I have heard that Harvard University is losing donors because of its perceived lacklaster response to the Hamas attacks, and its refusal to condemn the hate-filled actions of some of its students.
Likewise, the CEO's of some companies have asked to be given a list of those students who have supported the hateful statements and demonstrations, so that they can be sure not to hire any of them.
I make no apology for my own strong support of Israel, but a few things come to mind:
- Colleges and universities should not be expected to take a stand on political issues. Their job is education, and they would do well to pay more attention to doing that well, and less to yapping about things that are none of their business.
- It is the right—nay, the duty—of an individual, a company, or a foundation to make sure that the values of the organizations they support align sufficiently with their own. That's why we stopped supporting our own alma mater long ago.
- I believe some students, not only at Harvard but all over the country, are willfully doing evil things, though most of those involved in the demonstrations are probably just guilty of unthinking peer-dependency. Like it or not, however, college students are renowned for doing stupid things. I know; I was in college in the early 70's. The leadership ranks of many, maybe most, modern organizations are filled with executives who did very stupid, even evil, things in college. Hence my suspicions that the wish to blacklist certain students might be a tad hypocritical.
- Despite what I said above about colleges not getting involved in politics, I believe that the the opinions and actions of some of Harvard's students were so egregious that Harvard should have officially, strongly condemned the ideas while still supporting the rights of the students to hold wrong views and to make them public.
- I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it:
If we don't believe in freedom of speech and the right of peaceable assembly for those whose ideas we hate, we don't believe in them at all.
We've all been there.
At some performance, or speech, the audience bursts into applause, and you join in, because, well, it's now time to clap, and that's what you do. Whether or not you actually like what you heard, joining the applause is what you do. You can at least salute the performer's courage in getting up in front of an audience and doing better than you could at whatever it is.
Then the audience rises for a standing ovation. "Wait a minute," you say. "It was good, but was it spectacular? I don't think so. But everyone else is standing, and I don't want to look like an old grump, so I guess I'll get up."
Maybe we shouldn't be so hasty.
It is popular now for leaders in Canada to wring their hands over the debacle that caused the speaker of their parliament to be thrown under the bus resign his position. I mean, what else can you do when you've singled out for special honor a Ukrainian "war hero" who courageously fought Russia during World War II, and Justin Trudeau and the entire parliament have joined Volodymyr Zelenskyy in giving him a double standing ovation, only to have the obvious brought to your attention: Um, sir, weren't the Russians our allies during WWII? Wasn't this man a Nazi, fighting on the wrong side?
Leaving aside the fact that life, history, and politics are complicated things, and our enemy one year may be our staunch ally a decade or two later, and that the Soviet Union was actually responsible for far more democide than Nazi Germany, and that maybe the man did act heroically for what he saw as the right cause—the point is that one does not speak positively about anyone who can be branded with the term Nazi, much less someone who actually was one. It is simply not done. Not without committing political suicide.
So all those politicians who stood up and cheered have my sympathy, in a sense. I can imagine them, half-heartedly paying attention to the speeches they are paid to pretend to pay attention to, all the while conducting political business with their near neighbors, or fantasizing about lunch, or wondering how they could have avoided the morning's fight with their teens. The signal to applaud comes, they clap, the people around them stand, they stand. It's understandable.
But one could wish, could hope, that somewhere among all those well-educated folks who were elected to lead the country and represent their fellow Canadian citizens, a few could have been found who paused and asked themselves, "If this hero fought the Soviets in WWII, doesn't that mean...?"
I'm not going to embarrass myself by wondering if I would have done better (I'd most likely have been writing a blog post in my head instead of paying attention to the speakers), nor if our children and grandchildren realize fully enough that Russia was our ally in World War II.
I will hope, however, that this event will at least make us stop and think before following the crowd in either its cheers or its jeers.
