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

Is Your Discipline Hooking Up Behind Your Back?

17 03 2009

This from PLoS ONE is more than cool art, it’s your mind on science!


. . .Such clickstream maps of science, he said, “can offer an immediate perspective on what is taking place in science and can thus aid the detection of emerging trends, inform funding agencies, and aid researchers in exploring the interdisciplinary relationships between various scientific disciplines.”

The findings also suggest, Mr. Bollen said, that the social sciences and the humanities don’t get the inspirational credit they deserve when their contributions are viewed through traditional citation data. —Paul Basken

University Orientation is Monday, Unbelievable

17 03 2009

. . .well, hard to believe anyway.

Flame-haired, radically unschooled Favorite Daughter all grown up and clad in casual collegiate garnet and gold, still technically 18, signed up to spend all day Monday on campus in mandatory orientation and registering to start classes in May as a straight-A junior accepted into her upper division major, creative writing, and her minor, religion.

FavD was born playing with words and ideas so the major is no surprise. See her blog. 🙂 And see the calibre of faculty member she’s positively vibrating like a tuning fork to study (worship words?) with, thrilled to have already encountered as a guest lecturer in community college English, and can’t wait to get all to herself in some writing seminars:

Poet Barbara Hamby makes words tango.. .makes icons tipsy, forgoes introductions, and forces perfect strangers out onto the dance floor in each other’s arms: Nietzsche couples with Lois Lane, Ulysses embraces Freud. Of course, they are all sure to regret their imprudence come morning, but as the book’s title suggests, morning is still a long way off and the music raucous fun.

All-Night Lingo Tango (University of Pittsburgh Press: 2009) is Barbara Hamby’s fourth book of poetry. The Alphabet of Desire was identified by the New York Public Library as one of the year’s 25 best books, and Babel won the AWP Donald Hall Prize. Winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Hamby is writer-in-residence in the English Department at FSU.

So I grok (an oldie but goodie creative writing word, see Stranger in a Strange Land in case fiction and religion are not your chosen fields) how we got here, I see exactly what seduced Favorite Daughter into FSU’s rarefied writing program with such power of story it’s shaping who she is and means to become, ever more intensely.

In 2006, The Atlantic Monthly ranked the top ten MFA programs and the top five PhD programs in the country. Only one program made both of those lists: Florida State University. The Creative Writing Program is now affiliated with FSU’s top-ranked schools of Film and Theatre. Our faculty includes winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, as well as professors who are not only dedicated to the craft of writing but who are also widely known as teachers of the craft.

No program in the world has been included more often in Harcourt’s Best New American Voices. Recent graduates have published books with Hyperion, Norton, Viking, MacAdam/Cage, Penguin, Henry Holt, Simon & Schuster, Copper Canyon, Houghton Mifflin, and several university presses. Our students have published in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Southern Review, Harper’s, Ploughshares, and many other distinguished magazines, as well as read on NPR’s This American Life. Our students of poetry have gone on to capture major national poetry prizes resulting in book publication. . .

But I’m not sure which part of the rest is the hardest to wrap my mind around — the tender age at which she’s already more than halfway through her bachelor’s degree, or maybe that never-in-a-million-years minor, a strange calling for a happy young atheist.

No, no, that’s not it. Might as well face it. All in all, for her Gator mom — it’s the damn garnet and gold!! 😉

(Where did I go wrong, Albert KNOWS I tried. . .)

Snook’s St. Patrick’s Day Roots and Shoots

17 03 2009

I’ve been noticing all week how suddenly green everything got here, but it didn’t occur to me until this morning that it must be in honor of St. Paddy’s Day. If it’s not greening yet where you live, go play in the clover of today’s Google graphic when you can, it’s fresh as an Irish Spring.

I just learned something new for this St. Paddy’s Day, that the Gaelic phrase “uisce beatha” (water of life – pronounced ishka baha) of course means — whiskey!

So — did you realize St. Patrick himself was born in Scotland, not Ireland? In Dunbartonshire, 387 A.D. if my sources don’t lie.

My kids then have authentic Celtic roots, must be one-quarter Irish and Scot blood total I suppose, all from their dad’s immigrant grandparents. I am garden variety AngloSaxon but that’s no help on March 17, so the rest of the family lends me their bona fides, adopts me as part of the clan. 🙂

Here are two St. Patrick’s Day education retreads (or it would sound better if I called them classics) from Snook:

Party Report: Education Was All They Wanted to Talk About!

Passing me one to another like speed dating, these party guests in green consecutively kept me so wrapped up that I never even got to the kitchen, where it’s rumored the homemade shepherd’s pie and corned beef & cabbage were not to be missed. . .

St. Patrick’s Day Fun as Unsaintly Unschoolers:

Do you know the word “ceilidh” btw? Suddenly I’m learning stuff I didn’t know I didn’t know! It’s pronounced kaee-lee — sort of, I think — and it’s the same sort of folk-community dance that I remember from my own heritage-steeped summers as a girl in Highlands, GA, clogging and square-dancing at the Dillard House.

You Gotta Love Kathleen Parker. . .

15 03 2009

Frayed Thread in a Free Society:

BOSTON — The biggest challenge facing America’s struggling newspaper industry may not be the high cost of newsprint or lost ad revenue, but ignorance stoked by drive-by punditry. . .

Constant criticism of the “elite media” is comical to most reporters, whose paychecks wouldn’t cover Limbaugh’s annual dry cleaning bill. The truly elite media are the people most Americans have never heard of — the daily-grind reporters who turn out for city council and school board meetings. Or the investigative teams who chase leads for months to expose abuse or corruption.

These are the champions of the industry, not the food-fighters on TV or the grenade throwers on radio. Or the bloggers (with a few exceptions), who may be excellent critics and fact-checkers, but who rely on newspapers to provide their material. . .

School: “Where Education and Assimilation Collide”

15 03 2009


In the last decade, record numbers of immigrants, both legal and illegal, have fueled the greatest growth in public schools since the baby boom. The influx has strained many districts’ budgets and
and put classrooms on the front lines of America’s battles over whether
and how to assimilate the newcomers and their children

Inside schools, which are required to enroll students regardless of
their immigration status and are prohibited from even asking about it,
the debate has turned to how best to educate them.