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How's School Going This Year?
On a well-known social networking forum, I was just asked the question that is the title of this post: "How's School Going This Year?" My correspondent was a student of mine some years ago. I decided to answer her here:
Teaching is always a pleasure and a frustration: I am passing to my students shards and evidence of civilization, along with the ability to sustain it through the development of learning and other cognitives faculties; but I know the students are becoming less and less capable not only of learning, but more importantly of caring. The modern "solutions"like "No Child Left Behind," "Zero-Tolerance" school policies, and even "Abstinence-Only" sex educationare worsening the situation. Failed generations are trying to craft policies and prescriptions to rectify failures magnificently evident in their own lives. All too easy is the noble task of repairing others compared to the tedious work of reforming ourselves.
I must stipulate that the lament of youthful ignorance, indolence, and sloth is as old as time, and few are the generations that can honestly claim their own moral, intellectual, or spiritual superiority over generations that followed. We are swift to condemn those whose youth reminds us of our own that we have lost, and we are even quicker to the judgment that we would do better if only we were once again young yet endowed with the wisdom of long lives, even if poorly managed as they have been.
Still, I see the end of America as empire of knowledge, craft, ambition, and abiding intellectual curiosity. If I am right, I must acknowledge that I have no one to blame but myselfnot because I am a failed professor, though, because I am, in all honesty, a fine college teacher, one of the best of a vanishing breed of face-to-face lecturers with fiery oratory and unrelenting interest in his many disciplines of specialty. The blame I carry is that I am undeniably a member of a generation that failed, both in its whole and in far too many of its constituents. We failed in the leaders we chose, the policies we pursued, the self-indulgence we embraced, and the paths to rectitude we feigned.
Now, I must fail far too many students in my classes.
To that extent, I am, if nothing else, consistent.
I know how you feel. I'm upset me and my generation didn't cure cancer, produce world peace or make a perfect peanut butter/jelly combination sandwich.
You can't expect students to learn if they fight you at every turn. (You are still human, right?)
To paraphrase Edmund Vance Cooke:
...And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you bolted the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the critic will call it good.
Defeat comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether it's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you've lost that counts,
But only, how did you try?
Your effort isn't in question.
Good Professor, well put.
It brings to mind how I fall short maintaining my 10th Step work. Taking my personal inventory is not nearly as easy as taking others.
And still, I must test all thing and hold fast to that which is good. For me to abstain, I have to engage in regular and consistent evaluation of both my assets and liabilities. And lemme tell you, Dear Professor, the books are never balanced.
Really, who cares to engage in serious "housecleaning"? Certainly not the US, which has a tendency to play God.
Good afternoon, Missouri Mule.
I wonder what the God of All Things would have to say if asked, "Why have you let us all suffer and die?"
Ah, yes: He would say nothing. Accountability is for mortals.
Empire is become God. We need look no further.
Good afternoon, Father Tyme.
Our generation, yours and mine, was indisputably and irrevocably on the time line to this place at which we are now standing.
Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, John Yoo, Monica Goodling, Arne Duncan, Rahm Emmanuel, Timothy Geithner, Patrick Fitzgerald, Joe the Plummer, and countless tens and hundreds of thousands more — they are our children gone terribly, irretrievably wrong.
Did some devil intervene between our generation and those that came after? Were our good works all for naught because something else, something not of our time and work, the culprit?
We did what we did, and we did what we could. We were Empire. You and I, quite specifically: we fought for Empire.
It wasn't enough to stop this time of that Empire from happening.
For all that was great about our cohorts, perhaps even about ourselves, we cannot claim a "could have," "should have, or "but for" as our escape from the lineage of this day, full as it is of literally insanely hateful Right-wing mobs, self-serving politicians, and unaccountable officials hiding behind fists of fear, terror, and the other who must be killed to be resolved in our world vision projected onto the battlefield for hearts and minds.
My gift at the christening of the world tomorrow is a sign that reads, "You came from us, kids."
Let us hope they cannot read until we are safely in our graves.
My kids give me hope for the future, (until the screaming fit refusing to do homework) because they actually give a damn about why things are, and what is right, and making up one's mind to make things fair, rather than greedily wanting advancement for one's self by trampling their peers.... I've never been a trampler, mostly a tramplee, and thus may never rise on merit to the state I should by rights inhabit in a just world.