Ten years ago I asked for help in petitioning the government to grant asylum in the United States to the Romeike family, who were being persecuted in Germany for their homeschooling beliefs. After a surprisingly long and somewhat discouraging battle, they were granted
“indefinite deferred action status,” which allowed them to live, work, and remain safely in the United States without fear of deportation.
Until last month.
Then, in September 2023, the Romeikes were told during a routine check-in that their deferred status had been revoked. The family was given four weeks to apply for German passports, so they could be deported to Germany. The family had no prior warning, and was offered no explanation, other than that there had been a “change of orders.”
Homeschooling is still illegal and actively prosecuted in Germany. Two of the family's children were born here, and are American citizens. Another two are married to American citizens, and one of these couples has a child—also, of course, American.
As far as I can tell (acknowleding that I haven't been following them since 2014), they seem to have integrated well into life in Tennessee and are an asset to their community. I see no reason to tear this family apart, especially given that returning to Germany would put them at immediate risk of having the children forcibly removed from their parents for no reason other than their religious and educational beliefs.
If you feel similarly, here's a petition you can sign, and here's a link to more details of their story. Also, there's a bill in Congress, H.R. 5423, to help the Romeikes, so a note to your representative would be in order as well.
Thank you all for considering this small but vital case, and especially for your prayers.
The same guy who brought you the 18-Minute Cabin had an old, broken down pop-up camper that he decided to renovate from the ground up. I know a few people who might find the work interesting; I know I did. (44 minutes, does well at 2x speed.)
I've really enjoyed his YouTube channel, black spruce. Perhaps it's the uncertainty of life these days that makes me especially appreciate people with these kinds of skills. Either that, or I just like watching other people work. :)
Permalink | Read 417 times | Comments (0)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Conservationist Living: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] YouTube Channel Discoveries: [first] [previous]
There's an Episcopal/Anglican magazine called The Living Church, which I'll admit I've never read and am therefore not endorsing nor repudiating. And the article I would point you to is behind a pay wall.
However, I here present to you the most important part of September's issue.
That's our church, our choir director, and one of our most important ministries. Resurrection Players draws children (and their families) from all over the area. Tim has an amazing talent for making children, from preschool through high school, comfortable with public speaking, singing, and dancing. (He's pretty good with adults, too.) If you ever want to meet a future Broadway star in his very beginnings, getting to know the kids in Tim's plays would be a good bet.
I wish this had been available for our children; at least one of them would have absolutely eaten it up. I'll bet several of our grandchildren would love it, too. But none of the grandkids is closer than 1300 miles away, and the program did not exist when our children were young.
However, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate this opportunity for those who can take advantage of it. It's not just about theatre and performing. It's about developing skills and confidence, and getting the whole family connected with a good community.
The builders in our family might enjoy this video. I'm not a builder, but I loved watching this cabin-in-the-woods go together in 18 minutes. That is, a 36-minute video watched at 2x speed. The actual project took about a month.
If you liked this one, you can see more of the story here.
Permalink | Read 301 times | Comments (0)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Conservationist Living: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] YouTube Channel Discoveries: [first] [previous] [newest]
Insist on answers to your letters in writing. "Come in and we'll talk" is never an acceptable answer.
I'm still cleaning out files, and finding gems. This one came from an article by Dale Berlin, "Tips for Parents from a Parent Who's Been There," published in NETWORK for Public Schools, Winter 1988 Vol. 13. No. 4. The author presents several tools of basic parental advocacy for ensuring that a child is not being treated unfairly in school.
Why did I choose this one to highlight? Because the "let's talk" tactic is on the rise, not only by schools but also by employers, businesses, government officials, and other authority figures. More and more people seem to be allergic to putting their words in writing. I'm dealing right now with a local government official who refuses to answer by e-mail some straightforward questions about our city's recycling practices. She'll be happy to discuss it on the phone, she says. Maybe that just means she thinks it will take less time than typing out a few sentences, or maybe she thinks she can explain the situation better orally, or maybe she wants to give an intentionally fuzzy answer (I've gotten a lot of that recently). Whatever the reason, what I want is facts, serious facts about a serious situation, and I find answers to be a lot less slippery when they're pinned down in written form.
