Sunday, September 27, 2009

la trouver anglo-saxon

Un Anglais trouve tresor. en anglais, "treasure trove". Il se cherche en se promenant à travers les champs du comté de Staffordshire avec un détecteur de métaux anciens. L'État anglais revendique la trouver pour lui-même. L'archéologue amateur recevra une récompense de taille.

La découverte est vaste et important. Il y a plus de mille articles, datant du VIIe siècle.
Une pièce d'or (en photo) est inscrite avec des mots à partir de Livre des Nombres et lit: «Surge Domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant Qui oderunt te a facie tua», ou «Lève-toi, ô Seigneur, et mai tes ennemis soient dispersés, et leur faire qui te haïssent, fuient devant ta face ».

the scream

The Scream (painted 1893?) by expressionist painter and Norwegian Edvard Munch, depicts an agonized gender-neutral figure transfixed against a blood red sky. Munch's own thoughts on the painting were:

I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

Diary headed Nice 22.01.1892. Source Wikipedia.

The most likely inspiration for the painting are the northern lights displays that appear over Norway in late autumn and early spring. Another real life inspiration might have been the volcanic explosion of Krakatoa in 1883. And, of course, it may have been a combination of the two natural phenomena - the volcanic explosion released elements into the atmosphere that affected both the color of the northern lights and the extent of their display.

The painting and the figure it displays have become iconic, expressing humankind struggle to adapt to a world gone mad. The gender-neutral figure suggests a universal appeal. Not coincidentally was the artist's manic-depressive sister admitted as a patient in a mental instituition at the time of the painting. Moreover, the struggle is a solitary one. The figure screams while his two normal looking and uncaring companions accompany him/her.

The painting expresses our daily struggle to make sense of who we are and what we are doing here. How can a world of beauty co-exist with ugliness? How can a God who is infinitely wise create men and women who are cruel and inhuman beyond human understanding? And, can we understand our pupose in such a world gone mad? Our scream for sanity, recognition, or help go unheard.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

leave those kids alone

Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall expresses the feeling of many kids that teachers are often more interested in keeping kids quiet than teaching. Thus, education becomes a means of "thought control".

Roger Waters, who wrote the song, was a product of the English public schools. And, one of his main ideas was to describe the "walls" that people put up in order to protect themselves. But another subtext was the failure of an English education system that stresses uniformity over education. Hey, we are not making bricks here, are we? Simply put, it is a system that fails to account for either the diversity of, or the needs of - students.

Waters' experience in the school system is not unique. One only has to read of Roald Dahl in Boy:Tales of Childhood or Stephen King in On Writing to see that the experience is not isolated. Teaching is sometimes taught like an Al Qaeda training camp - rigorous, unrelenting, and brutal. Fortunately, positive experiences ate the norm. They are the result of dedicated teachers who teach with passion and understanding.

What makes for outstanding teachers? I am sure that we all have a memory of an outstanding teacher. One who "made a difference" in our lives. The "qualities" of that teacher are not unique. They vary with the needs of each student. But, one universal quality is the ability to impart a new way of seeing the world, of opening eyes and ears and pouring knowledge into a mind. Outstanding teachers "see" the world with the same youthful enthusiasm of their students. They make lesson plans interesting, informative, and relevant. And, being youthful, these outstanding teachers embrace the new technology of their students in a positive way.

"Knowledge is power" says famed management specialist Peter Drucker. And education is the key to opportunities, says our President when addressing community colleges. They are both right. Teachers serve a critical role in spreading knowledge and creating knowledge, so that students don't become just another "brick in the wall".

Sunday, September 20, 2009

don't shoot the teacher

"Shooting the messenger" describes the act of lashing out at the bearer of unwanted or bad news.

See Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2

In ancient times, messages were delivered in person. In war a messenger was sent from the enemy camp. On receiving such an overture, the opposition vented anger on the deliverer of the unpopular message, avoiding both the truth of the message and its true author - thus literally killing the messenger. Today, the expression refers to punishment meted out to the person bearing unwanted news, but is ironic as well.

Teachers are the messengers of knowledge. And the message they deliver is one of education. Why is education important?" The answer is that, more than ever, education, and the knowledge it imparts especially computer knowledge, provides opportunities for students which are not as widespread to those without that knowledge. Teachers deliver this message every day to their students - global communication through computer technology is the key to success. One only has to look at the relative advancement of computer based technologies over traditional manufacturing based industries to understand the significance of the computer on everyday life.

