Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween Ya Freaks!

This is my Halloween outfit for school.
I love Halloween.

I thought about dressing up for classes today, but choose instead to just wear my Rob Zombie skull cover, skull earrings and skull shoes. Is that one bad boy of a bandana or what? I have some latex appliances somewhere, but I must have moved them to the attic. Too bad. I have a bloody screw that I usually put in my head. You know. Then I can go as a typical American who is getting screwed by the Bush administration. Oh, come on. That’s funny.

I suppose many would consider us liberal Christians as we are attending our church's Halloween party. It is really nothing more than a dress up party for kids and adults alike. I think it's great, harmless fun, but you are free to disagree (and post as much) if you like. The House of Jack chooses to just have fun with it all.

After church we are headed to the in-laws’ home to doll out candy and comics to the younglings. I’ll let you know how the comics go over. I hear tell that the in-laws have all kinds of yard stuff, including a fog machine or dry ice or some kind smoke making device.

The girly is going as Morticia Addams and the wife will be some serving wench from medieval times. Sounds like fun to me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Church of Christ is Not A Protestant Church

I don’t remember how we got on it, but my Aunt Bessie, who is a staunch member of the Church of Christ congregation, asked me if I supported the Catholic Church. I really expected her to call it a cult, but she did not. I got the chance to push a button and could not resist.

“Well, yeah. Why not?” said I.

Then she started in. Next thing I knew she was telling me how the Church of Christ is the oldest church, much older than the Catholicism. [Brakes being applied]. Whoa, Nellie. What the hell is that all about? My knowledge of history may be rusty, but I could have sworn that Christianity started with the Catholic church and that Protestantism was born thereafter. Martin Luther comes to mind.

I was wrong, apparently. You see, she has been in church and studied up on the matter. An evangalist even showed her a chart once showing how the Church of Christ is a direction line to Christ. All other churches come from Catholicism.

“We aren’t Protestant,” she stated emphatically. I was then told to read up on it. Where would one go to find proof of such nonsensical rhetoric? She further informed me that her church is not a denomination of Christianity. It is Christianity as Christ meant it to be.

You cannot argue with someone like this. No such thing as debate or dialogue. She has made up her mind that Christ himself set up her church (her words) and that they practice the way Christ and the Bible demands.

Just goes to show you that just because someone is educated does not mean that they cannot be blinded by religious lies. Folks, there are plenty of those religious lies out there and even the very smart can be duped.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Beowulf' as a Graphic Novel

Beowulf is one of the most influential and oldest pieces of English literature. The author and date are unknown but manuscript is usually dated somewhere in the time of 1000 AD. It is written in Old English and is 3183 lines long. It is an epic poem, in case you were wondering and it has greatly influenced the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien. Some might surmise that Tolkien flat out ripped big chunks, but that is neither here nor there.

No doubt you have heard that the movie is on the way. I really want to see it, but I don’t think my graduate school status will allow for the frivolous expenditure of money. Fine, I’ll rent it. I am cautious though, as it is a cgi project and you never know how that will turn out. Click here for the official movie site.

What you might be interested in (and what certainly interests me more) is that a graphic novel adaptation is also now available. It is written by Stefan Petrucha and illustrated by Kody Chamberlain. Others have created comic adaptations. Click here to see some.

If you’ve ever wanted to read Beowulf but could not interpret Old English, then you can go here and read this online translation. You can click here to read more about Beowulf from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

For Whom Shall I Vote?

Oh I haven’t really made up my mind yet, but I reserve the right to change my mind multiple times, right up until I walk into the booth. Just for fun, I like to think about the candidates and all of that.

I used to like hero John McCain many a day ago, until he sold out. The old McCain seems to be back, but for my part it is too little too late. Not that I would have ever voted for him as I am not sure that our politics really lines up all that well, but I respected him for being a Lone Ranger (at least I did).

I tend to have a more liberal leaning on more issues (except abortion and gun control) and so I have been watching the Demos hash it out. Let me say up front that I like Sen. Hillary Rodham-Clinton. As a side note, I find it bothersome that the pundits on Fox Sunday morning keep calling her Hillary or Mrs. instead of Sen. Clinton. Even Tim Russert and Juan Williams make the mistake. At least those two immediately correct themselves. You will find this double standard true on the university level too. It’s not just a “Hillary” thing. Many a male professor is called Dr. So-and-So while female doctorates are referred to by their first name.

