The Spiritual Education of Little JJ

31 10 2006

It was an open forum question posed to unschoolers; my response is among many to read at this link. (Something else Scott could mine for K-dad?)

“Just wondering how all of you go about facilitating your children finding their own path. FYI, I am writing this with a LOOONNG background (ie-all my life) of growing up with literal interpretation of the Bible, ask-Jesus-into-your-heart or you-will-go-to-hell fundamentalist Christianity. I am confused in my own heart . . .but am trying/seeking to practice a more liberal, less confining form of Christianity. . .”

JJ’s response, Dec 13 2005:
I’m thinking that apart from any doctrine or religion, the Sunday culture reflects how spirituality can shape individuals and communities . . .and maybe even unschooling paths? Growing up, I’d spend summers with my grandmother in a tiny town (still in the South but like another world to me) where spirituality was built right into the rhythm of life.

I absorbed it but not as a native – it was more like some exotic culture I was visiting, or an internship (is internship meant to be internalizing something and making it part of you? – never noticed that before)

It wasn’t just the regularly scheduled service every Sunday morning, but the big dinner with family at home and then putting it all away, doing the dishes and sitting around stuffed like post-Thanksgiving dinner, or else driving up the mountain for a family buffet at the one tourist place, and taking most of the afternoon to get home.

(To this day I hate mountain roads, especially after eating! What were they THINKING??)

We never did other church, like Wednesday evening suppers, and the pastor never came to our house. We weren’t “churchy” — and yet we were part of a social fabric that was very spiritual, not material. All through town and all through the week were church bells and funeral processions, personal visits to “those less fortunate,” who needed work or clothing or a sack of groceries, daily meditations in the big chair by the picture window, reading and playing LOTS of solitaire in increasingly creative ways, just to somehow pass the time quietly because nothing was open and everyone stayed home and tended to their own lives.

(Needless to say this was prior to the home computer. I finally got a transistor radio and thought music would be my teen escape, turns out the only AM station I could get was Read the rest of this entry »

UnSchool Gospel for Christian Dads

31 10 2006

At his invitation, I’ve been offering a little “unschooling” perspective to Scott Somerville’s new mission to creatively engage Christian dads in home education. My teen daughter is a comparative religion un-scholar. She read Bart Ehrman’s “Lost Scriptures” last spring and was so intrigued to learn of the early Infancy Gospel of Thomas that I’ve been seriously thinking of broaching it with Scott for “dad education.”

Sort of “Patrician, teach thyself?”

(That’s a pun, poor but sincere.)

My offbeat idea is that Christian dads could enlighten themselves with this material to offset the rigid left-brain control tendency of paternalism (in all religious dogma), the scary-absolute definitions about what “should” and shouldn’t happen, what children “should” be, do, and believe, what they should be taught, about sin and punishment, always failing each other and falling short of Christ’s perfection, and the meanings of Christ’s example for marriage and family and rearing of children.

This Infancy Gospel describes the early learning of the human Jesus as a boy in terms that sound more like a spontaneous, singular journey of self-discovery than daily school lessons delivering a canned curriculum built on a set of absolute and measurable standards, codes, high-stakes tests and trials by fire. His devoted parents and teachers are unable to deliver what he ultimately must discover for himself through imperfect childish experimentation, even some spectacular boyish mischief.

I’m not suggesting the message is that boys will be boys! 🙂

These parables offer more than that, by integrating Magic School Bus with Divine Miracle — humans take chances, get messy, and make mistakes traveling toward enlightenment.

So I’m suggesting this as a useful frame that might mean something to these particular dads — the Infancy Gospel of Thomas sounds like Unschooling for Schooled and Churched Dads, valuable perspective that could really help evangelical dads who do accept ancient teachings as divine rules for their own family life today, dads who obediently struggle every day in every way to make their children conform to the image of Jesus and thereby save their souls.

If from authority that they already accept and believe, they discover their own children between the ages of 5 and 12 are uncannily like the boy Jesus portrayed in these ancient stories, then they could understand unschooling as Christ-like, a sanctioned part of learning absolutely integral to human maturing. It might even help convict Christian dads that their children are perfectly on track to eventual godly goals in the very act of not accepting authority and school lessons dutifully?
The Whole Bible:
“. . . the young Christ displays all the precociousness, cleverness, and even destructiveness of the child-gods in pagan mythology. In the early passages of the story, Jesus shows a disturbing tendency to kill off his playmates when they displease him. He eventually learns to channel his divine abilities in more constructive ways and realizes his calling . . .”


30 10 2006

Anybody else watching Heroes? It just grabbed me from the premiere and I find myself so looking forward to the next installment tonight. I can’t figure out WHY though. 🙂

I’m also really liking The Nine and Six Degrees, so probably it’s something about the power of story in threaded connections between strangers who don’t know themselves very well yet, much less have a clue who the others are . . .and maybe also because I feel tired and ready to passively enjoy someone else’s creativity by dark these days, ready to let it wash over me?

Is Your Candidate “Human?”

29 10 2006

A political test to rival comparing the fictional characters candidates create as novelists . . .

Is Your Candidate Human?

In the film Bladerunner, organic androids called replicants have escaped onto the planet Earth. They are almost exactly the same as human beings.

Have you ever wondered whether or not your political candidates are really human? Well, in San Francisco they wonder about things like that. . .

Is a particular candidate human or an insidious replicant, possessed of physical strength and computational abilities far exceeding our own, but lacking empathy and possibly even bent on our destruction as a species?

Wisely, they chose the only test that can be applied to distinguish a replicant from a human being; namely, the Voight-Kampff empathy test.

