List This

Last spring, I kept track of all the road kill I came across. It seemed important that someone think about those poor little animals and their horrible deaths. This is what I saw:

Monday: 1 squirrel, 1 rabbit, 1 raccoon, large.

Tuesday: 1 cat, 1 raccoon, not so large.

Wednesday: 1 raccoon

Thursday: 2 cats, 2 possums, 1 raccoon, 2 unrecognizable things

Friday: 1 raccoon

Saturday: 1 possum

Sunday: 1 raccoon

Monday: 2 cardinals, 1 raccoon, 1 possum, 2 unrecognizable furry things

Tuesday: 1 robin, 1 raccoon, 1 unrecognizable furry thing

Do you keep any lists?

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Dumbing us Down

John Taylor Gatto wrote a book in the 90’s called Dumbing Us Down. In this book he made a controversial argument that our school system was not failing, but in fact was wildly successful. It is successful in what it set out to do: keep itself going and “teach school.”

He listed seven lessons that every schoolteacher teaches when they “teach school”. They are

1. Confusion. Nothing is taught in context, no subject is connected to another subject, nothing is taught in depth.

2. Class position. A student is in a certain class because that is where he/she belong. They might be able to move to another one, but probably not.

3. Indifference. Don’t care too much about anything, it doesn’t really matter, because when the bell rings it’s time to move on to something else.

4. Emotional dependency. A teacher has a lot of power over the children in his/her class. Good students learn to do what they can to please a teacher.

5. Intellectual dependency. Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do and what to think.

6. Provisional self–esteem. Another way to put it: they learn conditional love.

7. One can’t hide. There is no privacy, no where to go to get away.

It is Mr. Gatto’s belief that these teachings are leading to “pathologies” in our children. They become children who: are indifferent to the adult world, have no curiousity, have a poor sense of the future, have no sense of history, are cruel to each other, are afraid of intimacy, are materialistic, and are crippled when face with new challenges.

We’ve all been in the school system. Do you agree with Mr. Gatto’s assessment? What do you think can be done to help the schools, and the children?

Dream Machine

I recently had a dream where I was solving a problem in a class. The problem was something you would come across in real life. It involved multiple steps, and there was no one right answer.

The instructor had a unique apparatus to find out if a solution would work: She’d put a metallic hat-like structure on your head. Doing a mind probe, the apparatus would find your solution. If your answer was bad, it made an awful cacophonous sound. If the answer was good, it played a beautiful song with harmony. The more harmonious the song, the better your answer.

Someone should invent that machine. We could test out all kinds of ideas beforehand and save ourselves a lot of trouble.

Snow Days

When we get a lot of snow, my dead end street looks treachorous. Just getting down the hill to the street can be a scary ride slipping down the driveway, or bumping down the stairs. I assume the rest of the world’s come to a snowy standstill based on observations of my immediate surroundings. I’m tempted to curl up with a good book and wait for summer. But the main drag through town is only a block away. When I finally leave the comfort of my home, I’m always amazed when I get to the avenue. The world is bustling along at its normal pace. There’s hardly any snow on the street, and life goes on.

How often are we tempted to stay in our cozy surroundings? It’s so easy to be comfortable and not take any risks. I dare you to do something bold and tell me about it.