Friday, December 14

Forget Senior Superlatives, grade inflation and academic non-freedom: Here's what's really wrong with education today:

Teacher, student allegedly made bomb threat so they could go shopping

Brief Joseph update: He's sleeping right now.

Okay. You want more? Well, he's perfected pulling up on stuff and is starting to stare thoughtfully as he stands there, clearly trying to figure out how he can get from here to there without having to resort to the humiliation of crawling. He's gone from despising and screaming through his baths (from birth to three months) to enduring them quietly (three months to eight months) to going absolutely nutso in them: splashing every limb, screaming with delight, soaking me...

He talks non-stop, and in the great tradition of family members over-interpreting their baby's sounds, we are certain that when he sees Katie, he says "Ka-ka" and he seems to say "Da-da-da" much more often when Michael's around.

He eats toast, pancakes (plain, of course, but pretty much perfect baby food), Cheerios, baby cereal, fruit, and, if we have chicken, some of that ground up with whatever starch and vegetable we're having, all done with great ease with my little miracle baby food grinder, which I think cost $7.99 at BabiesRUs.

Oh, and sometimes he sleeps.

Much good commentary on The Tape this morning. Here's one by James Robbins in The National Review:

Bin Laden grasps for concrete signs of success. One tangible benefit of the attack — people wanting to learn more about Islam. "In Holland," he says, "at one of the centers, the number of people who accepted Islam during the days that followed the operations were more than the people who accepted Islam in the last eleven years." Eleven times the usual number? I'm guessing that they were starting from a very low base. And if the impending Dutch jihad is the best thing bin Laden has to show for his efforts, it is hardly a prudent trade-off considering that over 300 million people in the strongest country in the world want his head.

Atlanta radio personality Neal Boortz reports on a not-surprising decision by an Atlanta-area high school:

I have received word that a particular principal of a particular high school in the Gwinnett County system has notified the student council that there are to be no more references in the school yearbook to “students most likely to succeed”, “most popular student”, or similar references. The reason? Some of the students left off the list might have their feelings hurt.

Now, I have no great attachment to Senior Superlatives, as they're called - I myself was voted Most Likely to Succeed, and look at me. At the time, I was just deeply relieved not to have been voted Most Studious - no one really wanted that one, since it seemed to imply something else besides intelligence.

For all of our school's protestations of seeking "excellence," stories like this indicate how hollow those words really are. Teaching is a hard job, and its difficulty, particularly in an anti-intellectual culture such as ours, is rarely understood by those who've not ever tried their hand at it themselves. Nonetheless, teachers and school administrators continually undermine their own stated "missions" and goals by wrong-headed moves like this.

When we lived in Florida, the Catholic school which my daughter attended had strict library policies. As a first-grader, Katie was reading on about a fourth-grade level, but she was not allowed to check out "chapter books." Why? Well, the policy was that students could check out only picture books until second grade, no exceptions, and couldn't even wander over to the older kids' section. Even more laughably, the next year, an announcement was made that the label on these picture books now had a different meaning. The "E" on the spine had previously signified "easy." Well -- that was making some kids feel bad. So they changed the meaning of the "E" to "everybody."

So, you can see, as I point out with great regularity, that the silliness isn't confined to government schools. It runs unchecked there, certainly, but it has a firm foothold in our Catholic schools, as well.

Another excellent column by Mark Steyn. I don't know how he does it. Reminding us of this past summer's Big Issue, sharks, Steyn writes:

In an eerie pre-echo of the world to come, progressive opinion came down on the side of the shark. The New York Times said that we should bear in mind all the sharks we humans kill, and fretted that the uncle’s retaliation might have been disproportionate. The experts agreed that we needed to look at the ‘root causes’, to understand ‘why they hate us’; just blundering into their territory in ever larger numbers was only going to provoke them into even bolder assaults on our shores. Above all, we should resist any hysterical over-reaction to the many non-violent members of the shark community. Substitute ‘Muslims’ for ‘sharks’ and you’d have a dandy post-11 September editorial thumbsucker. Go on, try it. Here’s the NYT back in July:

Knowing something about the biology, behaviour and world status of sharks [Muslims] does not mitigate the terror.... Even knowledge cannot alter some emotions. But many people now understand that an incident like the Arbogast attack [World Trade Center attack] is not the result of malevolence or a taste for human blood on the shark’s part [Islam’s part].... Inevitably, an incident like this one reinforces a nearly pleasurable cultural hysteria about sharks [Islam] when ...what it should really do is remind us yet again how much we have to learn about them and their waters [them and their extraordinarily rich culture]...’

Today is the feastday of St. John of the Cross. Quite an interesting fellow: An associate of Theresa of Avila and a co-reformer of the Carmelites, met with much more overt hostility than she was, though. John was actually imprisoned by his fellow monks twice in an effort to discourage him from pressing for monastic reform - one of those imprisonment sessions lasted nine months, in what amounted to solitary confinement. It was during these times that John started composing poetry in his head - the result being the great mystical poetry like The Dark Night of the Soul which we associate with him.


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