I obviously trust our financial advisor, or we'd find another one. But he does have a significant strike against him: he doesn't like to communicate by e-mail. If we send him a question over e-mail, he will call us on the phone to answer, or if the question is complicated enough, schedule an in-person meeting. I suspect he's just more comfortable speaking than writing. I'm the opposite; f you want clarity and truth from me, ask me to write; my verbal answers are much less likely to be accurate. But I understand that some people are different.
However, in some situations it's not just a matter of preferred communication style. Words written down have been purveyors of serious meaning for millennia. Written words may no longer be literally etched in stone, but they're still more permanent than what is spoken. More importantly, you can go back and refer to the text if there is a question about what was said. There's a reason secretaries take minutes during meetings, and the court reporter's job is critical.
Printed-on-paper communications have the advantage of being on a material medium. On the other hand, e-mails have the advantage of being easily searchable, so sometimes I prefer one, sometimes the other. Texts, social media messages, WhatsApp, and the like are also text-based, and useful in their own sphere, but much more ephemeral and difficult to search, especially since there are so many platforms. Video and audio formats are orders of magnitude less searchable; how much time is wasted going back over a recording trying to find out where in the two-hour presentation the speaker mentioned something you later want to refer to? Much too much, in my case.
And often, as in the above-mentioned situations of what someone is doing with our children, or our money, oral communication doesn't leave a record at all. Long ago I read the advice that every phone call and in-person meeting should be followed up by an e-mail to the effect of, "This is what I remember of our conversation; if you don't respond to this e-mail and correct me, I will assume you agree with my summary." Great advice, but also a time-consuming pain, and I'm not good at remembering to do it.
It's true that there are benefits to spoken communication that one doesn't get when the words are in writing, especially since the time-honored art of conveying and interpreting emotional content with letters has all but died out. Emojis just don't cut it. I love a good chat among friends. Bring back campfires, family meals, and tea parties!
But if you're my child's teacher, or my financial advisor, or my employer, or my government, nothing says "I will stand by what I say" better than putting it in writing. That won't stop you from going back on your word, or being wrong, or just changing your mind, but at least it will be clear that you did.
There's a place for professionals, and a time to enjoy the excellence that can only be attained by those who have dedicated most of their lives to a skill, a craft, or a subject. But be it music or sport or cooking or thinking, there's a special place in my heart for amateurs, where the roots are.
Take music. From church choirs to Irish seisiúns, from singing in the shower to singing your baby to sleep, amateur music has heart.
Our New Hampshire family, all nine of them, recently performed at a camp they were attending. Two French horns, two clarinets, two trumpets, a trombone, and a home-made cajón with multiple percussion sounds. (The baby has a French horn mouthpiece.) The eldest French horn player arranged a medley of music from The Pirates of the Caribbean for the group.
Last year they created, for the same camp, a moving video of a Lord of the Rings medley. This time they were confident enough to tackle a live performance. (And to share both with the world via YouTube, which takes a different kind of confidence.)
Decidedly amateur (root: "one who loves"). And decidedly fun. As I hear it, the months of preparation for this event provided a great opportunity for both musical and character growth. I can imagine.
About a million years ago, when I was applying to colleges, high on my list was Harvey Mudd College near Los Angeles, California. At the time, it seemed like a really cool place for an aspiring physics major to be. Whether or not I would have been accepted into that elite student body was never determined, as it slipped off the list before I even got to the application stage. I no longer remember all the reasons why, but one factor certainly was that I had no desire to be that far away from home.
Harvey Mudd came to my attention again recently, thanks to this excerpt from a DarkHorse episode, which was inspired by a speech given by its current president at a White House summit on "STEMM, Equity, and Inclusion." (Yes, that's a double M; they've added Medicine. But dropped the A (Arts) that is often added. Pretty soon they're going to start including a "+" at the end.) The relevant line from her addres is this:
[On our campus] we also continuously celebrate our cultural value that every person, every student, every faculty member, every staff member, is responsible for the success of every other person on campus.
