Entries related to things political.

Shutting Down the Core Curriculum

This morning, I read an interesting blog post about 'core curriculum'.

My regular readers will know that despite my children being exceptionally gifted and typically testing off the scale on standardized test, I am generally opposed to a one size fits all education system more focused on success on standardized tests than in creativity, collaboration, and twenty-first century skills.

They will also know that I'm a big fan of Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.

The blog post talks about the problem of testing "students on material that they haven’t yet learned in September". She talks about how students respond,

when he gets consistently failing grades on the module assessments, what message do you think he’s getting?

She is rightly concerned that the indirect lesson for too many students is that they are dumb. This is where the real lesson can come in. Failure is okay! Not knowing things is okay!

The baseball player who fails to get a base hit two thirds of the times is a great success. Failure is okay!.

And, for students who fail spectacularly, they can consider running for public office. They can consider passing legislation that encourages a one size fits all education system more focused on success on standardized tests than in creativity, collaboration, and twenty-first century skills.

If they are really spectacular failures, they can try an end run around the constitution to get legislation they oppose, like health care reform, repealed by holding the appropriations process hostage and shutting down the government.

Yes, there are indirect lessons that can be learned. Creativity and collaboration is what matters; not success at tests in September, and not passing legislation that damages our country.

Let's take core curriculum failures and turn them into meaningful successes, let's talk with our students about the importance of creativity and collaboration and not fretting about stupid tests or stupid legislators.

A Culture of Dependence

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…

This morning, as I read through posts on Facebook, I found one by Zack Exley where he talked about a discussion he recently had with someone from MIssouri. His interlocutor repeated and old criticism of government,

I think it's terrible that we're creating this culture of dependence with all these programs. It's just bad.

A culture of dependence. That is the big concern some people express about programs that help others. I believe this is an unChristian, morally bankrupt idea that ultimately is contrary to our very nature as humans.

We are born dependent. If we are fortunate, we live to a ripe old age and die dependent. Through out our lives we depend on others.

When I started composing this blog post in my mind this morning, I shared a comment on Zack's post:

I am depending on my Mac, the Internet and Facebook in allowing me to post this comment. This depends on the electricity system, the cable system for my Internet, and a bunch of other systems. I will write a much longer blog post about this on my blog after work today.

But first, I have to get to a job I depend on, because my family depends on me. I will have to drive across pubic roads I depend on, I will have to depend on other drivers and police to make it safely to work.

And yes, I will help provide health care to people who depend on their doctors as well as on the government which helps keep the health care system safe and funds portions of it.

When I get home, I will challenge the idea that creating dependence is a bad thing, based on my day, on music and on scripture.

My original thought was to start with

What would you think if I sang out of tune

Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends. There was a time when my favorite song was "I am a rock", when I didn't get by on help from my friends. It is a sad and lonely place to be, and I hope that those who criticize a culture of dependency will some day grow beyond that sad place.

Yet my plan for my blog post took a rapid change when I got to work. I found that the mother of one of my co-workers had died Monday and headed off to pay my final respects.

I never got a chance to meet Jessie Daniels Highsmith but her daughter is an amazing woman, and all the eulogies I heard let me know that she was an incredible woman as well.

She was the church secretary for 40 years.

Jessie exemplified a full commitment to faith, family and community. She was love in action and never met a stranger.

You could depend on Jessie. In times of grief, we depend on one another. A culture of dependence? Yes, we are called to be dependable and to depend on one another.

I pray for those who eschew a culture of dependence, hoping that someday, they may move from being a friendless rock to getting by with a little help from their friends. I pray that they may someday embrace their full humanity, including interdependence with one another. I pray that they may someday be surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, depending on one another.

And perhaps, most importantly, I pray that our national dialog shifts to one of embracing our humanity and our interdependence on one another.

Prayer, Congressional Salaries and the #Shutdown

"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

- Matthew 6:2

This verse came to mind today as I read about all the members of Congress who are planning to donate their salaries while the Government is shutdown to local charities.

Which lawmakers will refuse their pay during the shutdown?

For people who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, this seems like the ultimate hypocrisy and slap in the face. It must be nice to be able to voluntarily go without pay for a few weeks, or however long the shutdown lasts. It must be nice to have that much discretionary funds or savings.

No, if members of Congress want to really gain understanding of the people they are supposed to be representing, they should take the SNAP Challenge

The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. By accepting the SNAP Challenge, you’ll commit to eating all of your meals from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP participant - $1.50 per meal.