So be it. I can only hope and pray (not prey, I'll leave that for our corporatists and right-wing religionists) that my children are not the exception, but the rule, and the next generation-the ones still in grammar school- will bring us to the promised land of true equality, freedom and justice.
Excuse me, I am maudlin, tipsy, depressed, and tearful this night, and grasping desperately for any and all hopeful bits for the future, cause baby, the present sucks green donkey dicks, as a late friend of mine used to say.
Good afternoon, Dark Wraith.
Luckily for me, I have the opportunity to work with some young college students, at my part-time job. They all seem intelligent, and are in various ways, good workers. They can be irritating, because not all realize how an office should work - but that's not just the youngsters.
Too often, youngsters fall through the cracks. A lot of the time it's from the choices they make. You can try to teach them things, but in the end, they have to live their own lives. Unfortunately, wiseness does not always come to us until we have some years on us - and even then, we may not act on what we know to be true/correct.
Good evening, Mr Wraith.
As to the first part of your comment:
I have isolated stridency of rhetoric as a significant problem overtaking discourse these days. This sort of thing is common among both the Left and the Right.
On the Right-wing sites I follow, things have changed dramatically. Everyone loves to bash social conservatives these days. No one would willingly admit to being a neo-con (not even Jonah Goldberg). The libertarian faction has become strong, but through their stridency of rhetoric, they make as many enemies as they do friends.
And it is the same on the Left. There are people that wish to see sweeping change that engage in logical fallacies and strident rhetoric to support their views. Were they able to phrase things in a sane manner they would probably stand a better chance; but of course, that sort of thing is out of the question.
I believe, in the end, this is a sign of desperation. And I can't understand why some people would become so personally involved with the thoughts and beliefs of others rather than ordering their own lives more according to their own ideals.
But that's just me.
As to the second part of you comment:
The thought of assigning accolades and guilt according to groupings of individuals is a thing which I find abhorrent.
I suppose that marks me as an individualist; to some extent, at any rate. And yet, the Proverbs tell us that, "Even a little child is known by his companions."
I considered the matter. I do my best to judge fairly, as best I can.
I would like to share with you a passage that I was reading earlier today. Perhaps this will help to make things more plain.
Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom.... Trees that yield no fruit have been and will ever be for the fire.
Now, one tree, and only one, which, standing apart from others, bearing no fruit should, by all means, in due time, be reckoned as firewood; and appropriate actions should be taken accordingly.
However, suppose there were an orchard, and that the trees of this orchard were such that many bore fruit, and yet some did not. Those that did not would be dealt with accordingly.
Even were there, say, only the half of them which were yielding, the orchard would be thinned, yet still stand.
Only in those instances where the fruitful were but a few in number would the orchard be laid waste and plowed under.
Again, were the fruit sparse and sickly, then the tender would take appropriate measures; the branches would be trimmed back, and the soil would be attended to. Should these measures fail, or if the results were much less than desirable, then the orchard might well be laid waste to make room for a crop with greater yield.
Consider this carefully.
Though, frankly, you scared me a bit with that list of names.
I dunno, but maybe you're being a little premature in your indictments, self or otherwise. Maybe the jury is still out, maybe some things need a long time to work themselves out, individually and collectively, before they reveal what they truly are and have been and will be.
To your students, you, too, may very well be both "a pleasure and a frustration" that will bear some strange and wonderful fruit that you may never see harvested.
As I said, I really dunno. But this I feel that I do: "Meteors are needed no less than mountains...Shine, perishing republic"
We failed in the leaders we chose, the policies we pursued, the self-indulgence we embraced, and the paths to rectitude we feigned.
Faraway Eyes, I too have a bit more optimism concerning the young'uns today, but DW is 103.667% correct in the those things we sold out on, especially the self-indulgence part. We are the first generation whose parents didn't live through the depression, and it showed. We are the ones who started the whole "disposable" shtick. ( It took religion to bravely expand the concept to include nonbelievers and homosexuals, but really, it's just degrees.) We pound our chests because some river doesn't catch on fire anym0re, while an entire plastic gyre the size of a small island is growing in the Pacific due to our short-sighted greed and increasing laziness. "Time-saving" inventions that gave parents more time to be with their families became the reason why we had time to watch every football game on Saturday and Sunday.
