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Bel Kaufman (1911–2014)

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Bella Kaufman was born in Berlin, Germany on May 10, 1911. In 1922, she emigrated to the United States with her parents. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College in 1934 and a Master's degree in English from Columbia University in 1936. She worked as a teacher and sold the visa mer occasional short story to magazines. Her first novel, Up the Down Staircase, was published in 1965. There was a film version of the novel made in 1967. Her other works included Love, Etc. and a collection of short stories entitled La Tigresse. She died on July 25, 2014 at the age of 103. (Bowker Author Biography) visa färre

Verk av Bel Kaufman

Associerade verk

Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories (1984) — Bidragsgivare — 364 exemplar
Up the Down Staircase [play] (1969) — Original novel — 62 exemplar
Odessa memories (2004) — Bidragsgivare — 17 exemplar
Up the Down Staircase [1967 film] (1967) — Original novel — 12 exemplar


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Namn enligt folkbokföringen
Kaufman, Bella (born)
Andra namn
Berlin, Germany
Manhattan, New York, USA
Odessa, Ukraine, Russian Empire
Kiev, Ukraine, Russian Empire
Bronx, New York, USA
Hunter College
Columbia University (MA - English)
short-story writer
Aleichem, Sholem (grandfather)
Kaufman, Lyala (mother)
Columbia University
Kort biografi
Bella "Bel" Kaufman was born in Berlin, where her father was studying medicine, but raised in Odessa and Kiev. Her family emigrated to the USA in 1923 when she was 12 years old, settling in New York City, where she first began learning English. She attended Hunter College and then earned a master's degree in literature from Columbia University. Her grandfather, the famed storyteller Sholem Aleichem, encouraged her to write at an early age and she had published her first story by age 7. After graduating from Columbia, Ms. Kaufman became a teacher in the New York City public schools. Her experiences formed the basis for her 1965 best-selling novel “Up the Down Staircase.” She also published several other works and in her nineties taught a class on Jewish humor at Hunter College. In 1940, Ms. Kaufman married Sydney Goldstine and the couple had two children; they divorced in the 1960s. She married a second time, to Sidney J. Gluck, who runs the Sholem Aleichem Memorial Foundation.



Ms. Kaufman's use of a pastiche of literary effects and techniques vault this novel into the ranks, I submit, of modernist fiction--and it is a masterpiece of the form. It's also very funny, and will be familiar to anyone who has served as a teacher.
Mark_Feltskog | 39 andra recensioner | Dec 23, 2023 |
This is the story of a teacher in an inner-city school in her first assignment after college. Set in New York City in the 1960’s, the book uses letters, official memorandums (circulars), intraschool communications, student assignments and suggestions, diaries, and note scraps to reveal the dreams and development of the characters. It is a sometimes tragic, comic, frustrating, and rewarding look at the lives of students and teachers in modern education. Although written in the 1960’s about the experiences in a metropolitan school, I could recognize similarities with my own education and teaching in the 1980’s and 1990’s in middle America. The regular expressions of “pedagese” (author’s word) reminded me of Richard Mitchell’s book, “Less Than Words Could Say”.

