Maybe If We Had Known That We Didn’t Know. . .

28 10 2011

This is headlined as “The Boomer Parent’s Lament”:

“Maybe if I knew that our children would be coming of age in an economy that would crush even the best and brightest among them, I would have cared a little less about their score on an advanced placement history test, and a little more about helping them find happiness in moments at the margin.”

UNSCHOOLING boomer parents though, knew this all along and we aren’t lamenting any such thing. Finding happiness in the moment and the margin AND smack-dab in the middle of the morning too, while everyone else was sweating yet another test — that was the whole program, the whole point, the whole power of our story.

Didn’t JJ just finish saying something like that? 😉

There was a book excerpt in the NYT Sunday magazine so stunning that I ordered the book online. I was waiting to read it before blogging anything about it but it’s been on my mind in every current conversation, now including this one. The book is “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and its professor author Daniel Kahneman was a 2002 Nobel laureate in economics.

The big point is that we humans tend to hold fast to (often false) confidence that we’re doing the right thing and that we can “know” what that is, even when we’re smart enough to SEE that we aren’t, and don’t, and can’t.

The Hazards of Confidence:

We rarely experienced doubt or conflicting impressions. . . [but] as it turned out, despite our certainty about the potential of individual candidates, our forecasts were largely useless.

The evidence was overwhelming. . . our ability to predict performance at the school was negligible. Our forecasts were better than blind guesses, but not by much.

What do you think about the right way to school kids and prepare them for quantifiable success? How confident are you that you’re right about that? 😉

USA: Uneasy State of America This Fourth of July

4 07 2011

The Culture War and Cultural Chasms
. . .And so real hatred and resentment blooms thanks to a war by proxy between two groups pretending to be what they are not, but making everyone else pay for their lack of a core identity or any genuine skill of their own. Trash vs Posers.

Beep IS deep. 🙂

Or maybe it’s like an autoimmune disorder wherein the body turns on itself. Our defenses so revved up that we can no longer tell who the enemy is. At times I get caught up in this too. It’s so easy, with the ease at which groups are demonized these days, the constant fear being pumped into our society for the purposes of mass emotional manipulation.

Beep really got my mind going with this (more than I can do justice at the moment, with burgers and corn on the grill.) America is a strong, rich, diverse nation by any measure. We define ourselves by successful competition in every one of those measures — we’re Number One, we’re Number One! Otherwise, who would we be? (WOULD we be, at all, or would America cease to be? )

Isn’t THAT our number one fear, that as we celebrate again for having won the world in the 18th century and defended our title through the the 19th and 20th, that our dominance is behind us, our glory days done, that USA doesn’t mean Number One anymore?

This year, intramural culture wars don’t feel like America’s existential threat most to be feared, more like Read the rest of this entry »

“Time” for Summer Vacation Talk

23 06 2011

. . .and yes, that’s a pun of sorts. Lame but hey, it’s hot here. Be grateful I can work up a post at all. 😉

And do your reading so you can join the conversation: Time magazine’s The Case Against Summer Vacation

When a local actor-professor friend linked it on Facebook, this blurb appeared:

It’s an outdated legacy of the farm economy. Adults still romanticize it. But those months out of school do the most damage to the kids who can least afford it . . .

To which I responded even before reading the piece:

“Adults still romanticize school, too. 🙂
And family mealtime, bedtime, vacations.
Truth is that when school is better than home for some kids, we ought to fix THAT instead of just making more school. And when life outside of school is better (for kids like mine e.g.) then it’s summer vacation year-round and it’s amazing!
Everything is relative.”

Then I did read the whole thing. Twice. And came away with a strong sense that it’s two or more stories at cross purposes and the author doesn’t get it, that do-good public service types like me have been Read the rest of this entry »

Because JJ’s a Sucker for Royals, Weddings and English Accents

16 11 2010

Breaking news! You saw it here first!

The Season After Summer? Back-to-School, of Course

16 08 2010

“The keeper of my time is my keeper.”

“If love of money is the root of all evil, the taming of time must surely be its minion. . .”