We can charitably hope that the full context of the quote lessens its inanity, but I'm not going to dig it out. It suffices to know that if Harvey Mudd's president did not know and mean exactly what she said, it has been said often enough by others for decades, probably at least a century.
The good doctors Weinstein and Heying proceed to discuss the implications of that cultural value in this 11-minute video, which also does well at 1.5x speed if you want something shorter.
It's encouraging to hear people I respect calling out evils that I've been fighting for some 50 years, especially on a subject (education) so dear to my heart. Plus, I'm a sucker for anyone who appreciates Harrison Bergeron.
A lot has changed in 35 years, and not all for the better.
Looking through some old journal entries, I read about a time when our five-year-old daughter spiked a fever at night.
She ran a fever last night. I don't know how high, but she was delirious [her not-uncommon response to fevers]. If it weren't so serious, it would be entertaining, listening to her describe the things she sees. Normally I would wait a few days to see what would happen, but things are so busy that I took her to the doctor, since if she were going to need an antibiotic, I wanted it started right away. But: "It's a virus, $32 please."
She can go back to school tomorrow. "Why not?" they said. "That's where she got it in the first place."
Can you imagine that scenario taking place today? Yet that's the way life was, and I think those were saner times.
Permalink | Read 234 times | Comments (0)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
It begins early, the idea that there is only one right answer to a problem.
Here's part of a journal entry from when one of our children was in first grade:
She brought home several papers of the kind in which she had to identify beginning and ending sounds. The focus of one was a set of images, for which she was supposed to indicate whether the "p" sound came at the beginning or the end.
Next to the picture of a policeman, she had indicated that the "p" was at the end, and the the teacher had corrected it to the beginning, without further comment.
You can probably guess what comes next.
I asked our daughter what the picture was, and she replied, "cop."
What if I had not been there to assure her that her answer was perfectly correct, and to explain why the teacher thought it was wrong?
Permalink | Read 267 times | Comments (1)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Allow me to play devil's advocate here.
Tallahassee Classical School has made the news as far away as Australia because its principal was pressured to resign over (among other issues) an art lesson that included an image of Michelangelo's famous statue of David, which upset some children and parents. And once again, Florida, and those who objected to the photo, are being demonized because of it.
Don't get me wrong. We haven't made it to Florence yet, but you can bet David will be high on our list to see when we do. And if you're going to study classical art, you are going to run into a lot of images people could object to. Naked women, for example, are a whole lot more common than naked men. Rape, orgies, wars, graphic violence, eroticism, prejudice and "hate crimes"—it's all there, because great art reflects reality. Granted, it's far more tastefully done than what comes out of Hollywood, but still, it's there.
That said, there is SO much great classical art available, that were I teaching an art course to sixth graders, I'd probably leave that one out. Unfortunately, sixth graders are an age group that cannot be trusted to be mature about anything involving naked body parts or bodily functions. I remember how my own class of about that age reacted when a parent came into school and shared slides of his recent trip to Europe, including the famous Manneken Pis.
Unless you are choosing to be provocative, David is hardly necessary in a child's brief introduction to art.
If I had to choose one sculpture to represent Michelangelo, it would probably be his Pièta—but you can run into controversy there, too. Would people be so down on the parents if they had objected to the image for religious reasons, as some surely would have?
There's the point: different parents will find different things too objectionable to teach their young children. Which is why the school, very intelligently, had instituted the policy that parents are to be allowed to see the curriculum materials, and must be notified of anything that might be considered controversial. A blanket statement at the beginning of the course, something like the following, would have prevented a great deal of stress and misunderstanding:
This is a course in Renaissance Art, and as such will feature a great deal of Christian and Classical imagery, including religious themes, graphic violence, and unclothed people. We believe these works of art to be of sufficient importance to include them. Parents are welcome to view the materials and have their children excused from lessons they believe would be harmful.
