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May 26, 2004

a varied life

I am fortunate to enjoy a lot of variety in my professional life. Yesterday was a nice example. On my way to work, I thought about a seminar from the previous day when several senior colleagues had discussed a philosophical paper of mine. That discussion was challenging, intense, and enjoyable.

When I arrived at work, I wrote yesterday's blog about Stanley Fish, mainly so that I could send it to a group of people (all targets of Fish's critique) who have been discussing his article by email.

After some discussion of CIRCLE's media strategy, I participated in two long conference calls: one for the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, the other for a taskforce of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium. Each group is a coalition of organizations and individuals who have banded together to advance their field. Both coalitions have won foundation grants for their core operations, but they also depend upon voluntary contributions of labor from their members. Therefore, the discussion on both calls was largely about how we can work together more productively.

Finally, three colleagues and I picked up a batch of high school kids and took them out into their community to rate grocery stores and supermarkets for the quality of their food. I had drawn up a quick scoring rubric. Students were supposed to assign a store 1/3 of a point for each type of fresh fruit or vegetable it sells, 1 point for whole-wheat bread, 1 point for yogurt, and so on. The kids took their scoring sheets into stores and jotted down notes in the aisles. Twice in a row we were thrown out by managers who said, "You can't do that here." (What we were doing didn't seem to interest them.) I felt increasingly uncomfortable about putting kids in this position--especially since they're African-American adolescents, who don't need extra occasions to be treated rudely by store managers. We gradually developed a method for surreptitious assessment. We'd reread our scoring sheets to remind ourselves of the questions, then enter the store, split up, and act like shoppers. It worked pretty well. (The product, for those new to this blog, will be a map to be posted on a community website.)

And now I'm on my way to Chicago for an American Libraries Association meeting on the reliability of online information. I really am grateful for this breadth of daily experience.

May 26, 2004 8:10 AM | category: none


That ALA meeting sounds interesting. I hope it's a good trip.

As for the store managers' rude treatment ... a 'grrrr' in their general direction. Don't they realize they are turning off future shoppers; it's not, at the very least, good for their bottom line.

May 26, 2004 1:07 PM | Comments (1) | posted by Eli

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