There were always five natural seasons, not four, immutable as day to night to day again:
Back to School

So was it written, so shall it be done, amen?
That’s why it seems to me now that this time of year is the most natural time for a Culture Kitchen classic: We the Clockkeepers and Our Tyranny of Time:

Have you noticed Big Government and Big Business have effectively taken over all our time, one way or another? — colluding to Read the rest of this entry »

Living Upside Down, Inside Out

7 04 2010

We’re still struggling to manage every single thing we’ve accumulated and inherited through a half-century, trying to make new sense of it, creating fresh combinations that suit our family now, rushing to beat the heat, humidity, pollen, bugs and reptiles — a Florida garage is not secure for humans or belongings against any of those — and I fear we are losing.

I notice it’s like the vanishing return of radioactive half-life. The first week you work so hard and reduce the mounds by half but for the second week’s same effort, you get only half as much reduction, and so on, and so on as the payoff for time spent shrinks exponentially, and I’m to that point where I realize this is my new endless reality, but then again, at least it’s better than Sisyphus (do fundamentalists believe that religious story was literally true too, I wonder?) because at least the WHOLE rock and the WHOLE mountain don’t face me anew every damn morning.

What we’ve already brought inside and unpacked onto the new floors in the changed room use plan is all wonderful and beautiful, but it’s disconcertingly odd and I don’t have comfy routines set up to make anything easy yet. Answering the phone, where IS it?? The only refrigerator is still in the garage, and our kitchen cabinets were stuffed with breakables we chose not to wrap and pack, so nothing is in the right place for everyday marketing and cooking and snacks. In other words, it’s all upside down and inside out, still, and this is going into the third month of living like this. I am “home” but most of my waking hours are being spent outside working away to seemingly little effect, in the chaotic, dust-and-pollen saturated, southwestern-exposed garage.

How many more hundreds of books can I possibly bear to part with?

Talk about being punished by rewards. I’m developing a whole new appreciation for that concept! :-0

London Matinee Report from FavD

1 08 2009

“Billy Elliot: Oh. My. God.”
Posted by penguindust under England, London

en route

So Billy Elliot is amazing.

It’s kind of hard to articulate how amazing, but I’ll try.

If any of you saw the performance at the Tonys –- the one with the tap dancing and the police shields –- know that the whole show is that intense and that good, and heartwarming and funny to boot.

How talented are the 12-year-old boys playing Billy Elliot, you ask? Let me say, in ten years of dancing and seeing shows, I have never heard taps, in my entire life, as clean as the taps I heard today. Anyone remember that amazing kid who tap danced in The Boy From Oz? Yeah, the kid we saw today was about fifteen times better than that. At everything.

The show is a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale set in parallel: a young boy in a tough coal mining town wants to dance ballet, and his dream matures as the town dies. It’s the story of a kid, it’s the story of a community, and it is filled with some of the most spectacular choreography, design, talent, and storytelling you will ever see.

The whole message is ‘be yourself.’ One of the slogans of the show is, ‘if you want to dance, dance.’

The musical is incredibly organic and natural as it chronicles Billy, his family, and his town coming to terms with Read the rest of this entry »

Jolly Old LONDON (and Cheeky Young Beefeaters)

30 07 2009

en route

“Jolly Old London – Beefeaters and all!”
Posted by kiki under England, London

After a wonderful last night in Paris, complete with send off party at the Eiffel Tower, which I saw glitter, we left for our last port of call on this epic voyage: London. We were quite tired when we arrived so we stayed in for about a half hour and then we decided that Magnums and exploring were in order. So we set off toward St James Church and then quickly realised that London is actually a lot smaller than Paris and distances on maps are not deceptively small. So we found ourselves at Buckingham Palace and marveled at its beauty and Beefeaters.

But the Beefeaters at Buckingham Palace proper are nothing. They are behind the fence and you can’t see them very well. So as we wandered aimlessly down the road away from the Palace we saw more, vigilantly guarding a cordoned off area and generally looking pretty cool.

(They were babies – couldn’t have been more than 23, and trying very hard to look older. – M.)

We quickly fell in love with one who we have aptly named Smirks. As his name suggests, he does not have the traditional Beefeater stoicism. He kept shooting his eyes in our direction and grinning like a Cheshire cat. But his stealth training paid off in the fact that, though he smirked cheekily at us at least five times, we failed to acquire photographic evidence.

After spending at least thirty minutes having lovely conversation about Smirks and his Senior Officer right next to them as if when they go on duty they suddenly become deaf to idiot tourists, we mosied down to Trafalgar Square where we had our dinner.

