We have been blessed with a surprising number of very bright friends, their talents ranging from math to music, from business to origami, from computing to law.  It was with the last that we had a disturbing conversation recently.  The conversation itself was delightful; what we learned from it was not.

To begin, the background.  Most of my readers are familiar with the following story, which I told several years ago in our family newsletter.  But for the benefit of the one or two who meander over here from random places, I'll reproduce it here, sufficiently altered to protect the innocent and the guilty alike. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 2:52 pm | Edit
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This just in:  middle-aged men have no business stopping to chat with young people.  After all, the young and their elders have nothing in common, right?  No reason to talk to someone who is so different from you.  Certainly no reason to smile and speak to a stranger passing on the street.  Even if you both have dogs.

Here's the story.

The 43-year-old man was the subject of a police "be on the lookout" memo because two children said he spoke to them while they were walking their dogs. Police said no criminal activity had been reported.

I don't blame the police for being cautious.  Maybe the kids had been overly hyped to "stranger danger" by well-meaning parents and teachers.  Maybe they truly sensed something wrong.  In any case, I'm glad the police took them seriously. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 3, 2007 at 8:12 am | Edit
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Melissa Busekros, the German teen kidnapped from her family by government authorities because she was being homeschooled (see my previous posts here and here) has given herself a birthday present.  On the day she turned 16, she ran away from her foster care situation and returned to her family.  The response of the authorities remains to be seen, but having turned 16 gives her more legal rights, so there is hope she will be allowed to stay.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 2:01 pm | Edit
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My friends and family know how unobservant I can be.  When I'm focused on one thing, all else recedes to near invisibility.  At the grocery store I can pass a good friend without knowing he is there, because, well, I'm looking for food, not friends.  Advertising is more or less wasted on me; in a newspaper, magazine, or online I simply do not see the ads on the periphery of what I am reading.

However, that's no excuse for reading stories of the Virginia Tech tragedy and letting slide the oft-repeated comment that this was "the worst mass murder in U. S. history."  (Thanks to Tim at Random Observations for opening my eyes.)  I tend to ignore hyperbole as I ignore advertising, but this should have whacked me over the head. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 8:07 am | Edit
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Joshua T. White, of the Institute for Global Engagment, spent a year in Peshawar, Pakistan, as the guest of the provincial chief minister, a radical Islamist leader. His insights, which he shares in this Christianity Today article, are well worth reading.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 30, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Edit
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Once again, Tim at Random Observations has provided post which I must pass on.  (Warning:  Yes, it's depressing, but worth reading, really.)  First, read his commentary, You're Just Another (Lego) Brick in the Wall... about an after-school program in Seattle, where teachers took over the children's imaginative Lego play and turned it into a chance for socialist indoctrination.  For a more direct view of the teachers' perspective, read their original article, Why We Banned Legos.

To Tim's insightful post I will only add this:  What about the parents?  Where were they when all this was going on?  Were they expecting childcare and maybe some help with math and reading from this afterschool program?  Did they know their children were getting a heavy dose of politics and indoctrination in values—politics and values possibly in direct opposition to the parents' own?  Certainly most parents would have a few issues with this part of the lesson:

[W]e explored questions about how rules are made and enforced, and when they ought to be followed or broken. We aimed to help children see that all rules (including social structures and systems) are made by people with particular perspectives, interests, and experiences that shape their rule-making. And we wanted to encourage them to consider that there are times when rules ought to be questioned or even broken....

The children were between the ages of five and nine, perhaps not the best ages at which to tell them that obeying their parents' rules is optional.  On the other hand, perhaps the teachers will eventually receive due retribution in the form of students who have decided that the school's rules are not worth following.  Alas, it's probably the high school teachers who will bear that cost. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 7:52 am | Edit
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The day care debate would be only of mild interest to me, given that despite my own strong feelings on the matter, I equally strongly believe that circumstances can be complicated and parents are the best ones to make childrearing decisions for their own families—I say it would be only of mild interest were it not for the growing number of people who believe that "free" day care (paid for by taxes, of course) is the hallmark of civilization.

The other reason I present to you this article on the lastest results from the largest and longest-running study of American child care is the final paragraph. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 26, 2007 at 6:55 am | Edit
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I remember the response, too.

I've written about the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine campaign before.  Now I want to share this excellent article by Gina R. Dalfonzo from Christianity Today, (22 March 07) which begins,

You've probably seen the commercials. Over the last few months, it's been almost impossible not to see them. They parade endlessly across our screens—a multitude of women of all ages, from all backgrounds—and they all have the same urgent message to share: "Tell someone that human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer. Tell someone. Tell someone. Tell someone."

To which I can only respond, "We tried."

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 1:08 pm | Edit
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In Arizona, the winning team in the kindergarten through sixth grade category of the recent state scholastic chess championship must know that their victory is tainted.

At least I hope so. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 11:33 am | Edit
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Earlier I wrote about Melissa Busekros, the 15-year-old German girl who was taken from her family to a psychiatric ward and thence to foster care because of her desire to be tutored at home in some subjects.  This morning I learned that the five children of a second family have been ordered into state custody by a German court.

The parents reportedly can regain custody of their children only by placing them in public school.

