Saturday, January 19, 2008

the next rousseau

I started the following the last time we had in-service meetings, and the recent barrage of in-service meetings has reminded me to finish it:

In my quest to become a better educator, or at least bolster my resume, I have been tossing around some ideas for the next big educational revolution. I am also best practicing the use of BuzzWords (BW) and their acronyms. Studies show that nothing is more pretentious than acting as though your thoughts demand the invention of new words or the forcing of anti-conventional connotations onto our old words, and nothing is more annoying than using Abbreviations For Obscure Phrases (AFOP) that make each Sentence Twice As Boring, Maybe Even THRICE (STAB-ME-THRICE). Here are my attempts thus far to make it big in the world of educational sensationalism...

Pop Exam: Cease Letting All Students Succeed (PE-CLASS)
In response to a Barrage of Depressing Stories (BoDS) about psychological conditions and medically diagnosed Fears/Anxieties Regarding Tests (FARTs), I suggest that we eliminate the heavily weighted end-of-semester exam that is a perennial blot on every school's calendar. The results are skewed anyway if some students have a genetic predisposition toward Poor Results Owing to Panic (PROP), and others have an unhealthy desire to learn a semester's material in One Blearily Gumptious Youthful Night (OBGYN). Why not examine students in their natural habitat: unsuspecting ignorance.

Leave Some Children Behind (LSCB)
As any statistic teacher knows, student performance can generally be modeled using a normal distribution. This means that the bottom 2.5% of students - just think of it: 0.925 students out of every 37 - are performing more than 2 standard deviations below the mean. Given that the kids at the mean probably couldn't tell you what a 'mean' is, imagine what the bottom is like. Many state and local school districts are in the middle of an expensive and disappointing task: not leaving the children behind. I say let 'em stay.

Untitled So Far (USF)
I have another strong idea that is still waiting on a killer acronym, but it involves running a business as a consultant to tell people that they can improve their school by making everyone do everything perfectly all of the time, which can be achieved by remembering the three R's, the four H's, the seven T's, the three other R's, the four A's, and the three K's. I will assure them that it is not just a fad, but a scientifically proven principle. That always gets them. And I'll keep thinking of the acronym. The guy who came to my school last year with this routine was calling it--I am not kidding--PMS.

Calculus Across the Curriculum: Knowledge Lurking Everywhere (CACKLE)
At some point in the regrettable past, some English teacher had the brilliant idea of making all of the other teachers dedicate class time to teaching English skills. Nobody bothered to ask what the English class time was being used for... hacking through the poetic clarity of a timeless masterpiece like "I Am the Cheese", no doubt. Anyway, the administrator, also an English teacher, agreed that the idea was brilliant and ratified it after a lengthy and verbose (but entirely unanimous) argument with all of the other English teacher administrators about the idea. And so was born the profound philosophy that all teachers must teach English, which permeates all subjects, as anyone knows.

The problem with calculus is that we only focus on it in calculus class. The kids can't learn about something as fundamental as 'change' in just one course per term. Students need a broadly applied Holistic Approach to Calculus Knowledge (HACK) that can only be delivered by the adoption of CACKLE: Calculus Across the Curriculum: Knowledge Lurking Everywhere.

If the plan was adopted, and I am confident that it will be, students would study rates of population growth in Biology, rates of chemical reactions in Chemistry, plenty of rates of motion in Physics, rates of moral decay in History, and... okay, maybe this is already being done. Except maybe in English class.

Friday, January 11, 2008

dead man

Today on my way back from the bazaar, I saw a car that had gone down the hill yesterday. It was a shiny silver car that had fallen a few hundred feet down a steep hillside and stopped against a tree. I do not know any more than that, really, but I can't imagine that anyone could escape or survive such a thing. Sometimes when I encounter death, it seems like a person is so close to me and my world, but they have gone and they know what there really is. So much of our philosophical world has been established in the pursuit of what lies beyond, that it is startling to remember that a full understanding is very close indeed. Being near to death leaves me in awe of that moment of truth that I will experience some glad morning...

His car fell down in a crashing dive,
He had seconds to think but no time to survive.
In a fury of doubt his mouth silently cried,
As he dreaded and feared and submitted and died.

As his blood still dried on the flowers and rocks,
And his body still cooled in its twisted steel box,
I was close to him then as he was to me,
But worlds apart because he could see...

He discovered eternity there on my hill,
Knowing forever what I someday will.
He had pondered for moments in a life like a mist,
What he learned for all time at eternity's tryst.

At that moment of death in his long quick fall,
He knew all the falseness or trueness of all,
Of his Hindu gods and the gods of the Sikh,
Of inheritance promised to the blessed meek,

Of the hosts of the gods of the nations of men,
And of demons and angels and karma and Zen,
Of sacrifice, piety, wrath from above,
Of holy propriety, clarity, love.

The faiths of so many revealed as illusion,
The faith of a few as a saving profusion.

The stillness and silence that some expect,
The eternal hopes of every sect.
The truth became real and the lies fell away,
As eternity swallowed his final short day.

He knows now if heaven or hell are all there,
He knows about paradise, death, or despair.
With absolute certainty and no doubt to cast,
This man saw the truth when his eyes closed at last.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

rickshaw will

We just got back from two days in Delhi to get a passport for Annie. My brain is pretty much fried, as Annie has not slept all night since she was born. Annie inside and Pahar Ganj outside gave us a long trip. Even so, we made it to KFC, Khan Market, the National Zoo, and to the INA market for avacados. And Will got behind the handlebars of a real live rickshaw...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

the booking of my face

Proverbs 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Now that school is over and we are occasionally bored, Joie and I have joined Facebook. I must say that within all of the hype is a faint pang of the feeling that people will experience after receiving the sign of the beast. I felt it when I got my first cell phone and I expect to feel it if and when I next own a cell phone. I felt it when I signed up for a blog and I will certainly feel it if ever I obtain an iPod. It is the warm rush of conformity.

I find that it is a very humbling experience to ask someone to be my friend and wait anxiously for them to confirm it. What if they do not accept? Will I receive a notification from the Facebook team telling me to please try someone else? What is the extent of the rejection? Will they list reasons? Somehow I am reminded of folded sheets of notebook paper with scribbled pleas like "Do You Like Me. Circle? Yes. No." We are older now, but still such desperate people.

Anyway, in my reaction to all of that, I spent some time searching through my txt NIV Bible for verses about friends and friendship. I recommend such. It was interesting to see that friendship, which often comes with selfish motives and distracting loyalties, is not highly valued by the One who ought to matter. Friendship is not always the same as Love, you see. Many of the verses warned against friends, because they would betray and give bad advice. In the book of Matthew (NIV version, without any forays into Greek or Hebrew), Jesus only called one person 'Friend'... any guesses?... (Matthew 26:50) Much of Job's agony is intertwined with a few harmful friendships, friendships he had expected to be more reliable than his trust in God (Job 6:14).

Neighbors, meanwhile, seem to play an integral role in how God wants to be worshipped...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Southward: This pictures shows the 'winterline', which is the fancy name given to the top of Dehra Dun's smog. It is visible all winter from Mussoorie, and it makes us feel like we just popped through the clouds in an airplane. The Mussoorie clock tower is visible in the lower part of the picture.

Northward: We took a walk to the top of the mountain today, and it was clear enough to see the snows. Will walked all the way up. I suppose that means that Will has a couple of strong little legs and some Wee Gillis lungs, but it also probably means that we are very close to the top of our mountain. We love being within an admirable toddle of this scenery.