of raping a white woman was an act of courage, make no mistake. And though Atticus Finch, the protagonist-lawyer, might seem bland by today’s standards, it is unfair to label him a paternalistic defender of the status quo, as Malcolm Gladwell did last year in The New Yorker.

Gladwell, who marvelously describes culture in ways that cause us to blink in recognition of tipping points and wish to be outliers all — not to mention forcing us to embrace a newly coined vocabulary without which we are helpless to address the zeitgeist — is perhaps less attuned to the ways of fiction. With all due respect.

For “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a story — a parable designed to move hearts and minds — and not a manifesto for radical action. Yet this is what Gladwell and others would have preferred.

Gladwell, who finds common cause with George Orwell’s criticism of Charles Dickens, wishes that the author had made Finch a man sufficiently outraged by racial injustice to seek systemic change, rather than merely a decent sort willing to defend a black man wrongly accused.

Orwell similarly criticized Dickens, who, he complained, never offered solutions to the problems he illuminated. (This has a familiar ring.) But isn’t it a lot to ask that the artist, in addition to exposing societal disease, also cure it?

Walker Percy, another Southern novelist and my muse in such matters, said that the artist’s job is to be a diagnostician — “to give the sickness a name, to render the unspeakable speakable.” That “art is making; morality is doing.”

“This is not to say that art, fiction, is not moral in the most radical sense — if it is made right. But if you write a novel with the goal of trying to make somebody do right, you’re writing a tract — which may be an admirable enterprise, but it is not literature.”

In July 2010, we might be more comfortable with an Atticus Finch who was less compassionate toward his racist neighbors. In explaining people and events to his young daughter, Scout, Finch noted that these were not bad people (even though some did want to commit violence against blacks), just misguided.

From where we sit today, this attitude is both ludicrous and offensive. One can’t distill “not bad” from what is clearly bad. But, then, who is to say that Lee thought otherwise?

Sometimes truth is better received through a reflex of recognition than by a blow to the head. Remember, too, Finch was trying to explain a hateful world to a child in terms familiar in the church-going South: Hate-the-sin, love-the-sinner.

My own recollection of the book, which I first read as a child, was that it was full of hard and ugly truths. The story, because it was revealed through the eyes of another child, caused me to understand injustice as no textbook or lecture ever could. Such is the power and mystery of literature.

To kill a mockingbird is a sin, Finch told his children, because it brings no harm to others. "They don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us,” a neighbor further explained.

Likewise, trying to kill a great book because a 50-year-old literary character doesn’t measure up to modern critics' idea of heroism is a sin. All Harper Lee ever did, after all, was sing out her heart for us.

Kathleen Parker's e-mail address is

© 2012 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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