Anywho, I like Sen. Clinton fine. I find most of the things said about her are nothing more than urban legends (see two previous posts) but I am not going to vote for her. It has more to do with President George W than it does her. Sort of. I think that divisive leaders, seriously hated Presidents, do more damage to our country than we can handle. We’ve seen it with our current President. If you think President Bush has haters, just wait until Sen. Clinton becomes President. Yikes.

She is hated like no other person on the planet right now. I think many conservatives hate her more than Iran’s President or Saddam or anyone else. That really cannot be good for us. Personally, I think Sen. Clinton is the top pick for Republicans because they know so many will vote against her, which is why they keep framing the issues around her rather than dealing with the issues outright.

As far as candidates go, I have eliminated her from the list. While I think she could and would do so many good things for us, I think her mere presence would be problematic and do more harm. It has to be someone else for me, I’m just not sure who. I really like John Edwards during the previous campaign. I voted for him during the last primary election and saw him twice at Missouri State University.

There’s something about Barack that I like too. He’s a good speaker. It’s yet to be seen if he has what it takes. He did have the foresight not to invade Iraq in the first place. He gets big points for that one.

Who do you like and more importantly why?

Let's Think For Ourselves, Shall We?

I think blogger Larry might be on to more than just a simple passing thought on his post about civility. It hit home this week when an old acquaintance sent me an erroneous email about Hillary and then when the email was proven to be false, the person still refused to acknowledge or correct the wrong. See previous post for more.

Hatred of our politicians is doing us some harm. I am no fan of President Bush, but I do not hate him. I do not push lies about him and if I am mistaken in my thoughts about him, I am willing to admit it. That does not mean that I will like President Bush or his policies just because a preconceived notion of him is found to be false. It would be silly of anyone to assume that. He’s a terrible, war-hungry leader, in my opinion.

Because of his policies and refusal to admit his own wrong doings, many have labeled him King George, which is a fantastic funny. I’ve used it many times and laughed. King George gets that the crux of my criticism of the president and so it seems prudent. Unfortunately, I think this is just what has lead us to the place where our political dogma blinds our own judgment. Thus we have crazies like the subject of the post below.

So I’m going to quit using the term King George, at least in my public blog. Mostly, I do not want to get to the point where I stop thinking for myself and drink some political party’s Kool-Aid as my old acquaintance has obviously done. I’m a fan of critical thinking. Silly me.

Just Admit You Are Wrong Already!

So an acquaintance of mine from a long ago job in another town emailed me the other day. He is a conservative; that is to say that he is one of “those” conservatives-do-no-wrong types. It gets old, very old.

The pack of lies he was sending round the Internet was one about guess who … Sen. Hillary Rodham-Clinton. Imagine. Now I get it. He does not like her. That’s not correct. He hates her. He believes her to be guilty of “murder, conspiracy, treason, embezzlement, etc. etc. etc.” Fine, fine. I can live with the fact that he hates her; he is not alone.

The thing is, his forwarded email was complete rubbish. My mistake for thinking he would correct his error once I showed him that his forwarded email was a lie according to, the urban legend website.

His response was one of the good old I-reject-your-reality-and-substitute-my-own ilk. After all, being caught in a lie is by no means a reason to admit wrong doing. Said he: “If I had perpetuated lies, I would apologize for them. As far as I know, Snopes is not an acronym for God, so what they say is NOT the gospel… .”

And this is what is fundamentally wrong with our culture. The wingnuts of politics are so entrenched in their perverse need to be win, that they refuse to stop and ponder if their own actions are as seedy as their extreme opponents. We do not need the Ann Coulters, Al Sharptons, Rush Limbaughs and Michael Moores of the world to become the mainstream, or for the mainstream to move ever closer to the extremes.

I find it disgusting, as this person was once a public school teacher. Teachers, of all people, should have ethics. Teachers should encourage healthy dialogue. Teachers should be able to take in new information and incorporate it into their scheme (which is educational goobledy-gook for the assimilation of new truth in the face of previously but erroneously held truths). Teachers, above all, should be able to admit when they are wrong and then right the wrong, putting the truth (or what is known as truth at the time) out there.