A few verses later, in Matthew, we find

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

So, while the members of Congress try to get by on $1.50 a meal, they should spend time praying for the poor, and for compassion and humility. For these quotes come nicely between the Beatitudes and the Lord Prayer.

Dystopian Rabbits

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. We'll here we are, another October. Like other months, when I get time, I start off with a childhood invocation for good luck.

But it's October, thirty-seven years ago, a classmate of mine from high school disappeared. They found her body later in the month, but never found the murderer. Last year, during Hurricane Sandy, towards the end of October, my mother died in a car accident.

Looking back over my career, many of my job changes took place in October. My youngest daughter was born in October, as were some of my closest long time friends.

It's October, and the Government is shut down. This weekend, I sat on the porch, after making a batch of green apple jelly. Yes, I'm connected online. With my Google Glass, I get notifications as they happen. But there is something about sitting on the porch, having just made jelly.

I thought about when my mother was a kid. Yes, she heard, via the radio fairly quickly about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but most news was much slower then, and even more slow before the radio and telegraph. How much is this always on, instant notification contributing to disfunction in Washington, where people seem more interested in the political theatre of the sound bite than in sound governing?

How much is the medium the message?

I've been reading The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The setting is a utopian community in the mid nineteenth century. The hero is sick and reads books that other members of the community bring to him. Yet I'm reading it as an ebook on my smartphone. What is the mixed message of a nineteenth century novel on a twenty-first century device?

Kim and I have started watching "H+". It is a series about human implants, similar to Google Glass and a mass kill off of people with the implants due to a network virus. The medium is the message, as my wife and I watch it on an old TV hooked up to an old Roku which manages to still get YouTube. I watched an episode on Google Glass, which pushes the medium is the message idea even further.

And here I am, writing a blog post about it.

It is a post-apocalyptical world and I've been thinking about this new millennialism, a resurgence of apocalyptical thinking. No, we didn't have a Mayan apocalypse. We haven't had an apocalypse as a result of people of the same gender who love each other now being able to marry one another.

Now, even though the Federal Government is shutdown, you can go online and purchase health insurance. Like same-sex marriage, for some this looks like the end of the world. For others, the Federal Government shutdown looks like the end of the world.

But as I sat on the porch over the weekend, with a kitchen full of jams and jellies that I've made, and as I sit in my chair now, writing my blog post and listening to the large dog snore on the couch next to me, this is nothing like the end of the world in all the dystopian post-apocalyptical stories.

So I say Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, bringing back all the simple childhood hopes and memories in this complicated hyper-connected world as I think of dogs and jelly and porches, and trying to get back to sleep.

Sad Tales, Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about Sad Tails with Happy Endings!, a rescue shutdown by Southbury Animal Control. Since then, I've been in several discussions about the situation, including speaking with people directly involved.

I am particularly concerned about comments that some are making based on assumptions or inaccuracies. A post on Helping Connecticut Canines' Facebook page asking donations to the pound where the dogs have been taken describes this as "a serious hoarding situation".

This is a questionable assertion at best. Ms. Boeckel was running a rescue. Her website lists dogs that she had successfully adopted out and others available for adoption. The description of the veterinary care and feeding procedures for these animals that I've obtained clearly indicate to me that she was not hoarding.

Another comment that I found particularly disturbing was "I assure you they would not have been taken unless the dogs and cats were in immediate need. Thirty plus dogs in any home being cared for by one person is impossible." Based on the information I've obtained, I question whether or not the animals were in immediate need, and I know that the assertion that they were being cared for by only one person is factually incorrect.

Others have jumped in and noted that they knew of a person who as organizing a fundraiser for the rescue and others have applauded Ms. Boeckel's work.

I don't know the ACOs in Southbury, but based on my experience dealing with other ACOs as well as the State Dept. of Ag., I don't always accept everything they say at face value.

If the amount of effort that has gone into taking the animals and subsequently getting supplies to the Southbury Dog Pound had gone into helping Ms. Boeckel in the first place, I believe there would have been a much better outcome.

I am also very concerned when ACOs shutdown a rescue because they don't like the way it is being run. I believe it sets a very dangerous precedent.

So, I encourage everyone to help clean up the mess now and prevent future messes. An important step in this is accuracy in reporting, and not calling something a "a serious hoarding situation", when it is far from clear that this is the case.

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