They asked the classic list of questions, each looking for an emotional reaction to the implied death of a living animal. My personal favorite candidate’s answer to the question “It’s your birthday. Someone gives you a calfskin wallet. How do you react?” His response: I’d look for money.

I’m not sure if they detected a replicant, but I’m pretty sure they detected a politician.

The Wave Magazine.

Is Junk Food a Junk Freedom?

29 10 2006

From Michael Pollan’s “On the Table” blog:
So who are these “food police” we’re starting to hear so much about? The term has begun showing up in media accounts of campaigns to reform school lunch or in discussions of the food industry’s growing legion of critics in the media. It’s the “food police” who want to get soda out of the schools and who argue that fast food outlets should disclose nutritional information about what they sell. The “food police” supposedly want to take away your constitutional right to a Big Mac — or, at the very least, your right to enjoy a Big Mac with a clear conscience. . .As near as I can determine, the whole notion of the “food police” got its start in the fevered brain of

Read the rest of this entry »

How true is your political compass?

28 10 2006

(Good find, Liza!)

Welcome to The Political Compass™.

There’s abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of ‘right’ and ‘left’, established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today’s complex political landscape. For example, who are the ‘conservatives’ in today’s Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It’s not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can’t explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as ‘right-wingers’, yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

That’s about as much as we should tell you for now. After you’ve responded to the following propositions during the next 3-5 minutes, all will be explained. In each instance, you’re asked to choose the response that best describes your feeling: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree or Strongly Agree. At the end of the test, you’ll be given the compass, with your own special position on it. . .

The idea was developed by a political journalist with a university counselling background, assisted by a professor of social history. They’re indebted to people like Wilhelm Reich and Theodor Adorno for their ground-breaking work in this field. We believe that, in an age of diminishing ideology, a new generation in particular will get a better idea of where they stand politically – and the sort of political company they keep.

So are you ready to take the test? Remember that there’s no right, wrong or ideal response. It’s simply a measure of attitudes and inevitable human contradictions to provide a more integrated definition of where people and parties are really at. Click here to start.

When Power of Story IS the Story

28 10 2006

Now the election story is that we’re voting on which character issues lying behind each candidate’s fictional characters, betray more flaws in their real-life plotlines?

I spent my own two cents prematurely, I guess:

“Telling” stories – when does fiction betray lack of character?

Catholic leaders claim (Dan Brown’s novel) “The Da Vinci Code” is manipulation of belief, fraud for profit, harmful lies we must warn the world to reject. Now comes the titillating and, one supposes, quite predictable reverse play, the crowning glory of the news and belief cycle (whoops, not to be redundant!) — historical Christianity itself challenged as fraud, with the courts as the objective Standard of Truth.

It’s being called “abuse of popular belief” by the plaintiff. . .
I think it’s time we add it to our mandatory graduation standards — if we can find anyone qualified to teach the course.

If midterm races do come down to exasperated voters weighing degrees of brazen fiction as clues to character, which party has the electoral edge?

As NYT’s Frank Rich wrote in a January 22 column headlined, ” Truthiness 101″:
“It says everything about the Democrats’ ineptitude that when they spin fiction, they are incapable of meeting even the low threshold of truthiness needed to make it fly in this lax cultural environment.
The Republicans would never have been so sloppy. Indeed, hardly had Mr. Kennedy’s melodramatic stunt blown up in his face than they came up with a new story line . . .
(from) a PR outfit called Creative Response Concepts . . .”

Meanwhile, Kennedy gave this speech:
“Instead of a free and honest exchange of ideas, our hearings have become stylized and choreographed appearances in which nominees are coached to say as little as possible. When it comes to lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land, surely the American people deserve better. . .”

UPDATE to “choreographed appearances” and candidates “coached to say as little as possible” about their personal truths and fictions. One needn’t evoke Clinton to bring Dem fictions into this free-for-all, just stick with Ted Kennedy. This still-polarizing fiction needs no comment.

We struggle so hard to judge the relative currency of every politician’s truthiness, contradictions and abuse of our belief. If the American people DO deserve better but never get it from politicians, I’m thinking we can just write some better stories for ourselves?

Stem Cells

27 10 2006

This is what they look like:


This is what they look like:

This is NOT what they look like:


This is NOT what they look like:


Don’t get fooled again!

The Zen of Peaceful Unschooling

26 10 2006

I’ve knotted some spiritual, mental and physical muscles lately, got tight, felt worn down. Reading at Sandra’s for a while this afternoon both relaxed and energized me. See if she’s got some virtual zen for your unschooling. 🙂

Another Principal

26 10 2006

captpb.jpgproves why Dav Pilkey is so popular — when will the grownups ever learn!

Could Smart Gas Work on Kids?

26 10 2006

To enjoy a longer, sweeter season in their natural environment,

cushioned from institutional bruising . . .see “Puff the Magic Preservative: Lasting Crunch, If a Bit Less Scent” by David Karp, Oct. 25.

But sigh, most likely another intervention trying to mitigate against the OTHER interventions isn’t the ideal answer, either. Our whole economy of shipping and handling children might need rethinking.

(What glorious aromas and flavors await when we esteem this cherished fruit more highly than the apple, pear and cantaloupe?)


UPDATE One – DO YOU THINK KIDS SPOIL LIKE APPLES? Then read this for an unschooling mom’s version of the Bucket and Dipper Story.

UPDATE Two – It’s the Barrel, Stupid, Not the Apples, aka : “You Can’t Be a Sweet Cucumber in a Pickle Barrel.”

Choice and Monopoly Essay

25 10 2006

Grab a cuppa at