I’ve debated hot issues with bloggers before. Larry Litle and I have gone round and round before, but never once has either of us been proven to be wrong and then refused to acknowledge our erroneous thoughts. It is easy enough to do, if a person is not so egotistical and narcissistic as to believe that they are never wrong. That explains why I respect Larry and not this other person (who, to my knowledge, is not a blogger).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

South Avenue Pizza Closing?

I've heard a nasty rumor that South Avenue Pizza, located downtown, has closed it's doors for good! Anyone else heard the news and be able to confirm? If it is true, then it is a sad day for Springfield. South Avenue had some of the best pizza.

'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'

Comment away friends, because I know you will be excited to hear the news. The date and title for the Wolverine spin-off of the X-Men trilogy has been set. Thanks to AICN for the announcement, 20th Century Fox will release the movie on the official first weekend of summer, May 1, 2009. Industry people are speculating that Gambit may show up, as the crew is shooting in New Orleans.

[tipping a glass]. Here's to hoping that this script will be better than the flaccid ridiculousness known as X3.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sometimes School Beats the Education Out of Students

I was a substitute teacher in a third grade class earlier this week and it became clear to me just how powerful and potentially damaging teachers can be. We hold a great power and as we learned from Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately some teachers wield power that is detrimental to children.

The class was already in session when I entered the classroom. A sub didn’t show up, so I was called in late to substitute for a substitute. The student-teacher was conducting class and she let me know that she preferred to be the lead teacher for the day. That makes sense as she is more likely to follow the typical routine.

What proceeded was not only scary but seriously lacking in professionalism. This young lady from Evangel, handed out warnings like a parade float volunteer throwing candy to the crowd. It was amazing. Her behavior management of choice was snapping her fingers, either in the students’ general direction or in their face. By that I mean 3-6 inches from their nose. No hyperbole, my friends. I kid you not.

She snapped at the children all day long, which was very inconsistent with her language. She constantly praised them for being good, yet dolled out verbal reprimands and finger snaps. She was also fond of whole-class punishments. When children spoke out of turn, she would generally choose to take away recess time for the entire classroom, rather than the offenders. The well-trained pre-service teacher has already gone through classes on classroom management and should have a much stronger arsenal of activities and approaches to deal with children. Personally, I find finger snapping a very degrading and disrespectful way to communicate with anyone, especially a child.

When it came time for science, she instructed the students to sit on the carpet at the front of the room. That is a good technique, by the way. Then she read to them a book about the parts of a plant. Again, very cool. Here’s the thing. The kids were interested. Very interested. They were engaged and trying to communicate their interest in flowers to her. They were saying things about the lesson and about the flowers. They asked questions and listened, for the most part. Every single time she quashed their questions and interest by telling them not to talk. Not talking was this pre-service teacher’s mantra throughout the day.

I remember a little boy getting up and asking her if he was doing a good job with his project. She dismissed him outright, refusing to look at his picture and sent him back to his desk telling him it was not time to get up or talk. It was never time for the students to talk.

When it came to reading time, several of the students were disengaged and not following directions. So I came up to their table and asked them to tell me about their book so far. I met some resistance at first, but then they opened up and got excited telling me about different animals, specifically penguins. We ended reading time, had another activity, then came back to reading. This time the pre-service teacher took control saying: I know Mr. Fat Jack is interested in your books, but this is not sharing time. You will read your books quietly to yourself. I took that as a personal rebuff to keep my mouth shut and to stay seated. Again, this pre-service teacher was more concerned with the quiet classroom rather than an interested and engaged student body.

I cannot speak for the pre-service teacher program at Evangel and I am not judging the program based on one student. However, I am curious if this teacher’s philosophy and teaching methods are a product of her own experience as a child, or if it is a part of a broader philosophy of education at Evangel University. Is this part of a teaching philosophy rooted in a biblical “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality? It could be that it is a combination of a need for control over something (in this case children) or possibly a frustration on her part to be able to teach properly. It is also possible that her supervising teacher is expecting and modeling such behavior. I also cannot help but wonder if her white, private school culture is in conflict with this north-side school.

Regardless of the reasons behind her approach, I find her methods deplorable. Snapping fingers and an obsession with the quiet classroom are the methods of antiquated teachers. She should know better, in my opinion. There was no sense of justice, fairness, equality, creativity, independence, or critical thinking skills. No wonder kids hate school. Sometimes my friends, school is the worst thing for children and we contribute when we allow poor teachers to teach.

