James McBride & beyond

It was a pleasant evening spent with American writer and musician James McBride – recipient of the 2013 National Book Award. President Barack Obama awarded McBride the 2015 National Humanities Medal “for humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America. Through writings about his own uniquely American story, and his works of fiction informed by our shared history, his moving stories of love display the character of the American family.”

I appreciated McBride’s warmth, his candor, his unscripted way of reflecting with us, and his insights into the current American social landscape. Some thoughtful things he stated that I both appreciate and remember:

  1. His comment that “when you judge, there is no journey” – this is a thoughtful insight into to the ways people might get stuck due to their own frustration, generating a kind of blanket cynicism that impedes personal growth and more complex understanding of this thing called life.
  2. His basic advice to all artists, writers, and creatives: do your work from where you are. Good work starts from what you know most intimately, and where you come from.
  3. That a solid educational foundation in the Liberal Arts/Humanities leads us to a more meaningful approach to life. This course of study, founded on one’s innate curiosity regarding the human condition, requires us to grapple with both the world and ourselves. With the “thinking” foundations that come from this course of study, one can constantly calibrate an understanding of what matters, while also seeking better solutions for society as a whole.
  4. To quote him directly (in response to the idea of AI and chat GPT as an “efficient” writer) – “A machine can’t love. And it can’t care.”
Dr. Mia Zamora & some of her Kean students 2023
At the reception for our Distinguished Lecture Series with writer/musician/journalist James McBride

It was lovely to hear the moderator for the evening ask some of your own questions (I wish there was time for more of them). It also was a pleasure to chat with you during the reception. I am glad we took the time (as a class) to avail of this special opportunity. I think that as humanists, McBride’s work and message of the evening is something for us to incorporate into our reflections on “the human nature of writing”.

Thinking about future collaborative research on the impact of artificial intelligence on learning/writing in education.

What is next?

This coming week, we will kick off our “Pathfinding Series”. I will refine our Course Calendar and insert your selected course readings. And we will start this series with a consideration of the significance of care in learning, with a look at trauma-informed pedagogical strategies. Bianca & Edna will lead the way. This important discussion will “set the stage” for our continued conversation about what is a stake when thinking of the significance of writing in the age of artificial intelligence.

Your to do list:

For our first “Pathfinding” session which will take place in the first half of class this coming Thursday, we will hear from both Edna and Bianca about the critical role of care in education contexts, and we will also consider the impact of trauma on learning. This is an important foundation for thinking about writing from a humanist standpoint.

**Please watch:
**Please read (**select two):
  • Selection from “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk 


**Blog # 3 due: Reflections on readings above from pathfinders Bianca and Edna

Happy Valentines! xo

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