“Dwarfing Pluto and Shrinking Ourselves” Redux

15 02 2009
Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, says he thinks Pluto is "happier" in its current classification as a dwarf planet. topfoto.co.uk

Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, says he thinks Pluto is "happier" in its current classification as a dwarf planet. topfoto.co.uk

Here’s science storytelling from NPR that also adds power of story to well-worn culture clash among homeschooling parents.

The public shock of shrinking Pluto as a planet hit when our national homeschooling networks were years deep in a civil war over public charter programs and other hybrid homeschooling, unable to clearly define distinctions and differences between like kinds without dislike, much less kindly.

One side called for involuntary legalistic redefinition (demotion) of all bodies unlike themselves in some aspect however strained,  assuring us it would help rather than hurt those whose status was thereby dwarfed by calling them what they really were, and that they would be happier once instructed in reclassification camps to face their factual lack of fit as full-fledged homeschooling planets, I mean PARENTS. . .

I first satirized our “what’s in a name?” clash as “Large Dogs Welcome” but  then this campaign to “help” Pluto out of its redefined-as-illegitimate status presented the perfect parable:

Dwarfing Pluto and Shrinking Ourselves: A Joyfully Unclear Meditation
[UPDATE: Culture Kitchen is still offline for site maintenance so I put the whole essay here too.]

Would the best-integrated and most powerful leadership for home education look and feel much more like viral collective wisdom expressed by autonomous individuals, and less like cliques, gangs, law firms, Congress, the Vatican, media marketing, house organ pandering for profit, union protectionism or the sausage-making of paid political campaigns and federalized public schooling?

Wouldn’t it look an awful lot like all of us just being US, as confident, sovereign individual Thinking Parents, a whole creative class of families freely learning and thinking as we wish, choosing whatever connections with each other we wish and communicating about it all as we wish, to help people hear and understand and perhaps begin to crave the healthy, happy fundamental freedoms we enjoy?

“In education politics of any kind (home education or not), we always come down to: what DO we teach our children, so they can best preserve and protect their own freedoms?

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3 responses

16 02 2009
Laurel Kornfeld

I urge all homeschoolers, as I urge everyone, to reject the controversial demotion of Pluto by four percent of the IAU, most of whom are not planetary scientists. Their definition was immediately rejected by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. You can find their petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/planetprotest/

Many of the signatories along with other scientists and lay people are working behind the scenes to get the demotion overturned.

The IAU definition makes no sense in saying a dwarf planet is not a planet at all. That is completely inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Additionally, it makes no linguistic sense.

A far better planet definition keeps the term broad to include any non-self-luminous spheroidal body orbiting a star. We can differentiate between types of planets through using subcategories such as terrestrial planets, gas giants, ice giants, dwarf planets, etc.

For more on why Pluto is a planet and efforts to get its status formally reinstated, visit my blog at http://laurele.livejournal.com

16 02 2009
JJ

I remember an in-depth news analysis on what it means to be green (people don’t agree, imagine that!) headlined, “Planned Planet-hood.”
This made me think of that. 🙂

17 02 2009
JJ

Being dogmatic even about not being dogmatic, lol, more label-parsing commentary, from Dale at Meming of Life:

I’ve written before about the endless obsession of the freethought community with labels: atheist vs. humanist, atheist vs. agnostic, humanist vs. secular humanist, nonreligious vs. nonbeliever vs. Bright.

I don’t mind someone saying why they choose one over another, or why they switch back and forth in different situations. What I’ve had enough of is people insisting, loudly and self-righteously and endlessly, that one or more of the labels is an affront to all things good and mustn’t be used, period. . .

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