Oh, Oh, Oh, O'Rgasm!

The student Psychology Club at MSU hosted a lecture on sexuality recently, but got more than they bargained for when O’Reilly Auto Parts threatened legal action because of the club’s fliers. No kidding.

The student organization, in what was a typical college flier, used the O’Reilly Auto Parts logo as a basis for their flier logo. O’Rgasm. It’s funny. It’s college students. Why would O’Reilly work themselves up in a lather over a college club and threaten legal action?

People get their panties in a bind for the dumbest things.

Read the article printed in the student paper, The Standard here.
Download the pdf of the letters and logos here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Boobs

Snuggling in the chair.

This is the first time that the Boobs have slept together. They are getting along so well. We were worried how the cat would react to the new puppy. Buddy the cat has enjoyed having a playmate most of the time.

(By the way, the green, is the blanket covering my leather recliner. The daughter has been sick and we always put a blanket in my chair just in case she upchucks. I don't really want that on the leather. Normally, the blanket wouldn't be there.)

Catching Some Rays

Barkley Sunbathing

The dog found a nice play to take a nap. He loves going outside, but I am cautious as he is only 2.5 pounds and the street is right there. He and the cat were both sitting at the door earlier watching the yard, but I didn't get a pic fast enough. I barely got this one.

Dizzy, Headache, Vomiting!

It hit her hard on Thursday afternoon. I got the call on the cell phone and thank the maker I was out of school. My 7-year-old was on a field trip at Wickman Gardens when she got a pounding headache, enough she was crying in the corner. A friend told the teacher and an volunteer took her outside for some fresh air and a good hurl.

Not a stomach flu, but a dizzying little virus. I remember my days of the brown bottle flu, which led to the bed spins and eventually the porcelain god. [shudder] My daughter had the same thing sans the alcohol, but hers has lasted until Sunday afternoon.

Today she is better. Her fever is down from what was 102.1 to a cool 98 degrees today. She is up and playing with her toys finally. We usually go out and eat with the grandmother on Sunday’s but we parental units nixed the idea, opting for rest at home. Now she’s up and at em. Can’t win for losing. Still, I think it’s best just in case she has a down turn.

I hear it has been going around, so if you get it, don’t freak. We ended up going to the Urgent Care, after the regular doc on Friday forgot to work us in (even though we called twice). They took blood and did a strep test. All negative. She had a virus my friends that caused a fever, headache, dizziness and some upchucking. Nothing to do but hydrate and wait it out.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kitchen Remodel: Complete

The kitchen remodel is finished. I just realized that I did not post the conclusion to that story. You can see the many photos of the entire project here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On Selecting a Presidential Candidate

Not sure which candidate you like when it comes to the presidential election? Now you can take a quiz to see which candidate most closely aligns with your personal beliefs. How fun is that? (Thanks to Uncle Jim for sending me the link.) Try it out. You do not have to answer all questions, which makes it fun.

Now I do not have firm views on all questions, so I won't bother you with the candidate that ranked highest on my list. Some of my views may become more solidified as this whole thing progresses. Have fun!

Click here for the WQAD Select A Candidate Quiz.

What is the Role of Religion in the 21st Century Public School: Part 2

Last week I wrote about the educational conference I attended. This is a continuation of that discussion. Everyone seemed to agree on the fact that religion plays a role in the education of our children. Where we differ is to the extent of that role and the definition of the word “religion”.

Some would have us define “religion” as incorporating any faith. There were two people at the conference whose views were limited only to Christianity. One claimed that Christian students could not practice their faith and were unable to pray in school. A point that is whole-heartedly incorrect. Even Jeremy Gunn, from the ACLU, stated that religion could and should play a part in the public schools. Yet there are people who continue to promote the misconception that children are not allowed to pray in school.

I’m sure it is possible to find isolated cases where a student’s freedom of expression was subverted by an overzealous and fear-based administration, the law is clearly on the side of the student; they can express their religious views, pray in school and be free from discrimination. Any school that would thwart a student’s right to pray before taking a test, for example, would be in violation of the law. But just like speeding, it’s not wrong until you get caught. If the student does not act, then the discrimination will continue, even though it is unlawful.