But new technologies are not without their detractors. And the messenger of this new technology will bear the frustration and anger of those who do not want to hear the message. One only has to think back to Socrates to be reminded that the punishment is often swift and severe. Yet, the teacher labors on in the pursuit of truth, mindful of the consequences and focused on the task at hand.

We are all teachers of a sort. Whether as parents, spouses, businessmen and women, or simply as good citizens, we interact with others each and every day. We try to teach our children the important and unimportant lessons of life. We support and mentor our spouses through both the happy and difficult periods of life. We are challenged at work. We deal with neighbors and strangers, keeping in mind the lesson that "one should do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And yet, we know that in spite of our efforts, the effort will not always be returned in kind.

New methods of teaching are always slow to come. Like the rain with a storm it begins. First, there are a few drops of those who advance the cause of knowledge, then, the sprinkles become steady as the knowledge is spread and understood, and, finally, their is a torrent of rain as the new technology of learning becomes the standard of education. Today, sitting with my son at Panera, eating breakfast and working at our laptop on a Sunday morning, I felt and saw one of those early rain drops. She was a teacher in her thirties with her laptop open. As I walked by, I saw that she was typing a lesson plan for her students. She typed for 20 or 30 minutes while we ate breakfast, and having finished her work, she closed her laptop and left, smiling at my son and I as she noticed, that we too, were working at our laptop while we ate breakfast.

Encouraged by her example, I finished with my son. And when we walked outside, it began to rain.


The teacher must:

a) keep the discussion focused

b) keep the discussion intellectually responsible

c) stimulate the discussion with questions

d) summarize what has and has not been dealt with and/or resolved

e) draw as many students as possible into the discussion.

Advice from the Lone Star State

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The road not taken by Robert Frost

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Every fall this poem by Robert Frost comes to mind. And every time that I reread it, I struggle with the meaning of his last line, "I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference." Was Frost's choice random? Does life come down to the flip of a coin, a random chance? Where does the meaning of our choices derive from; if it is not a conscious decision determined by the circumstances of our life and its events then what meaning can there be?

I, like Frost, prefer the road less traveled. But, my choice is meaningful - to experience the new and different. The same drive and urge that pushed Columbus across the ocean blue when others questioned his wisdom. It is only through new challenges that we grow as human beings.

Oh, the picture has significance - it is a path that my French forebearers traveled many times in their lives. It is a path that led on to other journeys. It is a path less traveled, but one that brings me to where I am.

Monday, September 7, 2009

driving miss daisy

My son's sixteenth birthday will occur this November. Nevertheless, in the state of Kansas, one can get a learner's permit at the age of 15 that allows a youthful driver to drive to and from work or school. It is not a particularly smart law to allow 15 -year- olds on the highway, but the legislature has given its approval because Kansas is still a primarily rural state and a little extra help around the farm is always needed. Moreover, busy parents don't always have the time to drive their kids from the family farm to a school miles away. Finally, here in Kansas, we simply don't have the traffic congestion that one finds in Chicago, L.A., or New York City.

As I say, it is not a particularly smart law and needs to be changed. So with more towns, cars, and people, there are more accidents involving youthful drivers. In recognition of this, Kansas is raising the minimum age for a driver to sixteen. It is still too young, mind you if safety is the question, then the minimum driving age for girls should be twenty-five and for boys thirty.

The terms "work and school" to which a youth can drive to and from, are left rather inexact in their definition. Left up to the fifteen-year-old, these two words work and school encompass the known universe. For instance, driving to a football or soccer game at school is driving to school. And by extension, passing by your school to visit friend from school, and then mentioning school becomes okay. The same with work, stopping off on the way home from work or going to work is really just going to and coming from work.

This morning my son had a soccer game at another school ten miles from home. Naturally, he wanted to drive by himself. Armed with the law of the land, he argued that he should be entitled to drive. He would be safe and buckle up. He would keep his speed down. He would not allow any other kids in the car. But parents must be parents and regardless of the law and the plaintiff appeals of a fifteen-year-old, parents must err on the side of caution and wisdom. The car after all, is over ten years old and a clunker that looks better in a demolition derby than on the highway.

And so, like the character who drives Miss Daisy in the movie, I drove my son to his soccer game. And like the driver, I took the verbal abuse. I listened to how life isn't fair. I heard many things that are unrepeatable, but like the driver, I was doing my job.