I would hope for something similar with regard to music. You cannot study great Western music without including the music of the Christian Church; many schools no longer try, for fear of lawsuits, thus eviscerating their choral programs. Explain up front why you are including these great works, allow parents to excuse their children if they disagree—and get on with the job.
The school (on the advice of their lawyers, of course) is not giving any details about why the principal was pressured to leave. But I suspect it was less about the actual content of the class and more about violating the policy of not leaving parents in the dark.
One more point: most objections I hear against the parents who did not want their children to see the materials are mocking them for not being comfortable with pictures of naked bodies. That is, the parents are upset about something that their detractors have no problem with—which to my mind delegitimizes the objection. Everyone has something they consider out-of-bounds for being taught to their children; we should image that, instead of what we have no problem with, as the issue here.
As part of my recent long-term efforts to "get my affairs in order," I ran into this passage from one of my old journals.
Sunday, July 7, 1985
Today we went to the Episcopal church I'd wanted to try. I guess I'm just not an Episcopalian at heart. I love the way they do Communion (at the altar rail, common cup, with wine, and frequently). But otherwise it was too formal and "high church," yet without the splendor and dignity I remember from St. Paul's. Besides, the sermon was addressed to rich businessmen, which fit in with all the expensive cars in the parking lot.
Although I did not mention the name of the church, I'm certain it was the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Longwood, where, as it happens, we have been happily worshipping for the past 11 years.
The St. Paul's Church referred to is not the St. Paul's Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Winter Park, which we attended in the 1990's, nor the Episcopal church of the same name we so joyfully visited when we went to Chicago, but the St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Rochester, New York, where we fell in love with worship in the 1970's. St. Peter may be a very popular figure, but St. Paul certainly has his admirers as well.
Anyway, despite what I wrote in my journal, from the 90's onward I've come more and more to appreciate high-church services, with their emphasis on sacrament, worship, liturgy, Scripture, prayer, constancy, poetry, and beauty. The formality that used to make me uncomfortable I now recognize as the freedom of worship that comes from knowing the steps of a lovely dance, and I thrive in it. Not to mention that I can walk into a Catholic or Angican church in a foreign country and feel at home, because I know what's happening, even if I don't know the language.
My happiest worshipping years were at the St. Paul's in Rochester, where I first discovered liturgical worship (and my two favorite hymns, St. Patrick's Breastplate and Hail Thee, Festival Day!); the St. Paul's in Winter Park, when it was newly-formed and experimenting with liturgical worship (back in the days before the church, in my view, lost its way); and the all-too-few years when our present church enjoyed a more Anglo-Catholic approach to worship (read: more intricate and beautiful dance steps).
The individual steps toward change may be barely noticeable, but looking back 40 years can make you realize how far you've come.
It's no secret that I love hearing from Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein. I don't listen to half of what I want to of their videos, though I do try to keep sort of current with their DarkHorse podcasts. Theirs is a joyful, intelligent, informed, open-minded repartee that represents what I miss the most from the days when we lived in a university community. They would be such awesome people to have over for dinner! I couldn't keep up with them on the puns, but there are those in our family who could.
As much fun as they are to listen to, I still find the video format frustrating: slow, even at 1.5 speed, and without the convenient search and copy functions available in print. For that, I enjoy reading Heather's substack, Natural Selections. Here's one from December that I highly recommend: The New Newspeak. The primary topic is Stanford University's Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative. If you have the stomach for more than the examples Dr. Heying gives, you can find the source at that link.
As maddening what Stanford has done is, here is something else that caught my eye:
When I was a professor, creating and leading study abroad courses to remote places, I was told an amazing thing by a Title IX compliance officer. Thankfully, she did not work at my school, so I easily evaded her injunctions. She informed me that if, after I had spent years creating a program to go to the Amazon (as I had), someone in a wheelchair wanted to take my program, I would either need to figure out how to make that happen, or cancel the trip for everyone.