It was a thoroughly engaging, delightful book, and one I will recommend to my teacher friends.
… (mer)
dandelionsmith | 39 andra recensioner | Nov 11, 2023 |
Up The Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman-author; Barbara Rosenblat, narrator
I decided to reread this polyphonic, epistolary novel, because although “times” have changed enormously since the novel was written, it is being touted as still relevant today. Supposedly, it has withstood the test of time, so I wanted to see for myself. I found that, in some ways, education is very much the same, but in many other ways, it is not. So, my review and the rating are based on its relevance today, more than anything else.
Being of a certain age, I am familiar with the school system and the kinds of ratings schools had at the time this book was originally published. I taught in a special service school, not unlike the one to which Sylvia Barrett was assigned, although I worked as a teacher in a grade school, not a high school, like Calvin Coolidge. Also, I was not a floater or a permanent substitute. I was a regular hire and had requested the position, in spite of the marginal neighborhood.
After my day job, which ended at 3, I worked a second job, largely with the neighborhood teenagers, at the afternoon center that was located in the same school. The students there, of all ages, were never as aggressive as the students of today, so they were more like the ones described in the book. They did not carry guns, as many do today, although they did carry knives. Glue was a popular tool of assault since glue sniffing produced a high. Today, students use harder drugs to get high. Most of the parents wanted their children to learn and tried to be involved as much as their hard lives allowed. On a personal level, I was assaulted at school and robbed. I was very young, and I could not even legally drink as per the rules of today. The teachers and the administrators I encountered were pretty much like Kaufman described. They were often petty and turned their back on problems because it was simply the easier way out. I do not think much has changed in that regard, so in that way, the book is still relevant, but the social environment is quite different today.
Sylvia Barrett had hoped, as I had hoped, to make things better for the disadvantaged in the community, to lift them up and inspire them. However, the system created an uphill battle for her, because of the people in charge. Rereading the book, reinforced my views about the system that has failed us. Today, the powers that be are motivated by social and emotional needs rather than intellectual demands, whereas at the time of the writing of the book it was focused on hiding the social and emotional needs of the students. At both times, however, their intellectual needs take a back seat. In order to improve the situation of the residents of low-income and marginal neighborhoods, their minds must first be engaged, rather than their emotions. They have to be encouraged to make thoughtful and intelligent decisions about their futures and the futures of their children. Obviously, we are failing as the results of the tests of our students indicate. Because students do poorly, the all-knowing leaders of our educational system are recommending the removal of the tests and the grading system. That will not alter the fact that they are failing, but it will continue to hide the failure of the teachers and our institutions. Instead of raising scores by actually devoting the time to the teaching of the three “r’s to correct the situation, we are actively ignoring it. We are promoting failing students today, something we did not do when the book was published and the fictional Sylvia was teaching. The principal demanded silence then, as the most important goal, but today they seem to demand activism, instead. We are, therefore, promoting failure in all areas of our life.
The tools of the trade were different in 1965. There were typewriters, blackboards, mimeograph machines, Delaney Cards, truant officers, punch (time) cards, PTA’s, GO’s, bible reading in assembly, rewards for achievement, like Arista, National Merit Scholarships that were appreciated, not rejected because some didn’t get them, good citizenship and respecting the rights of others was expected, but especially, there seemed to be more cooperation, rather than complaints from the residents and students. By and large, once a rapport was established, the parents and their kids wanted to improve as much as the few idealistic teachers wanted them to succeed.
There was free lunch and still is today, lunch that everyone liked but today is not nutritionally acceptable. There was a shortage of books, so we learned to share; some books were in terrible condition because there were always some students who would be destructive and mutilate them. Today most books are online and are not physical copies. There was a shortage of chalk for the black boards, now there are white boards. There was a shortage of all supplies, largely because the teachers removed them when the year ended and took them home. This was to guarantee that they had supplies the following year. They didn’t care about the incoming teacher. They did not share. Teachers were able to teach songs about the military, about all the holidays, regardless of whose celebration it was. It was not frowned upon to pledge allegiance to the flag. Bible reading in assembly was an honor. Rather than be concerned about insulting someone for some inane reason, we learned about everyone and all things affecting our lives. We were being taught to live together. Today, because someone might have a peanut allergy, all those without the allergy are forbidden to have peanuts. The social rules to protect everyone from every possible danger have gotten out of hand, and instead of educating our future leaders, we are coddling them, instead of uniting us with common goals, we are dividing us.