Case in point, schools routinely allow “Pray at the Pole” events as well as clubs such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Both of these events usually happen before or after school, and our outside the classroom walls. If a student were to wear to school a t-shirt with a slogan such as “God hates Fags”, then the issue of hate speech may come into play. I can’t really say for sure how that will work out. Praying in school is within the rights of the students. Period.

Here is a head scratcher for you, and one that came up as a result of the conference. Let’s say I am a fifth grade teacher and during class a student raises her hand and asks me:

  • Are you a Christian?
  • What religion are you?
  • Where do you go to church?

Something like that. How do I, as a classroom teacher, answer this question? Were I thinking, I would have asked this of both the ACLU and the Alliance Defense Fund. I didn’t and I regret it. I have received many different answers on this ranging from:

  1. Tell the student it is a personal question and inappropriate
  2. Tell them I am a government employee and cannot answer such questions
  3. “I go to (insert name of church).”
  4. Tell them that I am a Christian the move on.
  5. It depends on your school district.

Around here, telling people I am a Christian and then moving on with the lesson will probably raise few eyebrows. What if I am a Catholic, Jew, or Atheist? Those may have different ramifications. And what of the idea that I am a government employee and cannot espouse or establish a religion? The point was made that elementary students especially will want to be like me and to offer my religious views is in essence promoting them?

Personally, I am inclined to believe that to refuse to answer the question is disingenuous. Teachers teach about the world and our lives. We are to in the classroom to promote questions, and help students make discoveries. To not answer the question seems to tell the students not to ask me questions.

Interestingly enough, all of these different responses came from Christians. So obviously, we need to learn more about the law. The response that scares me the most is the last one. The idea that our responses to questions are based on the school district seem the most appropriate and pragmatic, but also the scariest. If you are at work and someone asks you what religion you practice, you are free to answer. There is no need to preach or convert, but simply answer honestly.

Every Child Left Behind: Part 1

A new series on the problems associated with President Bush’s signature No Child Left Behind (NCLB) educational policy.

The criticism of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is wide spread and gaining speed every day as more and more persons are becoming disillusioned with the law.

As a future educator attending a state university, one might be inclined to think that No Child Left Behind is frequently discussed in our classes, creating a class of teachers who drink the liberal, academic Kool-Aid and oppose NCLB because they are taught to do so. I’ve been attending classes for over a year and a half now and I have had only one class address this law. We simply do not talk much about it. The bulk of the criticisms seem to come from other places.

Rather than simply accepting the criticisms of NCLB, I have started my own research into the matter. This obviously includes talking to university professors, other students and current teachers. It also involves reading articles by those who are in the field of education – respected educators who are in the position to accurately discuss the ramifications of NCLB in an intelligent manner.

I will attempt to outline some of the major positive aspects and criticisms (practical, philosophical and political) and flush out my views on them, so that everyone can have a better understanding of the many positive and negative ramifications of NCLB on the public and private school system.

NCLB mandates that by 2014, 100 percent of students will be proficient in reading and math. Of course that sounds wonderful. Who does not want all students to be able to read proficiently? The reality, however, is that all students are not capable of that expectation. It is a simple matter of statistics and common sense.

If we understand statistics, then we know that there is a concept of the “average”. That is, the typical person. It is a statistical impossibility to have every single student in every single classroom to be proficient in math and reading at every single grade level.

That is not to say that those students who are not proficient cannot learn or succeed. However, their rate of success may be behind that of other students. Some students learn at a slower pace and are not able to assimilate and internalize the same amount of information given the same amount of time. Measuring a students learning based on his or her previous skills and abilities is the most appropriate measure. Did the student learn? Is this student better today than he was last year? Has he made significant progressed based on his previous abilities (and possible disabilities).

I have always struggled in math. When I was in second grade, I left the classroom during math and went to “Math Lab” in the trailer behind the school. This is where students who struggled with math went. I was not able to learn math at the same rate as my peers and required extra help.

This problem has been with me all my life. When I was in late junior high, my classmates were learning pre-algebra and algebra while I was in geometry. A wise math teacher told me once that I just needed an extra year of brain maturity and that pre-algebra would be easier for me during the next year. She was right. Even though I was in classes with younger junior students, I was learning at the highest rate that I could.