We are the first generation to have that execrable "self-esteem building" indoctrination that teachers were being required, or in many cases, fervently applied themselves, to instill in their young charges that no matter how crappy their work, it was counter-productive to actually tell them that. Oh no, little Mary's line drawings and squiggles on construction paper was just the thing to hang on the front door of the classroom, and the fact that it resembled absolutely nothing seen by human eyes without the aid of a large microscope in biology classes had nothing to do with how exceptional our little Mary truly is! The fact that our Mary graduated HS unable to count out change to a customer correctly has nothing to do with how wonderful our Mary really is!
Nonetheless, we are also the generation that talked a big game, but never actually did much about the fact that if Mary was competent in her job, she still only made 85% of Johnny's paycheck.
We seemed to do a whole lotta big talking. As politicians, my generation is still at it.
Trog, I began to read that article, but I found it to be contentious in its arguments. That is not to say that there is plenty to agree with, but the thrust of the agreements are toward a negative view.
It is so often the case that aberrations bear more examination than the hale. That is to say, it is improper that we should judge all boats by the leaky hulls.
Suppose a man were attentive to his work, and performed exceptionally; that the same was attentive, generous, and thoughtful toward his family, his friends, his neighbors, and even the occasional stranger; that he tended to his property well, and provided due care for all things-- what then of this man? How would it be that we might come to know him through infamy or fame?
The dire and dread delight, but the whole and sound are quite dull. So much for beacons of light...
As an example: I have a neighbor who is a Vietnam vet. He got doused with Agent Orange, and now has very little lung capacity. He's on oxygen. I shoveled his walk for him. I did it while he was at work. He doesn't even know who did it. It was just done.
Uneventful, no? Yet things like that go on all the time.
If you love the forest, then care for the trees. That is the predominant error. There are those that proclaim their love, and loudly, for their dear forests, and yet care nothing for the trees. The trees are our proper concern.
That is to say, a generous spirit is never realized in the abstract.
I will tell you a tale.
Once, not long ago, I had received a grievous injury from another, and without just cause. I made the conscious decision to forgive this person. I could feel the emotion welling up within me, and it had come to a head. I made the choice to be forgiving rather than to be angry. I considered the matter, and I determined that I would prefer to live in a more forgiving world than a more angry world. I have no control over the world-at-large. But when I roll out of bed in the morning, that little spot where my feet hit the ground-- I get to decide what sort of place that is going to be. I do have control over that one little spot, and I chose that it should be a more forgiving place than a more angry place.
I have no objective evidence that forgiveness is in any way better than anger. I wish I did. Surely I would tell you. It's just different. That's all.
In the end, it is our choices which form our world more than anything.
Choose well, and love the trees.
If you want to make the world a better place, here's a good way to start.
Whenever you speak to someone you know, tell them two things that you really like about them.
Compliment a complete stranger twice weekly (not the same one, mind you).
It works. Try it and see.
In the matter of a very short time, you will gain a reputation.
The world will change all around you.
If I had a chance to live over, with the wisdom I have now, I'd choose to make better mistakes.
Weaseldog, I'd also keep my big mouth shut, and not admit to so many of them.
PT, sometimes the truth hurts. The worst thing about that article was the lighter-than-air proposals for progressive solutions. "Internet Organizing"? Really? That's what the good Dr. proposes in answer to the European examples of thousands in the streets, protesting? Gimme a fuckin' break. The citizens of the US won't do anything about their fucked up status because it'll cut into their TV schedule.
I really don't understand why people would watch "reality TV" when they could engage in something real instead.
But that's just me.
Wrote trog69: "Weaseldog, I'd also keep my big mouth shut, and not admit to so many of them."
I've been told by a few very greedy rich people, that real men are never ever wrong. Telling someone that you've made mistakes and learned from them, makes you appear weak and feminine.
It's probably much easier to adhere to such a code, if you're a sociopath.
And this probably explains why you and I are on a forum like this one, rather than interacting on the poser sites.
I could defeat 44 baboons!
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