The Sherlock Holmes [Pub & Restaurant] just roped us in and we were quickly in love with it. We had traditional English meals: I had Shepherd’s Pie and Mer had ham and eggs and chips.

sherlock holmes pub Londod streetfront

With the enthusiastic support and help of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s family, the pub was filled throughout with various artefacts and pieces recording the adventures of the Master Detective, including such diverse items as Dr Watson’s old service revolver, original cartoons and the stuffed and mounted head of none other than Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Daughter Safe in LONDON for Last Week of Adventure

30 07 2009

en route

She just called.
They have tickets to see “Billy Elliot” on the West End — Dance as Cultural Power of Story, what else? 😀


Last Tango in Paris for Favorite Daughter and Friend

29 07 2009

en route

“Overheard on the Train from Versailles to Paris”
Posted by Favorite Daughter (penguindust)

12-year-old girl: Ugh. I could have done that tour. Everything they told us about the French Revolution, I already knew. We learned it in school.

Me: (raised eyebrows)

12-Year-Old Girl’s Father: What I don’t understand, is, why didn’t Marie Antoinette’s father send an army over?

12-Year-Old Girl: He did, he did. But they got defeated, by Napoléon.

Me: (crying due to silent laughter)


“Last Tango in Paris”
Posted by kiki under France, Paris

Today was our last day in Paris, and we didn’t even spend the day in the city. We took the train to Versailles and saw the magnificent château.

Versailles, the city, was delightful and clean. It was a welcome change from the hoards of tourists crowding the streets and sites of Paris. We walked from the train station to the château and proceeded to wait in line for about an hour while being continually accosted by the voice of a woman who desperately wanted us to know that we could get in for free if we were EU citizens under 26, and that if we wanted to see the SUPER SECRET PRIVATE apartments of a couple of the Louis-es and Marie Antoinette then we would need to book a guided tour.

But finally we got our audio guides and started to walk our way around the ornate palace. We started out at the intricate and grandiose chapel built by Louis XIV. It is the highest part of Versailles Château because Louis believed that he needed to do that to honour God. Pretty nice gesture in my book.

We then saw Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Daughter and the Real Parisian Day

27 07 2009

en route

“Real Parisian Day Today”
Posted by FavD (penguindust) under France, Paris

We started off this morning by visiting Notre Dame. It’s just as gorgeous as you think it is, and has three times as many rose windows as you think it does. Notre Dame is one of those Paris landmarks that is always taking us by surprise – just strolling along, minding our own business, and suddenly, whoa, there’s Notre Dame de Paris.

Then we spent four hours or so at the Louvre. Oh, the Louvre. It is quite an experience, if only because the sheer amount of artwork is overwhelming. Our tour guide on Saturday told us that if you spent thirty seconds in front of every piece in the Louvre, it would take you Read the rest of this entry »

Unschooling Sports and Humanity: Le Tour De France for Our American Girls

26 07 2009

THIS is education, unschooled education. Anywhere, any time. Awesome. Real. Life. You should know, to fully appreciate this, what a Tour de France and huge Lance Armstrong fan this young woman is, and also that she is a star science student aspiring to a medical career. For her, the whole trip she’s been planning for a year, was built around being in Paris today on the Champs-Elysées, to see the finish of this year’s tour and to see Lance Armstrong in person.

Don’t you want to be there for Bastille Day July 14, I suggested when they finally deigned to show me a draft of their itinerary. She was polite and deferential but clearly thought I hadn’t a clue about what was really important in this world. 😉

en route

“Enfin, Le Tour de France”
Posted by kiki under France, Paris

Sometimes things don’t exactly happen how you expect them to. This is what I have been telling myself every time I started to think about the Tour de France. I had no idea what to expect when we exited the Métro this morning on Place de la Concorde. I hadn’t the slightest clue where we were allowed to be, much less where the best spot would be. And, on top of it all, I had attracted an entourage at our hostel in the previous two days, making my excursion group not two but five.

After walking around and literally having to go the long way because the best spots on the Champs were reserved for the VIPs in the grandstands, we finally found what we thought would be a good place, especially considering that there were already people staking out their spot and it was only 7 AM.
Mer and kiki tour de france paris 2009

We collapsed cardboard boxes we found discarded behind a Tour de France memorabilia booth and we waited.

I looked up and down the Champs-Elysées, Read the rest of this entry »