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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Rambling Thoughts of a Morning

Emily pulled a book from my bookshelf this morning and said, “This looks interesting.” It was “Getting It On” by Lewis Grizzard. She thought it might be a sexually raunchy book, not that I have a lot of them, but in my head life unfolds that way. I got to thinking about Grizzard’s life, what little I know of it. I know in his early life as a comedian he was a racist and his humor reflected that racism, but I did not find that out until after his death. I just remember him as a purveyor of southern humor rich with simple southern life. He understood the charm of a steak dinner at Waffle House if you get my drift. I also thought about how I’ve changed my reading habits in my merging autumn years. As I thought about this I remembered I had read Herman Hess’s “Siddhartha” this week at work and how out of character that was for me these days. It was a slow week and nothing crossed my desk to do and once I got all the unimportant things done that no one asks you to do but you know they expect you to do, I had time on my hands. I got Google books up on the computer and searched for Steppenwolf thinking I would read that story again since I last read it in a previous life and couldn’t remember why it was considered worth reading by the literary world. Well, actually, I was tired of reading my critical thinking book and wanted something different. I found it, but got side tracked to Siddhartha and for the life of me I don’t know why. I had never read it before and knew nothing of it. Hess was known to me as a German writer of strange philosophical undertakings that bored me to tears in my youth. I started with an introduction to Hess himself and was struck by a lot of similarities between his life and his thoughts and mine. We are not all that identical, but there were some remarkable similarities of thought. I finished the book by the first hour of the second day and have pondered its meaning off and on the rest of this week. I realize it means far more to me now than it ever could when I was 19 and built “like a rock”. I can’t help but think teachers waste a lot of effort on high school kids trying to get them to read and enjoy the classics when one really needs a lot of life experience and the wisdom that comes from that exposure to really relate and see the real value of the authors writings. It’s like expecting a high school biology student to understand the instructions of a brain surgeon at work. What a waste.

For those who have not read Siddhartha, you may want to pick it up some time and give it a try. It is less than a hundred pages and you don’t have to worry about in-depth character studies because that is not Hess’s style. You may find his insight into life and value of human interaction and experience insightful.




Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just something I thought was funny.

What do you think when you see an event announcement such as “Historic Mobile Home Tour”? Well, you could think it was a house trailer tour or you might think, “oh wow another RV gathering”.

When I saw this announcement it reminded me of a night in a hotel in New Mexico some years ago when I was watching the local news. The western news announcer was telling a story about Mobile, Alabama. I didn’t understand what he was talking about at first because he pronounce the city’s name instead of . When I realized what he meant, I laughed.

The aforementioned Mobile Home Tour is a tour of selected historic homes in Mobile, Alabama. If you want to know more you can check it out at www.historicmobile.org.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's all about education, stupid.

When I read this article I felt I could replace the word "Florida" with just about any state in our nation and most assuredly I could pick any southern state. Just image if we spend the kind of money on our educational system that we wasted in Iraq this last 5 years. Our return on investment would be so much more rewarding.

Our reputation for flakiness is at stake
Posted on Sun, Feb. 17, 2008

By CARL HIAASEN
In a move that could endanger Florida's flaky backwater reputation, the state Board of Education is poised to endorse the teaching of evolution as a science.
This is a dangerous idea -- not the presentation of Darwinism in schools, but the presentation of Florida as a place of progressive scientific thought.
Over the years the Legislature has worked tirelessly to keep our kids academically stuck in the mid-1950s. This has been achieved by overcrowding their classrooms, underpaying their teachers and letting their school buildings fall apart.
Florida's plucky refusal to embrace 21st century education is one reason that prestigious tech industries have avoided the state, allowing so many of our high-school graduates (and those who come close) to launch prosperous careers in the fast-food, bartending and service sectors of the economy.
By accepting evolution as a proven science, our top educators would be sending a loud message to the rest of the nation: Stop making fun of us.
Is that what we really want?
On Tuesday, , the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on a proposed set of new standards that describe evolution as the ''fundamental concept underlying all of biology'' and ``supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.''
Certainly that's the position of every reputable academic group on the planet, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association.
But forget the fossil record, OK? Forget DNA tracing. Forget the exhaustively documented diversification of species.
This battle is about pride and independence; about boldly going against the flow, in defiance of reason and all known facts.
In recent weeks, the Board of Education has been swamped by e-mails and letters from religious conservatives who advocate teaching creationism or intelligent design, and who believe evolution should be discussed strictly as a ``theory.''
For those who wish to see Florida standing still, if not sinking, this is a fantastic strategy. In fact, it could be expanded to revise other educational doctrines.
Let's start teaching gravity as a ''theory,'' too. And don't forget the solar system -- what proof do we really have, besides a bunch of fuzzy, fake-looking photos, that Mars really exists?
At a recent public hearing in Orlando, opponents of evolutionary teaching rose one by one to assail the proposed curriculum standards. Some had traveled all the way from the Panhandle, and were, like presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, exclusive believers in the Bible's version of creation.
According to The St. Petersburg Times, one speaker compared Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary science, to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, well-known tyrants and mass murderers. Such loony gibberish is actually good for the anti-evolution crusade, providing the best evidence that the human species has not advanced one iota in the last 100,000 years.
With this in mind, several school boards in North Florida have passed resolutions opposing the teaching of evolution as fact. True, students in those same districts have produced some of the worst science scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, but who needs Newton or Copernicus when you've got the Corinthians?
The notion that humans descended from apes has never been popular among fundamentalists, but what of the apes themselves? Given the gory history of Homo sapiens on Earth, no self-respecting chimp or gorilla would claim a genetic connection to us.
The outcry against evolutionary instruction has been so heated that 40 members of the committee responsible for the new science standards felt compelled to sign a letter stating, ``There is no longer any valid scientific criticism of the theory of evolution.''
Caving in to groups that question the soundness of science, the letter warned, ``would not only seriously impede the education of our children but also create the image of a backward state, raising the risk of Florida's being snubbed by biotechnology companies and other science-based businesses.''
Nice try, pinheads, but there's no sin in being a slightly backward state with extremely modest expectations for its young people. That's been the guiding philosophy of our tightwad lawmakers for years, and the degree to which they've succeeded is illuminated annually in the FCAT charade.
If snubbing is to be done, Florida should be the snubber, not the snubee. Keep your elite biotech payrolls up North and out West -- we've got hundreds of thousands of low-paying, go-nowhere jobs that require little training and minimal education.
Should state officials vote this week to put evolution on the teaching agenda, it will be a small yet radical step out of Florida's backwarding-thinking past.
Resistance is not futile. We've worked hard to keep ourselves so far behind in education, and we must stay the course.