Answering the President — Part 2

27 03 2009

Way back in January, I wrote about signing up to be a literacy volunteer in response to the President’s call to service in our communities.


So far, it has been a very positive experience!

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Up With Fightin’ Mad White Women??

24 03 2009

UPDATE April 5 — see “Pitchforks and Pistols”:

They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias. . .For some, their disaffection has hardened into something more dark and dangerous.

As the comedian Bill Maher pointed out, strong language can poison weak minds [and]. . .has helped fuel the panic buying of firearms. . . 5.5 million requests. . . more than the number of people living in Bachmann’s Minnesota.

Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann really started something.  Suddenly it’s hyper-patriotic white women fomenting rebellion and inciting  civil war!  Do you see it too, or is it just this white woman who’s shocked?

Betty asked the other day about how we were “taking up weapons” on either side of a divide trying to transform society, and as I thought about it to discuss there, I was assaulted by the latest post-campaign barrage of words as weapons and real weapons too, no surprise in that, but prominently wielded by — white women!

Here’s a 24-year-old with a real gun in her hand as her blog’s intro, belligerently fighting for the only common ground I find anymore — we all fear dangerous ideas from alarming enemies, no surprise, but now it’s our fellow citizens who we see robbing us of our rightful freedoms and ruining this country. And it’s white women ready to shoot first and ask questions, well, never.

We might need a new word, maybe combine traitor with patriotic to get pa-traitor-ic? Patrai-triotic? Add in idiotic and get — patraitor-idiotic?

What is WRONG with us?  We all seem to believe this same thing at the same time, always about the other guy instead of our own side, again no surprise there — but now the bloody banner’s colors aren’t two competing red-white-and-blue symbols like the 1860 civil war. Now it’s red versus blue between whites: Read the rest of this entry »

Dumbing Down, Smartening Up

22 03 2009

What I’m listening to this Sunday morning, rather than — or as? — my weekly sermon.

I’ve read a couple of the featured books and already admire most of the authors being interviewed, starting with:

Susan Jacoby is the author of “The Age of American Unreason.” She talks with Steve Paulson and gives several frightening examples of the way American culture is dumbing itself down, and how poorly educated many American college graduates are.

Now near the end of the hour, internet critic Andrew Keen is making the case that our culture must reevaluate our bias against expertise, to get comfortable with knowledge and reason again, and embrace the reality that professionals who spend 20 years training and practicing do generally know more about that field than if they hadn’t done!

I liked some of these ideas about Reason better than others but all are worth thinking about, particularly a funny discussion about unreasoning persuasion with the author of “Bear v Shark” (haven’t read it yet) about how the “non sequiter” has become our culture’s new “sequiter”. . .

NPR’s “Science Friday” Live from FSU This Afternoon

20 03 2009

We tried to go, thinking it would be fun to be part of a national broadcast and see Ira Flatow in person, but couldn’t get in. So Young Son and I heard the whole two hours on radio. (When I heard the audience reaction as one of the naturalists released his snake on Ira’s desk, I was pretty glad to be home!)

“I’ve been upstaged many times,” Flatow said, “but never by a snake.”

. . .Talking prior to his show, he said science is far more popular than many people realize.

“We regularly draw huge crowds,” he said. “You might not think so, but people love to talk about science.”

The second hour featured renowned physics professor and author Lisa Randall, who is speaking at her own event tonight. No broadcast that we know of. Favorite Daughter and her Europe trip buddy just took off to be there two hours early, hoping that will be enough. . .E.O.Wilson speaks Monday evening.

So here’s a trivia question from this afternoon, that Young Son likes. What is the name of the man who deserved co-credit with Charles Darwin – and largely got it during his lifetime but is unknown now — for figuring out how species change? The answer is in this link from the Linnean Society of London.

For EXTRA CREDIT for Thinking Parents who like quiz questions — and there’s a snake in it, too [shudder]. 🙂

Pre-born Liberals and Conservatives?

20 03 2009

From former senator Gary Hart (he’s authored a book, ““Restoration of the Republic: The Jeffersonian Ideal in 21st-Century America”) in the NYT:

One mystery remains. Why are there always liberals and conservatives and what makes us so?

After all the sociologizing about family tradition, geography, religion, economic status, blue and red states, and clan influence, perhaps Gilbert and Sullivan came closest:

“I often think it’s comical / How Nature always does contrive / That every boy and every gal / That’s born into the world alive / Is either a little Liberal / Or else a little ­Conservative!”

Once inside the ideological matrix, however, things do get interesting.
. . .Ideas matter, and ideas synthesized into political ideologies have enormous consequences. . . As theorems and conjectures are to mathematics and quantum mechanics is to physics, so ideas and the principles of governance are to politics.

. . .The mutant strain of present-day conservatism has not wanted to reverse the New Deal; it has wanted to reverse the Enlightenment.

Favorite Daughter Blogs Again, Almost in French!

20 03 2009

. . .if the Grand Tour of Europe is still part of a well-rounded education, even if you get it mostly from PBS? 🙂

“I watched PBS a lot as a kid”:
This sullen, excessively bearded man is my companion, Francois. He will accompany me in restaurant scenes throughout the videocassette. Francois does not respond to any of my questions in French, English, or Franglais, so I can only assume that he is a feral man-bear.

. . .Sometimes, as a way to earn money, starving children will dance or sing or play instruments or rap or rob people on LE METRO. If you bring a camera crew along, the other passengers will clap and pretend to tip them. And that’s the magic and hospitality of the French people.

But we certainly can’t spend the whole day underground! We’d miss one of my other favorite activities – standing on rooftops and scanning the skyline for attractions I will never actually visit.

As you know, FavD is spending a month backpacking in Europe this summer for real, mainly among the French-speaking parts (France and Belgium) so we’ll see what she has to say about the “virtual” version compared to the authentic I-was-there FavD version, on her return. I can’t wait — should be quite an authentic education for ME! 🙂

Unschooling Europe tag

Is NCAA Basketball Game of Race, Gender Gaps?

18 03 2009

School is to sports . . .

Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog
NCAA Tournament Teams Show Gaps in Academic Performance by Race and Gender

Two new reports examining the academic performance of the men’s and women’s college-basketball teams playing in this month’s NCAA Division I tournaments show that gaps persist between the academic achievement of white and black players, and between male and female players.

The studies[were] conducted by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. . .

Over all, though there has been improvement, men’s teams continue to struggle with graduating their African-American players, the report said. A substantial gap persists between the graduation rates of white athletes and African-American athletes: Fifty-eight percent of the teams graduated 70 percent or more of their white players, compared with 32 percent of their African-American players.

“The continuing significant disparity between the academic success
between African-American and white men’s basketball student-athletes is deeply troubling,” Richard Lapchick, director of the institute, said in a written statement. “The good news is that the gaps are narrowing slightly.”

. . .Female basketball players, meanwhile, perform much better in the
classroom than their male counterparts, and the gap on women’s teams between the academic performance of white and African-American athletes is smaller, Mr. Lapchick said.

. . .The reports will soon be available on the institute’s Web site.
Libby Sander

Posted on Tuesday March 17, 2009