I was not proficient at grade level but I was making significant progress for me. That is what is important. It was not important then that I was not proficient at grade level. The only mathematics class that I ever failed was a physics class in college. As hard as I tried, I was not able to pass that class, claiming a hearty D minus, but I earned that mark and worked hard for it. As funny as it may sound, I am proud of that grade because I really tried to do my best in that class.

This idea of ensuring 100 percent of any population achieve a certain goal is not only unattainable, but intriguing as well. Educators know that 100 percent of students cannot be proficient in a subject. There will always be those who lag behind. So what is the motivation behind requiring this unattainable objective?

Some critics claim that unreasonable objectives are part of a larger political agenda to ensure that the public school system fails. According to NCLB regulations, if a public school fails to meet expectations, then eventually that school will have to pay for those children to attend other schools, including private schools. That sentiment sounds eerily like an end-run around the school voucher debate, or so say the critics.

This same claim of a political agenda by the proponents of vouchers will come up again when looking at other aspects of NCLB. Regardless if one accepts or rejects the criticism of the greater political agenda, one cannot escape or spin the fact that public schools are being mandated to educate every child to the point of 100 percent proficiency. Anyone that understands the idea of “average” should clearly be able to spot the ridiculousness of the standard. Should all children succeed? Of course they should. Can they or will they all achieve at the same level? Of course not. It is impossible. Why write impossible standards?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dear God …

I’ve been trying to do my best lately, but it’s hard. Life just stinks sometimes, but I try my best to keep trudging through the seemingly infinite quagmire of interpretations. I am at a stopping point. That is to say, I am having a hard time learning anything new because of my being sufficiently confused about some basic foundations of your existence. Here goes:

  1. When I look around I see all kinds of persons doing all kinds of terrible things to others in your name. They all claim to know your will, espouse some special connection to you, and warn us that if we do not follow them we will die (in this life or the next). Some of these people use the same document I do in order to make their case. I just don’t get it. Most of these people are our nations major church leaders. My gut tells me not to trust these snake oil salesman, that they are deceivers. Yet, they are the major church players. If the Bible is the perfect word of God, then how can so many miss the mark? Or maybe it’s me that is wrong? I don’t get it.
  2. It seems that the God of the Old Testiment and the God of the New Testiment are two different beings. One seems jealous, angry and threatening. The other seems loving, kind and benevolent. What gives? Did you change or did our understanding of you change? Either way, it seems inconsistent with the biblical idea in the that you are perfect. A perfect God would not need to change. He would know the perfect path and follow it. He wouldn’t change directions and send someone else, would he?
  3. I am supposed to have faith that the Bible is the perfect word of God. Yet, I know that some of the books were written long (sometimes many years) after your death. Well I know that the mind of humans is weak at best. So how am I to trust things that were written so long after your death? It is my understanding that we do not always know exactly who wrote every book. How do we know we can trust it? For that matter, how do we know we can trust the translation into English? I’ve always heard that the translators were inspired by God, but the top church leaders always say that, even if it isn’t necessarily so. See question number one. I can’t help but wonder how I can trust the Bible to be the inerrant word of God. If it isn’t, then why do I use it as a guide as opposed to some other document that purports goodness.
  4. If so many people are full of the grace of God, then why do so many Christians or Muslims have so much hate? If you are full of God, then I would not think it would be possible to hate. Yet, it is going on all the time?
  5. Our currently political leaders make claims (or certainly imply) that they are blessed by you. Yet they do terrible things calling them moral and good. How the Hell does that work? Am I missing something, cause I don’t get it. These people lie, cheat, and steal and yet they have many religious followers.

That’s enough questions for now. I have others, but this is a good starting point. I just don’t understanding and it is affecting my views of my own faith. Just wondering if you had some ideas that you could throw down to me.

Your Friend,

On Hurting Your Friends

Being a big mouth can be a lot of fun. You can get a lot of laughs from people and some “Amens” now and again. It can be fun to have opinions and debate and talk and whatnot. The problem is, folks such as myself can tend to go overboard when having fun. I hate it when a joke, jab, or a little needling turns into a nasty jab, which leads to a softball-sized bruise on the side of a good friend. It is so easy to get carried away.

I sure did step into a pile of poo the other day when I took a lengthy needle too far. I was picking on a friend. You know how boys are when they start insulting and punching one another in a friendly little game of play? Well he kept within the rules. I did not. I hit too hard and left a whelp and now I feel like crap.