In the order, which was based solely on the parents' decision against sending their children to public school, the family also was told to pay court costs estimated at $4,000.

The judge had concluded that the children were well-educated, but accused the parents of failing to provide their children with an education in a public school. The court noted that one of the daughters expressed the same opinions as her father, showing they have not had the chance to develop "independent" personalities.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 9:40 am | Edit
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A friend sent me the following YouTube link.  WARNING:  Parts of the video are offensive, and if you go to YouTube and read the comments, many of them are extremely offensive.  Nonetheless, both are part of the point I want to make.  Since my commentary contains some spoilers, you have to click on the "more" link to read it.

My friend headed the link with "This nation's school system has created a nation of morons."  I couldn't agree more with her statement, but the video does nothing to prove it.  Selective editing can show anything, especially when combined with preconceived notions of what you want to prove.

It's the comments that are truly disturbing.  If the film was no doubt edited to show the stupidest responses, I'm pretty sure the comments are a random sample—though the group of people willing to comment on YouTube is not exactly representative of the world's population.  At least I hope not.  The venomous, virulent disgust and hatred they spew—often in the form of extremely foul language—is more disturbing to me than ignorance, though they display that as well.  Not that I've read all the comments, which numbered over 4000 as of this morning; a hundred or so was all I could stomach.

In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens proclaimed Ignorance most to be feared, "for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."  Ignorance of facts about the world is bad enough, but ignorance of other peoples and cultures is appalling, and I find that there's as much ignorance of America in other countries as there is of other countries here.

The only hope I see for either side is more and more cultural exchange programs.  And everyone should read Why the Rest Hates the West, too.

A few comments on the questions and answers:   My first reaction to the challenge of naming a country that begins with "U" was "Uganda."  Most people would say our country begins with "A."  I doubt most of the French, which asked what letter their country's name begins with, would respond, "R" ("Republique francaise").  No matter how official "United States" is, and no matter how frustrating it is to Canadians, Mexicans, and South and Central Americans, "America" is too well entrenched as a name for our country for anyone to expect otherwise.  Though I did think "Yugoslavia" was a cute answer.

I also missed the KFC question, though I maintain that "Utah" as an answer is only partly right.  The first franchise may have been in Utah, but Kentucky really deserves credit as its homeland.

And I totally understand the guy who said Germany was part of the Axis of Evil.  He, perhaps more than anyone, shows that our school system has provided Pope's "a little learning."  He remembers "Axis" vaguely from his studies of World War II, and he knows Germany was our enemy then, so....
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 8:07 am | Edit
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Or you can substitute "Conservatives" and "Liberals" for a more general application.

This unfair generalization is based on observations I made over thirty years ago, and it still encapsulates much of what I find incomprehensible and wrong about politics.  It frustrates me that those who apparently care little about concerns that are close to my heart (suffering people, the environment, diversity, families, and freedom of choice) tend to promote policies that advance those causes, while those who speak loudly (and often even sincerely) in favor of these good things support actions that are detrimental, often disastrously so.

So when I awoke to a Random Observations post that expresses my concern better than I ever could, I had to share it with you.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 19, 2007 at 7:08 am | Edit
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Just for you, my dear Northerners, I have run around the house changing the clocks, and will get up unconscionably early tomorrow.  Daylight Saving Time makes little sense in our part of the world, and it seems yet more ridiculous to make the change even earlier this year.

But I do recall that it wasn't so bad to have the time change when we lived up north.  So I'll put up with it for your sakes.  But it does show what part of the country really runs the government, doesn't it?
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 10, 2007 at 10:09 pm | Edit
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Why the Rest Hates the West:  Understanding the Roots of Global Rage, by Meic Pearse (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2004)

This is not a book review; not yet.  I long to write about Meic Pearse's book, but it deserves a detailed and extensive review which I cannot at the moment accomplish.  Rather than wait entirely until I can put in the requisite time and effort, however, I'm posting this placeholder, because this is an incredibly valuable book!  Its somewhat unfortunate title calls to mind the hand-wringing post-9/11 whine, "Why do they hate us?" but Why the Rest Hates the West is a serious, insightful analysis of the chasm between modern Western culture—more precisely, "anti-culture"—and the rest of the world that no one with more than a few years left on this earth can afford to ignore.

Find the book!  Read it!  Then come back here and tell me what you think.

And I'll put Li'l Writer Guy to work on the review.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 9:46 pm | Edit
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When I read the story of Melissa Busekros, I wonder anew why some people are so anxious to subject our country to the authority of international governing bodies.  Fifteen-year-old Melissa was ripped from her home by German police, committed to a mental hospital, and placed in state custody, all because her parents, concerned that the chaotic environment of her school had contributed to her failure in two subjects, chose to have her tutored at home the next year.  She was (and apparently still is) cut off from contact with her parents and siblings, with the excuse that she is suffering from "school phobia" and contact with her family would exacerbate the problem.

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany.  That's bad enough for German citizens, but could be disastrous for the rest of Europe if the German philosophy gains the upper hand in European Union politics.  And should the United States decide to submit to the authority of the United Nations or another international authority, we would put ourselves at risk of similar tyranny. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 9, 2007 at 9:15 am | Edit
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