When the book was written, glue-sniffing was the drug of choice to assault other kids. I don’t remember hard drugs or even alcohol being that much of a concern. There were always thugs and malcontents, but there simply were not so many. Social media did not exist. 24-hour news to rile up a public response, did not exist. Most of us respected authority, even the authority of the teacher and administrators. Today, respect is not a given, disruption and protest are the norm. Students and teachers were once expected to dress in appropriate clothing and to have a clean and neat appearance. Today, the educators appear in a classroom disheveled, often in jeans and t-shirts. There is too much attention being paid to the physical harm of a game like tag, the philosophical harm of a book like the bible, and the emotional harm of not being allowed to do as one pleases whether it be to choose to identify as a cat or another gender. Because the students are not allowed to fail at anything, they do not try harder to succeed; they accept failure as their due, and they expect compensation for doing nothing. Sylvia, the teacher in the novel really had to climb up the down staircase to make progress in order to defeat the pettiness of the system and address the needs of her students so they could learn to love knowledge and improve their situation. Today, although there are no longer up and down staircases, there is still a fight to climb up all staircases, but they are climbing to a different place, to a place that encourages and harbors discontent.
Today there are computers, printers, guidance counselors, interpreters, demands for the elimination of testing and grades; there are to be no rewards for achievement and failures are to be ignored, as well as crimes. In schools there is a resource person for every imaginable situation, but especially, for those that will attract public notice and arouse attention and activism. There are activists who are demanding that schools act as both the parent and educator, with the home having no responsibility whatsoever in the upbringing of the child.
This was not the way it was when the book was written. So, the book is really not as relevant as the book world would have you believe. The students are far more sophisticated in their approach and think they know more than the teacher. What has this approach of student appeasement led to? It has led to utter scholastic failure, violent attacks against teachers and parents, school shootings and a complicit White House that labels parents as terrorists. As our goals become more and more liberal and socially aware, and less and less intellectual and merit-based, we are witnessing the decline of our very school system that used to be admired.
It is true that the parents are beginning to fight back now that they are discovering the propaganda and brainwashing that has taken place in the schools. Now that they are aware of the fact that their children were trained to think in a certain way and to respond in a certain way, but they were not necessarily taught to read and write as necessary requirements to pass on to the next grade or graduate, will they succeed in turning back the clock so that schools concentrate on more intellectual pursuits? Our students have been taught that their feelings are far more important than their achievements and have become unwilling or unable to cope successfully with life. Can this be reversed? Can we raise more stable children?
One can only hope that if this book and/or the movie is released again, the country will wake up and see the damage that has been done, will realize that qualifications and intellectual success will move us forward far faster than catering to the oft-created imaginary problems that require school counseling, on all levels, on matters that would be served far more advantageously if dealt with in the home and not at the expense of education. We are witnessing the moral decay of our students and our country as we continue to witness teachers who simply want to bide their time to retire and collect their benefits, as we watch our schools engage in social activism to provoke soft protests that often explode and as we watch declining achievement when compared to the students in other countries. We are losing our edge.
The principal demanded silence in the classroom when I began, and perhaps today, instead, the administrators are demanding social conversations to encourage chaos, discontent and activist behavior leading to student walkouts and approved days off for protests. When I taught, the principal said he did not care if learning took place, he wanted decorum, first and foremost, and it would seem they have simply found a way to redefine that desire. The system has remained in place as the unions have gained prominence and power, pretending to want to advance the cause of the students, while they use them to advance the causes of their unions, instead. We must return to encouraging the success of all, each to his/her own ability, and of accepting that we are not all going to have the same amount of success in all fields. We must simply do our best without looking over our shoulders at how others are doing, at their best, and we have to stop demanding they fail so that we do not look like failures. If we do the best we can, we have succeeded, not failed. That is the lesson to teach as we climb up the down staircase.
… (mer)
thewanderingjew | 39 andra recensioner | Jul 5, 2023 |
Way back in the mid-1960s, Bel Kaufman's unorthodox novel “Up the Down Staircase” (1964) was the hottest book in America. Does it hold up more than 60 years later? Well, yes it does, I discovered.

Kaufman, herself a New York City school teacher, imagines Sylvia Barrett as an idealistic young English teacher in her first semester at Calvin Coolidge High School in New York. What's unorthodox is the author's telling of her story without any narrative whatsoever. The novel is simply a collection of memos, announcements, notes, blackboard scribblings, student excuses, etc.

The frustrations Sylvia endures comes as much from the school's administrators as from her students. She writes in a letter to a friend, "We have keys but no locks (except in the lavatories), blackboards but no chalk, students but no seats, teachers but no time to teach."

Humor stays plentiful, as when one of her students leaves her a note saying, "You are my most memorial teacher, you teach a subject as fast as it can enter and stay put in my brain." Yet there is as much bitter as sweet, as when a girl attempts suicide and a surly boy corners her in a dark room after school.

Sylvia is pretty — nothing wrong with that, certainly — but Kaufman reminds us of this over and over again until it gets annoying. But perhaps this just helps reveal the immaturity of her students, both boys and girls, who can't resist mentioning it.

Really good books stay good with the passage of time, and I think “Up the Down Staircase” passes this test.
… (mer)
hardlyhardy | 39 andra recensioner | Jun 9, 2023 |



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