He reads my blog so I thought I would give a good old public “shame on me” just to show that I understand how I make mistakes too. I figure a blog is a good place for this, as I routinely use it to criticize other people’s ideas and philosophies. So I am not so enlightened and above criticism.

He brought up an excellent point. He wondered why I did that to him but not someone else who was nearby? That’s because he and I are great friends and I took that as a pass to pick on him too hard. Isn’t there some quote about hurting the ones you love?

The good part is that this friend cared enough about our relationship to sit me down and tell me how hefelt. I really hate those discussions because you can’t get away. You have to sit there and eat your crow and know that you’ve been naughty. I am not good at that, but I took it like a man. I had to. I deserved every bit of his kind and compassionate words. I deserved more, actually, but he’s too classy for that. Good thing for me, huh?

So this old left-leaner can be intolerant and sharp. I guess it just goes to show that we can all misspeak. I just wish I hadn’t done it to such a good friend. I'm also lucky that he is not the type to hold grudges.

He knows who he is. The private apology has already been delivered, but I thought a public one was needed just to remind me of the power of words and that my mouth can get me into trouble.

Sorry, old friend.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What is the Role of Religion in the 21st Century Public School? Part 1

I’ve been attending an education conference at the university this week. The topic: What is the role of religion in the 21st century public school. So far it is has been very interesting. One of the most interesting sessions was a panel discussion comprised of students from Central High Schools International Baccalaureate program.

The students were amazingly articulate and demonstrated some deep thinking on the subject. One clever girl summed up the problems related to religion in school stating that the people “offended” were generally not the students, but the parents. “The parents are the problem,” she said.

She went on to say that the majority of the time the students are much more accepting of other students’ faith and expression of faith. Anytime that expression was squelched or questioned it was because of the parents. I think that is very telling of our culture.

All of the students were in favor of all religions being taught in the schools so long as they were taught in an “academic” manner. Again, these students were very articulate. It was mentioned that they were not coached ahead of time and that there was no practice for this panel discussion. Not only did the students express their approval of religion being taught in school, but they felt that understanding other religions would help break down barriers and increase an acceptance of views.

The keynote of the day was Jeremy Gunn from the ACLU. I’m sure he surprised many by stating that, in his personal opinion, religions should be taught in schools so long as the teaching is of an academic and objective manner. He noted that the ACLU had no official opinion on any issues of curriculum.

Contrary to what most people think, students can pray at school. Any school that would prevent a student from praying would violate the law.

Gunn offered some standards and guidelines to help teachers and school administrators find their way through this complicated issue. They are paraphrased below:

  1. The promotion of specific religions beliefs is the responsibility of families and churches. Schools are not in the business of instilling religious beliefs into students.
  2. Public schools can (and in his opinion, they should) teach about religion in an academic, scholarly and objective way. He expressed that there is no way for anyone to be completely objective. However, he acknowledged that the schools should make a “good faith effort” to achieve objectivity.
  3. When educators teach students about religion, the focus should not focus on the idea of teaching students to “respect” religion. He stated emphatically that the crux of teaching religion in public schools should be on respecting the fundamental civil rights of children (and parents) to have their own beliefs. The goal, he said, is not to respect religions. In fact, many people may find that they do not respect a religion after studying that religion. Students are free to have that belief as well.
I have two more days of the conference and I am really looking forward to it. I will give you an update on some of the more interesting aspects of today’s sessions tonight or tomorrow morning (or whenever I get a chance). Stay tuned and speak up. This could make for great blogging fodder over the next several days. I am especially interested to hear from past, current and future teachers.

Monday, October 01, 2007

To The Bike-Mobile, Batgirl!

The youngling learned to ride her bike Saturday. She is just one step closer to independence. Yikes. Most kids her age can already ride, but she's been a bit reluctant. It's hard work and she gets frustrated when she has to work. Besides, she was scared of falling a lot.

After some firm negotiations, we took the bike and the dog to the park so she could practice car-free in the parking lot. She jumped right on and took off. It was great. Yesterday we went on a bike ride with our friends (adults and kids). We went a bit far (5 miles I think) but it was fun. She did have one good spill, running down a hill, that led quite the dramatic display. She comes by that naturally and I don't fault her for it. She was flying down that hill, took a nasty spill and hurt her ankle, but she is okay.