“The Amazon is not ADA compliant,” I told the confused young authoritarian. “If it were, it wouldn’t be the Amazon.”
“Then,” she announced with some relish, “you would have to cancel the class.”
That is the endpoint of this ideology. Life has to be made equally awful for everyone. Anything else would be unfair.
To which a commenter replied,
I can give a current example at a major West Coast medical school. We have an impressive series of locally created educational videos. Some are close captioned, and some cannot be for a variety of reasons. We now have a student (1 of 150) in the class that has trouble hearing. Because we cannot close caption it all, we have been instructed, in the name of "equity" to make sure that 149 students are deprived of seeing these videos and thus being forever less able to care for their patients so that this one person "does not feel bad". This is idiocy of the nth degree. And permutations of this happen continuously. The whole point is to make sure that graduating doctors know the minimum amount possible so that they are all equally stupid...I wish I were exaggerating.
If I were you, I would not see any doctor under 40. Heed my words.
Having two newly-minted doctors in the family, both well under 40, I can't quite agree with his conclusion. They are among the best and the brightest and most compassionate I know—I only hope their non-West Coast medical schools and residencies are not quite so far gone.
I've been sorting through old physical and computer files lately. I can't afford to read much of what I process, but occasionally something grabs my attention, and sometimes I find it worth sharing, as a glimpse into the past.
It always surprises me when they say so, but most people these days think of the 1980's as the distant past; it's shocking to me how few people now remember the Berlin Wall, for example. But here's a question I asked in 1989, and I think it's as relevant as ever. I addressed it to teachers, but it goes far beyond education.
I am becoming more and more convinced of the importance of self-confidence in the learning process. There's nothing mysterious about this, of course; I suppose it is quite obvious that it's easier to do anything if you think you can than if you think you can't. At any rate, this is why I was concerned a while back when one of our daughters went through a stage of being convinced—without cause—that she was stupid.
I remember having similar troubles in elementary school myself, but I thought that our children would be immune, because of the openness of their school about standardized test grades (I never knew mine) and the fact that they get letter grades on their report cards instead of the fuzzy comments that I remember.
I was wrong.
Our other daughter, with similar abilities and achievements, had no such difficulty in school, so I did some probing to discover the secret of her self-assurance. I'm sure that her good grades, high test scores, and the praise of her teachers must have some importance, but she dismissed them out of hand, saying, "I know I'm smart because I had third grade spelling words in first grade." Period.
I nearly fell over. In the school where she attended first grade, the children were grouped by ability, regardless of age or grade. Her reading ability put her in with second and third graders for reading and spelling. For reading, this was appropriate; for spelling it was not. Ten to thirty spelling words each week, seemingly random words (no phonetic consistency) that were harder than most of the words she had to learn in fourth grade at her current school. How we suffered (so I thought) over them! In my opinion that was clearly the worst part of her first grade year, one that I would definitely change if I could do it over again. But now she tells me that that was the basis for her positive view of her abilities.
Which leads me to wonder if we are not selling children short. Could it be that they realize that a high score is virtually meaningless if the test was no challenge? That they get more satisfaction out of struggling with something hard than from an unearned, easy success?
What do you say, teachers?
If I got any answer to that question in 1989, I don't remember it. What almost 35 more years of experience have taught me, however, is that (1) Yes, we consistently sell children short, and (2) It's not just a matter of giving children challenges, but of giving them appropriate challenges, because too easy and too hard can each be discouraging.
The question that remains—besides the unanswerable one of how such an individualized program could be achieved in a school setting—is, "How hard is too hard?" My memory of our daughter's experience with a spelling challenge two or three years above her skill level was utter misery that lasted till nearly the end of the school year, when the teacher agreed to back off a bit for her. And yet, and yet, in her mind—and I'm inclined to believe her—it ended up doing her a world of good.
Nobody ever said being a parent was easy!