Archive for February, 2011

We’ll Never Have Paris

I’ve been enjoying a collection of essays entitled, Paris Was Ours: Thirty-Two Writers Reflect on the City of Light.

In her introduction, editor Penelope Rowlands writes, “Although I’ve lived in a handful of other cities, this one left the deepest mark. Its effect on me, as on the other writers in this volume, was outsize: it’s where we came into ourselves.”

Rowlands recounts her arrival in Paris as a wide-eyed young woman “held in thrall” to an early new wave film by Jacques Rivette, Paris nous appartient, “which we translated, loosely, as Paris is Ours. Soon, we knew, it would belong to us, too,” she writes.

I, too, am a member of the tribe that Rowlands dubs the “Paris-returned” and though I called the city home for three-plus years as a young mother, I cannot presume to say that Paris was ever “mine.” Even being born on French soil won’t help you stake a claim, as we discovered after our second child was born in Paris that French citizenship is conferred through le droit de sang (blood), not le droit de terre (soil).

Still, the book set me to musing about why Paris, arguably more than any other of the world’s great cities, so strongly inspires, and rebuffs, our desire to possess?

Paris, View from Our Window

Continue reading ‘We’ll Never Have Paris’

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Heed the Call

“To every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child—become a teacher. Your country needs you.”
Barack Obama, State of the Union 2011

The president’s call to action drew a standing ovation from all members of a deeply divided Congress—a heartening moment of affirmation for those of us who work in schools.

But are the best and brightest of our young people likely to heed this call? I fear not, or at least not in the numbers we need to achieve the educational transformation Obama envisions and our collective future depends on.

The desire to “make a difference” is a hallmark of youthful idealism, yet teaching remains a comparatively low-pay, low-status choice among my children’s college cohort, just as it was 30 years ago when I graduated.* I never considered becoming a teacher, although I had no “better” idea of what to do with my Princeton diploma. In retrospect I exhibited all signs of being made for the job, yet no one suggested it. Continue reading ‘Heed the Call’


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